Beacon Lesson Plan Library

You Are What You Read

Joan Jackson


Students select a prose, poetry, or nonfiction excerpt from a book of their choice and share it by reading aloud to their classmates, who identify the genre and respond to related questions in their journals.


The student develops personal reading preferences through exploring a variety of prose, poetry and nonfiction.

The student writes notes, outlines, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of sixth grade level or higher content from a variety of media.

The student expands and enhances personal interest through listening.

The student reads literature for personal pleasure.


--Excerpt from a student-selected text
--Students' Daily Journals
--Dry-Erase Board OR Overhead Projector
--Dry-Erase Board Markers OR Overhead Projector Pens
--'You Are What You Read' Form (see attached file)
--Manila Folder (to conceal the book being read)
--Oral Reading Checklist or Reading Fluency Checklist (optional)


1. Make sure students have a thorough knowledge of the word 'genre', including a listing of the types that are appropriate to their grade level. Most Literature books cover this topic very well. Your Media Specialist is an excellent resource to learn about genre, and you and your students can also visit the -World of Reading- homepage on the WWW at: and click on 'Kinds of Books' to learn even more about the many kinds of books.
2. Copy the -You Are What You Read- form for each student.
3. Make a copy of your class roll to use as a checklist for student completion of this activity as each day passes, or make a notation in your gradebook.
4. Locate and copy an 'Oral Reading Checklist' or a 'Reading Fluency Checklist' if you plan to use it while the students read. Keep this checklist on file, however, since you want this type of experience to be as risk-free as possible to encourage voluntary participation.
5. Make sure that, prior to the week students are assigned to lead this activity, they have an opportunity to visit the Media Center to check out a book.
6. For each day that you do this activity, remember to write, on the board or overhead, the questions that the students will respond to after the excerpt has been read.


1. Prior to beginning this activity, students should have had experience with various readings of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, biographies, etc., in order for them to be able to identify the genre of the excerpt. Many subcategories also fall under each genre. Your Media Specialist is an excellent resource to learn about 'genre'. Students can also visit the -World of Reading- homepage on the WWW at: and click on 'Kinds of Books' to learn even more.

2. On the Monday of the week prior to when students will be reading aloud to the class, display and discuss the statement, -You Are What You Read-. Ask students, -How many of you know what types of books you like to read?- Tell them that each student will be in charge of leading an activity each day that will help the whole class identify the types of literature available for them to read, as well as help them discover what type of reading interests them. Discuss how the types of books a person reads reflect a lot about that person.

3. Ask for five students to volunteer, or assign a group of five students, to be prepared to lead an activity the following week. (Select the student to lead the activity at the beginning of each class. The students should be ready on any of the five days.) Tell them they should select a short passage (2-3 minutes) from a book they have read or are presently reading, and keep the title of the book secret from the rest of the class. Students should make sure they try to select a passage that will 'hook' listeners and make them want to hear/read more of the book. Ideally this will also be a passage that will make the genre identification as simple as possible. Students should practice reading the passage and remember to read -with meaning- to appeal to their listeners.

4. On Monday of the following week, as soon as the bell rings, select one of the five students to lead the lesson that day. Ask all students to take out their journals. The 'student teacher' should have everyone's attention and begin reading their selection (this is a great opportunity to complete a beginning-of-year Oral Reading Checklist for the student's Reading folder), making sure to keep the cover of the book concealed (place the book inside a manila folder).

5. After the excerpt is read, have the reader ask students to think about the genre represented and write it down in their journals. The reader will then call on volunteers to correctly identify the genre, as well as ask students to guess the name of the book, which they can also record in their journals.

6. Students (with the exception of the reader) will then respond, in their journals, to a couple of questions related to the reading, such as:
1. Summarize this excerpt in only one sentence. Did you like this excerpt? Why? Why not?
2. Summarize this excerpt in only one sentence. Think about a person who might enjoy or be interested in this type of book. Describe some characteristics about the person that might reveal a reason for their interest or their potential to enjoy this book.

7. Call on students to share their summaries and responses with the class.

8. At mid-six-weeks, the end of the six-weeks, or after everyone has had an opportunity to read aloud to the class, have the students fill out the attached form that asks them to reflect on their journal entries. This form has the students list each genre that has been featured during this period, then look at and write about their responses to questions.

9. Encourage students to use the form to help them select books to read that appeal to them.

10. In addition to listening to students' summaries each day to monitor their comprehension and ability to summarize, walk around and check their summaries as they work, or walk around and check the previous day's summaries while students work to respond to a selection they've just heard.


Students' ability to comprehend the reading passage through summarizing is monitored daily as the teacher moves around the room and reads students' work. The following marks may be noted beside the summary (which provides the teacher with information about the student's listening comprehension skills) in the student's journal:

3--Outstanding Listening Comprehension evident through thorough summary
2--Good Listening Comprehension evident through adequate summary
1--Below-Average Listening Comprehension evident through summary containing minimal information related to the passage
0--No attempt to summarize the passage

Use the attached -You Are What You Read- form to allow students to reflect on their responses to individual readings, which will assist them in identifying the types of books that might interest them.

The teacher's gradebook or a separate checklist is used to keep a record of students' completion of the 'student teacher' role of this activity. This activity encourages students to select literature for their own personal pleasure that will also be shared with the class.

Web Links

Web supplement for You Are What You Read
World of Reading

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