As the final few months of the school year draw near, the demands on elementary teachers and students tend to increase, which means the joy in our reading communities can actually decrease a bit. Luckily, it is not too late to hit the refresh button with just a small tweak in your daily schedule. Even one small change in your day can make a massive difference in increasing the joy in your community of readers. Perhaps you can add more book talks to your day. Maybe you’ll consider carving out 10-15 minutes for an additional daily independent reading time. Or, you may decide to engage in the practice of a daily community read aloud for the sake of coming together around a book. If the joy in your classroom has taken a hit due to the demands of the current times, try one of these small changes to refresh and renew your reading community this spring.
Commit to one book talk a day. Then, turn it over to your students.
Books talks are used to drum up interest in a book and get students excited about reading. They do not need to be long or complicated. A book talk can be as simple as showing the cover of the book and reading the preview on the back or offering a partial summary without giving away any spoilers. In my own classroom, my students and I usually offer book talks during our morning meetings. Admittedly, they have fallen by the wayside recently as demands have increased. I know that making a commitment to bringing them back each day will reignite a little reading joy in our community. If giving book talks is new to you, take a look at the Book Talk Teacher Tool that matches your grade level.
Add an additional 10-25 minutes of independent reading time to your day.
Years ago, the best thing I ever did as a teacher was make a commitment to always have two supported independent reading times in our daily schedule: first thing in the morning for 15-25 minutes and then during our instructional reading time later in the day. Students absolutely love settling in to read books of their choosing and sharing their favorite reads with friends first thing each morning. It is a predictable, comfortable community routine. If first thing in the morning doesn’t work for an additional reading time in your classroom, maybe you can squeeze in 10 minutes after or even right before recess or lunch? In the upper grades, this might involve students reading just one more chapter or another section of their current book. In the lower grades, this might take the shape of students coming into the classroom, grabbing their book box/bag, and then reading their book stack once or twice through. Or, it could even involve a few extra minutes of partner reading! The additional reading time is valuable for both my students as readers and me as their teacher. It opens up space for me to have quick check-ins with students or an extra reading conference or two. Plus, it is a low-stakes, comfortable time of day that is cherished by all.
Read aloud, just because!
I agree with Maria Walther, author of The-Ramped Up Read Aloud, in that, “First and foremost, read aloud should be a joyful celebration for all.” While instructional interactive read alouds play an important role in student reading growth, nothing quite brings together a community of readers like reading aloud a beloved picture book just for the sake of sharing a story together. Students at every grade level absolutely love gathering together for a story. Much like our extra independent reading time each day, this is much looked-forward to daily occurrence in the classroom that keeps our reading community full of joy and purpose. If you’re looking for which picture books to pick up at your library or local bookstore, check out this list of online sources for learning about and staying informed on children’s literature.
Whether it be adding book talks to your routine, finding a bit of extra time for supported independent reading, or including a joyful daily read aloud, making one small change has the power to refresh and renew your classroom reading community this spring. After a week or two of one small change, perhaps try another if you and your students are ready for more.
Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading in Corwin’s Five to Thrive Series offers many more practical tips for building and maintaining a joyful reading community.