For those of you starting a new academic year, and for everyone continuing on, our Guest Blogger, Katrina Spencer (Literacy and school improvement consultant extraordinaire) has 8 tips for making reading a priority in your classroom.
Create a classroom library
- All classrooms need a spot for books- identify a small area, shelf or cupboard to create a class library.
- You don’t need many books to start the year but an interesting book display, some books on a theme or a few great reads will give the message that this is going to be a great year for reading.
- In the first weeks of school have students select books from the school library to add to the class library or bring along a book from home to share. Choosing a book you want to read and a book that you have loved to read to share with others will soon fill the shelves.
- Remember to make time to share what you are reading, recommend books and return and refresh the class library to keep it an interactive area.
Choose a class read-aloud book
- Have a book in mind from Day 1 to read to the students to model good reading and build the classroom culture. The sooner you start a reading to class habit the better!
- A book that is topical or by an author who has other novels that you can add to the class library is a good choice.
- Talk about books
- Share what you have read over the summer or ask students to share a book from home or the best book that they read last year. Encourage recommendations and book talk often.
- Make a favourite books list to display in class compiling everyone’s recommendations.
- Set a class goal- how many books/pages can we read this term? Keep a record for a week to help predict and set up a display and routine to regularly monitor the class’ progress.
Find out about each student’s reading habits
- No doubt you will have reading data and assessments available to tell you about students’ reading performance and screening assessments to do but the personal touch is always the best. Find a moment to ask students about a book they have loved or what they like to read.
- Reading interest surveys are useful but keep them short and easy – the message you want students to have is that reading is fun and enjoyable not about doing extended writing tasks.
o For me reading is… a struggle/OK/my favourite thing to do at school
o Books I like:
o Do you read at home?
o Does anyone at home help you with reading?
o What type of books would you like me to read to the class?
Visit the library
- Your first classroom excursion can be to the library – make it a fun sharing time. Find books that you enjoy, point out where to find different books, grab a poetry book and read a few out loud to students, interview the librarian (or the principal) about their love of books.
- Set up a regular library visiting time and the routine and expectation for this time – think about it and make sure it is promoting sharing, a love of reading and a chance to read.
Do what good readers do
- Let students know explicitly what ‘good reading’ looks like. There are many charts and resources to describe good reading behaviours but better still, brainstorm with the class what they think good readers do.
- Use this list of skills for students to self-reflect on their reading expertise and to set a reading goal for the term. Give them time to use this checklist to review their reading regularly and time to work on and monitor their goals.
- This list of skills can form the basis of your start of year whole class reading sessions e.g. a session on caring and sharing books, class routines and expectations for reading, activating your reader’s voice- the questions you might have when you read a text, what is fluency and practicing to read phrases with expression. Then specific sessions on the reading strategies – skimming/scanning, visualising, syllables etc.
- Start on fluency and expression early in the year. A big book or a poem is a great way to read a text multiple times and have fun with it. Introduce the idea of Reader’s Theatre and have groups and individuals take turns to read lines. Make it fun and expressive.
- I often start the year by writing a class rap- a poem with every child’s name in it to build identity and belonging. A fun poem we can illustrate or perform to introduce our class.
Prioritise and enjoy reading time
- Make reading a priority in your program each day and a time you look forward to. Don’t rush to setting up reading groups in Week 1 or even 2 but take time to build relationships and enjoy books with the class.
- When you are ready to start reading routines make sure you are planned and resourced and that students know the classroom expectations and can manage them independently. Initially you may need to practice these and work on extending reading time gradually.