Recently, a small bookstore in Santo Domingo held an event in which readers could come in to choose a book, have something to drink, and read for a while. Pretty standard fare — except that all the books were wrapped in brown paper, organized by genre, and only gave small hints about what the book was about. The event was a huge hit: people loved discovering what was underneath that mysterious brown paper.
After hearing about the event, Pia, our 7th grade Spanish literature teacher, decided this would be a great way to stir up a buzz about the next shared reading book she’d be reading with her students. Her class was about to read La joven de las naranjas by Jostein Gaarder, so she wrapped the books in brown paper and added a different quote from the book to each wrapping. She also included an orange candy at each table that hinted at what the book was about.
As students entered the classroom, their curiosity was immediately piqued: “Hey, what’s this?” “Can we open it?” “Pia, is this for us?” the students asked. There was an inquisitive hum in the air and Pia had the kids’ full attention.
Then she gathered them on the carpet to share their predictions:
Pia told me that although La joven de las naranjas is an excellent book, the beginning is a little slow and can sometimes lose her young readers. But not this time: eager to open those packages and discover what the book was about, the students had no trouble sustaining their attention until the book took on a life of its own.
I can envision so many different ways to hook students with the simple use of brown paper and some clues. Who’s not intrigued by a mystery? I’d love to hear how you use this idea to create a buzz in your classroom. I’m going to be giving this a try as we head back to school this week. If you try it, I’d love to hear about it – please share!