First Chapter Friday is THE VERY BEST THING I have implemented this school year. My students and I look forward to it every single week because it’s a rare treat in today’s world: Reading just for fun! Yes, reading just for the shared joy of a good story. It’s that simple…that magical…and that easy. But it’s so much more than reading for fun. It’s about nurturing a genuine love for reading, building class community, exposing your students to a diverse range of authors and texts, strengthening foundational reading skills, and much more.
If you missed my first post in this First Chapter Friday blog series, then click HERE to learn more about why you should try this out in your classroom. If you love the idea of First Chapter Friday but have a few questions about how it works, then read on! This FAQ is comprised of actual questions from fellow teachers via Instagram and email. If you have a question, please leave it in the comments and I’ll update the post with an answer. 🙂
So, do you just read the first chapter?
Yep! It’s as simple as it sounds! Open a book and read the first chapter. It’s good old-fashioned reading! 🙂 There’s really no need to overcomplicate it, but there are a few things you can do to make it even more engaging for students. For example, I’ve found that giving students listening sheets to color and jot down their thoughts helps them stay focused as they listen. You can check out my collection of 18 different First Chapter Friday listening pages HERE.
When do you do it and what does the rest of your class look like?
I do First Chapter Friday at the very beginning of class, but some teachers save it for the end. I just know that unless I do it first thing, we’ll “run out of time” more often than not. To save myself from that end-of-class stress, I begin class with First Chapter Friday. It makes for a relaxing, low-stress, and fun way to start Friday! Here’s what our Friday agendas usually look like:
- First Chapter Friday
- Independent Reading (I usually give students 10 minutes, but depending on what we have planned, I may cut this time short on Fridays)
- Lesson (Usually this is a quick mini-lesson/activity or continuing work from the previous day).
As you can see, with 45-minute class periods, this leaves us with less time to work with during the class period. If you’re worried about time, I recommend designating a time period, setting a timer, and sticking to it. Even if you only read for 5 minutes, you’ll find that this First Chapter Friday time is PRECIOUS.
Do you read the entire first chapter?
That’s the goal, but I break the rules when the first chapters are too long or too short. If the first chapter is long, I will read as much as I can in about 8 minutes (10 max). If it’s short, I’ll read a couple. For example, I just featured Brown Girl Dreaming last Friday, and because it’s a novel in verse, we read a couple chapters.
If you’re worried about time or your students’ attention span, start with short chapters and work your way up. You’ll eventually find a sweet spot and know just what length of time works best for you, your students, and your schedule. Which brings us to the next question…
How much time does First Chapter Friday take?
In my classroom, it takes us around 10-15 minutes, depending on the length of the chapter. I like to introduce the book and author, read it, and then give students a few minutes to share their thoughts after the read-aloud.
I definitely modify this to fit my schedule, though! For example, one Friday we simply did not have much time to devote to First Chapter Friday. I literally read a PAGE AND HALF. That’s it. And it wasn’t even the first chapter; it was a little excerpt before the actual chapter. (It was Ghost Boys if you’re wondering). But the students were hooked, and many raised their hand to enter the “book lottery” for that title. So it was still a success!
First Chapter Friday is flexible, so I think the question should be: “How much time can I devote to this?” If it’s just 5 minutes, that’s fine. Find short, engaging excerpts to read! First Chapter Friday is less about following the rules of the chapters and more about using the text to hook the students on the book.
How do you pick your books?
I usually pull books from my classroom library, but I also search on the teens section of my public library’s Overdrive. In addition, I follow lots of publishing and bookish accounts on Instagrams and I try to stay up to date on engaging middle grade and YA titles. Specifically, I look for high-interest titles with engaging first chapters. Students have come to expect intriguing first chapters with drama, unanswered questions, and cliffhangers, so I always look for texts that will immediately hook them.
I also actively search for a diverse range of books, authors, and genres. The best part of First Chapter Friday is broadening my students’ horizons and exposing them to more books than I could with my limited curriculum. Representation matters, and it’s something I strive for with my First Chapter Friday selections.
I’m going to compile a list of my past First Chapter Friday titles, as well as the ones I plan to use in the future, and I’ll publish that as a blog post soon. I’m also keeping track of what we read every Friday over on my Instagram, so you can head there for more ideas and use the hashtag #firstchapterfriday to see what others are reading, too!
What do students do while you read?
Students listen! The first few First Chapter Fridays, that’s all they did. I didn’t give them anything to do, and everything was fine. So like I said, you don’t need to overcomplicate it! However, when I introduced the First Chapter Friday active listening sheets a few weeks in, they were a HIT!
I specifically designed these graphic organizers to give students a chance to color, doodle, and record their thoughts, reactions, and predictions. These low-maintenance worksheets are my way of promoting active listening and holding students accountable without making First Chapter Friday feel like “work.” You can check out my bundle of 18 different First Chapter Friday listening sheets HERE.
Do you collect and/or grade your First Chapter Friday sheets? If so, how?
I collect the active listening sheets, mainly because I am interested in reading students’ answers to the question “Are you interested in reading this book? Why/why not?” When students are very interested in a title, I’ll often note that on my independent reading spreadsheet. Sometimes I give students participation points, and sometimes I just collect the papers to see students’ responses. It’s totally up to you!
How do you keep your students engaged while you read?
Between the natural engagement of a high-interest read-aloud and the First Chapter Friday graphic organizers, my students have been engaged every single Friday. I think giving them the chance to color has really helped them focus; it gives them something physical to do so they can concentrate on listening. Without the chance to color, doodle, and jot down their thoughts, I would probably see some wandering eyes or distracting behaviors. So far, so good! The listening sheets have worked like a charm!
How would you do First Chapter Friday in a hybrid or virtual teaching setting?
If you’re in a hybrid setting, I would try to find a way to squeeze it in during a face-to-face session. But I know you probably don’t have enough time with hybrid students, so doing it every week might not be realistic. I would recommend trying to do it once every other week or once a month. During the weeks you can’t squeeze it in face-to-face, I would recommend hosting a virtual First Chapter Friday!
To make First Chapter Friday happen virtually, you have a few options. First, you could record yourself reading the first chapter aloud and share that with your students. If you don’t have time to do this, you can send students a link to a sample of the ebook or audiobook via Overdrive. The samples are 5 minutes long, which often isn’t the entire first chapter, but it’s better than nothing. 🙂
If students have public library accounts connected to Overdrive, they will be able to check out those digital versions after First Chapter Friday. (If your public library is anything like mine, you can sign up for an ecard online and get instant access to all digital content). Click HERE to listen to the Overdrive sample of Ghost Boys, one of our First Chapter Friday books from earlier this year.
Does First Chapter Friday work with high school?
Yes! This can work for almost any grade. I did not try it out until this year, when I started teaching middle school. Now, I regret not ever doing it for the 6 years that I taught high school. The more I witness the magic of First Chapter Friday, the more I realize that this was exactly what my high school students needed. They deserved First Chapter Friday! Most of my previous juniors came to me already disliking reading (or bragging about “never reading a book”). First Chapter Friday would have been a great way to help them rekindle their love for reading.
I’m lucky now that most of my 7th graders came to me already enjoying reading. There were a few who didn’t love reading but are now excited readers, thanks to things like First Chapter Friday and Book Trailer Tuesday. For us, First Chapter Friday is about keeping their love for reading alive and well so it can carry them into high school and the rest of their lives.
I think all of my middle school tips and tricks would apply to the high school setting; the only difference would be the specific books you share with your high school kiddos! If you are interested, I can compile a list of book ideas for high school First Chapter Friday; just let me know in the comments!
I challenge you to try it out…THIS Friday!
I hope this FAQ helps you get started with First Chapter Friday! If you have more questions, please drop them in the comments. To check out my collection of First Chapter Friday active listening worksheets, click HERE. For more help with First Chapter Friday and growing a love for reading, check out my other blog posts:
- Why You Should Try First Chapter Friday
- Book Trailer Tuesday: How to Hook Your Students on Books in 3 Minutes
- Coming Soon: 15 Tips for a Successful First Chapter Friday
- Coming Soon: Middle School First Chapter Friday List
And if you’re tired of waiting until Friday to have all the fun, try out Book Trailer Tuesday, too! You can read more about it HERE.