Writing lessons in the early elementary grades can be a labor of love. It’s amazing to watch students start to get their creative ideas down on paper—often with hilarious results. It can also make even the most patient of teachers consider lobbying the administration for school-sanctioned naps during prep periods. During writers’ workshop, our youngest learners have to dig deep in order to become authors. They need to brainstorm what exactly they want to say, sound out those words, remember which letters make those sounds, carefully form each letter correctly, all while holding the pencil with the right grip and remembering to leave space between words. All of these new skills come together in one academic period, which can be challenging for both students and the teachers who love them. Talk about asking a lot of our kiddos! With all the work that our babies put into their writing, a finished book calls for a serious celebration! So put on your business casual party pants, it’s time to plan a book party. Book parties are a great way to show our kids that putting in the work and completing a piece of publishing is something that they should be proud of.
Whether you decide to keep things intimate and hold the book party with just your class, or create more of an event by opening up the invitation to parents, organization will be key. Reading 25 books out loud is time consuming even when they are just a few pages (or sentences!)
When keeping things simple by just involving your class, I have found it best to separate students into groups of five or six. Each student can then read their book and receive kudos from their small group. (It is helpful to have a class discussion about the role of the audience prior to the party!)
My favorite way to organize a book party, is to set up stations around the room, placing two students at a station. This works well when you have a larger number of visitors, but would also work if you broke the class up into two rounds of readers, with other students acting as the audience before swapping.
Each station needs:
- Student Books
- A name plaque identifying the authors (I just fold a piece of paper into a tent and write their names by hand with fun colors!)
- A Book Review Sheet. This is a place for audience members to leave praise for student work. After hearing student work read aloud, listeners can leave a shout out complimenting the book. Visitors and classmates should be encouraged to write a couple of sentences referencing something they liked about the writing or something they learned. This is a student favorite. It’s so lovely to watch the kids smile while reading compliments about their writing. They can take their Book Review home and read it as many times as they like.
- Pen or Marker (You only need to forget to supply these for the Book Reviews one time before never forgetting again!)
After you (or your littlest future Academy Award host) give a short introduction explaining what the class has been working on, visitors can start at the station where their child will be reading. Visitors will listen to both students at the station read their books. Then they can leave shout-outs for each student on their Book Review Sheets.
After enough time has passed for both students to read and receive praise, the teacher rings a bell or chime to signal that it is time to switch stations. Visitors then move to a new station in a predetermined direction. After three or four rotations, the celebration is complete! That way, each student gets to read their story to a few people, their Book Review Sheet will be filled with love, and everyone can party without the celebration lasting the better part of the day.
Lastly, transition to a snack-time author meet and greet. Keep it simple and grab your go-to classroom treats (I love popcorn and sliced apples) for students to enjoy before wrapping up the celebration. Frankly, it is hard to convince children that a party is occurring without treats. (To be fair, I too would have something to say if I showed up at a party with no refreshments… snacks are my spirit animal.) If you are inviting parents, consider holding the party near the end of the day, so that adults can pack their little ones up and head home after all of the excitement!