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Students “Dine” at Non-Fiction Book Café

Students “Dine” at Non-Fiction Book Café

To kick off the non-fiction unit in her fourth grade ELA class, Heather Honican wanted to do something fun to whet her students’ appetites for biographies, auto biographies and informational books.

And, according to her students, Woodland Elementary's Honican has found the answer. 

She created a Book Café complete with teachers and volunteers wearing aprons, background music, and even little battery-operated candles at each of the buffet stations that featured baskets full of books. 

Stations included Super Science, Historical Happenings, Let’s Get Cooking, Glorious Grammar and more. Students were to visit five of the seven tables, ‘taste’ a book, and then fill out a ‘Bon Appetit Book Buffet’ reflection form. Students gave their first impression of the book and explained why the book was/was not a good fit for them. After ‘tasting’ five books, the students then shared which book was their favorite and how the author garnered their interest. 

“I love it,” said fourth-grader Amarianna, whose first stop was the Let’s Get Cooking station. “I cook with my grandma all the time.”

Classmate Manjot agrees. “I really like it because we get to see more books and more types of books. It gives me an idea of what to look for in the library.”

Non-fiction is more difficult to engage students in than other genres, so that sort of student excitement is exactly what Honican hoped for when she got the idea for the Book Café from a colleague years ago. Each year she tries to build upon the concept.

“Student engagement and strong relationships lead to higher student achievement,” said Honican, who is in her 18th year of teaching and third at Lakota. “We [teachers] aren’t entertainers, but if we can make learning fun, then students want to take a more active role in their learning, and they are more willing to work hard during the boring times!”

Honican tries to take a hands-on approach to learning as much as possible. She knows that students need routines to anchor them, but novelty for engagement. 

Every week her students have ‘8-Minute Writings’ with silly picture prompts. Honican said “the students LOVE them and beg for one each week!” After a recent visit to Camp Kern, students created brochures about the experience. And after the class reads a novel, Honican has students complete a ‘Think Tac Toe Project’ that helps reflect on the novel and story elements.

“These types of activities just make reading and writing more fun,” said Honican. “It is much harder to plan these types of learning activities, but so worth it to see the engagement and learning taking place.