My first-graders enjoyed hosting a Reading Café where, instead of serving food, we served stories! This was a fun culmination to our reading classes. Each first-grader was to choose three stories that they could read to our guests at the café. They listed their selections and then practiced reading the stories – reading to their classmates, on their own, to my aides, and to me. I wanted them to read at least one of the stories to an adult and have the listener sign their name next to the title, so we would know someone else had listened and assisted with the reading practice. They practiced the stories often, in independent working time, and as an assignment. We discussed the need for practice, because “It wouldn’t be fun to serve a story we don’t know!”
The children went through my collections of books to choose stories. Some decided to read from their current readers, some read from previous readers we had finished, and others read from old readers that I had. They also chose library books and reading books appropriate to their reading level.
We invited the third grade class, their teacher, and our administrator to our Reading Café. We made invitations for our guests. The invitations stated, “First-Grade Reading Café Open May 10 2:25 pm Now serving …. Stories!” The invitations were delivered and accepted, and we continued our preparations.
On the page where the children listed their story choices, they could also request a specific guest. (The template is here.) Some of the children wanted to serve their siblings, or another third-grader that they knew. Several asked to serve our administrator. I went through the requests and matched up the first-grader “servers” with the third-grade guests, giving each first-grader someone to serve.
The children created menus for the café by filling in their story titles on a form, remembering to write neatly, and coloring pictures. (The menu was a Word document with a page border, three lines for the story titles, and a clip art picture to be colored.)
The morning of the café, we made small snacks for our guests. I had purchased several colors of tablecloths and napkins for the café. (Dollar Tree was great for this!) The tablecloths were 108 inches long, so cutting each tablecloth in thirds made a nice sized cover for a first-grade desk. (Thanks to my parent volunteer for cutting them!)
The afternoon of the event, we turned our classroom into a café. The students moved their desks apart and arranged them – now we had café tables. They set the tables using the tablecloths and placing a napkin and snack on each table. The menus were displayed on the tables. We hung a sign “Reading Café” outside our door.
When our guests arrived, the hostess (the teacher) welcomed them, and announced each guest and their server. The servers (first-graders) seated the guests, gave the menus, and took their orders. The guests chose which story they would like to hear and the first-grader got that book and read to the guest. If they had time, they would offer the menu again, and the guest could make another selection. The guests could eat the snacks whenever they wanted.
I enjoyed watching the interactions of the two classes, and seeing how the third graders acted so “grown-up” and listened to the first-graders reading. I also enjoyed seeing the first-graders reading well and serving their guests. It was exciting to look across the classroom, at all the colorful tables, and see my students reading nicely, and “serving” stories the third-graders. We were honored to have our administrator attend, and the two children who were serving him were delighted to welcome him, take him to their table, and read to him. We were also pleased to have two board members, at school for a meeting, attend after their meeting was over.
This project gave my students motivation practice reading and was a fun way to celebrate the first-graders’ growth in reading.
CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt