Re-reading books I was assigned when I was in high school, I’m often surprised how much more I like them on the second read. Part of the reason for this, I think, is that when a book is assigned by a teacher, the student loses some ownership of his reading. Reading workshop (which I’m a huge believer in) helps to alleviate this issue by giving students choices in what they read. While this student choice has definitely had a positive effect on student ownership, I’m always looking for ways to make independent reading feel more like a hobby and less like school work. A customized bookmark allows students to share whatever interests or messages they wish, and I think could have a particularly positive impact on reluctant readers who don’t feel connected to reading in general.
I haven’t tried this with my students — as I just thought of it and think it would be ideal as a start-of-the-year icebreaker activity — but I want to write it down before I forget! In my mind, students would get a blank bookmark template (preferably some weighty paper) and have class time to draw, color, and add any words/phrases/quotations that they feel represent them. For the icebreaker part of this lesson, students would share their bookmarks in small groups, giving them a chance to get to know each other. The teacher could then collect these bookmarks, laminate them (too time-consuming?), and have students cut them out. If you were to do reading workshop on a regular basis, I think this would work well as the kick-off, and it would give students a chance to think about their interests as they choose books to read.
I think this would work K-8, but I also think it could work in some high school settings. I definitely think my students would get into it! Let me know what you think, whether you’ve tried something like this or want to try it in the future.