In this blog post, I will be sharing ideas and reading resources for creating lifelong readers – not just students who only read assigned reading.
How do we take our students from groans every time we assign a chapter or two of reading to glee when free time is given and they can pick up their books again?
Today’s blog post is written by Rebecca Gettelman who is a middle and high school teacher from the Midwest. She has been teaching for over eleven years. Kristy has added in some of her ideas throughout the post.
Here are a few ideas for finding and using reading resources in your classroom.
Know Your Audience
One of the most useful tools, when I am getting to know a new class or when a new student joins an existing class, is a series of surveys I ask them to complete. You can use this free student reading survey found here.
This allows me to know what kind of readers I have in my classroom and what type of reading materials they enjoy the most. If you have some control over your curriculum, this allows you to pick books to match your students’ interests. Even if you don’t have control over the books you teach, knowing more about your students allows you to help them in areas of struggle.
Make Required Reading as Painless as Possible
When you are teaching literature, work on making it as positive an experience as you can.
This can mean a whole myriad of things, depending on your situation. Students still must-read, but maybe you look at changing or adding more choice to the required book list in your school’s curriculum.
Vocabulary is often a needed (and dreaded) part of a novel study, but you may need to look for other ways than just the list-define-quiz method of teaching it. I love using QR codes hung up around the room, or embedded into a Google Slideshow to get students “searching” for the vocab words instead of me just handing them a list.
Long readings, even if given over several days, can be intimidating to some readers (even those who are in the upper grades); look for ways to break it up.
An unenjoyable experience with a required book is not going to deter your enthusiastic readers, but it very well may put off your more reluctant ones. The more positive you can keep the required-reading situations, the more students you will be able to draw in.
Reading Is Reading
Most literature teachers know the mild to moderate embarrassment that comes with admitting that your favourite book is not Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck, or even Austen, but instead is a dog-eared romance or mystery novel that you have read a thousand times My friend Rebecca shares five of her summer reads in this blog post. It is important that as teachers we accept almost all of the reading material students bring into class and want to read – magazines, graphic novels, romance novels. I have some limits on what students can bring in, but as long as they follow the guidelines laid out by your district (i.e. no hate speech) then students should be able to read them. If you are really concerned about a student’s reading material – email or call home and get written permission.
If we want to encourage our students to read for enjoyment, we need to admit to them that sometimes we read simply for entertainment and there is nothing shameful in that.
By hiding the books that live in our bedside tables from our students and only praising the value of the difficult and canonically recognized, we hide the truth of what it is to read purely for enjoyment.
Read Out Loud
When less skilled readers read, they do not see movie-like images play through their minds in the same way that more skilled readers do. Often they only see the letters on the page and, if they are lucky, these readers can internalize their meanings.
Compound this with the fact that many novels start out a bit slowly as characters, situations, and problems are introduced, and it is easy to see why struggling readers do not read except when they have to.
To combat this, I often start novel units by reading the first few chapters aloud to my students or depending on the class reading the entire novel outloud. This helps them to get past these slower parts as well as to absorb the background and context clues so that, as they continue to read on their own, these things will help with comprehension and hopefully the “movies” will play more readily in their imaginations.
Additionally, being read out loud to helps students begin to become invested in the characters and the story so that when it is their turn to read on their own, students have more motivation to do so.
Additional Reading Resources
There are many more ways than those I have mentioned above to help students become readers and not just students who read.
Access to high interest – low vocab books, getting parents involved, regular in-class reading practice, a well-stocked and accessible classroom and school library, sharing how to access free audiobooks and ebooks through their local community library (have students download the Libby app on their phone) and so much more.
However you go about it though, it is a worthwhile endeavour.
Reading for enjoyment is not something that everyone does, but by setting our students up for success in this
More Reading Resources