5 Ways to Encourage Independent Reading



Hi y'all! The SuperHERO Teacher here, taking over The Secondary English Coffee Shop blog for the week. I'm excited to discuss a topic that many teachers, including myself, struggle with-- convincing students to read independently.  For many students, reading becomes a chore.  They don't see the beautiful words on the paper, but rather the words on an inevitable worksheet that is soon to follow.  As ELA teachers, we have the opportunity to change that!  While you read this post, I'd like to propose a challenge: let's use independent reading as a reward, not a punishment.  Below, I'll provide 5 strategies to encourage independent reading so that students see it as a positive rather than a negative! 

1. CREATE A CLASSROOM BOOK CLUB.
Not only will your students begin reading independently, but they will also build relationships with students they may not know previously.  A book club within your classroom allows for students to choose a genre they are passionate about and discuss the novel with peers that have similar interests.  A book club can be a daunting task, though! Where do you begin? How do you choose the novels? Who will be in each group?  Since we are encouraging independent reading, why not give our students a choice in the novel and group they join? I've created a free resource to help you get started.  Simply click here to download the Classroom Book Club Organizer.


2. USE THE "SHELFIE" APP
As we all know, our students LOVE to take selfies!  It's part of their daily routine, so why not use something they're familiar with to encourage independent reading? Shelfie is a free app that allows its users to upload pictures of their personal bookshelves, download free digital versions of books, AND check out other users' bookshelves, too!  It's a unique way to make reading popular to teens.  To use this in the classroom, I would suggest having students download the app and exchange user names so they can see what their peers' bookshelves look like. The Shelfie app will allow students to boast about reading choices while collaborating with other students, too!


3. USE A REWARD SYSTEM
Our students are motivated by rewards and many of them have busy schedules.  To encourage our students to take time from their schedules and read outside the classroom in their free time, we need to develop unique strategies.  One way to do this is to implement a reward system.  As a teacher, I KNOW you have a ton of paperwork, grading, and meetings to attend, so I've done the time-consuming part for you!  I've designed this free reward system in the form of a bookmark so that you can implement the system right away, with ZERO prep! Click here to download the bookmarks, print, laminate, and hand out to students.  It's super easy & it will foster independent reading.


4. CREATE A COZY READING SPACE IN YOUR CLASSROOM
Flexible seating is SO important.  With block scheduling and easily distracted teens, it's essential that we have a variety of different spaces in our classroom to refocus students.  On a teacher budget, creating a cozy reading nook in your classroom can be expensive.  It doesn't have to be, though!  Even placing an existing bookshelf with books from the thrift store paired with a rug and pillows will create a climate of relaxation (which is a perfect opportunity for independent reading).  Reading then becomes a reward.  Students will work harder to have time in the reading space, just so they can indulge in a good book!

5. USE FOCUS LESSONS AS A HANDS-ON LEARNING OPPORTUNITY
Just because students are engaged in independent reading doesn't mean the learning process has to stop completely.  Allowing students to choose a novel they are interested in may actually foster a BETTER learning opportunity than if we forced them to read the same novel as their peers.  I've designed a variety of interactive focus lessons that can be distributed during independent reading time in order for students to master a skill as they read.  For example, if you want all of your students to learn characterization while simultaneously giving them choice in their novel selection, you could distribute the Characterization Focus Lesson that works with ANY novel, so that all students are learning the same skill.  Check out my bundle of focus lessons here.


Thank you for reading!  If you would like to share other ways to encourage independent reading in the classroom, be sure to leave a comment!


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6 Ways To Help Your Students Find The Perfect Novel

Check out these 6 ways to help your students find the perfect novel for independent reading in your classroom!

By Presto Plans 

We have all been there.  You bring your students down to the library to choose an independent novel and are met with a mix of reactions from unrestrained excitement to grumbles and groans.  While your avid readers will scour the stacks looking for their favorite author or genre, there are also always those students who look at the mountain of books and don’t want to take a single step.

If this sounds familiar, try one of the following ideas to get that perfect book in each of your students’ hands.

1.  SEARCH THE STACKS ACTIVITY

Let’s be honest; as English teachers, the library is our happy place.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for many students. Bringing your class to the library and saying, “Choose a novel,” can lead to feelings of overwhelming stress for some of your students.

Avoid this by sending your class on a library quest to help them explore the sections, discover new authors, and find books based on their interests.  This activity allows students to search the stacks for titles that fall into particular categories while also familiarizing them with the library layout.  During the process, they will hopefully run into a novel or two that they might be interested in trying out.  Download your copy of this activity for free by clicking HERE or on the image below.

Help your students navigate the library to find the perfect novel with this FREE Searching The Stacks activity!

2.  SEND THEM ON AN ONLINE DATE WITH A BOOK

One way to hook your students into finding a novel is by sending them on an online date with a book. This is how the activity works: 

     1.     Students get a random book (you can preselect high interest ones) and create an online dating profile based on the book cover, the title, and the blurb on the back of the book or inside the jacket cover.   The profile will include a physical description, words to describe the book, a brief plot “about me” summary section, an ideal reader description, and an area to describe who should “check the book out.”

     2.     The teacher creates a class bulletin board to display all of the profiles (mine says "Fall In Love With A Book - see below).  Students find one that interests them and take it down.  They have found a match!  
    
     3.    Students read some of the novel during silent reading, examine their first impressions, and decide if it is a love connection or if it will end in heartbreak. 
     
      If you want more detail on how to implement the Online Date With A Book activities in your class, click HERE to read about how I set this up step-by-step.

Help students find the perfect novel by sending them on an online date with a book.  Click to find out how to set this up in your classroom!

3.  USE A STUDENT INTEREST SURVEY

I always seem to have a couple of students who cannot find one novel in the hundreds of titles available. When this happens (and it is always right before the bell rings), I find myself attempting to extract information from an unwilling student about their interests and hobbies in a desperate attempt to get them a book before we go back to class.  I get frustrated.  They get frustrated.  It’s a mess. 

I have found that completing a student interest survey a few days before going to the library makes it much easier to help in that situation.  By getting to know those who you know may have trouble finding something to read, you can prep a smaller pool of novel ideas in advance based on what they write in the survey. If you want to try out the student interest survey I use, you can download for free by clicking HERE or the image below.

Help your students find the perfect novel by giving them this FREE student interest survey!

4. ASK THE INTERNET
Introduce your students to websites that help them choose novels based on other books they have read and enjoyed.  Two sites that I use are: 


Students simply put in the name of a novel they enjoyed and a list of similar novels is generated with the click of a button.  When I bring my students to the library, I leave one of these websites open on a computer as a first place for students to go if they need suggestions.  If you want to check one of the sites out (whatshouldIreadnext.com), click the image below.

Use the website "What Should I Read Next" to help your students find the perfect novel!

5. TRY A BOOK RECOMMENDATION ACTIVITY  

A student recommendation of a novel will go much further than one from a teacher.  Instead of allowing students to choose their own novels, try this book recommedation activity instead:

     1.     Allow students to choose a partner (choosing for them doesn't work best with this activity).

     2.     Have them interview their partners for a few minutes to learn about their interests (or I would recommend giving them their partner’s student interest survey they have already completed from above.  See here if you haven’t already downloaded ==> STUDENT SURVEY).

     3.     Have students choose three novels from the library they think their partner might like based on what they know/learn about them. 

     4.     The student chooses one of the three novels to read in class.  They don’t have to read it in its entirety, but they have to give it a try to see if it was a good recommendation!

6.  ENLIST YOUR COLLEAGUES

Show students that the love of reading is not confined to the English classroom by enlisting some of your colleagues (teachers, educational assistants, custodians, administrators, admin assistants etc.) to come into your classroom to give a 5-minute talk on their favorite book.   Tell them it is very informal and that they just have to explain a little about what the book is about and why they like it so much.  Students will love to see their other teachers in another class (kind of like a visiting alien) and will see that reading is something that expands far beyond the English classroom.  Also, they may even get a good book recommendation out of it.  I have seen many students pick a book recommended in one of these book talks.  If your colleagues are reluctant, bribe them with coffee and cookies.  Works every time.


Do you have any other suggestions for how to help students choose a novel that they can’t put down?  Leave your ideas by clicking the "Comments" button at the very top of this post! 




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How To Help Students Start the Year Organized

If you are anything like me… you love the organization that comes with the start of a new school year.  New planners, new binders, shiny pens and pencils all start off the year in their rightful place.  However, it does not take long for the shininess to wear off and the disorganization to begin!  And it’s not just me.  Student binders, so neatly organized on the first day, quickly deteriorate into a chaotic mess.  The invention of the zippered binder has unfortunately also led to the birth of the “exploding binder”.  Papers, pens, hair ties, phones, rulers, candy bars and anything else you can think of get shoved into the mess and then zippered in… sometimes never to be seen again. "Exploding binder-itis" seems to have  hit a large number of my students so I have been working hard over the last few years to help students figure out how to stay on top of everything.  

I struggle with how much support to provide students as I don't want them to have to depend on me to do their organizing for them.  There's a fine line between enabling and and supporting.... and I know some students need more help than others!  Here are some easy ways to encourage your students to stay on track!
1. Organization Apps—Most of my students already have a powerful organization tool in their pockets! Their phones offer a wealth of organizational and reminder tools and apps. Programs like Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, class websites and many more will also help students with stay on top of due dates and test days.  Remind.com is also a great tool to use to send students a text about important dates.

 2. Assignment Log—I like to give each student an Assignment Log copied on bright colored paper 
          (so that it’s easy to spot in their binders).   I keep a running log of assignments and due dates on one whiteboard in my classroom and I encourage students to do the same on their Assignment Log. I also find it helpful for my own lesson planning - I keep a copy of one for each of my classes in my teacher binder.  Not all of my students will use it, but those that do find it so helpful. It's also a great reference for the special education assistants who work in some of my classes. Be sure to grab a FREE copy of the assignment log HERE.

3. Monthly Calendar—As well as providing students with an Assignment Log, I create a monthly calendar and give out two months at a time.  So… my students will get a September / October calendar (photocopied back to back on bright paper) when we start school.  I include important school dates like professional days, term start/end dates, and schedule changes as well as holidays.   Not all of my students will take one, but the ones who do are thrilled and love adding in their own dates to personalize it.  There are many free calendars available online - this ONE is designed especially for school!

4. Student Check-In—I know it’s hard in a bustling classroom, but I try to check in with my students on a fairly regular basis.  Some students need more help keeping track of things than others and when I am circulating my room I like to make sure some of my more disorganized ones are on track.  I've even offered to help students organize their exploding binders at lunch or after school and it's surprising how many have agreed to my help!

5. File Folders— All of my students have a file folder for our current unit of study—it’s made such a difference in my classroom!  It's an easy way to keep track of paper, reduce the number of lost assignments and encourage student pride in their work.  We also use their file folders as a handy reference for reminders about key ideas we cover in class. Read more about how I use file folders HERE.

        6. Literary Terms Dictionary—One of the things I hand out in the first few weeks of school is my Literary Terms Dictionary. As students refer to it throughout the year, it is the first thing in their binders (or in their writing folders) so that it’s easy to access.  The “dictionary” allows students to keep track of important literary terms that we touch on throughout the year.  Having all of the terms in one place has been invaluable when it comes to helping them prepare for their final exam. Learn more about it HERE.


 We'd love to hear how you help students stay organized throughout the year!



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