The Ultimate Guide to First Chapter Friday

First Chapter Friday, Meet a Book Monday, Too Many Books to Read Tuesday, We love Reading Wednesday, Thoroughly into Books Thursday – whatever you call it, it’s a great way to help students understand the range of books and authors out there.

The premise is simple. Grab a book you think students will love, then read a chapter out loud. Then watch as the reading dominos begin to fall. One student reads it, loves it, passes it on, and it travels all year long.

Of course, there are nuances. Today I’m going to share everything I’ve got to help you enjoy First Chapter Fridays with attentive students, worthy books, displays to love, and a voice that isn’t too exhausted.

You can listen in to episode 161 below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Kind Cotton, a small family-run business changing the world one book at a time. When you purchase one of their lovely teacher tees or sweatshirts, they donate one inclusive children’s book (and they’re almost up to 80,000!). You can use my affiliate code “BETSY” for 10% off your next purchase right here. I especially like the “Read Inclusive Books” and the “Ban Guns not Books” sweatshirts in the new fall collection!

What is First Chapter Friday?

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). 

What Books should I start with for First Chapter Friday?

Here’s a list of highly popular choice reading titles to consider using. Not every title will be right for your classroom, so be sure to preview before reading aloud, but this is a great place to start. I’d also recommend following the #projectlit selections for inspiration. 

When it comes to choosing a book, consider what your students have loved in the past, what’s currently most popular at your school library, and your own favorite books. Your choice doesn’t have to come from one of these lists, the goal is just to put many different wonderful books in front of your students through your program. Try memoir, fantasy, dystopia, graphic novels, short stories, novels-in-verse – whatever you want to share!

What do Students do during First Chapter Friday?

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 (check out episode 140 for waaaay more info). They can create first chapter sketchnotes in a dedicated spot in their notes, using templates like the ones below to provide a a starting point. By the way, you can sign up for a free pack of six sketchnote templates, including the ones below, right here.

First Chapter Friday Displays

There are always takers for First Chapter Fridays books right after you read them aloud. You may even need to do a drawing to decide who gets the book. 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.  

One fun way to keep the FCF energy through a display is to link up some great videos by QR code for early finishers to watch. In the display featured below, students can visit Youtube versions of five popular first chapters anytime they have ten extra minutes in class.

Make a free copy of this QR-code based interactive First Chapter Friday bulletin board. 


Keeping these popular books in the spotlight will make your program more powerful, however you do it. 

Guest Readers for First Chapter Fridays

A fun way to save your voice and enrich your reading culture is to bring in guest readers for your program. They can either come to your classroom or record a video from wherever they are that you can play. You could even have someone read over Zoom (the mayor? A famous local athlete? The author?).

There are quite a few wonderful first chapters available on Youtube, and I’ve done some deep internet diving to find the best for you.

Remember, you know your students and your school culture best. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these books, please watch the video before playing it for your students so you can decide if the language and themes are right for your class. 

John Green reads The Fault in our Stars

Nic Stone reads from Dear Martin

Jason Reynold reads from Ghost

Leah Johnson reads from You Should See me in a Crown

The Poet X from Epic Reads

On the Come Up from Epic Reads

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda from Epic Reads

What if I don’t have time for this?

So far we’ve talked about great books for your program, sketchnote activities for students to work on while they listen, First Chapter Friday displays, and guest readers. And maybe that’s feeling like a lot to juggle considering everything you’ve already got going.

I hear you!

What I’d suggest is that you start small. FCF doesn’t have to be every Friday, and it doesn’t even have to be a whole chapter if you don’t have time. Maybe you just use the last ten minutes of class, and you get to what you get to. Maybe you do it once a month. Maybe you do it on those crazy days after testing or right before a holiday vacation when students’ attention is completely AWOL anyway and you just want to do something nice for them that has some educational benefit to it.

See what happens when you open a book and read aloud. See if it’s a hit. Then go from there. Expand if you can, when you can.

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I'm Betsy

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