Choice Reading, Oral Language, Reading

Choice Novel Speed Dating in your Secondary ELA Classroom

What is speed dating?

As you may know speed dating is intended as a fast way for single people to “date” a large amount of people in a short time. Hopefully allowing them to meet that special someone that they can date.

What is speed dating in an ELA classroom?

Most teachers discuss speed dating as a means of “book tasting” which allows them to expose students (independently) to a variety of books, pre-selected by the teacher.

Speed dating, in my class, is not so much about exposing students to new books (although it does), but about allowing students a chance to share the books they are “in love with” and encourage others to “date” them as well. My speed dating activity also gives them an opportunity to discuss their book with a variety of people.

Before implementing the speed dating activity it is important that students have had ample opportunity to find a novel they enjoy and they have had enough time to read it and fall in love with it.

Alternative suggestion: Use speed dating to have students share their favourite book at the beginning of the year, as a starting point to help students find a book or try my Book Talk & Book Ad Assignment with Exemplars and have them present their favourite book to the class.

Class set up?

Row setup: Place the desks in two rows facing each other horizontally across the room.

Students sit on either side of the row of desks. If you have an odd number of students add one extra desk at the end to create a group of 3.

Row set up

Circle set up:You could also do an inside/outside circle set up and have one of the circles move clockwise while the other moves counterclockwise. Or you can have only one side move.

Image result for 2 concentric circles
Circle set up

Paired set up: You could put desks in pairs spread out around the room (this might help with noise level) and instruct students on how to move. See circle setup movement suggestions.

Paired set up

Try out a different setups to see what works best.


Now that students are sitting across from a their “date” you can start the activity. I use a timer to keep everything running smoothly and to indicate when students should move onto the next step. You can use any timer (including ones on the internet or smart board software) but I prefer this one from ikea as is magnetic, I can place it on the board for easy access and it takes no time to set up.

Instruct the students that they are trying to convince their date to they are a great catch and worthy of spending time with. I do remind them that it is supposed to be a discussion (back and forth) not just a micro presentation. But as some students are reluctant speakers I do give them the following suggestions, for what to say, on the board: State the title, present the cover, state your star rating and explain why it’s worth dating (why you love the book).

Each student takes 2 minutes to share their book as a dating candidate. Once the timer goes off the second student shares their dating candidate. When the timer goes off a third time everyone gets up and moves counterclockwise one seat. They are now across from their new date candidate.

As students move from date to date they add any books they are interested in dating (reading) to their “to read next lists” (pay product on TPT)

If students are unable to fill up the two minutes talking about their current book their partner is encouraged to ask questions in order to get to know the dating candidate (book) better. They are also welcome to share a second book that they think will be a good candidate for “dating.”

Teacher Participation:

This is a great opportunity to hear students talk about their reading experience and for to access how their reading is going. I have used speed dating at a variety of times and for a variety of purposes.

Active participation: The main reason I use speed dating is to get a feel for the reading life of my student. I sit at the end of the row (we become a group of 3) and listen to each students as they talk about their book. I model active listening, responding to the student with non-verbal communication, asking critical questions to encourage critical thinking about their text, and interest in their reading life. If I want to hear from specific student I will arrange the seating to ensure that I will hear from those that I need to.

Passive participation: Other times I or move around, as students talk to about their books, and listen in on specific or random students as the activity progresses.

No participation: I have also used this as a means to support weaker students, who may need more hands on support. For example, as the class was participating in the speed dating activity, I pulled aside students who were struggling to create a thesis and conferenced with each one to help them successfully complete the task.

A mix: I sometimes do all of the above.


You could access students for oral communication but you will not be exposed to all students given the current instructions and it will definitely take more than just one class periods. I would also suggest giving students some time to prep what they will say ahead of time. But if you are looking for a way to access their oral communication based on their choice novel you could try a book talk activity instead, see my Book Talk & Book Ad Assignment with Exemplars.

You can also use “Speed Dating” in a variety of other ways including having students share vocabulary or literary terms or even to share the information they have hathered in a unit activity, see Romeo & Juliet example here.

Other ways to share booklove:

Try a give one/get one activity to allow your students to share their books.

Share micro book reviews with your students to help them find a book:

Micro Book Reviews for Book Talks

Interested in learning more about adolescent literacy read:

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