10 Hooks for Reluctant Readers

 My own darling son is a take it or leave it kind of a reader; he loves to listen to stories, and likes to read, but all thing being equal he’d rather ride a bike, climb a wall, or draw. He didn’t see the joy in reading for fun until recently when he picked up Amulet, which was recommended to me by a colleague, and read for three hours straight! That got me thinking about my classroom reading hooks.

  

Book Pitch

Read a favourite chapter of a novel during your read aloud. That’s all. Sell the book a little. Better yet, have a student create a book pitch for a book they like and give them a minute of class time to present it.

The Highlight Wall

Leave out the books you share in class on a highlight shelf. There is something comforting about returning to a book students already know and love. Keep the highlight shelf down o a half a dozen books and limit the number of days a book gets to be there.

Reread

Especially with younger students,  a return to a book that’s already been shared allows the reader or listener to discover something new. This time let’s work on making a connection. Next time let’s concentrate on the author’s use of voice or conventions.

Graphic Novels

Many novels that are thick, intimidating novels also exist as graphic novels. This allows the reader to quickly absorb the story. If it’s good enough they’ll come back to read the long-form fiction version.

Thick Books with Limited Print

Bad Kitty is a good example as are Dav Pilkey’s Ricki Ricotta books, of a book that looks like a novel but reads like a picture book. It’s thick enough for those students who want to move on to the challenge of a chapter book but are not yet ready for that much text.

Change the Form of Writing

I have found that students who are good readers of fiction are not necessarily experienced consumers of non-fiction and vice versa. Exposing students to new forms of text takes away barriers.

Wordless Books

Wordless books fit into the graphic novel category in that stories are told visually. Reading a visual story is no less a form of literacy than is reading printed words. These multi-literateracies are increasingly important and students are exposed to different kinds of text than students of twenty years ago were. Often words and pictures are so interrelated that it’s important to develop an ease with reading the flow of a page.

Listen to Reading and Developing Multi-Literateracies

Listening to an audio book while following along with the print version is a way to develop that ability to “hear” the words we read. How many times as an adult reader have you heard someone say a word and are pretty sure they are actually pronouncing it wrong because you have only ever seen it in print? Seeing and hearing lows for multi-modal input. And listening alone while responding to literature is an important skill, too.

Read Instruction Manuals! 

Can’t hook a kid on books? Try a different form! Lego instruction manuals, Minecraft hacks, cook books, craft books: all a good way to blend text with images with student engagement and desire to learn about something of interest to them.

Model Reading Behaviour

One of the best things we can do as classroom teachers is model for students what gets us excited. Reading is fun! If we want students to believe it then we have to let them see us do it! Occasionally, spend your silent reading period curled up with a good book alongside students. Talk books with kids in the library as they browse. Listen to what they like about their books and tell them why you pulled the books you did!

Happy reading everyone! I would love to hear about how you hook your readers, too!

Poetry Month

  April is poetry month. This month we celebrated by reading and writing poetry and playing with figurative language.

The poetry of Shel Silverstein inspired us to write many different kinds of poetry: list poems, concrete poems, rhyming poems and epigrams.

Today we read the book “Green” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, which inspired us to explore color and to create interesting imagery. I read the story and students took talk time to tell one another an interesting sentence about what they saw. Then students used paint cards to write a colour-inspired poem. I was really excited to see how engaged they were in writing.
   

 

 

I would definitely say that this was a success.

How can I use technology in my classroom: blogs

I have used edublogs for some time now with lots of success. I like that it meets the CBEs tools 2.0 guidelines (this is key!) as everything can be locked down and moderated by me with lots of freedom for students. There is an app, which makes it easy for students to access. There is a cost for the pro version ($39 for a single classroom with a max of 50 blogs or a bulk upgrade that works out to about $8 per classroom), but I consider one of the costs of doing business. I have always allowed myself a certain budget for classroom extras like smelly stickers, coloured sticky notes, etc… whatever makes it fun to be in my classroom, but have recently begun to allocate my personal budget to technology-based expenses, like blogs. Our Calgary Public students also have the option to blog using D2L, which I think could be fairly easy, but requires students to log in, adding a small layer of complication for young students, but also adding a layer of security.

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Students have quickly developed the habits of good bloggers. They visit often. I often use blogs as enrichment work, where students who are “done early” can go and write. In grade one, we use them often for sentence writing using dictée words. In grade four I used them for movie and book reviews, book reflections, and word work.

My students have developed the habit of taking pictures of work that cannot be recorded otherwise (for example, building with shapes) and posting to their blogs. This way students can mark up their work and tag it so that they can easily find it and reflect on it later.

Students have the ability to read and post on other students’ work, which requires some pre-teaching around good Internet citizenship, but even after all these years, I have never had a student post an inappropriate comment.

My tips:

1. use a common login name and password and make it as short as possible especially for young learners.

2. Set up the edublogs app on your ipad and plug in all student names so that when they go to login all they have to do is find their name and click on it.

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3. Name blogs with a common name and link all blogs from your class page. This way students can easily find each other’s blogs.

4. Don’t force it. If you have students who are reluctant to blog you can’t force them to share. My feeling is that we need to respect the feelings of students who feel self-concious about sharing. In the past, I have had these students keep a paper journal when their peers were blogging on the computer or to have them blog, but to lock their page with a different password that was only known to me and her parents.

5. Decide how you want to use the blogs. I have a class blog, which students are welcome to post on, and individual student blogs, which students tend to use most often.

6. Use the blogs OFTEN! I have found that by sharing the fact that I blog, blogging often with students, and frequently sharing their blogs in class, students have become excited about their blogs. It is a way to make their learning explicit and they enjoy sharing.

But aren’t I just making extra work for myself?

I think it’s true that what you do in your classroom must follow your own personal interests and students tend to adapt from year to year. There are teachers who love music and students spend a year learning through music, there are teachers who love art and students spend a year learning through art. Technology is no different. Students in my classroom tend to get an immersion in technology for a year but it’s no different that any other creative extension in our classrooms. It allows students to speak, to photograph, to make movies and to express their learning in ways other than pencil and paper. I find moderating blogs and providing feedback no different than when I sit down at my desk with a basket full of journals and a purple pen (I love my purple pen!) except that I know my students are more likely to read the feedback and questions written on their blog and making edits and revisions becomes simple.

Moderation generally takes me a few minutes per week for comments and the same amount of time I spend marking journals per week. I have everything tied to my own smart devices and tend to moderate “as I find the time”… a few minutes after school, recess time, a few minutes before school.

With blogs, students know they have an audience and I find the quality of their work tends to improve as they know they are being read.

I generally use the blogs for the year I am with students and leave them open to my students for the year following. Most students lose interest in their blogs after leaving my classroom, but there are always a couple who continue to publish without prompting.

I personally blog at the value of wonder to share ideas and keep a record of my “good” ideas. I don’t know about you, but the last time I changed classrooms I moved 10 large Rubbermaid totes. Which is ridiculous. Time to start keeping a digital record of what works and what doesn’t. I love that my posts can be tagged for easy finding later on. Looking for a quick idea to throw in a math centre? I just have to look at my tags.

Excellent examples of teachers using blogs in primary schools include Kathy Cassidy and Danielle Maley.