By Lisa Altman, Instructional Sharing Manager, KIPP Foundation
Phew – break is almost here! You’ve been working hard all year connecting with your students, planning, teaching, reflecting…it’s time for a well-deserved break.
At the same time, we know that time outside of the classroom means that many of the important academic habits and routines, like independent reading, go by the wayside for students. This can mean a decline in skills and stamina. Here are some creative tips to keep your students progressing toward their reading goals during the break.
Tip 1: Send students home with at least one book.
Make sure kids don’t leave for break without a book or books that they are interested in. Help them identify the times and the places when reading opportunities exist (while traveling to visit relatives, for instance). Or make it a challenge: how many minutes were you able to stay off of your device and read a book instead? If you know they will not give up that digital time, and have access to a compatible device, download an e-reader app and help them access free books to read on their phone or tablet. Just make sure they have books!
Here are some ideas for helping kids make a great independent reading choice:
- Make a text selection the final exit ticket before leaving for the break.
- In middle and high school, organize a Book Recommendation “Speed Dating” activity to facilitate book conversations and recommendations amongst students. Check out this book review card, shared by Nicole LeBlanc at KIPP King Collegiate High School.
- Share video book reviews (like this one) to spark interest in various texts. After break, students can write scripts and film their own video reviews based on the books they read over the break.
- Bonus: Provide reading logs or journaling activities (here’s an example) to give kids opportunities to write about what they’re reading.
Tip 2: Spark friendly competition.
Who doesn’t thrive on challenges? Help students motivate each other through friendly competition. Even if your class isn’t physically together, students can work independently to complete challenges and then share their progress when everyone returns. Plus, it encourages them to keep extra-close track of what they’ve read.
Here are some competitive ideas to steal from KIPP teachers and customize for your class:
- Hold an Accelerated Reader (AR) competition and allow kids to log in over the break and take quizzes. Provide incentives for those who continued to climb towards their goals over the break.
- Use reading journals with a side of competition. Kids read every day (a different number of pages per grade-level) and respond to grade appropriate reading comprehension prompts. Teachers then review reading journals after the break and deliver points based on number of pages read.
- Host a book baggy competition! Offer a celebration for kids who, according to the students and their families, read all of the books in their baggy (differentiated by reading level).
Tip 3: Host book talks.
Let students know that when they return from break, they’ll be participating in “book talks.” Group the classroom desks together to make tables. Provide tablecloths with small vases to create a cafe setting. Turn the overhead lights off and turn lamps on. Then, the collaboration begins. Each student gives a quick “book talk” to their table-mates at the cafe. The other students ask the reader simple questions about the book. If a student can “sell” the book they read to someone in their group to read next, they earn a small prize.
To borrow from tip #2, make it competitive by tracking the best salespeople in class. Offer a free prize (i.e. do your work while sitting on the bean bag seat for week, or at the teacher’s desk) or a small object, like a pencil. This makes a great post-break activity, but can be used year-around with students in any grade!
Tip 4: Use theater to make reading interactive.
Bring some drama to your students’ break. By practicing a part for a reader’s theater script, students will improve their fluency as well as their comprehension. Choose a piece that students have already studied in class. Then provide a menu of options for practicing over the break. Options might include reading the entire script through, practicing with a family member, practicing a specific part, and even answering comprehension questions about the story. You can find many scripts online or create one of your own!
Plan a celebration that gives students an opportunity to perform following the break. You can invite family members to the celebration and use the opportunity to inform them about ways to support their child’s reading.
Tip 5: Model, model, model!
There’s nothing quite as powerful as a teacher modeling his or her own lessons. So let your students know how you’ll be keeping the reading train rolling for yourself. Share the books that you’ll be reading over the break with students. Then, post your list outside your room to share with the rest of the school and so other staff members can connect/share interesting titles and trade with one another after break.
Here are a few handy websites and online resources:
- ReadWorks.org: Printable leveled reading passages with leveled question sets + more.
- Newsela: Nonfiction literacy and current events. Texts available at a variety of Lexile levels with optional quizzes and writing prompts.
- Lexile: Match readers with texts, based on their Lexile level.
For teachers and students alike, breaks are the perfect time to relax and enjoy the many pleasures of reading. Learn about something new. Get swept away into an author’s literary world. Make reading a fun and exciting part of your break, for both you and your students!
Thank you to Nicole LeBlanc, Carrie LaDue, Emilie Raczek, Aja Settles, and Keli Swearingen for sharing your tips and making this post possible. For more teaching and learning resources, visit Beyond KIPP!