What To Choose, What To Choose...

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SWBAT preview texts in order to establish positive reading habits.

Big Idea

Students can use this time to explore the classroom library and choose texts that peek their interests.

Understanding Reader's Workshop: The Right to Choose.

25 minutes

I start by introducing the term Reader's Workshop. Many students are familiar with the term from elementary school. I hint that implied in Reader's Workshop is the element of independence and choice. I get really serious: from this point forward, you'll be choosing most of your own books.

Then I explain that due to the amount of independence the kids will have this year, they will have to get really good at making book choices. I pose the question: What strategies do you use when choosing books?

I let the kids talk at their tables for a minute to come up with some strategies they use to choose appropriate and enjoyable texts. I move around the room and interject when I hear a great idea. I love being really positive whenever I can. If I hear a great idea, I make sure to say the student's name, and praise their idea in a specific, constructive way.

When they're all done coming up with their ways to choose at their tables, we pool our ideas together. As a class, we come up with a list of strategies we use when deciding on a book to read, and I type the ideas on the Promethean Board at the front of the classroom.

Student Generated List: Strategies for Choosing Books

Exploring the Classroom Library

25 minutes

Then I explain its time to practice our strategies. They have a little time to meander around my classroom and explore the library, in order to find a book they might be interested in reading. During this time I am often inundated with questions about books and requests for recommendations. I make sure to circulate to interact with as many kids as possible. I also urge kids to talk to each other. If a kid has a question about a book, I will shout out, "Anybody read this?!" It builds community and gets kids talking in a relaxed, natural way.

Once everyone has made a selection, I notice that many kids start reading on their own. I often don't give them much reading time in the first week in order to build suspense. I like for them to beg to read. 

Then I introduce the activity. They will be having "book conversations." There will be an outer circle and an inner circle; the inner circle moves, the outer circle stays stationary. I model a book conversation. I want to talk about my book with my partner. Show them the cover, maybe read a sentence or two from the back cover, possibly explain the genre. While they talk, they can keep track of books they are interested in reading on this Book List: Peer Recommendations.

For more on this strategy, please see this lesson: Book Interviews.

I let the kids rotate to four or five people. By the end of the rotations, the kids become experts on their books and get great ideas for further reading!

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Then I bring everyone back for a wrap-up. I pose the question: Who heard about a book from SOMEONE ELSE that they added to their list. Middle school kids have a natural inclination to talk about themselves, so I try to steer them towards considering others' thoughts and ideas.


The simple act of asking students to talk about someone else does a couple of things.

  1. It forces kids to consider reading another book that they weren't originally drawn to, or maybe didn't notice during the library walk, but maybe are now interested in reading since it was recommended by a peer.
  2. It rewards the students who were really listening to their peers during the book interviews.
  3. Finally, it forces people to learn names at the beginning of the year.

At the end of the period, if there is time, I read aloud from any one of my all time favorite books.


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