Welcome to our blog post on one of our most absolute favorite topics… READING!
Big Dreams, Disappointing Results
When we started teaching, we couldn’t wait to share our love for reading with our students. We set up our classroom library, had 30 minutes devoted to silent reading each day and assigned reading for homework with students writing a summary of what they read. We even took our students to the school library every week so that students could find books they would enjoy. Here’s what we quickly discovered… our students did not enjoy reading! Looking back now, we don’t blame them!
What was Happening in Our Classrooms
Our students did not enjoy reading because it was boring! Yes, our students “read” every day, but it was simply, “Okay class, take out your books. Now we are going to read for 30 minutes. Ready? Begin.” Insert half of our class doing real reading and half of our class fake reading for 30 minutes with the occasional nose blowing or trip to the restroom. Finally… “Okay class, time is up. Put your books away and take out your language arts book.” End of reading time. And then, at the end of the day, we would say, “Be sure to read for 20 minutes at home and write a half page summary of what you read. Fill out your reading logs and we will check them tomorrow.”
Ahhhhh!!!! Looking back now, we could scream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What We Were Doing to our Students
Our little readers were basically having reading ruined for them! We had the best intentions, but we went about it all the wrong way. Students had their reading time confined to a 30 minute block of time with no purpose, follow up, sharing, discussion, etc… It was simply: open book, read, close book. Go home. Open book, read for 20 minutes (maybe) and then write a half page summary. Go to the library, return books that they might not have even finished, and get a new book that they may or may not actually read. YUCK! TORTURE!
What Readers Need:
Readers need excitement! Students need to be able to talk about their reading and share their reading with others! Readers need a contagious reading environment that fosters a love for reading, makes reading fun and makes reading a part of who they are! Reading should not be an activity that only exists in a 30 minute block of time at school. Readers need to be able to read throughout the day and should be encouraged to squeeze in extra reading time whenever they can!
What TEACHERS Need:
Are you ready for the cold, hard truth? Brace yourselves. YOU are where the problem stems from. We’re sorry, but it’s true, and we can only say this because it was our problem too. We say this with love! Here’s what a lot of teachers think about reading: “I know I should have my students silent read, but it’s so hard to monitor. I have to have some proof that they actually read the book they said they read. I know… I’ll have them write a summary, or do a book report, or do some form of assessment (like AR) for every book they ever read. That should do it.”
NOOOO!!!!! You are torturing your students and giving them anxiety about reading! Students view this type of reading as a long period of time that they have to sit still for, a way they could get into trouble if they don’t write a summary or book report, and a time of the day that brings anxiety! What teachers “need” is the part of reading that students dread the most!
How to Foster a Love for Reading
Readers bloom in an environment where the teacher is excited about reading themselves! Show your students that you love reading too by reading yourself! Talk about your reading with your students and always be ready to give recommendations to students! Show your readers that reading continues even outside of the classroom!
Readers should always choose books that interest them! Students should look for recommendations from you and other students in the classroom. They need time to discuss their reading with each other and create a Books to Read List! The buzz in the classroom should be about what they are reading or what they are going to read next.
Accountability is Key!
This is the piece that should perk your little ears right up. Accountability. This is the part that teachers are looking for in their classrooms. Accountability is the proof that students actually read the book they said they did. This accountability piece should be the most fun part! There are so many ways for students to prove they read! One way is just through a discussion! Students can discuss their reading with you, peers, or family! If you take the time to listen, you can quickly see if a child has actually read a book or not. The accountability piece should be short, fun and meaningful in order to foster a love for reading in your students.
Our Social Media Reading Challenge Idea
What do students enjoy more than anything else? If you answered social media, you are correct. We strongly believe in capitalizing on students’ interests and bringing them into the classroom to “trick” them into loving whatever it is we are teaching. To us, reading is our number one priority, so we saved our students’ top interest just for reading!
Students love Instagram. They love posting pictures and selfies, using hashtags, creating fun usernames, following their friends, commenting on posts and scrolling through other accounts. If we told you that students could do all of this with their reading, would you believe us? Our Instagram Reading Challenge is the answer!
When you hear the term Reading Challenge, it can turn a lot of teachers off. Here is our Challenge to our students: “How many books can you read this year?” That’s it! It’s that simple! There are no rewards, there are no prizes, there are no fancy awards. The reward for students is that they get time to spend inside books and then the opportunity to share their reading with their peers in a fun and engaging way. As educators, we all really know that the real prize is reading… and being turned into a lifelong reader!
Social Media, Classroom Edition
Students start the fun process of their Instagram Reading Challenge by setting up their accounts. Students use file folders and glue in the template that they will use throughout the year. There are sections for directions, followers, posts, books to read lists, and even a graffiti wall for awesome quotes! These file folders are a working document that students will use all year long to collect their reading memories in your classroom.
How Students Post to their Instagram Account
Students get to post to their Instagram Accounts when they finish a title. You can simply have students write the title, or they can gain some computer skills by copy/pasting their book’s cover into a Word Document. We used four computers for this. When students completed a book, they popped onto one of these computers and added their cover to the document. We printed out the covers once a month and students gathered their covers and glued them into their account. We loved this process because it created excitement and even another time when students got to share their completed books with each other.
Students also assign “Likes” to the title based on how much they enjoyed the book. We like to have them use a range of 1-100 for their “Likes.” This large range allows students some room to gauge their enjoyment of a book.
Check out how our students copy/ pasted their covers! Super quick and fun!
Where the Accountability Comes Into Play
In our classrooms, we choose to have students collect the titles they read over a month’s period of time. We have found that students usually will read four books in this amount of time. At the end of the month, we have students “share” the book that received the most likes that month. There are a variety of activities that we have students complete. They can post a picture of the main character, setting or most exciting part, create a commercial, describe emojis for the book, list hashtags for the book, make a sponsored ad, or invent a series of comments between characters! All of these activities are high interest activities that will have students excited to complete. These engaging activities also serve as a way for you to see that students are actually reading in your class!
This is our favorite part! Throughout the year, students will have multiple opportunities to share their reading with other students! Whenever we have a spare moment, we have our students grab their Instagram Reading Challenge file folder and walk around the room to gain followers! Students pair up and show their account to another student. Students look at each others’ accounts and ask questions about each book. If a book sounds like something they would want to read, they add it to their Books To Read List. If a student does this, the other student gains a follower! They write their user name on their Followers list. Their challenge is to recommend a book to every student in the class and gain every student as a “follower!”
Reading Challenge Classroom Display!
We love the idea of creating a huge Instagram Reading Challenge bulletin board to add to the excitement! We post our Class Read Aloud books to our account and have students vote on the amount of likes for each book. This is a great conversation piece when parents come into the room and a great way to look back at our loved books throughout the year!
To celebrate our reading and to have some social media/ reading fun, we throw a Selfie Party for all of our readers. You can have this be an incentive to reach a certain number of books, or just a fun time to capture your students’ love for reading. We love using props, books, and smiles to show off the fact that we are a reading classroom full of lifelong readers!
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Whether or not you think this Reading Challenge would be a good fit for your classroom, our hope is that you have gained some tools and tips to use in your classroom that will create a positive reading environment for your students. Students need a reading role model, a plethora of high interest books, time to read, and meaningful ways to share their reading.