Image Map

Monday, February 10, 2020

Getting Your Students to Read at Home and Enjoy It!

Reading at home is important. This is something we, as educators, know. We've all seen the chart about Student A, Student B, and Student C (recreated below).

(Sources: Here and Here)

By reading 20 minutes a night, Student A is exposed to 1,720,000 more words than their peer who reads an average of 1 minute per night. That statistic is alarming. Another statistic notes that when students are read-aloud to at home, it puts them a school-year ahead of their peers who are not read aloud to regularly.

So many teachers encourage reading at home, and some even make it mandatory. But how can we make it FUN AND ENJOYABLE? Well, I have some suggestions for you!

Hands down, the most important way to get your students reading at home is to make sure they have appropriate, quality books that appeal to them. Maybe where you teach, students already have these books at home. But if they don't, make it your mission to provide them with books they will read. Work with the librarian to make sure students are checking out books they will actually read. Sign-up for extra library time, purchase books at thrift stores, garage sales, online resale groups, or Thrift Books or Amazon. Create a Donor's Choose project asking for books for your students. Write to book stores. Do whatever it takes to provide your students with books they will read.

Representation is also extremely important to children reading books. They want to read books with characters that look like they do. If you have a diverse student population, keep that in mind when resourcing books for your students.

I often share my favorite children's books on Instagram. Follow me! @halleacrossthehall

Again, maybe some of your students have parents or older siblings at home who are reading in their presence. But maybe they don't. Make it your mission to show your students that you love reading. Display the book you are currently reading, read it front of them, and talk about your love for reading. This is something they will take home with them when it's modeled for them.

We all have busy nights, bad days, and important events that take us away from our daily schedules. When you mandate something it's practically guaranteed that it will become a chore. When you give your students the option to read, it becomes a choice. A choice they will hopefully make, especially when you implement some of the suggestions in this post.

Can't completely let go of the reigns regarding reading? Instead of making it a set amount of time each night, make it a goal to read a certain amount of books or minutes by the week or month's end, or make it a challenge. My Reading Challenges resource allows you to make reading a requirement OR challenge (I suggest the latter :)).

These monthly reading challenges make reading fun, not a chore.

There are also challenges to send home on fall, winter, spring, and summer break!

Stuffed animals are easy to come by for low prices. Send home a classroom reading buddy with a different student each week or get enough buddies that each student can have their own. Create a booklet or necklace with questions "the buddy" can ask students about their book.

Students could even draw their own buddy and use it as a bookmark.

Reading at home with parents can be a double-edged sword, especially with students who are just learning how to read. Well-meaning parents may confuse their child when the student struggles with words. I once overheard an old sister trying to teach her brother how to read "here". It was cringeworthy to hear her explanation, even though she was coming from a good place.

So what can parents do? Read TO their children. If you have a reading log for homework, parents reading to their children should also count. Every single page of my Reading Challenges includes a parent reading to their child as an option. Children are seeing their parents read and fluent reading is being modeled to students.

For students who are just learning how to read, or struggling to read, tell them that reading the pictures to their parents is also an option.

Nothing will make reading fun for students if they don't have appropriate books, but provided you've addressed #1, there are so many ways to add a fun twist to student reading.

These Reading Challenges have lots of fun options for students to get their fill of reading: read with a hat on, read under the table, read with a flashlight, read a cookie recipe then make it! When I started providing these fun twists to get my students reading, I noticed such a difference in nightly reading participation. I suggest adding a fun twist to your required or optional reading :) Before you know it, students will anxiously turn in their reading challenges asking for their next one.

I hope some of these ideas help you to implement a successful at home reading program in your classroom. Do you have any other ideas teachers or parents could use to get their kids reading?

Want to try a sample of my Reading Challenges for the Whole Year? Enter your email below and a FREE reading challenge sheet will be sent straight to your inbox!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Comprehension Skills for our Younger Learners

Some might call me the Queen of Picture Books.

Ok-I think only I call myself that. But, I have a point here. My point is that I love, I live for, I thrive off of children's books. I'm just as happy in the children's section of a book store as I am at a nice dinner or the beach.

And I share my love for children's books with my students and my children. There is no doubt that all the kids in my life know of my affinity for children's books.

At home we eat them up like candy. At school, we make time for them every single day. We use them to teach and reinforce concepts like character traits, plot, summarizing, fact and opinion, grammar skills, and inter-disciplinary skills. I love using them to model reading comprehension skills with my youngest learners.

But I like to follow up with something more concrete too. I like to see evidence of their mastery of comprehension skills. That's why, along with picture books, I use reading passages with my students to reinforce comprehension skills.

I started writing my own passages for first graders when I couldn't find what I was looking for on Teachers Pay Teachers. A lot of what I was finding featured passages broken down by phonetic skills only. And while I think that's great and can serve a purpose, it wasn't serving mine.

Little Learners was born when I started writing seasonal, high-interest passages for my own intervention students. The passages were written for first graders, but I find them effective for my struggling second graders as well.

The passages start simple and build in complexity and difficulty as the year goes on. Above is an example of an August passage. The text is simple and repetitive.

Here is a passage from the April Edition of Little Learners Comprehension. Notice how the text got more complex?

Because time is always an issue for teachers, I wanted something that would incorporate grammar and phonetic skills, but I didn't want those types of skills to dictate the whole passage. So, I added a "Find It"section that incorporates phonics, grammar, and extra story elements.

Kids love any chance to use crayons or markers, so I added a drawing component.'s actually a comprehension question in disguise.

And our younger learners need opportunities to respond to questions in writing. There's no circling their answers in different color crayons here. I think it's an awesome strategy for locating information in text and I use it. I even have them do it from time to time with my passages. But they are ALWAYS WRITING in addition to locating information.

And lastly, I want them to connect to the story or look at it deeper. Most of my passages feature a "Write About It" section. Sometimes the heading is called "Infer It" or "Connect It", but it always has students looking deeper into the text.

I love that I get to tackle all of these concepts with a SHORT passage written just for my youngest learners. We get to do all of the above skills on ONE PAGE! And my students are almost always fans of the stories on the passages (there's always one, right? hehehe)

Want to try a free sample of my Little Learners Comprehension Passages? Sign up below to have them emailed to you.

Already know you want them? Click HERE to grab them from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Happy Teaching,


Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 Ways I Use Punch Cards in My Classroom

Every summer about this time, I start to get the itch. You know, what will I add/subtract/continue to do in my classroom this year?

This year I'm changing a lot because it will only be my 2nd year in the role of a reading intervention teacher. Last year was all about learning the ropes of my new position and my new school. I was just treading water. I'd like to think this year I know a little more and I can offer a lot more to my position.

One thing I'm adding is punch cards! I plan to use these punch cards in different ways for each of my groups, grades K-2, because their needs are different too!

There are so many ways to use punch cards in your classroom, and students love them!

Read on to see how I'm using punch cards this year, plus a few ideas for classroom teachers too!

There are so many amazing ways to punch cards in your classroom! Letting students choose their own punch cards makes it extra fun!

I will be using punch cards to monitor reading with my 1st and 2nd graders. I will send home punch cards in their take-home book baggies. Parents will initial for every book read, then I will punch the image to show I've checked it. The monthly themes of my punch cards add an extra initiative to their at-home reading and it's such an easy way to keep track of who is reading regularly (their nightly reading is optional from me). I will add empty punch cards to their student file and come progress report time I have an instant image of who was reading regularly and who I can recommend more at-home reading to.

Other Ways to Use Them to Monitor Reading...
Have older students reading chapter books, or want to stress quality reading, not quantity? Have parents initial for every 10 minutes read, or have students punch during Daily 5 for every 5, 10, 15 minutes read to focus on stamina.

There are so many amazing ways to punch cards in your classroom! Letting students choose their own punch cards makes it extra fun!

Punch cards as incentives will mostly be used with my little K friends, although I am not above breaking them out for my older friends as well. My time with my littles ones is precious, as I am spread out between 8-10 classes. And we all know how short of an attention span our little ones have, so I will be using my punch cards as a way to keep them focused for as long as possible.

We will be punching for coming to groups quickly, staying on task, completing a task or mini-assignment, being a helpful friend to others in group, and extra effort. I will be punching away. Punches alone are the perfect incentive. They do not need to be tied to extra prizes. Just saying, "Wow, Brady, you earned 3 punches today!!!" is enough for my little friends. I will also let them pick out their own punch cards instead of using them seasonally because, why not?

Other Ways to Use Them as Incentives...
Independently or Whole Class: you might not want an extra thing to use with your whole class, or you might want a collective way to inspire your kids. There are no rules with these things!
Use them for behavior, at specials times only (the gym teacher gives a punch or she doesn't: EASY!), at dismissal (I wish I thought to use these my first year when dismissal was a HOT MESS for poor first year me!), during arrival, etc, etc, etc

There are so many amazing ways to punch cards in your classroom! Letting students choose their own punch cards makes it extra fun!

I will have a separate punch card for each of my reading groups (there's so many to choose from)! Anytime my students get a compliment from someone else, they will receive a punch on their group card. There are plenty of opportunities for compliments: we have to walk down to my classroom and back and we share a classroom with another intervention teacher. I also plan on punching the group's card if any of my students' teachers come to me with a compliment about progress in class. Each time a group's punch card is filled, I will have a fun reward, like no shoes or gum in small groups.

Using the punch cards this way is important for me because, as a non-classroom teacher, I struggle with the amount of time to spend on procedures and routines when my primary role is an interventionist. Classroom management has always been one of my strengths and I found it was more difficult this past year not doing my usual beginning of the year lessons on behavior, procedures, and routines. Punch cards will offer a great assist in my management program as pull-out teacher.

There are so many amazing ways to punch cards in your classroom! Letting students choose their own punch cards makes it extra fun!

Punch cards are great for classroom teachers to use to monitor and track homework. During my last few years as a classroom teacher we had "choice homework"...90% of our homework was by choice and the remaining 10% had to be done each week. I wish I'd had punch cards during those last few years. Students would receive a punch for the required homework and a bonus punch for any choice homework also completed.

Punch cards work great for any homework program, though. An easy, student-centered way, to monitor homework completion.

There are so many amazing ways to punch cards in your classroom! Letting students choose their own punch cards makes it extra fun!

Do you do timed tests in your classroom? AR? Xtra Math? Any skills you assess using progress monitoring would be a great way to use punch cards. Have students keep individual goals and write the steps for getting to that goal? They can punch their card every time they complete a step along the way. Bonus for letting students choose and punch their own cards! This will really help them take ownership of their own work and goals.

As you can see, I've really thought through how I'm going to use my punch cards this year! Now not the next 23,982 things I want to work on for the next school-year!

If you're interested in using punch cards in your classroom or small groups this year, you can grab them from TpT by clicking the picture below. They include a theme for each month of the school-year (some have two themes  because I couldn't decide), plus 5 extra sets for even more student choices! Black ink, so they're printer friendly...print on bright cardstock and you're good to go!

There are so many amazing ways to punch cards in your classroom! Letting students choose their own punch cards makes it extra fun!

Have other suggestions for how to use punch cards? Leave them below!

Happy Teaching, Friends!