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How to Host a Graphic Novel Book Tasting

Are you looking for a way to introduce graphic novels to your students with a splash? Maybe you’ve got some new titles for your choice reading library, a graphic novel or two lined up for First Chapter Friday, or even a graphic novel on the horizon as a whole-class read, and you wish your students were more aware of and excited about the graphic novel genre.

Ooooh boy, have I got an easy win for you. Head for the library and bring your brightest Trader Joe’s shopping bag along, because it’s time for a graphic novel book tasting!

Today on the podcast, find out how to easily host a graphic novel book tasting and why it’s a great option for your students.

You can listen in to episode 170 below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

Why Host a Graphic Novel Book Tasting?

OK, I heard from Simon Sinek that it helps to start with the WHY. Why not just slip a few fun graphic novels onto your choice reading shelves and see what happens? Or add a graphic novel into your next book club set and let interest ripple out?

Well, those would definitely help students start to be aware of graphic novels… slowly. But here’s the thing, graphic novels are going to be such a FABULOUS gateway to reading for so many kids, why start slow?

When you bring in a wide range of colorful graphic novels and let students dive into them, you give them a chance to see the possibilities of the genre. Then, when they see one on your shelf, or notice one as an option for book clubs or literature circles, or find out you’re going to teach one in a few weeks, they can get EXCITED. They’ll understand from the moment they pick up any graphic novel just what the genre has to offer them.

Setting up your Graphic Novel Book Tasting

The first step to any successful book tasting is to track down the books!

Now let me start by saying that you don’t need to spend $200 on graphic novels to do this (though why not start a Donors Choose project if you can?). I checked out about 15 graphic novels using the library app Libby in December and read them on my phone, because I couldn’t get paper copies here in Bratislava! And I still loved so many of them, even experiencing them in this tiny electronic version.

For the purposes of sharing a lot of graphic novels with kids, and getting them excited about the genre, you don’t need to have physical copies they can take immediately (though of course that’s nice).

You can easily pull in your titles from your school or public library just for the tasting and to reference in class during mini-lessons or First Chapter Friday reads. Then you can create a digital bookshelf for students to access online.

Here’s how:

1. Drop a picture of a shelf on a Google slide.

2. Screenshot the graphic novel covers you want to share with your students, then link them to their pages on the online library system to which your students have access.

You can find instructions, an example, and a set of templates to make it easy for you right here on Google Slides.

I shared some of my favorite titles from my recent graphic novel explorations last week in this post, 10 graphic novels for your classroom library. You’ll see many of them above. And I recently gathered top favorites from other teachers on Instagram and curated them into the two recommendation sets below.

So you can keep these titles in mind as you explore your options, keeping in mind the unique needs of your students and community.

Once you have your books, setting up a graphic novel tasting is a fun project that can be as elaborate as you want it to be. The main thing is to create stations around your room with graphic novels spread out over them.

You can stop there, or try any of these additional fun-boosters:

#1 Music: Background music helps make it feel like an event. I recommend the gorgeous piano of George Winston.

#2 Ambiance on your Smartboard: There are so many options out there, like this video of the Hogwarts Common Room fire. Depending on what video you choose, it may give you music/sound too.

#3 Tablecloths: Sheets would work! Putting some kind of cover over your stations that makes them feel a bit like a coffee shop will help make the “tasting” extra fun. Centerpieces of any kind (wildflowers in jars? electric candles? jars of something?) would add as well. Maybe you have a student or group of students who would enjoy helping you create this classroom transformation!

#4 Food/Drinks: Adding hot chocolate, cookies, fruit kebabs, or whatever you (and interested students? interested parents?) would enjoy providing will also help give the book tasting an extra boost of special.

Running your Graphic Novel Book Tasting

OK, so you’ve picked up an armload of fun graphic novels either from your collection or from the library. You’ve created a digital bookshelf featuring those same titles, if you want students to be able to request and read them online. You’ve set up your room into book-tasting stations at whatever level of elaborate suits you.

Now it’s time for the actual tasting! As students come in, give them a copy of this handout. As they explore the books, they should jot down their takeaways for three titles and give it a rating out of five stars.

Do a quick demonstration of how you might “taste” a book. Pick one up, check out the cover, read the back, open up to the first page, flip to a page or two in the middle, etc. Talk them through how you’re deciding whether you might like the book or not. Then model what you’d jot down on your book tasting sheet out loud.

Once students understand the event, give them time to explore the different books, have a cup of cocoa, and fill out their takeaway sheets. As you wrap things up, give them a heads-up about where the class will be going from there with graphic novels, whether you’re adding a new virtual shelf of graphic novels to the classroom library, offering graphic novel choices for book clubs or a choice reading unit, or focusing on a graphic novel as a class soon.

Extending what Students have Learned in the Following Weeks

The graphic novel book tasting makes a great launching pad, not only to ignite student interest in graphic novels, but to give you a bunch of great texts to work with in class.

Consider creating a display of the books you brought in. Students can continue exploring them or read them in class if they finish early. You can feature them in read-alouds and mini-lessons. If you’re starting a graphic novel unit, you can use them as part of explanations of terms like splashes, layout, and composition.

If you’ve created a digital library shelf of graphic novels, remind students it’s there. Consider creating a QR code poster you can put on the wall of your library that takes students straight there. Then if someone is loving one of your classroom titles, you can send them over to link directly to the digital shelf through an iPad or phone.

Sprinkle in book talks of the graphic novels if you get a chance, and let students book talk them too, as they begin reading (and hopefully loving) them.

Time to Try it!

OK, I think you’ve got everything you need! I hope you’ll take these book recommendations, virtual shelf templates, and book tasting template and run with it! I’d love to see the book tasting you create, if you feel like snapping a photo and tagging me on Instagram @nowsparkcreativity or sending along an email (you can always hit reply to my Friday idea emails, I’m on the other end!).

Hey real quick, before you go, do you have your (free) copy of the attendance question image slides yet? These are SUCH a fun way to connect with students and build community in class. If you haven’t tried them yet, now would be a great time! You can get three weeks’ worth of free prompts right here.

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