For many of us, our reading block lasts anywhere from 90-120 minutes every day. That time is extremely important because it is the one time during the day that is protected and uninterrupted. However, our reading block can seem like a huge chunk of time to keep students engaged. For me, the time goes by so fast because I make sure my students are engaged every second during that time. So today, I want to share a few of the ways I have found to be helpful in engaging students during your reading block.
8 Ways to Engage Your Students During Your Reading Block
1. Have a plan for how your students will interact with the content.
This also goes hand in hand with how the kids use the materials that will help them to interact with the content. Think about the process or structure you will use in which you want the kids to use the materials. I always think about how I am going to have my students interact during the activity.
You can start implementing this strategy right away! Just ask yourself these questions:
- Which partner/group member is going first?
- What is the order for sharing in the partnership/group?
- How will the students communicate using the academic language?
- Who speaks or writes first?
- What are the other kids doing when it’s not their turn?
Accountable talk statements have been so helpful to my students as well as myself. I like to print them in different colors so I can tell the kids that they will be using the “blue, orange, green, etc.” statement during any given interaction.
Check out my Facebook Live Video (previously aired) for a more elaborate explanation of how to do this!
2. Create visual materials with your students, and display them as you go through the lesson.
As teachers, we LOVE having pretty things in our classroom. This includes anchor charts, posters, and word walls. We can easily get carried away preparing them and finding the perfect spot to put them up before we even begin our lesson. I want to challenge you to try something different.
- Prepare the skeleton of your materials such as an anchor chart, and fill them with content as you teach.
- For vocabulary, have the word cards written ahead of time, but add them to the word wall as you go through the lesson.
- Allow your students to record and generate information with you, through use of graphic organizers, whiteboards or learning journals.
Your students will make stronger connections to the content you are teaching when they are a part of the process. When you involve your students, they have the opportunity to take more ownership of the content they are learning.
3. Make learning words fun!
One of the main reasons why I put a huge emphasis on learning words in my classroom, is because kids often skip over words they encounter without thinking twice about their meaning. When I am reading aloud, and I read over a word that I am “unfamiliar” with, I make a big deal out of it. I show my curiosity by trying to figure out what the word means based on the context of the sentence or paragraph. I also show the kids that it is okay to use resources such as a dictionary or a kid version of “Google”, etc. I will get really excited when I figure out what that word means, and I show my students my enthusiasm. I also tell my students that I plan on using that word next time I have the opportunity to do so. It is important to always model how learning new words can be a lot of fun!
4. Integrate grammar throughout your reading block.
Integrate the required grammar skills into your reading block. In fact, think about integrating along with every subject you teach! You can integrate grammar into just about any part of your reading block. Here are just a few examples:
- When you have your kids read any piece of text, such as a poem, lyric, nursery rhyme, close read – focus on one part of speech by having your students underline or circle each word they find.
- When you are going over tier vocabulary words, take a moment to let your students organize them into their journals using an interactive notebook activity or graphic organizer, and then have them write a sentence that makes sense.
Resource: Interactive Grammar Notebooks
5. Make ordinary skills novel by incorporating songs, games, plays, show and tell, wordless books, etc.
Gone are the days of finding songs and singing to students to try to teach them the song. This is such a plus for me because I consider myself 100% tone deaf. YouTube has so many videos for primary classrooms. I have a gmail account that I only use for classroom videos, and I preview and preselect the songs when I am doing my lesson planning. I usually incorporate a song into my anticipatory set or “hook” of the lesson. Having songs in the classroom is a great way to get students familiar with the content so they remember key concepts.
My kids loved this “Super E” Song by Mark D. Pencil on YouTube.
6. Read aloud as often as you can.
Here is a story you might be able to connect with. I was a brand new teacher. I was given my keys on my very first day, and I walked into my first grade classroom to get a feel for what I needed. I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of books on the bookshelves. I was so excited, so I walked over to my neighbor teacher, and I told him about how thrilled I was about all the books in my classroom. He replied, “Yea, It’s too bad we aren’t aloud to read aloud or let the kids use them anymore.”
Y’all I was heartbroken and in total shock. How was I going to get through the year without incorporating literature and story into our day? Our entire schedules were timed to the minute and there was no time for a read aloud. Fortunately, I wasn’t a very good rule follower, and I snuck in a read aloud that aligned with the ELA skill each day. I don’t believe I was the only one;)
Three years later, I switched school districts. This new school district encouraged multiple read-alouds daily. The difference in my students’ fluency and expression was incredible. I could tell my kids were emulating my expression and voice as they read aloud. Their expression and fluency improved at a much faster rate throughout the year.
When students are able to hear an adult read text aloud, it becomes their inner voice. They are able to build upon their language skills, vocabulary, reading strategies, expression, etc. They are also able to associate reading with positive experiences.
7. Make sure the kids have a pleasant atmosphere when reading.
You don’t have to get 18 pillows, 5 hand-sewn bean bags, and a Pinterest-Worthy reading nook to give your kids a pleasant atmosphere. But it is important that the place they read is warm and inviting. You could add soft music, a lamp, helpful strategy posters, student work, etc. The possibilities are endless! You want to make sure your library is accessible so that your students can find a book that is a good fit for them. Having a pleasant atmosphere and a variety of book choices are important when it is time to read independently.
8. Try to keep the same theme across the curriculum, whenever possible.
Immersing students in relative content across the day makes such a big difference! I know this is not possible depending on where you teach, but if you have any voice in what you teach throughout the year, I highly recommend tying a theme to everything you teach during the day. For example:
- If your basal program text is based around ocean animals, perhaps you can check the science curriculum to see if there are any ocean science lessons, and cover those specific standards during that week or unit.
- When you are planning writing or writer’s workshop, select a prompt that supports the theme you are have planned for reading, science, social studies, etc.
Carefully planning your day is key, because your students will absorb more vocabulary and content if you are able to extend the content throughout the entire day, week, etc.
Hopefully you are able to apply some of these practical engagement tips into your reading block right away! I would like to invite you to my Primary Teacher Group on Facebook to discuss further how you can enhance your instructional skills during your reading block!
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