No doubt. When school is almost out, some of our students are harder to engage in reading. They’re tired and they’re ready for summer break. (You probably are too;) To keep students energized, shake up your independent reading routine. Here are a few simple, low cost ideas.
Change the Location
A change in environment might be just enough to spark interest. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic either. Outside? In a common area? On the school stage? On quilts or beach towels? At a public library within walking distance? With new music playing in the background? With a friend or on their own? Next to students in another grade? Or ask the students: What are three new places you’d like to spend time reading? (“Three” – so you have a choice.)
Dive Into New Kinds of Texts
Do an inventory. What are your students mostly picking up to read independently? What can you put out that’s different? Locate stacks of this “different” and create a big display for students to browse through and choose from. This might include new nonfiction on a variety of summer topics (science how-to, nature, sports, camping, extreme sports, crafts). Another option is a special display of reader’s theater scripts or plays – that are funny, humorous, playful – for small groups to try out. Book talk different titles and confer with students about how they might choose.
As far as getting stacks of books – I realize some school libraries may be doing an end-of-the-year inventory (so books are not accessible). One option is to look through your own classroom library and pull out titles that have been neglected or trade books with a colleague. Another option is to go to the public library where you can check out dozens of books (that will never your classroom library). I used to do this for my third grade students and they LOVED. It also made it easier to talk to them about going to the public library during the summer. Below are photos from a dear colleague’s classroom.
As you know, your energy and excitement can serve as a motivator for students to engage. This may mean we have to let go a little, too. Reading response journals etc. may need to be put away. Find new ways to celebrate the joy of reading. Blow bubbles to celebrate finding new books or a new genre. Start with a little stretching (“to get our minds ready for reading”) and end with some jumping jacks (“to celebrate what the joy we felt while reading”). Free up a large dry erase board or bulletin board for comments about “the craziest thing you read today” or “book titles you’d recommend for summer reading”; or ask students to design the board, the crazy-titled recommendations and contribute on their own. Make a big deal about filling out public library card applications or applying to summer reading incentive programs. Share what you are reading that you never thought you’d pick up!
And hang in there. My thoughts are with you as you finish what’s been, for many of us and our students, an unusually challenging year.