I start this lesson and this unit by placing a series of images on the SmartBoard. They are the Book Cover Images that represent each of the books students may potentially read as part of this unit. I ask the students to participate in a quick write where they select one of the novels and write about what they believe it will be about. The only caveat is that they are not allowed to select a novel they have already read in the past, or that they have any prior knowledge of.
After the students complete the quick write, I move to the front of the room and talk to the class about each of the potential novel choices for this unit. I purposely do not explain the project to them until I have exposed them to all the options. Sometimes, when a kid knows the outcome, their opinions are influenced, and this could keep some kids from trying to select a book that they my actually enjoy.
I read a short overview of a novel, while displaying the cover image on the board, and then I read the first page to them. For my classes, I include the following novels:
After I have shared each of the novels with the kids, I have them create a prioritized list of them, based on their interest level. I have one person at each table take out a sheet of paper, fold it in half twice, and tear it up into the four equal pieces. Each student at the table has a piece and lists the seven novels in order, where #1 is the book you most want, and #7 is the book you have the least interest in.
I have some students who have read one or more of the novels before, so I have them put those last and place a star next to them as a sign for me, so I do not assign them to re-read a novel. The only novel I considered allowing a student to re-read this year was The Book Thief, as it is notably longer than the others, and a bit more abstract at points. Very few students requested to read a book again, and those who asked about this one had read it 2 or more years prior, so I knew they'd get much more out of it with their newer understanding and perspective since that time.
To get out the door, students are expected to turn in their request slip to me.