Trying to get students to read can be difficult and trying to get students to LOVE reading can be even more difficult. We all know that the number one way for students to improve in all areas is through READING!
My fourth grade partner teacher and I came up with a strategy that we LOVE and better yet… our students LOVE it!
Our goal is to have every student read 40 books independently over the course of the year. Since there are 10 months of school, we have them read 4 books each month. Each month, they read a genre book, a nonfiction book, a traditional literature book and a free choice chapter book. Each book is at the child’s reading level… their “Just Right Book.”
At the same time, we also set a goal for our classroom read aloud books. We read 40 books aloud to our students over the course of the year. That’s 80 books in one year! (And you will be surprised how many read MUCH MORE than that!)
So here’s the break down….
Books- We feature one genre each month. The genres we use are: General Fiction (usually 4th grade related at the beginning of the year), Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Biography and Mystery. But wait! That’s only 8 genres! We all have our favorites and my teaching partner and I both live in the world of Fantasy, so we tend to repeat it often. The whole goal of this is to teach your students the elements of the genre by reading it aloud to your students. At the same time, they are reading their genre book (the same genre as you) and pulling out the same elements from their book. This genre book is also what we teach through! So let’s say that my unit requires me to teach character traits, relative pronouns, and similes. As we are reading the book aloud, we pull these things out of our book. We model through the read aloud and students practice through their own book. Genre books , often around 200 pages, usually take students 5-8 days to complete.
Books- The nonfiction books are not necessarily chapter books. We love using the Eyewitness books. Again, we read one aloud while the students read one independently. Let’s say that we are learning about Rocks and Minerals and are required to teach nonfiction text features. We model how to distinguish one text feature from the next, while they practice independently in their own book. Nonfiction books usually take students 4 days to complete.
Literature Books- The traditional literature books are not necessarily chapter books either. We teach one genre of traditional literature each month. We teach: Trickster Tales, Folktales, Tall Tales, Legends, Fairy Tales, Fables and Myths. Again, that is only 7, so repeat where you feel fit! We love Myths because we do an intense study of Mythological Allusions! Traditional Literature books usually take students 3 days to complete.
Choice Chapter Books- This is exactly what it sounds like! Students will choose a chapter book of their choice at their own level… you will be surprised how many choose the second book of the series that you read for your read aloud!!!! We can never keep these books on our shelf! Free choice chapter books usually take 5-8 days to complete.
With all of this said, how in the world do we fit it all into the month and how do we make sure each child completes their books? Right!? Every month, we give students our students a “Golden Packet” to complete. In this “Golden Packet” is one page for each book… a total of 4 pages. It is a simple graphic organizer that works on the skill we are teaching. For example, if I am teaching character traits, theme, and nonfiction text features. I could pull the character traits graphic organizer for my genre book, nonfiction text features for my nonfiction book, a theme graphic organizer for my traditional literature book and a generic graphic organizer or critics corner page for the free choice book! Students complete the graphic organizer as they read their book. Because we use Interactive Readers’ Notebooks, we can tell who is reading through their responses! With the breakdown of days above, you can see that most students finish their 4 books in just 23 days. That leaves plenty of time for slower readers and allows more time for advanced readers to read more books of their choice, which we call Extra Credit Books! We have created 41 graphic organizers… one for each standard with several generic graphic organizers for teachers to use throughout the year for their Golden Packets. Each golden packet is customizable to EXACTLY what you are teaching!
So what makes students want to read 40 books over the course of the year? I’m glad you asked! We have developed an incentive program that motivates students with many short term goals and rewards that MOST IMPORTANTLY doesn’t cost the teacher a penny! We have developed a game board that is in a lap book format.
Each child has a file folder with a game board inside where they track how many books they have read. At the end of each month, students who have proved that they have read their 4 books (by turning in the Golden Packet), get the chance to compete against other students who have also met their goal for a reward coupon. Students who complete their books are given a reward certificate. With this certificate, they get to compete in a different game, such as Battleship, each month. All game rules and materials are included! The winner of the game gets to choose from 20 reward coupons, such as “Teacher Answers One Problem on an Assignment.” These coupons have been included! Below is a picture of the reward coupons. We store them in baseball/trading card pages and hang them on our walls. Students love to look at them and choose which coupon they want to work toward earning!
But what about the student who was 3 days late in completing their book or just never did???? There is an incentive program for them too! If students complete their books late, they are given a “Slow but Steady Also Wins the Race” reward coupon! They turn these certificates into a raffle jar and you can choose when to draw names for reward coupons as often as you would like!
Also included in this product is a bulletin board! The bulletin board is made up of a small bookshelf for each child. When students hit one of the goals, such as 8 books, they get to cut out the “8 Book Goal” book, color it and glue it onto their bookshelf. This provides you with a bulletin board that lasts you ALL YEAR LONG and best of all requires NO WORK FROM YOU to maintain! The bulletin board is also another incentive to have students want to reach their goal!
The new reading incentive program that we have implemented at our school this upcoming school year is 30 books for 3rd, 40 books for 4th and 50 books for 5th. Our entire upper grade has taken on this reading challenge! There are variations to the game board from what is mentioned above. The genre book is taken out for 3rd and Poetry is added in for 5th. If that doesn’t suit you, a blank game board is also included so that you can use any combination of books you would like!
To wrap it all up, students are reading 80 books in one year, they get to play games, they earn rewards that don’t cost you a thing, and you are provided with an amazing bulletin boardthat lasts you all year long. What’s not to love… besides reading?!!