Teaching reading is supposed to be fun. So iff you and your students aren’t having fun during reading class, then you’re doing it wrong. 😉
Reading is meant to be fun, engaging, and exciting. But too often the pressures of state testing, the limitations of a scripted curriculum, and the lack of quality books and resources can take away some of the joys out of our reading instruction.
But the good news is that there are super easy and simple things you can do – no matter what challenges you face – that will make teaching reading more fun and engaging for you and your students.
Here is a list of 10 ways you can make your reading block more fun!
1. Set Monthly Reading Challenges
One of the easiest ways you can increase the excitement and fun when teaching reading is with a simple reading challenge.
I loved incorporating reading challenges into my reading block. Reading challenges can be a really easy way to get kids excited about reading and to hold them accountable to keep working towards their reading goal. You can do a reading challenge for pretty much anything… number of books, types of genres, number of minutes, or how you respond to a text.
Some of my favorite reading challenges include the following:
Genre Challenge – Throughout the month, students have to read a book from 20 different genres. This is a great challenge to do at the start of the year and encourages students to explore genres they might not have ever read before.
Picture Book Challenge – I am always trying to find ways to encourage upper elementary students to read more picture books and giving them a picture book specific challenge will help them do just that! Set a number of picture books you want them to read each month. If it’s part of the challenge, they are much more likely to read picture books over chapter books.
ABC Challenge – This one is fun… and super tricky. Students have to find 26 books to read. One for each letter of the alphabet. They either need to find a book with a title or author that begins with each letter of the alphabet. This one can sometimes take more than a month.
2. Teach Students to Give Book Talks
Book talks are such a fun way to get kids excited about reading. AND they are super simple to incorporate into your classroom. All you need to do is set aside 5-6 minutes each day for your students to give a book talk. I always liked to let my students give a book talk right before or after our whole group read aloud… or after a transition like coming back from lunch or recess. You can also incorporate them as part of your morning meeting or end of the day routine.
Really, it doesn’t matter WHEN you do them. Your students will just love sharing their reading experience with their classmates and hearing fun book recommendations as well.
Book talks are just a short little commercial. You want your students to talk about a book they have read and really really enjoyed. They should share a short little summary, describe why they liked it, and explain why their classmates should read it.
Book talks are a great way to introduce and expose your students to a wide range of book titles… Just think. If someone in your class gave one book talk every single day, that would mean your students would be introduce and exposed to 180 new titles in a year – that surely will get them excited about reading.
You can read more about how to get started with book talks in THIS blog post I wrote.
3. Play Games
Students love playing games…even if what you are doing really ISN’T a game and you just call it a game… they will love it.
We want our kids to have fun while reading and so when possible, try to incorporate some games into your reading block. This could be anything from playing a BINGO game to review vocabulary, or a fun comprehension game you incorporate into your reading centers, OR playing some quick games anytime you introduce a new text.
It doesn’t need to be anything crazy or complex – just a way for students to have fun while reading.
4. Incorporate More Choice
Choice is such an important part of reading. Anytime we give students a choice, we will see a boost in engagement… and a boost in engagement is usually a pretty good sign that students are having fun.
It is super easy to incorporate more choice during your reading block.
Let students choose what they read:
Give students a choice when it comes to selecting texts for independent reading.
When you are picking your next read aloud text (chapter book or picture book) let your class vote on the book they want to read next.
If you’re using a reading passage to introduce or practice a specific skill, try giving students a choice between a few different passages all with different topics.
Give students choice boards and let them decide how they want to respond to the texts they are reading.
5. Let Students Take Some Inspired Action.
I always say that if we are TRULY engaged in reading, we will be inspired to take some sort of action…. Maybe we read about a topic that sparks some curiosity and you want to do some further research on a topic…. or maybe you read a book about a specific location and you want to plan a trip to go visit… or maybe you read a book about a theme that really resonated with you and it causes some serious self-reflection….
Whatever the action is, it’s a sign that you had a meaningful reading experience and we want our students to experience the same thing.
I always like to ask students three questions after we read a text.
What? – What did we just read?
So What? – Why is this text significant or important?
Now What? – Now that we have read this book, how are WE going to be different? What action will this text inspire us to take.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.
Let’s say you read the book Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson to your students. After the read aloud, you have a group of students who want to create a kindness jar for the classroom…
Let’s say you shared the wordless picture book The Typewriter by Bill Thomson with your class. After the read aloud, you have ONE students who is REALLY interested in knowing the real story behind the book so he/she decides to write a letter and mail it to Bill Thomson to see if he’ll share his inspiration for the book…
Let’s say you read the book The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al Abdullah. After the read aloud, your students are inspired and want to have their own class potluck to celebrate all the different cultures represented in the class.
Each of these are examples of inspired action. Students read a book and are inspired to take some REAL AUTHENTIC action based off of their reading experiences… inspired action will definitely lead to fun and engagement… and it means that teaching reading is also teaching our students how to change the world.
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Reading Genre Inventory
This reading inventory is a fun way to help students figure out what genre they should read next! Students can go through this “choose your own genre” inventory several times and get different answers each time. It’s such a fun way to help students explore different genres.
6. Explore More Reading Genres
A HUGE part of having fun while teaching reading is making sure that students are actually enjoying the texts that they are reading during their independent reading time. This means they need to have a real clear understanding of the types of books they enjoy reading…and the types of books they find boring or not very exciting.
When you explore a variety of genres you are helping your students discover their reading identities. The more genres they are familiar with the more likely they are to select texts they will enjoy reading.
If you are new to teaching genre in upper elementary, you can read THIS blog post where I explain how I taught genre in upper elementary.
7. Plan Author Studies
Author studies are another fun way to make your reading block fun and engaging. An author study is simply picking a favorite author and then finding several titles that author has written and sharing them with your students. It can be a great way to look for common themes between books, characters that pop up in multiple story lines, or to try and discover what really inspired the author to write all of those books.
If students REALLY enjoy a particular picture book or chapter book, look for other titles written by that author and do an author study with your students.
Some of my students FAVORITE author’s we’ve studied are Kate DiCamillo, Patricia Polacco, Jacquieline Woodsoon, Jory John, and Kevin Henkes.
8. Launch Book Clubs
One of my favorite ways as an adult to enjoy reading is to share it with my friends. I have been in many book clubs over the years and I always love gathering with my friends and discussing a book we all read.
Once I started teaching reading I thought a lot about my own personal reading experience. I thought about the things that I naturally did as a reader and when possible, I tried to incorporate those things in my classroom. I think book clubs are one of the easiest ways to mirror our personal reading experiences in the classroom with our students.
Incorporating book clubs into your classroom can give your students the same experience. Students LOVE having an opportunity to socialize during the school day and when they are in a book club, they are socializing with a very clear purpose – discussing a book.
If you’ve never done book clubs in your classroom, you can read THIS blog post where I talk all about how to get started with book clubs.
9. Read Holiday Themed Books and Articles.
Holidays and seasonal celebrations can be a great way to give your reading block and extra boost of fun and engagement. Anytime there is a special holiday coming up (whether your class celebrates it or not), try to find some read alouds that share stories about that holiday.
This is a super simple way to make teaching reading relevant to the season or holiday that is happening that time of year.
It can be a great way for your students to learn about other celebrations that take place in other communities…. and if you are planning on doing a big party or celebration for a holiday you do celebrate, by incorporating books into your celebration you are making sure there is still an academic focus.
10.Read Aloud EVERYDAY Just For Fun
And my number one absolute best tip to make teaching reading more fun and engaging is to actually read to your students for fun every single day. This means there is no assignment, not hidden agenda, no connection you are trying to make, no list of higher level comprehension questions… just a book that you want to enjoy with your kiddos and you’re open to seeing where that reading experience will take your students.
I know we always say we never have enough time as teachers, but the reality of it is that we have plenty of time during the day… we just have to decide how we want to spend it.
And I really can’t think of a better way than reading aloud to your students.
Bonus Tip: Be Excited About Reading.
Our energy is contagious. If we want our students to have fun reading then we most definitely need to have fun when we are teaching reading. If we forget to bring our own joy and enthusiasm into the classroom then it really doesn’t matter how many of the things you do on this list, if you’re not having fun, your students probably won’t be either.
Teaching reading fun.
Teaching reading enjoyable.
Teaching reading should be your absolute best part of your day.
Ok friends! I hope you have some new ideas on how you can make teaching reading more fun and engaging for you and your students!
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Reading challenges are such a fun way to motivate and encourage students to read. With this free download you’ll get three of my favorite reading challenges: Read-At-Home Challenge, Genre Challenge & 30-in-30 Challenge. Are you and your students up for the challenge?