First Chapter Friday is an easy, fun way to get students excited about reading the books in your library. Simply set aside time to read out loud – you guessed it – the first chapter of a popular book each Friday. This works best as part of an independent reading program, so you can simply pass the book off to one of the many interested readers you’ll have by the end. (Don’t have an independent reading program? This is a great place to start).
In this post, I’m going to share some quick, doable ideas to help you make your first chapter Fridays series a success.
Here’s a list of highly popular YA titles to consider using. Not every title will be right for your classroom, but this is a great place to start. I’d also recommend following the #projectlit selections for inspiration.
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Feed, by M.T. Anderson The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas
I Am not your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sanchez
Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds
Love, Hate & Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acavedo
With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acavedo
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
Refugee, by Alan Gratz
Slam, by Nick Hornby
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
Any Harry Potter Novel, by JK Rowling
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Relief for Tired Teacher Voices
I know you may already be speaking and reading aloud A LOT every day. Maybe your voice is exhausted. There are other ways to make first chapter Friday work than reading a chapter out loud for five periods in a row. If you’ve got a way to use a microphone and Garageband through some department or club at your school, you’ve got game-changing options. If you and two other members of your grade level team were to take the time to each record the first chapter of four books (do the voices!), you’d have months of material ready to access for all your classes. That’s a trade of about two hours of prep for sixty or so hours of workable audio. And if you did that every year, well…
In case you want to try this, here’s a lightning quick tech tutorial. Inside Garageband, start a new project. Choose “voice” from the opening menu. Then under “tracks” choose “new track” and select your plugged in microphone as the input. Then hit the red record button, lean into your mic, and record a little bit. Play it back to be sure it’s working. Click the recorded segment and delete it, then drag the line back to start again at the beginning. Record your whole first chapter. Then go up to “share” and choose “export song to disk.” This will allow you to save your audio track to your desktop. All this might feel weird at first, but there just might be a helpful someone at your school who can guide you the first time. If not, Youtube taught me, and it can teach you too!
Once you get the hang of it, you could also invite guests to record first chapters – interested parents, students, fellow teachers, or administrators. Your department could build a huge library of sound files on a Google doc or shared drive. My first thought for this post was to record a bunch for you, but then I realized I’d be breaking copyright like mad (with my heart in the right place) so just be sure you don’t make your school sound files public. I also thought about writing to all my favorite YA authors and asking them to record the first chapters for you, and I still might try that, so stay tuned…
There are also some First Chapter Friday readings available on Youtube, and as long as they don’t garner too much attention, they just might stay there. On this channel, you can find popular titles like The Graveyard Book, Children of Blood and Bone, and Scythe. You can also try searching your favorite titles to see if the audio exists as a free recording online, or of course you could try putting some department budget into a site like Audible or Libro FM (a cool option, as you can make your purchases or membership support your local independent bookstore).
Something for the Students to Do
While I LOVE listening to books and recommend it hither and yon, I often find it awkward playing audio to students (reading aloud for a long time is pretty much the same!). Granting them permission to put their heads down, stare into space while appearing to zone out, or doodle with no guidance, all feel like a bit of a classroom loss, somehow. Not exactly what I’d want an administrator stopping by to see, but also just not my own favorite sight.
That’s why a first chapter activity is a great chance to get students experimenting with sketchnotes – a visual note taking strategy that can actually make it easier for them to remember information from class. They can create first chapter sketchnotes in a dedicated spot in their notes, or use basic templates to give them a bit of direction. If you’re new to sketchnotes, check out this post to find out how they work.
Coloring pages can work too. These are nice if stressed-out students really just need a chance to relax.
A Way to Keep the Books Moving
There are always takers for First Chapter Fridays books right after you read them aloud. But in a week or two when the students bring them back, it’s nice for everyone to have ways of remembering which books have been featured. Letting students create “To Be Read” bookmarks or lists in their notebooks is one way to help, another is to feature your FCF books through posters on a dedicated bulletin board or with a book display across the top of a shelf.
Keeping these popular books in the spotlight will make your program more powerful, however you do it.
First Chapter Fridays are an easy way to build enthusiasm for your reading program. Even if you don’t have time to do anything but grab a book and read a chapter on the occasional Friday, I still think you should try this out. Everything else is icing on the cake; you can always work up to it over time as you build your program.