To help you start the year right when it comes to reading, take a glance at these great tips from fellow MEA members. Maine Educator broke out the ideas based on grade levels. Pick and choose what works for you!

Grades K-2 – Penny Rees, Glenburn Elementary School

  • Begin the school year off by promoting a sense of family/community/love so children will feel comfortable in their learning environment. The tips listed below won’t matter if this is not achieved. Ex: Have students cheer for each others’ successes, promote “bucket filling,” etc.
  • Use movement/motion to learn high frequency words. An example: Act out the word “my” by punching out the letters – right hand extended as students say “m,” then left hand extended as students say “y,” then students clap hands together and shout “my!” Children quickly learn to read and spell the words by using this technique.
  • Use visual cues to learn diagraphs. Ex: Picture of a thumb to represent “th.”
  • Demonstrate reading strategies. Ex: Show how to sound out words by stretching out a rubber band slowly as you say the word.
  • Help children to be positive risk takers. Sometimes a child when first learning how to read will not attempt a word for fear of being wrong. Ex: Teach the following to students to recite when needed – “Mistakes are good. They help us grow. They teach us what we need to know.”
  • Use centers for hands-on learning built around a theme. I’m a big believer in integrating subjects. Ex: Using the science theme of dinosaurs, the children go back in time, thanks to our time machine, to Dinosaur Land (part of our classroom is sectioned off and decorated as a prehistoric environment, complete with volcano and life-size baby dinosaur), where there are numerous centers. One of the literacy centers is to read the word family words written on large plastic eggs in a dinosaur nest. When completed, the egg hatches (child opens it) to reveal a baby (toy) dinosaur.
  • Have students wear headbands or crowns with the high frequency words on them. Each crown has one word on it that the child must be able to read when asked what the word is by another student or adult.

Grades 3-5 – Darcy Pinkham, Buxton Elementary School

  • My students loved when we did reader’s theater, which helped with their fluency. They loved practicing and making props for it too. I think that the most powerful tool is giving them voice and choice with the books they read and how they show me what they have learned.
  • I also do what I call a file folder for a book they’re reading. Students decorate the front with the title of the book and any illustrations they want to add. In the file folder are square pieces of paper that go together like a matchbook. They write a summary on the inside of the paper and on the outside of the “matchbook” they can draw an illustration on it. The books turned out pretty awesome and the children loved them.There was a separate “matchbook” for each assignment they had.

Grades 6-8 – Jessica Dow, Caribou Middle School

  • Students are taught how to preview books on the first day of class, so when they choose a book they have made a good choice from the beginning, and this helps them in finishing the book
  • I do several Book Passes throughout the year:
  • I put piles of books on desks and students preview them for a period of 3-6 minutes, and then make notes about the books they preview, this book pass papers are kept in their binders, when they are struggling to find a new book to read, I ask them to refer to their book pass.
  • Previous year students have completed Book Talk Cards (short summary of the novel, picture, other books similar to this book, and who might enjoy reading the book), these are available to my students to look at and help guide them when choosing a novel. (Students always take advice from peers better than from the teacher).

High School – Sherri Gould, Nokomis Regional High School

Provide high school students with time to read.

  • Establish a routine for beginning each class with a 20-minute independent reading time.
  • Use consistent language for getting students started and providing them with a two-minute warning when it’s time to finish up. When 20 minutes is over, use a consistent phrase, such as, “Find a good place to finish up now.”
  • Communicate—and reinforce—clear expectations for reading time, (everyone reads; come with something to read; what to do when you don’t like what you’re reading).

Provide choice in what students can read

  • Discuss with students how to make the “just right” choice for them (and that’s not just about lexile level!)
  • Build—and maintain—a classroom library with a wide variety of choices
  • Range of authors, genres, topics, and accessibility
  • Consider including magazines, almanacs, audiobooks, fan fiction

Make it as authentic as possible

  • When we read a book in the “real world,” we don’t keep a reading log. When we finish a book in the “real world”, we don’t write a paper about it.
  • When we read in the “real world,” we talk about what we’re reading with others. Do that in the classroom, too!
  • Provide students with a few minutes to talk with peers about what they’re reading. Book recommendations from a friend carry weight!

And finally, my students and I have always enjoyed a bulletin board where we could record quotations that we come across in our reading. It’s pretty catchy to use black construction paper and brightly colored chalk markers for this, and it’s a great way to capture author’s language that has ‘spoken’ to us throughout the year.