I won’ insist on the importance of reading (aren’t we all aware of that…). Instead, I am going to show you activities that I do with my students to encourage a love of reading – pictures of practice, I think, are most useful to educators so we can learn from each other.
*Reminder: My students are second language learners (as I am).
1. Mystery Reader Day
Organization: whole class
How: Without students’ knowledge, I e-mail to parents who can speak English and invite them to read aloud to my class. Based on my previous lessons, I select an appropriate book. The kids are thrilled each time- they never know who is coming to read to them! During the read aloud session, the parent asks questions (to check for comprehension, to invite students to connect the text with own experience etc) and at the end a “feedback” conversation follows.
*One of my “mystery” readers was our school principal!
2. Reading Parties
Organization: two classes of students who read similar books
How: My example would be the party we had after we finished Little Critter series in first grade. I knew that another 1st grade class read the book so I thought of having a party to celebrate that. I invited them to our classroom and had about 24 different games – puzzles, comprehension questions, fill-in-the-gaps games etc about the book. It was a memorable day for all (sure, we also had some sweets and soft drinks for the end of it J )!
*NOTE: If you don’t get what that ball is about, well, it is something I use for comprehension sometimes. I tape questions about a particular book onto the ball, students sit in a circle and throw the ball to one another. Who catches the ball gets to answer ANY question written on those strips of paper. As students grew, I asked THEM to come up with questions. I find it less boring than regular comprehension activities and far more engaging (well, so do students J ).
3. Reader of the Week
Organization: students names are written on small strips of papers and placed in a box; I ask a student each week to pick up a name – the student whose name was picked becomes the “reader of the week”
How: Once the student knows s/he is going to read to us, s/he selects a book he wants to read and we switch places: s/he sits on a chair in front of the class, reads, applies pre-, during and post-reading strategies, invites other students to make connections, to infer the meaning of new words, to question the author’s purpose etc. S/he also marks the responses of each student in our Reading Strategies Chart (which is not used for “competition” but for visualizing what strategies we tend to use most). Kids love to “show off” their reading skills and engage in conversations with their peers. We sit on the carpet –which makes it less formal. Questions flow naturally, students develop speaking and listening skills as well. At the end of the session a two-way feedback is given: the student’s evaluates the reaction of the audience (that is us), and we tell our impressions about his/her reading, about how s/he engaged us etc. NO points, stars or whatever silly incentives are used in this process – just conversation.
4. Reading Buddies
Organization: students of different ages from DIFFERENT classes pair up and meet once a week; prior to this, I meet their teacher and together with her decide who should read with whom (we take into account reading levels, temperament etc); the pairs are changed the next semester so kids can interact with different styles
How: The younger student reads “to” the older one (4th grade). The latter helps them read difficult words, checks for accuracy, asks comprehension questions etc. The 1st graders (my students, in this case) would also write and draw in their Reading Journals being guided and inspired by the older students. At the end of each session they complete a brief feedback form – basically, a paper with some criteria that I had previously thought of.
5. Reading Partners
Organization: two students from MY class this time are paired up and read a book together; it is important that you have a mixed-ability pair so the struggling readers can be helped by those with better reading skills
How: Students decide which strategy to use. Some are more comfortable with “echo” reading, others with “read with me” strategy – so it is critical to allow choice. Discussions and questions arise throughout the reading process and both students help one another comprehend the text. They also write down significant words or questions.
6. Independent Reading
Organization: each student reads from his/her own basket of books s/he had previously selected
How: I won’ insist on this activity as I assume everyone does it in their classroom. What is certain though is that children can sit anywhere they wish, read any books they want, take as much time as needed to finish the books (at their own pace) and have individual conversations with me about the books they read, how they think they improved, what their difficulties are etc. I will talk about these in detail in anther post.
What plan for next year? Many new things, but the most interesting ones are the following.
1. 1. Inviting a student from another class to impersonate a character (see below).
This idea came through Karen Bolotin (@kbkonnected on Twitter) – an educator I admire for resourcefulness, energy and capacity to work as hard as a bee! (the original source can be found here but I found it on Pinterest.com through Karen)
Following this I thought, “Why not parents? Or other teachers, too?” I am sure it would be fun for both parties (who says parents and teachers don’t like fun?!)
2. 2. Having a “Characters’ Meeting” in the school library
Students from all classes can attend, all dressed up like their favorite character. We would have questions, games and lots of other activities to engage them!
3. 3. Skyping with teachers who could read-aloud to us
Why should we only participate a single day a year in the Global Read-Aloud Day? Why not making it a regular activity and engage different teachers from all over the world?
My had is exploding with ideas for writing, too (I already planned to create a wiki so my class would communicate with a real WRITER – that is, with Julie Lindsay). I just can’t wait to put them into practice after I finish with my exams.
Concluding this, what do you think? Do you have other ideas regarding reading you would like to share?
P.S. I need to remember to check twice before posting (I posted the darft version initially, argh)