Support Reading with Fun and Meaningful Reading Activities!.
Chances are you are exploring ideas for reading games or elementary reading activities because you want to support your students’ learning. Even preschool or high school teachers are searching for things that are fun but connected to text. I hope that I can provide some of those ideas as your online reading specialist.
The first and most meaningful of the reading activities is
Research shows that the time spent reading is directly related to how well a student reads. How much time do you allow your students to read each day? Before you answer, think about the difficulty of the text. The text must be at an independent or instructional reading level. If you have lower skilled readers, are they “reading” text that is at a frustration level? A frustration level is anything below a 90% accuracy and comprehension level. Nothing can replace the act of reading at an appropriate level.
I recommend a book entitled,
The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers
, by Nancie Atwell. This book would make an excellent staff book study on creating effective independent reading times.
So now that we’ve established that the very best activity for helping a student read is to have them spend lots of time reading at their easy or instructional level, let’s get on with some other supportive reading activities organized by age and ability level.
Emergent Reading Level
This is a fun age for reading activities and reading games. At this stage, the focus should be on phonological awareness, learning the alphabetic principle, and learning concepts of print. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words and sentences. Phonological awareness consists of
• hearing beginning, medial, and ending sounds,
• hearing words in sentences,
• hearing syllables in words,
• blending and segmenting words
In order to teach these, you can use songs, finger plays, rhyming books, and predictable books to use with small and large groups.
The alphabetic principle is all about learning the alphabet and learning that the sounds match the letters. Letters are meaningless without the sounds and connections to words.
Play letter identification and letter/sound games. Some teachers use kinesthetic movements to teach letters and sounds. You can play circle games, clapping games, board games, use puppets, or quiet learning while sitting.
Concepts of print is all about learning parts of a book, directionality of reading, and understanding that the symbols on the page represent words you are saying. While reading big books, have at your disposal masking tools, highlighting tape, pointers, and post-it notes.
Your reading activities during the emergent reading stages include using poems, chants, songbooks, music cds or tapes, puppets, big pictures, small picture cards, easel and charts. Use dry erase boards, chalk, magnetic letters, sand, play dough, stamps and ink, and other writing mediums for beginning writing.
Reading comprehension activities involve learning how to predict, understanding story elements and vocabulary, and learning to discuss together.
These reading activities or reading games enter into the world of whole words, sentences, and more extensive writing. You probably have lists of sight words and word wall words. Play sight word bingo, memory, and other card games.
Use cloze reading activities to fill in missing words. Mask words in sentences and predict what makes sense. Use cut-up sentences and put words in the right order. Use these along with student writing.
Create class stories to read and reread. Have students make illustrations for everything. Write constantly! Force students to write what they hear and stretch the sounds. Allow mistakes but also make corrections. See if other students can correct their friends’ writing.
Materials for reading activities at the beginning stage include word cards, picture cards, magnetic letters, sentence strips, markers, and listening centers. Use elkonin boxes to stretch, segment, and blend words and hear sounds.
Reading activities for fluency include lots of rereading. Read to each other in small groups. Practice puppet shows, always reading the parts for repetitive practice. Find simple readers’ theater plays. Use poems and read for each other at a poetry party. Reread simple sentences using different types of intonation. For instance, read a sentence with a period, a question mark, and exclamation point. Try emphasizing different words in the sentence to see how it sounds.
Other fun reading activities use letters for Making Words activities. Give homework sheets to reinforce this activity.
Intermediate Reading Level
Reading activities for the intermediate reader involve comprehension and word analysis. These reading activities might involve vocabulary building, background knowledge building,
reading fluency activities
. Word work will focus on multi-syllable words, synonyms, antonyms, and the like.
Vocabulary games can be fun and interactive. For these reading activities, choose just a few words from the content so that there is deeper understanding than with many words. Find the 4 or 5 words that connect to the key concepts. Find words that will be used frequently throughout the months. Vocabulary games can use more than 4 or 5 words. In fact, many use 12-15 words. But remember which ones you want them to remember long term.
Vocabulary reading activities use words over and over. Do you know that the average student needs about 8 exposures to a word before really learning it? So it’s better to use vocabulary reading activities in regular short sessions than longer, more infrequent sessions.
Remember the importance of building and connecting to background knowledge with your reading activities. Activities include sorting words, brainstorming words related to the topic, and meeting in small groups to discuss synonyms and categorize words. Have students draw pictures of newly learned words or how they interpret the new words.
Comprehension reading activities do not often involve worksheets. Instead, they involve interaction with the text and other people. Fountas and Pinnell’s book
The Continuum of Literacy Learning
is an excellent source for finding interactive read-alouds, shared and performance reading, writing, and more. Use ideas from this book to teach thinking within the text, about the text, and beyond the text.
Other comprehension activities involve the use of text structure graphic organizers. Find text that lends itself to cause-effect, sequencing, and compare-contrast. You must show students the structure and model how you identify it. Work on one structure at a time. After you think students learn a certain text structure, provide these graphic organizers for note-taking while they read. With these younger students, don’t overwhelm them. Teach 1 structure but teach it deeply and over the course of a quarter or semester. Then teach another one.
Advanced Reading Level
Reading activities in the upper levels deal with comprehension, vocabulary, and building background knowledge, just like with the intermediate readers. These also focus on analysis, making connections, and meaningful literary discussions.
By the upper grades, it’s often assumed that students know how to read effectively and it they don’t, it’s the other teachers’ fault. Unfortunately, adolescent reading skills just aren’t where they should be.
So what can you do? First, take a look at some of the activities in the intermediate section above. Next, keep the word “interactive” in mind. If you say to your average or below average (or lazy) student, “Read these pages for tomorrow. Then we’ll have a quiz.” Good luck. These students need a lot more background building and scaffolds for learning while they read.
Have you been a part of a book study as an adult? These are basically literature circles. Advanced and older readers gain a lot from book discussions. They also can contribute a lot as they talk out their thoughts. But many students are shy or intimidated. Keep discussion groups and literature circles small.
Literature circles and the art of conversation need to be taught and practiced. Some teachers say that their students are incapable of these types of groups. I challenge you to dedicate the first quarter to actually teaching them how to engage in discussion. By 4th quarter you may be surprised that they finally got it! Give it time practice.
Other helpful tools to use include graphic organizers for note taking and activities that use reading strategies of clarifying and paraphrasing. For instance, pair up students. Have students begin to read and after a few minutes, call a 3 minute time-out. One partner at that time must summarize, question, and name interesting details.
Keep in mind the variety of reading levels in your classroom. If you teach a particular subject, find other books related to the topic. Talk to your librarian and even the libraries at the middle schools. Get your hands on picture books and photo essays that relate to your topic. The more the better. Practice that involves using multiple texts of different kinds and reading levels can be some of the most invaluable learning times.
Comprehension reinforcement takes takes the form of writing projects, such as teaching points of view. I love using point of view because the student is forced to think beyond a text and personally connect with characters, situations, and people groups. Writing about the topic is usually a more difficult task than the reading. Use your writing activities to reinforce the most desired long term concepts.
Remember: make reading activities interactive and connected to the text!
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