Teaching Idea: Book in a Jar

TEACHING IDEA: Book in a Jar
PURPOSE: icebreaker, student engagement, promotion of group cohesion, development of research skills, practice in problem-solving
MATERIALS: 3 glass mason jars, photocopied pages from 3 different novels [with excess margins/white space trimmed], paper shredder
PREP LEVEL: low


Recently, this post from Molly at Wrapped up in Books popped up in my reader: Book in a Jar. Although this is a library programming idea, I think it could work for a classroom as well; I am considering using it the first day of class as an engagement strategy. Possible setup:

1) Make 3 jars, each with a different shredded book inside. (I like the idea Molly originally considered of having each jar contain a banned book. This will provide an interesting opportunity for discussion when I intro the activity.)
2) At the end of the first class meeting, with about 5 minutes until the end of the period, divide students into 3 random groups.
3) Give each group a jar and tell them their goal is to be the first group to correctly identify the book. (They don’t need to do it that class–they can work on it over the week or month or semester if need be!)
4) The students have to leave the jars with me at the end of class, but I will continue bringing them to each class period until one of the books is correctly identified.

My hope is that this will encourage the group members to bond and get to know each other better while also developing research strategies and problem-solving skills. I’ll try to think up a good prize for the winning group.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Idea: Book in a Jar

  1. Kate Nonesuch says:

    thanks for this idea–and if I had a class with a range of reading abilities, I might find three books at different levels, and divide the class into groups so that every student was working on a jar at approx. their free reading level. Hard to do on the first day–maybe later in the year we’d do it again.

    • mworfolk says:

      I’m glad you like it too, Kate! To be honest, I was thinking of my Provincial Level (Gr. 12) English Lit class and hadn’t even thought about ways to modify it for a multi-level literacy classroom. As you mentioned, it might be tough to do for a first-day activity in this context, but if you read a few novels as a whole group, at the end of the year, it could be fun to take a page from each novel and put each in a separate numbered jar. Then learners could match up each jar with the right book. The last time I taught our fundamental English class we did 3 novels together as a class–Hana’s Suitcase, Parvana’s Journey, and one the students chose called Frozen Tears–and I think the students would have enjoyed the jar challenge.

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