Speed Dating/Speed Reading Activity


I had two energizing, amazing classes last week doing this activity, so I wanted to share.

Has anyone ever participated in speed dating? I, sadly, have not. It came about after I had met Adam, but I had many colleagues who went to speed dating sessions throughout the city. Speed dating, for those of you not in the know, is an organized event with pre-registration. The set up is many small tables in a small bar/restaurant, and you meet/date with half a dozen or so men/women for about 10 minutes each. At the end of the evening, you fill out a form/survey to express your interest in any of your dates. If your choices also express interest in you, the organizer facilitates an exchange of information (email, numbers) and you can then choose to go on a “real” date if you’d like.

Therefore, the premise of this activity is to have students have many different small conversations about a common text to facilitate comprehension and to practice the larger concept that we. talk. about. reading.

I used the speed dating/speed reading activity in two different ways last week:

1.  Two sections of my Reading & Writing class were still discussing “Strikebreaker” by Issac Asimov. We did a quick lesson on creating thematic statements on the board, and then I had the students comb through their annotations of the short story. Annotation is a place where I kinda messed up the last 6 weeks (not enough focus on it, not enough checking it for accountability), so I have been hitting it hard the last four weeks. Every text we read gets read twice, and each time it’s read it needs to be annotated with a different color pen/highlighter to indicate the twice-over reading. I gave the students 10 minutes to go through their texts and find two passages that they had previously annotated that connected with any of the three big thematic statements we had co-created about “Strikebreaker.” I did this as well with my text. Then I invited a student to the front to have a reading “date” with me.

The student came up and we modeled the exercise.

Step 1: Introduce yourself and shake hands

Step 2: Student #1 tells student #2 where his/her passage is in the text and reads it aloud. S/he then explains how they see this passage connecting to one (or more) of the thematic statements on the board. Student #2 listens attentively and also  marks his/her text to indicate person #1’s passage choices. (This helps those who aren’t as strong at annotating gather ideas from those who are maybe stronger.)

Step 3: Reverse. (Person #2 goes through above while student #1 listens and marks his/her text.)

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 & 3 with their second selected passage.

Step 5: Time for small conversation about the text. Goodbyes.

After modeling this the steps, I stood up, had the students all move their chairs to the center of the room to face each other, and they did the activity. I believe I had them rotate about 4 times.

In this class, I had an odd number of students therefore I had to participate. I had amazing, text-based conversations with the students. I was so impressed with how seriously they took the activity, and as I monitored the class while also on my “dates,” I am almost 100% positive that all students were engaged and participating in the activity the entire time!

2. In my other section of Reading & Writing, we were done with “Strikebreaker” and the students had read the first five sections of the “Garbage” chapter of The Works: Anatomy of a City. As a class, we read aloud the introduction pages (2 pages) and discussed what we had chosen to annotate and why. I then asked them to go through their sections and mark the two most important pieces of information that they learned (from their annotation) in each section. Again, I modeled the exercise with a student, and then I set them to work.

Now this is my CRAZY class. They are not bad, but they are ACTIVE.  They are super FUNNY and very DISTRACTED. But they did it! Of course, there were some homophobic moments of guys getting stuck on dates with guys and then laughing and complaining, but overall they were all engaged in a text-based conversation. In this class I had an even number of students, therefore I was able to monitor the entire time. Eavesdropping on their conversations was informative because I was able to see what they clearly understood from the text and where they were confused. I could interrupt their date and add my opinion or point them to something else. But overall, watching was just as fun was participating.

We had a de-brief after the dates and I asked students who they were reading compatible with and who they were not reading compatible with, and they actually had decent responses! (This part I made up at the last minute when I realized I did not have any sort of informal assessment to figure out if they had learned anything.) They articulated that they liked or disliked so-and-so because they had similar passages or different passages, they could back up their selection or they could not explain their choices, they knew the text or they were totally bullshitting their knowledge and had highlighted the entire page…These were critiques made by students about their peers’ reading!

It was a great, great two days of teaching.


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