First Chapter Fridays: Testing Testing 1-2-3

I’m trying this idea for a solid semester

I decided to try something new… again. It seems like this fall I am doing SO MANY NEW THINGS!

  • New remote learning procedures.
  • New protocols at school.
  • New content in the form of British Literature classes for my senior students.
  • A new blogging class.

With all that newness, what’s one more new thing, right?!

That’s where First Chapter Fridays come in. I’m trying this fun, new activity that’s the brainchild of Betsy Potash and her Spark! Creativity website.

The purpose of First Chapter Fridays?

  • To expose students to new and interesting reading choices
  • To discover and learn new vocabulary
  • To practice note-taking skills

Here’s how it works:

On Fridays in my junior and senior English classes, I read the first chapter of a book. If the first chapter takes more than fifteen to twenty minutes to read, then I read only a portion and continue it the following week, or I read the book’s prologue or introduction (assuming those are shorter).

This photo gallery shows the books I have read to my students on Fridays so far this year. Tomorrow, I’ll read from Hilary Liftin’s sugar-themed memoir titled Candy and Me. It contains about forty chapters, each focused on a type of candy enjoyed by the author as a child. I thought it would be a good book for the day before Halloween. I’ll pass out candy before I read to get in the spirit of the occasion.

Most of the books I’ve read so far this fall have been nonfiction reads, my favorite genre. Only one has been fiction.

To hype up our new Friday habit, I have a bulletin board in my room where I staple black-and-white photocopies of the book covers. On Wednesdays or Thursdays, I add that week’s book to the board, hopefully to pique the interest of my students… at least the few students who actually look at my bulletin board. (lol)

First Chapter Friday bulletin board in my English classroom.
You can download a PDF file from Spark! Creativity that includes the “First Friday Chapter” signs above and the sketchnote sheets mentioned below.

Earlier in the week (or sometimes the previous weekend), I also preview the reading and see what new word I can pull from it to include in our weekly vocabulary bell-ringer on Thursdays. Then when I read that word the next day in the first chapter, I get to see a few eyes light up in recognition of the new word.

And let me tell you, that’s always fun!

During First Chapter Fridays, to make sure students are engaged and listening, I ask them to respond in some way to the read-aloud.

Students have three listening choices:

  1. They can take “sketch notes.” I make photocopies available of two of Potash’s templates. Most kids take these. They draw, doodle, and jot down phrases as they listen.
  2. They can take traditional notes on notebook paper. A couple students per class will choose this option.
  3. They can write a one-word summary. They choose one word to summarize the reading, and then write a paragraph to support it. I may have one student who writes one of these each week.
First Chapter Friday sketch notes
This is a sketchnotes sheet filled out by a student as she listened to To Forgive Design.
How I “grade” these:

When I’m finished, I collect their responses and award five points as part of their 15-point weekly participation grade. If students have generated meaningful notes, which I judge at a glance, then they’ve earned those points.

First Chapter Friday sketch notes
Students write a mix or notes and drawings in their sketchnotes.
How I adapt these for students at home:

For my four students learning at home, I record myself reading using Google Meet and then upload and link the video on Google Classroom. Those students then submit their notes online.

So far, my students seem to enjoy First Chapter Fridays. And I do, too. I would like to think that the readings are encouraging students to read more, but truthfully, I’m not sure about that.

Social media just offers too many distractions. And I can empathize with that. After all, I know that my own reading habits have been greatly affected by Instagram, Facebook, apps, and even posting on this blog.

But thanks to First Chapter Fridays, I do know that at least students are increasing their knowledge of the world, enlarging their vocabularies, and taking notes.

One junior even told me he looks forward to First Chapter Friday every week. That’s so good to hear!

So even though trying something new can be a bit much, especially with everything else that’s new this fall, untried activities also keep my job exciting and evergreen. The success I’ve experienced so far with First Chapter Fridays encourages me to stick with this new weekly tradition to determine how it might fit into my teaching permanently.

Need a new poetry lesson?

Enter your email below and I’ll send you this PDF file that will teach your students to write Treasured Object Poems, one of my favorite poem activities. I know your students will enjoy it!

Treasured Object Poetry student handout
Treasured Object Poems

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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