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Back to School #4: Five Finger Rule for Choosing Just Right Books

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn how to choose “just right” books.  Many kids are easily swayed by what they see on TV, what their older siblings are reading, or what their classmates are choosing.  Children need to be prepared to make the right choices for themselves according to their interests and, to a certain degree, their abilities.  Using the famous ‘Five Finger Rule,” kids can be taught to choose books that are just right for them!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Use the “Five Finger Rule” to independently choose suitable library books.  (Supports AASL  4.4.1 “Identify own areas of interest” and AASL 4.4.2  “Recognize the limits of own personal knowledge.”)

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will be able to explain the “Five Finger Rule” in his or her own words.  Each child will also be able to apply the “Five Finger Rule” when choosing library books.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Open the lesson with provocative questions such as, “Have you ever noticed how many thousands of books there are in the library?  How can we be sure we are making good choices?  Will the best books for me be the same as the best books for my friend?  What strategies can we use to guide our choices? “

Today’s lesson will teach you how to choose great library books!  Let’s get started!

2. Main:

First, assess the kids’ current understanding.  Ask, “If we went to the library right this minute, how would you choose your books?”

Find out what they already know.  Record the students’ ideas on a white board or flip chart.   Some of them may know a lot about making good book choices.   This part of the lesson is important because you will use their ideas to check what they already know against a Brain Pop video (if available.)

If they seem stuck, prompt them by asking “Whom could you ask?”  or “Where could you look on the book itself?”  Make sure the class gives you at least ten ideas before moving on.

Next, show the Brain Pop Jr. movie, “Choosing a Book.”  (if available).  As you watch, check off ideas that the kids have already mentioned.  Make a note of any new ideas from the video.  Briefly discuss the video, then explain that the remainder of the lesson will focus on the “Five Finger Rule.”

Teach the Five Finger Rule:

  1. Pass out Five Finger Rule Bookmarks.  (See attached file.)
  2. Together, review the steps in using the Rule.
  3. Give each student a book and ask them to use the rule. Be fair, be honest!
  4. When the student has finished the first book, switch it for a second book for a bit more practice.

3. Conclusion:

Encourage students to write their names on their bookmarks, take the bookmarks with them, and use the Five Finger Rule when browsing for books today.  Tell the kids that they should use the “Five Finger Rule” each time they browse for books!

  1. Copies of the “Five Finger Rule” bookmarks, copied onto colorful cardstock.  (See attached file.)
  2. Flipchart or whiteboard
  3. Markers
  4. 40 books of varying difficulty for practice using the “Five Finger Rule.”
  5. Access to the Brain Pop Video “Choosing a Book.” (optional).
  6. Ability to play the Brain Pop Video “Choosing a Book.” (optional).

Teach this lesson every year, without fail, to students in Grades 2-4.  Children are very young and easily swayed.  Over the years, my colleagues and I have observed more and more kids trending towards comics or illustrated novels and choosing fewer books with words!  They seem reluctant to try anything new or anything they don’t already know.  More and more, the “Five Finger Rule” is becoming essential to counter these trends!

Be sure to refer to the Five Finger Rule in future lessons.  Make the “Five Finger Rule” part of your school and library culture.  Always have bookmarks on hand and encourage the children to use the “Five Finger Rule” every time they come to the library.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A selection of 40+ library books with varying levels of difficulty and taken from various genres.

Key Terms:

Book Choice, Browsing, Just Right Books, Five Finger Rule

Five Finger Bookmarks