I often weed deteriorated or damaged books throughout the library as I shelve returned books, and once a year I weed our Fiction area for outdated or low circulation books. By February or March I’ve accumulated quite a few weeded books. The reader in me hesitates to simply trash these books, so I have a couple of Library Lessons that use weeded Fiction books for a meaningful student activity before discarding them.
Read It or Reject It / Keep It or Trash It
I want to give my students another chance to examine non-circulating Fiction books to see if they just need a bit of “promotion” for students to check them out, so I created this 2-visit Library Lesson for 7th grade Language Arts classes. The scenario is that students become Literary Agents to give them an insight into the world of literary book publishing…and to help me decide about those weeded books!
The first visit is called “Read It or Reject It.” I explain that Literary Agents use abbreviated book proposals to decide if they want an author to submit a manuscript to be read for publication as a book. Students act as Literary Agents by using the criteria on a worksheet to discuss 4 different books at their table. After 5-7 minutes, students rotate to a different table and repeat the process. The worksheet allows for students to visit 2 different tables to review 8 different books. (My tables seat 4 students each, so I use 4 books. If your tables seat more, you can add more books.)
At the end of the activity, my student Literary Agents choose one book ‘manuscript’ from a table to check out and read—it can be one they discussed or a different one. (They can also choose a book from the regular Fiction shelves instead.) The worksheet is turned in to the teacher for a daily grade and students receive a “Book Response” bookmark at checkout to take notes during reading. Seventh graders especially enjoy moving around, talking, and deciding if a book is “good enough to read.” By the end of a full day of class visits, I know that any weeded books left on tables are completely uninspiring and certainly need to be discarded.
Two weeks later, students return for “Loved It or Loathed It – Keep It or Trash It.” First I check in all the books, but give them back to students and have them return to their tables. I explain that students who “loved” their book and believe it’s a “keeper” will use their “Book Response” bookmark to “sell” their book to a publisher. They choose one of 3 options that will encourage other students to read the book:
- Write an inviting book “blurb” on ¼ piece of letter-size color paper I’ve cut for the activity, tape it on the front of the book, then put the book on a display rack in its proper bookshelf location in the Fiction area.
- Create a ‘magazine’ book review with illustration on letter-sized paper to display on the library bulletin board.
- Create a new illustrated book cover on legal-sized paper using color pencils or markers. I show them how they can remove the old book cover and put the new one inside a mylar protector and attach it to the book.
Students who chose a regularly circulating book instead of a weeded one can choose option 1 or 2, but not 3.
For students who “loathed” their weeded books and decide they are “trashers”, I have them tear out the inside page with the barcode, then show them how to remove the book’s paper and mylar covers and place the book in a Discard box I’ve provided. These students also do the same wtih all the weeded books that weren’t chosen during the first library visit, which saves me from having to spend time doing that. It seems 7th graders are quite gleeful about helping to discard “yucky” books, and since I was getting rid of weeded books, it doesn’t matter how many they trash or how many they want to keep. At the next opportunity I scan the removed barcode pages as “Discards” in the library circulation system.
If you would like to try this activity with your middle school students, you can find my “Read It or Reject It – No Sweat Weeded Books Library Lesson” in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
I learned about Blackout Poetry through my library listservs, and it’s a perfect activity for using deteriorated/damaged books or weeded books slated for deletion/discard. Students only need 1 or 2 pages to create their “blackout” poem, so tearing apart a book that’s damaged or will be trashed turns a negative into a positive—recycling at its best! I make sure students understand at the start that we’re only using books that are already damaged or that will be thrown away, so they don’t get the idea that we can just remove pages from any book we want to!
I find that Blackout Poetry works best with 8th grade students. Typically, 6th graders are still developing an understanding of poetry and need significant scaffolding & guidance for their work products; 7th graders, too, need more exposure to different forms of poetry, and they still have trouble creating a whole from disparate parts in that genre. 8th graders are not only more experienced with the poetry genre, but they also have a greater capacity to envision a poetic “story” from a page of text and are especially adept at evoking the emotional power that a poem can convey. Yes, I know teachers and librarians have done blackout poetry with as young as 2nd grade…I’m just saying that in my experience the students who have gotten the most out of this activity are students with enough wherewithal to make it a truly rewarding experience.
Find an old book, choose a page, select words from the page that reflect your feelings, ideas and thoughts. Blackout all the other words on the page. Use your imagination to find new and exciting ways to blackout the other words.
Here are Blackout Poetry Lesson webpages that will inspire your lessons:
- John DePasquale on Scholastic’s blog – a very complete and explanatory lesson on Blackout Poetry
- Tiffany Whitehead, the Mighty Little Librarian – great slide show of student work
- Christina, The Daring English Teacher
- Jenna Smith, Musings from the Middle School
- Rebecca, Textile + Type
- Cheryl Mizerny MiddleWeb post also has 9 more poetry activities.
I must admit I heard of one more use for weeded books from an elementary librarian—she cuts the pages into strips to use as bookmarks. Her students love them and it saves her spending a lot of money on commercial bookmarks! Not sure how that would work with the mostly-text pages of middle school fiction books, but maybe it could be a really fun and challenging lesson to have students create blackout poetry with a 2″ strip cut from a page!