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Lesson Plan

Choosing the Right Book: Strategies for Beginning Readers

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Choosing the Right Book: Strategies for Beginning Readers

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Five 20- to 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Julie Burchstead

Sandy, Oregon


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology





  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears retold by Jan Brett (Putnam Juvenile, 1996)

  • A variety of books

  • Chart paper and markers

  • Small boxes or bags

  • Sticky notes

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1. Before you teach this lesson, you will benefit from knowledge of your students' reading levels. You can get this by using Reading Recovery numbers or a similar leveling method. (If you are not familiar with these techniques, your school or district reading specialist will be a good resource.) Knowledge of your students' general reading level and behavior will help you better guide their choices.

Note: Lexiles are not an effective tool for beginning readers because emergent texts generally have a sentence structure, overall lower word count, and other qualities that the Lexile formula cannot measure. For emergent readers, readability depends on patterned language, predictability, strong picture support, high frequency words, overall text length, the number of words on each page, and the font size.

2. Obtain and familiarize yourself with a copy of Goldilocks and The Three Bears retold by Jan Brett. You may choose to use a different version of this fairy tale but will need one that emphasizes the language pattern too big, too small, and just right.

3. If you use the Jan Brett version, read it aloud to your class just for pleasure before this lesson (you'll want to do this recently enough that students will still remember and be familiar with it). Let students suggest and use some hand motions to illustrate too hot, too cold, and just right.

You should also practice reading the book aloud using the Goldilocks and the Three Bears Think Aloud sheet. You may choose to cut out the think-aloud ideas and clip them to the appropriate pages. If you will be using a different book, you should prepare to read it to students using think alouds. These should model the connections a reader makes while reading a text, which has been shown to help students in learning to make their own connections, thus increasing their comprehension.

4. Using classroom interests and your students' ability range as a guide, select two distinct purposes for reading. If possible, include one purpose that will lend itself to fiction and one that lends itself to informational texts. For example, the first purpose might be to find a story about animals and the second purpose might be to find a book that will tell you how to make cookies. Choose three appropriate texts for each purpose: one that is too hard or too long, one that is too easy or too short, and one that is just right. Texts do not need to be books brochures and magazines work as well.

Some examples for the first purpose might include:
  • Too easy/wordless Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day (Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, 1991)

  • Just right Spot Goes to the Farm by Eric Hill (Puffin, 2003)

  • Too hard Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman (Putnam Juvenile, 1995)
Examples for the second purpose might include:
  • Too short A recipe card with one recipe written on it

  • Just right The DK Children's Cookbook (DK Publishing, 2004)

  • Too long The Joy of Cooking by Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, and Irma S. Rombauer (Simon & Schuster, 1997)
It may work best to talk about these books in guided reading groups rather than as a whole class so you can choose an appropriate range of books for the reading-level range of specific students. This will prevent inaccurate labeling (e.g., calling wordless books too easy when they may be just right).

5. The more books you have in your class library the better. Assemble multiple browsing tubs of books of assorted genres, length, and difficulty, including texts you make of songs, poems, numbers, words, or stories that your students are familiar with already so all will have several texts they can read successfully. Plastic dishwashing tubs make great bins. Use your students' interests as a guide when sorting the books; you might sort books topically, by favorite series (e.g., Arthur or Little Critter), or by genre (e.g., wordless books, ABC books, riddle or joke books, informational texts, fairy tales, chapter books, or magazines). Tub labels should have pictures on them to support ELLs or nonreaders. Books do not need be marked with a reading level but some students may look for level markers if they are taught to use them to track their progress.

You should also make storage spaces for individual students to store books they have selected for independent reading time. Cardboard banker's boxes labeled with each student's name are good for this purpose. Gallon-sized plastic bags also work and can be stored in the students' desks.

6. Print out the Is This the Right Book for Me? and What Readers Ask posters. Enlarge or illustrate them as desired. If you are working with special education students or English-language learners, you might add pictures to the posters to make the content more comprehensible. You might also want to make bookmarks with the words Too Easy, Too Short, Too Hard, Too Long, and Just Right with pictures to help cue to the meaning of the phrases such as a snake on the Too Long bookmark.

7. Make one copy of the Purpose for Reading worksheet for each student in your class.

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