Standard Lesson

BOOKMATCH: Scaffolding Independent Book Selection

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 45- to 60-minute sessions
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This lesson prepares students to be independent and responsible for their own just-right book selections during independent reading time. Using the BOOKMATCH poster, the teacher introduces various criteria that influence book selection, such as length, language, topic, and genre. Students select books for independent reading using several of these criteria. In subsequent lessons, they discuss and evaluate their book choices and are introduced to additional selection criteria. Ongoing support and practice lead to increased awareness of their personal preferences as readers.

From Theory to Practice

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint 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.
  • 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).
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Large classroom library with books on a variety of topics in various genres

  • Chart paper, white board, or overhead transparency

  • Computer with Internet access and projection capability




1. Assemble an ample supply of books, covering a wide variety of topics, genres, and reading levels, and spread them out on shelves or tabletops so students can easily browse them. If your classroom library is relatively small, you may need to take students to the school library, especially if students are all selecting books at the same time. However, if students are making book selections within a reading workshop, they are likely to be in different places, some just beginning their books, some in the middle, and some just finishing, and a smaller selection may be sufficient.

2. Schedule a set daily time (45 to 60 minutes) for the lesson sessions. Each session will include a minilesson about selecting books and time for students to spend reading the books they have selected

3. Choose three titles to demonstrate the book selection criteria in Session 2. Three examples include:
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, 1999)

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Penguin, 1967)

  • The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (Random House, 1995)
Note: These titles were chosen to provide examples of a variety of genres. However, the titles you use for demonstration and modeling should reflect the interests of your students, or books with which your students are familiar. Any book can be used to model the selection process. You may even prefer to pull texts randomly from your classroom library, to model what students will experience when they make their own selections.

4. Choose example books to demonstrate a variety of genres and topics in Session 4. If possible, include nonfiction, graphic novels, plays/movie scripts, and poetry as well as fiction.

5. Make several copies for each student of the Student Comment Form for Intermediate-Grade Readers. Keep a supply in a central location for students to use as needed. Make an overhead transparency of the form for use in Session 6 if desired.

6. Print a copy of the BOOKMATCH poster and display near your whole-group meeting area.

7. Set up an online discussion forum such as a wiki or message board for the class. Simple instructions are provided on the wiki sites suggested in the list of Resources for this lesson. If students have not previously participated in online literature discussions, you may wish to adapt Sessions 1 and 2 of the ReadWriteThink lesson "Thoughtful Threads: Sparking Rich Online Discussions" to provide an introduction to the online forum.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Learn strategies for choosing just-right books for independent reading

  • Develop metacognitive awareness of their own preferences as readers

  • Become independent thinkers with regard to selection of reading materials

  • Practice reading skills during independent reading time

Session 1

1. Conduct a whole-group brainstorming session to answer the question, What is a just-right book? Record students' responses on chart paper, white board, or overhead. Encourage students to clarify their responses if needed.

2. Allow students about 10 minutes to browse the books displayed on shelves or tabletops and select a book they think is just right.

3. Have students begin to read their selected books during the remainder of the session.

Session 2

1. Have students bring the books they selected in Session 1. Use the following questions to conduct a whole-group discussion.
  • Who thinks they made a just-right book selection? How do you know?

  • Who found that the book they chose was not just right? How do you know?
Add any additional information from this discussion to the chart compiled in Session 1, to better define a just-right book.

2. Introduce BOOKMATCH as a tool for selecting books for independent reading. Point out that people who have trouble finding just-right books are not likely to enjoy reading. Using three books to demonstrate the various characteristics (see Preparation, Step 3 for recommendations), model the use of the first four criteria on the BOOKMATCH poster. You can use the teacher scripts for BOOKMATCH lesson lesson provided for direct instruction if you wish.

3. Explain that the first feature, B-book length, is important for judging how much time you will need to read the book. You might choose a longer book when you expect to have plenty of time for reading.

4. Model the use of O-ordinary language, by reading aloud a page from each of the three example books. Explain that it may be quicker to read a book that uses ordinary language, but more interesting to read a book that plays with language (such as poetry) or invents new words (such as fantasy).

5. Point out some differences in O-organization, among the three example books. Explain how these differences can contribute to selection of a just-right book by providing a preview of the book.
  • How long are the chapters? Long chapters may not concern some students; however, other students may specifically seek out books with short chapters so that they can finish a chapter in one reading session. Some students will want that sense of accomplishment.

  • Do the chapters have their own titles? Chapter titles often provide a clue to the organization of the book. If, for example, each chapter of a book is titled with a different character's name, it probably indicates that the book is structured in multiple perspectives or points of view.

  • Are there pictures or photographs? Particularly in a nonfiction book, pictures can serve as visual aids for understanding the text.
6. Introduce the use of K-knowledge prior to book, in selecting reading material. This can be knowledge of the book itself (e.g., from a movie), the author (from reading other titles by the same author), or the topic. Explain that if you liked the movie made from a book, you liked other books by the same author, or you are very interested in the topic, there's a good chance you will like the book. Be sure to point out that if you have no knowledge prior to the book, you should not automatically reject it. It could be an opportunity to find a new favorite author or to learn about a new and interesting topic. Note that if the topic is new to you, you need to make sure the book is aimed at beginners rather than experts.

7. Have students browse the classroom library and select a book they think is just right, using the criteria you have just outlined.

8. Allow students to begin to read their selected books during the remainder of the session.

Session 3

1. Have students bring their book choices from Session 2. The following questions and invitations can be used to guide a whole-group discussion on how things are going so far in terms of finding just-right books.
  • Who is on the way to making a book match after using B, O, O, and K? Tell the class why.

  • Share your selection process for your book and show the class what features led you to choose this title.

  • Share your thinking about what worked or did not work for you in this process.
If new ideas are shared that help to define a just-right book, add this information to the chart compiled previously.

2. Invite students to sign up for individual conferences if they would like more support in using the selection criteria.

Session 4

1. Review some of the decisions students made the day before based on B, O, O, K.

2. Conduct a minilesson on the next three criteria. For additional support see BOOKMATCH: How to scaffold student book selection for independent reading and BOOKMATCH for Readers.

3. Start by introducing M-manageable text. Explain that readers need to judge each book individually-students should not just rely on the opinions of their peers or on the recommendations of publishers and other "experts" when deciding whether a text is manageable. Help students define what it means for a text to be manageable. For example, you will want to let them know that they don't need to know every word on the page.

4. Using your selected examples, introduce the factors in A-appeal to genre. Outline the features of various genres and explain how these features influence readers' expectations. Invite students to share information about their favorite genres and explain why they like reading those types of books.

5. Move on to the next letter on the chart, T-topic appropriateness. Using your selected examples, show how readers can determine the main topic of a book from the title, illustrations, and jacket copy. Use the think-aloud technique to demonstrate how topic can influence book selection, asking questions such as, Am I comfortable with the topic of this book? Do I feel I am ready to read about this? Note: Sometimes students begin a text and discover that a topic (such as drug use) is discussed too explicitly in the text. A student's comfort level with a topic is personal and individual, and cannot always be determined by the teacher.

6. Invite students to use these additional criteria to reevaluate the text they chose in the previous session. Encourage them to change their selected titles if they feel they need to after applying the new criteria.

7. Provide time for independent reading of students' selected books.

Session 5

1. Conduct a brief review of the criteria introduced in Session 4 (M, A, T). Invite students to share how these criteria either confirmed or changed their initial selections.

2. Introduce the remaining two criteria on the BOOKMATCH poster. Point out that C-connection can refer to text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connections. Explain that connections help engage readers and contribute to their understanding of the text. Invite students to share connections they have discovered in their current reading.

3. Explain how H-high interest will contribute to selecting a just-right book. Using one of your example books, apply this feature in a think-aloud demonstration by asking, Am I interested in finding out about this topic or these characters? What is my purpose for reading this book? Have my friends recommended this title or this author? Remind students that this criteria alone (or any of the others for that matter) does not mean that a book is just right. Being interested is important, but if the text is too hard, for example, they may struggle to comprehend it and become frustrated with reading.

4. Using the factors involved in H-high interest, have students write a brief recommendation designed to get their classmates interested in a particular book

5. Introduce the online forum you have set up for class discussion and demonstrate how to access the site. Explain that students will use this forum to share the book recommendations they have written. Model how to post a book recommendation on the site and how to comment on an existing post.

Homework: Instruct students to post their book recommendations from Session 5 on the online discussion forum. Encourage them also to return to the forum and comment on other students' recommendations. Note: If students have do not have home Internet access, schedule time for this activity in the school computer lab.

Session 6

1. Distribute copies of the Student Comment Form for Intermediate-Grade Readers and explain that it is a tool to allow students to write down their thoughts as they select a book. Model the use of the form (using an overhead transparency if desired), filling out a sample as you go through a hypothetical book selection process. Explain to students that the form is a place for them to record their thinking, so they need to write more than yes or no answers. Note: The Student Comment Form is a scaffold for students who are learning to match themselves to just-right books. Once students are fully aware of their preferences and are successful at self-selection, this scaffold is typically removed.

2. Show students where they can pick up additional copies of the form. Explain that they should now make a preliminary choice of a new title and fill out the Student Comment Form before they begin reading. On the basis of the completed form, they should decide whether the book is a good match. If not, they should take a new form, select a different book, and start the process over.

3. As students are going through the selection process with their Student Comment Forms, meet with each student individually to provide support and clarify any misunderstandings.

4. During conferences, encourage students to comment about their selection experience on the online forum that you set up for the classroom.


  • Have students share their Student Comment Form and selected book with the class, demonstrating how they went through the selection process.

  • Have students use dialogue journals in the classroom to discuss their self-selection process with other classmates.

  • Follow up the discussion of M-manageable text (Session 4) with several minilessons about using context clues and other reading strategies for building vocabulary.

  • Follow up the discussion of A-appeal to genre (Session 4) with several minilessons focused on various genres.

  • Provide targeted guidance through small-group sessions. Create small groups of students who share similar difficulties (for example, difficulty understanding different genres) and meet with the groups to offer more detailed instruction.

  • Have students meet with younger readers in the school and use the BOOKMATCH criteria to support them as they self-select books.

  • Organize a Family Reading Night during which students teach their parents how to use BOOKMATCH.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Review Student Comment Form for Intermediate-Grade Readers to document students’ self-selection process and understanding of the BOOKMATCH criteria.

  • During individual reading conferences, take the opportunity to determine whether students are able to make appropriate book selections for independent reading. Provide additional support where needed.

  • Use the Independent Reader BOOKMATCH Rubric and the Reading Workshop Rubric to assess students’ abilities to self-select just-right books.

  • Monitor students’ posts on the online discussion forum to determine students’ comfort level with the selection process, their individual reading preferences, and their engagement with self-selection.

  • Use anecdotal data from whole-class discussions and small-group instruction to provide ongoing evidence of students’ success with their just-right book selections and to gauge their future needs.

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