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A successful reading workshop is one in which students are truly excited about reading and are constantly building relationships with books and with fellow readers based on common book choices and reading interests. It can be easy to get so caught up in the curriculum that you forget to make time for activities that truly enhance and strengthen the reading community in your classroom. Class Book Awards are a great way to bring readers of all levels and abilities together to celebrate books. With awards season in full swing, what better time than now to allow your students to start nominating their favorite books and bestowing upon them prestigious awards that will remain with those books long after the students leave your classroom?
READ ON to learn more about how students nominate books in different categories, vote for their favorite books using private ballots, take part in an awards ceremony to announce the winners, and creatively display the winning books in the classroom.
1. Explore Well-Known Book Awards
Before students begin developing book award categories and nominating books from your classroom library, they must first study the selection criteria used by notable book awards such as the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal. I often use this time to read aloud award-winning books and create a display of award-winning books in the classroom. Students may choose books featured in the display to put in their book boxes for individualized daily reading. My guided reading groups are often reading award-winning books at this time as well so that students are truly immersed in this prized literature.
Scholastic has lesson plans for teaching with Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Coretta Scott King Award Winners. You may also use lists of recent Caldecott, Newbery, and Coretta Scott King Award winning books in teaching about these awards. Trade book sets of the Newbery Award winners, Caldecott Award winners, and the Coretta Scott King winners, as well as professional books on the subject are available from the Scholastic Teacher Store.
2. Choose a Unique Name for Your Class Book Awards
Each book award students will be studying prior to the activity has a unique name that represents the award. You will want to choose a special name for your own class book awards. Since most book awards are named after a person, I used to call my class book awards "Newibery" awards since my last name is Newingham. However, since I have begun sharing my class with another teacher, we have given the awards a title that is related to our year-long class theme (e.g., Planet 13 Book Awards for our planet theme and Captain's Choice Book Awards for our nautical theme).
3. Introduce Sample Book Award Categories
To kick off this year-long activity, I choose five book award categories (best illustrations, most unpredictable plot, favorite fiction series, etc.) and pick my own favorite books as the first Class Book Award winners of the school year. Once you have done this for multiple years, you can have the winning books from the previous year serve as your examples. Students have usually seen awards shows on TV, and they know that the actors, actresses, and musicians are given awards in multiple categories such as "Best Actress," "Best Movie," and "Song of the Year." We also discuss how awards are given in different genres like "Best Country Album," "Best Comedy," or "Best Actor in a Drama." I explain how this concept will lend itself to nominating favorite books in different categories throughout the school year.
4. Students Determine Their Own Book Award Categories
Once my students understand how this will work in our classroom, they create their own book award categories. Every other month, students suggest new categories. I write down all of the students' ideas, and they vote on the categories they like best. Each student can vote for three categories, and the five categories with the most votes become the final categories in which students will nominate books for that period of time. I do try to get students to connect the learning we are doing in reading workshop to the categories they choose. For instance, when we studied poetry last year, a category was "Poem with the Best Alliteration." When doing an in-depth character study, a book award category was "Character Who Changes the Most in a Book." When studying the mystery genre, students voted on a "Mystery With the Most Surprising Ending" category. The more specific the category, the more students really put effort into reading and nominating books that truly fit the bill!
5. Nominate Books From the Classroom Library
After determining the five class book award categories, students begin nominating books that they are reading in each category. I create nomination sheets and post them together in a central area of the classroom. Students are allowed to nominate books throughout the two months. The nomination sheets require students to write their own name, the title and level of the book, and its basket location in the library. You can download a sample nomination form (in MS Word).
Once a book is nominated, I ask students to place the book in a special "Student Book Picks" basket so that the book can be easily retrieved by other readers. I ask students to try to read many of the books that are nominated by their classmates during the two months so that they will be more prepared to vote. However, I realize that not all books will be at each reader's "just right" level, and all readers certainly do not have enough time to read every book that is nominated. This activity is just a way to advertise books in the classroom library and encourage students to read a greater variety of books in general.
6. Final Voting
At the end of the nomination period (usually two months) all nominated books are added to a Class Book Award ballot, and each student votes for his or her two favorite books in each category. The book (or series) that gets the most votes in each category will be the official winner of a Class Book Award. Download a sample ballot (MS Word).
7. Host an Awards Ceremony
The winning books are announced at an exciting Class Book Award ceremony. I set up a podium and play traditional awards ceremony music. I act as the host of the awards show, and my students act as the presenters using a fake microphone.
You can even have any students who nominated a book walk the "red carpet" with one of the books they nominated before the ceremony starts.
Selected students announce the nominees in each category and then ask their co-presenter to open a colorful envelope to reveal the winning book. The "audience" cheers, and the student who nominated the book can choose to make an "acceptance" speech to thank his or her classmates for voting for the book. The student also explains why he or she nominated the book.
8. Display the Winning Books
All winning book covers (color copies) are placed inside frames and added to our Class Book Award bulletin board display with a blue ribbon that indicates the category in which each book was nominated. You may use this ribbon template, created in Print Shop, to make your own award ribbons. (If you don't have Print Shop, use the ribbon template PDF.)
Once a book has received an official Class Book Award, it is forever branded with a special seal to show current (and future) students that the book was selected by the students of Room 13 as a great read! Students often look for books with the award seal when choosing new books to put in their book box! Download gold award seals for use with MS Word. (Print on 2x4 labels.)
How Do You Build a Reading Community and/or Celebrate Reading in Your Classroom?
This is an activity I have been doing with my students for many years. I have found it to be an absolutely wonderful way to build community among readers and create excitement about books in my classroom library! Feel free to post your questions or comments about this activity, or share additional ways you celebrate reading in your own classroom. I look forward to hearing from you!
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