How to Promote Reading in Your Classroom

As teachers, we all know the benefits of reading: stronger social skills, better vocabulary and writing skills, and increased creativity just to name a few. And yet, in an era of YouTube, Instagram, and Xbox, a big challenge for teachers can be getting students to pick up a book in the first place, let alone take pleasure in reading! The start of a new academic year is a great opportunity to implement some new strategies to create a culture of reading in your classroom. I am sharing some quick and easy, tried-and-tested techniques to transform your students from social media focused to literature lovers (or, at the very least, technology addicts who love to read every day, too!)


SHARE YOUR OWN LOVE OF READING WITH YOUR STUDENTS

It sounds obvious, but if we want students to become enthused by reading then we first need to model this behavior ourselves!

This can be as simple as just creating a poster for your door which lists the books that you are currently reading and a brief summary of what they are about. The purpose of the poster is twofold: as students wait outside your room, they are reminded of the fact that reading is an enjoyable or purposeful activity, and it also helps to create a dialogue about books or reading in general. As students enter the room, you can ask them to share in return what they are currently reading, their favorite character or event in their book so far, or a book that they might recommend to other classmates - anything that gets them talking and enthused about reading.

MAKE TIME FOR ESCAPISM

Setting aside time for reading in your classroom is also very important; if students aren't reading at home then this might potentially be the only time they are engaging with a book of their choice each week. Consider starting your daily lessons with 10-15 minutes of reading time or ringing a DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) bell a few times a week; as well as this being a great 'settling' activity, this also means that students have to get in the habit of carrying a book with them at all times, just in case!

MAKING LEARNING ABOUT NEW BOOKS FUN

I have personally done book talks with my students and I have also invited our librarian to share some of the latest books with my students. This is definitely a great strategy, but sometimes students require a bit more action. So, to get everyone up and moving and learning about some new book titles that they might like to explore, I use this Reading Escape Room with them!


The five, fun challenges included will have students (quite literally) jumping up and down with excitement! In addition to walking away from this activity with some new titles and genres to explore, students will also be able to use the previous knowledge of books that they read and incorporate this knowledge into some of the challenges (reviewing some famous authors, characters and quotes). This Reading Escape Room can truly be used at any point within an English Language Arts classroom and it is applicable for middle and high school students.

*Just as a side note, it would be fun to display some of the titles found within the escape room on the ledge of your whiteboard, for example! This will help with discussion and this will give students a tangible item to grab as soon as you are done the activity. You will be able to gauge their reading exciement if a good majority of your students are reading to pick up a book shortly after they are finished with the escape activity!

PROMOTE READING VISUALLY

As J.K. Rowling famously said, "If you don't like to read, you haven't found the right book." Another easy way to promote reading and introduce different books to your students is through the use of display boards in your classroom. There are a number of ways that you can do this: create a board of famous literary quotes; hang posters promoting the positive effects of reading; make a 'recommended' reading wall based on age or interests; or ask students to complete book summaries and display these for other students to read.

Make your boards colorful and interactive (Pinterest and Instagram are excellent sources of inspiration for this) and they will soon catch the attention and interest of your students.

 INTRODUCE READING COMPETITIONS

Students love competitions (especially when there are prizes involved!) so use some good old-fashioned in-class rivalry to get them reading!

A competition that works well with every age group is the 'Read your Height' challenge. This can be completed individually with students racing to read their own height in books, or it can be turned into a whole-class challenge with students competing against other classes in the school to see who can read an average height first. This also works great as a display board idea; when a student has finished reading a book, they can measure the spine and add it to the wall as a visual reminder of how close they are to meeting their target.

If you are worried about the quality or range of books that your students are going to read, the '16 Before 16 Challenge' is an excellent way to encourage to advance their reading by engaging with classic authors, such as Dickens, Austen, and Orwell. This can also be adapted to encourage students to read different genres of books, including autobiographies, poetry and play scripts.

Finally, 'Extreme Reading' is a fun way to encourage your students to read outside of school. Students compete against each other to read in the weirdest and wackiest locations possible - in trees, in the middle of a football field, in remote locations on a holiday - anything goes, as long as it's safe and legal and photographic evidence can be provided!

I'VE DONE THE READING, NOW WHAT?

Are you tired of the same old paper and pencil tests at the end of a text? Are your students struggling with remembering the details from a novel or play that you have studied in class? Are you searching for a fun, collaborative activity? Look no further, I have the solution for you! I have written an informative blog post about this Whole-Class Novel Study Final Project! Click HERE to read more! Click HERE to access the project!

This project is great for novel studies. Not only did the final posters make great classroom decor, but the students can really take pride in their work once they are on display.

As you can see, I displayed this outside of my classroom.  The students who created these got to see their work every time they entered my room, but also, students and teachers from other classes also had an opportunity to see what kinds of FUN things we were doing in English class! :)

Classroom Organization Tips for Teachers and Students

Students don't just go to school to require academic excellence. Schools are also a large part of shaping behaviors and skills and this can be acquired through learning how to organize and tidy their own school work (and classroom) thus, learning healthy living habits for their future. In a busy world, organization is a large part of everyday life.


Learning how to organize helps to boost efficiency in students. What benefits will a child have if they learn how to organize within their classroom? How does it benefit teachers and students? Teaching healthy organization habits are beneficial in so many ways. Note: These tips are also applicable to parents at home! 😄
  1. Planning Skills: Planning calendars, daily homework written on a whiteboard or personal student agenda's are a great way to learn how to plan or schedule at a very early age. If your school doesn't already provide each student their own personal agenda, you could simply print off a monthly calendar on a sheet of paper, which could be kept in their binder or school locker. Grab the link to a FREE monthly calendar HERE! They can organize assignment due dates, sporting events, etc.
  2. Greater Reliability: Learning how to organize at a young age will help to establish trust. A well-organized leader will instill the will of reliability and leadership, and this will help them to win the trust of others more easily.

  3. Better Life-Work (School) Balance: By the time students get to high school, they begin to learn the feeling of what it's like to be regularly stressed. Managing several different classes with several different teachers and their various expectations, studying for tests and exams, reading textbooks, writing papers....and working a part-time job after school. Nevermind their social life. It's tough! Learning how to organize and balance their work and other aspects of life, will lead to greater overall efficiency in the various things one may be involved in. 
  1.  Get Everyone Involved: Students thrive when they all engage in an activity. You can make it fun by making it race. Whether it's picking up any garbage around the classroom or organization a bookshelf, most students are happy to help out. I usually reward my students with a bit of candy or chocolate after. It saves me a lot of time during my prep period or after school, plus it promotes a sense of pride within the room.
  2.  Show Students How Easy It Is: If you can show students how easy it is to organize their own personal belongings and how much "JOY" (pardon my Marie Kondo quote) it will bring them when they realize they can actually find things in their lockers or binders, they might actually catch onto it. I designated a few minutes at the start of class one week for students to organize their binders and lockers. Not only did they make life easier for themselves by actually being able to FIND items they were looking for, but they also made more space for things that they might actually need. 


 3. Designate Specific Spots for Supplies: I don't know about you, but my supplies are always going missing. One way that helped most of my supplies to be returned was to simply designate a spot in the classroom, so students know exactly where everything is that they might be able to use. It might also be helpful to involve your students in the process of where the 'supply spot' should be, so again, they can take pride in returning the things that they use. If the items are not being returned, they are going to find out pretty quickly that they won't have the necessary supplies they need to help make their work stand out.

4. Use the Same Items: If you are lucky enough to have a laptop cart in your classroom or a set of textbooks, it makes everyone's life a lot easier if the same items are being used by the same students. In addition, this helps to hold students accountable for the things that they need. Designate numbers to the various items in your classroom and associate that number to a student (or group of students). This way, if things are not being put back properly or even damaged, you have a better idea of who it might have been.

What cleaning or organization tips do you have for your classroom? I would love to hear about your ideas! Share below in the comments section. 

How to Incorporate the Theme of Sports into an English Language Arts Classroom


When it comes to teaching with sports, the possibilities for meaningful connections with your students – especially students who enjoy sports are innumerable. A good sports theme brings relevance to character development traits such as trust, integrity, and honesty and serve as a rich way of motivating students. In addition, the high emotions, rookie struggles, underdog hopefuls, and the pressure from the crowd are some of the cornerstones of great athleticism that makes sporting events the perfect backdrop theme for an engaging classroom. However, since not every student in a classroom is a sports lover, how can a sport-theme be incorporated to engage the entire classroom? 



MEET YOUR STUDENT WHERE THEY ARE

One of the easiest ways teachers can incorporate the theme of sports is to plan classroom activities around questions their students are already grappling. From what does it mean to be part of a team? To what is perseverance? When you connect your sports theme to character development and what’s going on in the lives of your students, your classroom discussions will definitely resonate deeply with your entire students. One goal with teaching sports theme is to encourage students not only to think about ways that they can live but the type of person they want to become. 
 
START WITH SIMPLIFIED DETAILS

Before students – especially students who don’t have much interest in sports can identify and work with the theme you pick, they have to synthesize with the story you are about to teach as a moral lesson. However, by using illustration methodologies like anchor charts and drawings to outline the elements of athlete you want to use for the theme, your students will have a stronger grasp of the details and morals you wish to instill. 

CLARIFY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MAIN IDEA AND THE SPORT-THEME

Another way to engage and carry along your entire class during a sport-theme session is to vividly explain the difference between the purpose of the sports theme and the main idea you are trying to pass across. That is because some students might have difficulty differentiating between the main idea and the theme. The sports theme should be the underlying message that the teacher wants to convey, whereas the main idea is what the story is mostly about. 
 
As a teacher, you will need to teach these concepts separately and together for easier comprehension. Furthermore, you can encourage your students to practice identifying sports themes related special attributes of their favorite athlete. An example is segmenting your class into groups with similar favorite athlete and working on each athlete unique character traits such as self-motivation, endurance, perseverance, team spirit, and integrity.
 
ACCELERATE THE LEARNING 

Using themes as a teaching method in the classroom is a complex concept to grasp in general. Unlike the concreteness of setting or plot, themes are subtle and subjective. So, to help students deepen their understanding, teachers will need to move from simpler to more complex class assignments. For example, encourage your students to work in groups to identify the theme of sports. Next, they could change the ending to the story about their choice of athlete and work together to identify how the new ending affects the theme. Finally, the students can write about who they want to be and how it matches to the character traits of their choice of athlete. 

USE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

Finally, the uses of essential questions are thought-provoking and vital in helping students develop their understanding of the sport theme. Questions like “what makes a great team? And why is humility important?” can be re-visited throughout the year to analyze how students answer. 

By incorporating the theme of sport into classroom activities, students learn how to handle disappointments, persevere, and win gracefully.