First Chapter Friday is one of those ideas that checks all the boxes.
- Easy to implement
- No prep
- Students love it
- It gets kids reading
First Chapter Friday is an easy way to introduce new books to your students and to encourage independent reading. Truthfully, it doesn’t need to be on a Friday. I just think the alliteration is fun, and students (and me) often need a little change of pace on Fridays.
What do you do?
On Fridays (or whatever day you choose) select an engaging chapter book and read the first chapter to your students. Since some books may have extremely long chapters or other books may have short chapters, you may want to base it or on time than chapters. For instance, read for 10-15 minutes. Ideally, you end the reading on a cliff hanger that has students wanting to hear more.
This doesn’t replace your current read aloud. Instead, you can think of it as a bonus read aloud. We often have a reading assessment and/or visit the library on Fridays, so I don’t move forward with a new lesson on Friday. That change in our schedule makes this a perfect addition to our day. How you fit it in and incorporate it into your day is completely flexible.
After reading the chapter(s), make sure students have access to the book, because you’re almost guaranteed that someone will want to read it! I don’t try to have a copy for every student who wants to read the book, as that’s not realistic. I draw names and add the names to a sign-up sheet in the order in which I draw their name. I do caution students not to abandon what they are currently reading in order to start the new book immediately. In fact, this is a great time to refer back to your status of the class notes.
What do students do for First Chapter Friday?
It is incredibly important that First Chapter Fridays does not become a chore for students. While I do have students respond to literature and write summaries, I’m also careful to give them the opportunity to read (and be read to) for no purpose other than enjoyment and with no strings or assignments attached. In this activity, students don’t have to do anything except listen.
Since you’re reading from a new book each week, it may be easy for students to forget what they’ve already heard, so I did create a “bookshelf” for students to add to each week. As/after I read, students write the title of the book on any of the book spines and may color/draw/doodle on that particular spine to represent the book.
Which books should I read?
This is a great way to encourage students to read high quality literature that you know students aren’t likely to select on their own. I see students get in “reading ruts” and they don’t explore new genres or authors. The short-term goal is to help students find books they will enjoy, and my long-term goals is to help my students learn to love reading.
It’s important to read samples from a large variety of texts. It’s natural to choose books that you would enjoy reading, but it’s also important to keep your students’ interests in mind. For example, I have no desire whatsoever to read a dragon book, but if I have a feeling that some of my students would really enjoy that, I’ll select one. You want a diverse collection of authors, genres, and reading levels.
While in no way is this an all-inclusive list, I’ve created a list of 84 awesome chapter books to choose from that are geared toward upper elementary students. Some of the texts deal with heavy content, so make sure to familiarize yourself with any book you choose to share with your class.
Another way to decide what books to read is to let your students nominate books. I have students jot down why they think their book would be great for First Chapter Friday, and I often select books from those nominations.
All of these forms and the entire recommendation list are available to you for free!
Once students are hooked on a book, we need to make sure they have time to read. You can find a post on independent reading here.