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