In this lesson, students will analyze the elements of a chosen fictional title, series, or author they have enjoyed and use that information to identify similar titles to create a read-alike poster. The titles on this poster will serve the dual purpose of providing additional titles for each student's "to be read" list, as well as book recommendations for other readers in the reading community.
Why is this lesson important?
According to Margaret K. Merga, author of Reading Engagement for Tweens and Teens, "We need to make talking about books in the context of pleasure a norm...if every child we encounter in our capacity as a teacher or librarian recommends just one good book to friends through activities that we facilitate, we could make headway toward this issue" (2019, 37).
I would add peers to the list of groups who recommend books to readers in our communities. Student-student recommendations are very powerful and in some cases have proven to be an effective method for getting reluctant readers to give a book a try. In addition, "we have to use multiple strategies to find books that are both interesting and realistically readable" (2019, 91). Creating and utilizing read-alike resources is one such strategy.
Have students choose one of their favorite titles, series or authors based on their current reading lives prior to starting this lesson. It is recommended to have students do some sort of reflection on their reading preferences (see the Reader's Profile lesson).
||English Language Arts|
English language arts teacher
Students will analyze their choice based on the elements that made it a favorite (i.e. genre, plot structure, setting, characters, theme).
Students will identify four to five titles that share common elements with their chosen favorite (i.e. genre, plot structure, setting, characters, theme) and create a read-alike poster.
One to two class periods
Suggestion: Have the first part of the lesson in the classroom and the second part in the library.
IV.D.3: Openly communicating curation processes for others to use, interpret, and validate.
V.A.1: Reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3: Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Standard 1: Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
Standard 2: Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
Standard 3: Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
Standard 11: Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Ask the class if they have ever watched videos on YouTube and wondered how the website chose the suggested playlist videos. Explain that the website uses an algorithm (formula) to make recommendations based on common features of the video/topic that was searched. Note: You could also use and example of movie trailers and ask students whether they have noticed how they often share similar qualities of the featured movie.
Next, ask students to consider how the YouTube example could be connected to how readers choose which books to read. Use this brief discussion as a way to transition to a discussion about using the different elements of a book (genre, plot structure,setting, characters, theme) as a strategy for choosing books.
Have students turn and talk about a book, author, or series that they have enjoyed.
Note: For students who do not have any books they have enjoyed, encourage them to consider books that have been read aloud to them by family members or teachers. If they still are unable to come up with something, prompt them to think about any movie that was based on a book that they liked. Refer to the differentiation section for some additional suggestions.
To begin, prompt them to discuss why they liked the book or series. Circulate around the room to informally assess the group's use of specific book elements. Have a few students share with the group and point out when specific elements were mentioned.
Teacher Tip: At the beginning of the lesson, tell the class that the expectation is that each student contributes something during the class and is an active learner. Include opportunities for students to share in non-threatening ways such as writing something down that is read by the teacher. Additionally, provide students who are anxious or shy with the question you are going to ask them ahead of time so they can have a chance to plan what they will say.
Use some form of the Book Elements Checklist graphic organizer to help students identify the various generic elements found in books, and then have students analyze the specific elements found in the book they have identified as one they have enjoyed.
This phase of the lesson should have students taking a deeper dive into the different elements of literature that they have previously learned. Depending on the level of sophistication of the students, librarians and teachers can determine how detailed the analysis should be. Note: See the differentiation section for more details and suggestions.
Based on the identified elements they enjoyed, students will look for other books, authors, or series that match those elements. A variety of tools students can use to search for read-alike titles are listed in the materials section. Model how to use components of the library catalog such as the Explore section in Destiny.
Students will create a read-alike poster based on the four to five titles that share the elements of their chosen book. See the materials for a template that you can use.
Provide time for all students to share their completed posters. One suggestion for sharing is to match students with similar books and have them discuss some of the elements they loved about the book, author, series they choose.
Librarians can print out the completed posters and hang them up around the library and school to share with the entire reading community.
Have students prepare a short book talk about the book they found read alikes for and share them over the school message system (i.e. morning announcements), or via one-minute book talks in English language arts class.
For students who cannot easily identify books they've enjoyed, have them complete a reader's preference survey or the Reader's Profile lesson prior to this lesson.
Some kids may prefer to go to the actual stacks when they are in the library and look at physical books. Make sure that students have access to books from all levels and interests areas.
For students with a basic level of understanding:
- Provide a definition sheet of all the elements (i.e. genre, plot structure, character, setting, theme).
- Use the wordsplash version of the book elements graphic organizer
For students with a more advanced level of understanding
- Use the checklist version of the book elements checklist
For students with a sophisticated level of understanding
- Take a more granular approach. Instead of broadly looking at a book's elements, have them look carefully at one page to identify what works for them (i.e. a lot of dialogue, what the protagonist is like, what's the setting, description v. action, etc.) and then look at one page from other books to see if they would match, after getting recommendations from peers and the internet. Do one together first to model the process. (This extension addresses the Craft and Structure Standard from CCSS.)
Completed Read-Alike poster.
The students' depth of understanding of the elements of literature will determine the amount of support they will require. Students with a deeper knowledge of these elements should be expected to make more sophisticated connections between their favorite book and the read alikes.
Depending on your purpose, you may assess for a variety of attributes. Some components of a rubric could include:
- The number of accurate read alikes included on the poster
- Quality of the analysis and the identified connections on the read-alike poster
- How actively they participated in the small group and whole group discussions
Lesesne, Teri S. Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We'd Like Them to Be. Heinemann, 2010.
Merga, Margaret K. Reading Engagement for Tweens and Teens: What Would Make Them Read More? Libraries Unlimited, 2019.
Serravallo, Jennifer. The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers with 300 Strategies. Heinemann, 2015.