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Canonsburg Middle School’s STARBOOKS Helps Students Explore New Genres

2019 Starbooks Cafe

You may have smelled a strong aroma of coffee in Canonsburg Middle School’s library media center on Thursday afternoon. This was because for Thursday and Friday only the library media center was transformed into StarBOOKs Café, complete with coffee beans in the pencil cups. The goal of this project is to expose the students to several different genres because, as English teacher Ms. Tookey said to her class, if you’re like her you might tend to stick to reading only one genre. This project was a unique way for her students to explore other genres as a part of their monthly independent reading assignments. They are required to read books monthly in addition to what they’re already reading in class. 

Ms. Tookey said she found the idea simply by looking on the internet and reading other teachers’ blogs. Then her eight year old daughter wanted to be a Starbucks barista for Halloween this year (complete with a drive thru headset that she left at home) so since she already had the apron from her daughter’s costume the timing was right. The students were split up into groups that Ms. Tookey picked herself and there were six different stations (genres) that the students rotated through: dystopian, adventure, fantasy, historical fiction, humor and a sampler section that included animals, romance and supernatural. The students were able to find the sections because they all had green tablecloths (except for the sampler station which had white) and books that the school’s librarian Ms. Barbarino selected. Ms. Barbarino said she tried to pick books that were popular but also ones that students might not normally notice like the Macaroni Kid, which was set in the Strip District and written by a Pittsburgh writer. The students spent four minutes at each section where they could read a bit, examine the cover and then fill out their “menu” where they rated the book and determined if they’d like “more than a sip of this book”. If they needed more room than the menu allowed there were also “spillover” bookmarks where they could write down more books that they want to read. At the end they filled out a “That’s a Frap!” card where they answered questions (in the shape of a Frappuccino) like; what they enjoyed about the tasting, if they tried a new genre that that they didn’t try before and what was interesting to them.

While there were only six stations this time Ms. Tookey hopes to do it again later in the year where they can do five more stations. Ms. Tookey is not the only teacher that’s enticing her students with creative genre exploration ideas. Ms. Lauren Paddick, another English teacher, did something earlier this year that was similar to Ms. Tookey’s idea and was a sort of Book Speed Dating.

The students “placed their orders” via a Google form on Thursday and will receive their selections in class on Friday, or have an opportunity to request to be notified when their "item is restocked” (book is returned). A jazzy, chill playlist and signs throughout the library media center added to the ambiance. Ms. Barbarino even printed out Starbucks cups where she’ll write the student’s name, just like they do on the cups at Starbucks, and put it in the books once they get it.

Ms. Tookey used a number of great puns during this project, such as her menu that said “Come thirsty for knowledge, leave full of excitement” and at the end of one class she said with a chuckle, “I hope you liked this day a-latte!”





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