Teens love to argue. Just suggest they might have broken a rule and watch them go. Why not harness that for good and get them thinking at the same time by hosting a great debate? Pick a book related controversy and challenge them to find evidence in the text to support their opinion. You can even invite a coach or student from a local debate club to give a mini-lesson on building arguments and using evidence before you let them loose.
What kind of things can they argue about?
- Team Gale vs. Team Peeta vs. Team Katniss
- Should Draco Malfoy be in Azkaban?
- Sirius Black: Doting Godfather or Insane Hypocrite?
- Superman vs. Batman vs. Spiderman
- What is John Green’s (or any author with multiple popular books) best work?
- Are there girl books and boy books?
- Can you judge a book by it’s cover?
Original photo credit: Shorts and Longs
If you read my post on Restaurant Wars you know I love programs that sneak writing, reading, research, and critical thinking in the back door. Another program that accomplishes this is running some kind of “Best Of” list program where teens create a top 10 or top 25 list. This can also give your teens a bit of a voice when their tastes are reflected by more mainstream lists.
Top List Topic Suggestions:
- Best Books Ever
- Best Books of the Last Year
- Best Hip Hop/Rock/Metal/Country (as your audience demands) Songs of the Year
- Best Hip Hop/Rock/Metal/Country (as your audience demands)Songs Ever
- Best Reality Show/Worst Reality Show
- Best Movies/Worst Movies
- Best Literary Characters
Your options here are pretty unlimited. I think that this would work best as a passive program with a regular program to announce the final results. You might consider a kick-off program as well as the finale. If you have the ability to take nominations via a Google Form and create an online poll for the voting all the better. You could certainly do it via paper nomination forms and ballots as well. I’m also including ideas for doing this as a single program if that fits your library better.
This is where all those good skills come in. I would create a handout with library resources related to the topic. For example if you were doing music take this opportunity to highlight music criticism resources and databases with music magazine articles. Patrons can then nominate a candidate for the list via whatever form you provide.
Your form should ask “Why” and let nominators know they should be as persuasive as possible with their answer and not just write “because they’re awesome”. This is where they want to find evidence from those resources and clearly write out their case. Set a deadline for nominations and display them all once the deadline has past. Keep the nominator’s name a secret to avoid any drama on the popularity front.
Set a deadline for everyone to vote on the nominations,encouraging them to read the nominations carefully. A week should do it, this isn’t ALA after all. Once all the votes are in take the ten highest vote-getters as your Top Ten or if you have a lot of entries you can expand the list to Best -Blank-.
If you want to keep it passive you can do a bulletin board or display to announce your winners, but it would be more fun to do a red carpet announcement of the winners. Serve popcorn and punch in fancy plastic glasses. Create a stage and build up the reveal. Start with the bottom of the list and work your way to the top. “The #3 movie of all-time, as voted on by you is ________ nominated by Nominator’s Name.”
One Program Variation
Sometimes we know that kind of extended program won’t work in our library. No problem. Bring some resources and some patrons into the room and let them verbally duke it out finishing the session with a vote. They can practice social and argumentation skills by having a (hopefully) civilized discussion while making a case for their favorites. Think of it like a mini-selection committee session.
What would change or add about this program idea?
Original Photo: Thomas Hawk
This is basically the sneakiest writing, research, and presentation skills program I’ve ever suggested. It’s based on the Restaurant Wars challenge on Top Chef, without the cooking. Even if teens don’t get the reference they should like the concept. My teens are very interested in culinary careers now and yours might be too. You can encourage teens to use your collection for cookbooks, interior design books, and anything else related to their vision. You might want to acquire catalogs from restaurant supply companies or discarded magazines to help.