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A List of Ten Inspired by Literary Starbucks

posted: 10.28.14 by Traci Gardner

Earlier this month, a colleague shared the image on the right on her Facebook news feed. A few seconds of searching on Google led me to the origin, the Literary Starbucks Tumblr blog.

The idea is simple: the site, which is just over a month old, publishes descriptions of the Starbucks’ orders for various authors and characters. Some of the posts are descriptive, like that for George R.R. Martin on the right. Some include snippets of overheard dialogue between the barista and the customer, like the orders for Frodo or Isaac Asimov. Others mimic the verse of the author, like the orders for Dr. Seuss and for Langston Hughes (one of my favorites).

Not only is the site fun to read, but Literary Starbucks could also inspire some interesting student work. Students have to get inside the author’s or character’s head, think about her decisions, and then show what would happen in a style that mimics the original. It’s the kind of activity that requires a strong understanding of the original text.

Of course, I would not want students to copy the model precisely, so I would rule out creating coffeehouse orders for other authors and characters. I’ve come up with a list of ten alternatives that might work, all of them focusing on how an author or character would react in a given situation:

  1. Shopping cart/basket contents.
    What would authors or characters have in their basket? What line would they choose? How would they place their goods on the conveyor belt?
  2. Thrift store purchases.
    What would the author or character seek out in a thrift store? Describe the purchase.
  3. Library or book store choices.
    What would the author or character look for in a library or book store? What would the search look like to an outside observer?
  4. Closet selections.
    How does the author or character choose clothes for the day from the closet?
  5. Cereal aisle quandary.
    Imagine your author or character on the cereal aisle of your nearby grocery store. What does she choose? What does the process look like? Don’t want to talk about cereal? Choose some other item like cans of soup, candy bars, or produce.
  6. Vending machine options.
    The author or character is standing in front of the nearest vending machine. What does she do?
  7. Loser’s reaction.
    The author or character just lost a game (choose a specific game—anything from checkers to Call of Duty). What happens next?
  8. Let’s go to the movies.
    Your author or character is standing in the lobby of the nearest movie megaplex. What movie does she choose? What does the ticket purchase look like? Does she stop at the concession stand? How does she make her way to the theater where the movie will be shown?
  9. Cultural improvement.
    The author or character wants to learn a bit more. What museum, historical site, or other cultural site or event does the person visit? Think about where the person goes, why she is going, and what her journey or arrival would look like.
  10. Halloween night treats?
    Try the activity during the next few days and have students imagine they go to the door of the character or author on Halloween night. How is the door answered, and what happens next? Are there treats or tricks?!

There are several scenarios for using these ideas. For a fast assignment, each student could take a different character or group the class has covered and contribute a post to a class collection that is published online. For a concentrated, longer project, each student could take on an entire collection, focusing on one of the ten situations and exploring the reactions of multiple authors or characters.

The activity would be a useful way to review all the readings at the term or all the characters from a particular text at the end of a unit. The exploration could also take up historical or contemporary figures. There’s no reason to stick with fictional characters alone.

Have another option to add to my list? Have you found inspiration on Facebook or Twitter? Tell me by leaving a comment below or dropping by my page on Facebook or Google+.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Traci Gardner
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