Reading in the Classroom

What it looks, sounds, and feels like

Reading! What is it to you?

When we look back, what feelings do we have about learning to read? Did you have good memories or challenging ones? We all have our own reading experiences. When a group of teachers were asked to pick one word to best describe their feelings about their reading experiences, they range from very negative to very positive words. From words like scary to ravenous, we all remember reading differently.

Why do you think that is? Maybe it was due to becoming discouraged in an overly structured reading program - "You will read this book" - or maybe our love was due to having the opportunity to pick our own books, something that caught our personal interest.

What word would you choose?

The Girl Who Hated Books

Effective Readers!

We all want to be an effective reader, but what is an effective reader? The Ontario Curriculum has a lovely definition for an effective reader. it is when a student can read a book, get the new ideas and apply those ideas in new situations.

So there are 2 parts to that definition.

  1. Getting new information from the text
  2. Applying it in new situations

To get the information, we need to understand, analyse and absorb new information by thinking clearly, creatively, and critically about what they read.

We apply what we read when we recognize that it can be applied with other situations!

What It Looks Like

In the classroom

What if there was a way to get students excited about reading without saying a word? Impossible? Not at all! How we set up the classroom can make a huge difference for the students. When we create a reading space that is comfortable and inviting to all students, they are more likely to go to the books by their own choice!

A student library can be your greatest tool for students. Our libraries need to do many different things. They need to provide them access to a variety of books ranging in levels and genres, books to catch the eyes and minds of any student! Also, by organizing the books by their levels or by their genres can help students find something they like and can read comfortably without them feeling overwhelmed by the variety of books. Providing students with a nice carpet to lie on while reading, or some cushions to sit on creates an inviting atmosphere.

"HELP! I'm stuck!! I don't remember..." What can teacher's do to support students? Using the wall to create a word wall for common words, labels around the room to help a student remember how to spell that word, anchor charts to keep them on track with their learning and personal dictionaries are all tools that help students!

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Every day?

Yup! Learning literacy needs to happen every day! So, open your day books, pick chunk of time, colour code it bright and welcoming, and title it LITERACY BLOCK!

There are a few different things that we, as teachers, can do to keep this time fun and exiting for the students. My two favourite ways to make literacy time fun is by introducing my students to daily five and the balanced literacy program.

Daily Five

This is when anything literacy is placed out for students to rotate through. It includes reading independently, reading with a friend, listening to a recording while following along in the book, and any number of writing activities on paper or on the computer.

Balanced Literacy Program

This is a program where we teach students how to become independent and effective readers. It includes modelled reading (read-Alouds), shared reading, guided reading, and then independent reading. For more information about balanced literacy, check out this site.

Balanced Literacy in a 2nd Grade Classroom

Technology and Reading

Can this be true? Reading something other than books! Oh yes! Computer game developers have been hard at work to help us keep the attention of students!

More and more of our days are spent on the internet. including technology with literacy is extremely important for when the students leave school and start working. Why not start at a young age?

Many people think technology is only necessary to support students who struggle, but I think that when utilized effectively, technology can be great for all students. It can take a student's learning beyond and as far as they want to go.

There are many different ways to include technology in your literacy program. I'll list a few and for some more ideas, check out the image below!

  • RazKids is a website that provides students with books to read that are just right. They read the books and answer some questions about them. This site provides valuable information to teachers with additional reading level information.
  • ReadingEggs and ReadingEggspress are websites that pulls students in and turns reading and understanding the text into a game with golden egg prizes!
  • VoiceThread is a website that combines pictures with voice recordings. It is an amazing tool for oral language and can help boost student confidence when sharing their work.
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Why Read?

Reading for Meaning

Why do we read? Why is it so important that our students leave school able to read books?

Well, it more than just reading the words in books. We read to get the message or meaning behind the words.

But how do we teach students about reading the meaning when they're focusing on the words?

Ah! A great question! Some things with reading can be learned through a student's continual expose to different texts and information, but to get the ball rolling, we need to explicitly teach students about all the different reading cues. As expert readers, we already know and use all four cues together, so lets teach our students so that they can become expert readers too!

The 4 Reading Cues

  • Sound it out. Look at the letters and sound out the word. This letter to sound connection is called the graphophonic cueing system. This is a great tool to help students figure out a familiar word that they are stuck on. Unfortunately, the English language loves to mess around with this cueing system! The "th" sound is not the same as a "t" and "h" sound next to each other, but it is still a very useful tool when encountering new words.

  • Look at the picture. What do you think is happening? Asking students to use their knowledge of the context is the next cueing system. It is called the semantic cueing system and is used with picture books! I love this cueing system because it provides students a chance to guess at a word that could fit the context and then double check it with the text. I have experienced a drawback with this system with ESL and ELL students coming from different cultural backgrounds. I guess it's a good thing that there are so many different books out there!

  • Read the sentence, guess the word you don't know, and see if that makes sense. This is the syntactic cueing system and it relies heavily on the individual's knowledge of grammar and sentence structure. Culture and background can make this cueing system tricky but it can often help us guess a difficult word.

  • What kind of text is this? What can we guess about the text now that we know what kind of text it is? Gathering meaning by looking at the whole text and the text structure uses the pragmatic cueing system. If we know what kind of text we are reading, we can figure out the meaning the author is going to try and share. This can help us to understand some unfamiliar words used in familiar situations.

What it sounds like

Learning how to read is not a silent endeavour. Trying to make silent would be stealing the enthusiasm out of the student!

Check out this short video clip of daily five in action in a classroom for a better idea of what it looks and sounds like.

The Daily 5 in action!

What it feels like

Learning literacy should be fun! We want to foster a life-long love of reading and it is important that we support our students to avoid discouragement. Differentiation in the classroom, providing plenty of opportunities for students to show off great work and encouraging students to have reasonably high personal expectations will help students do just that.
I Love Reading - Book Song

Wrap up!

Thanks so much for checking this out!

For more information, here are some resources you can check out:

Some of these resources will help provide students with another way to share their knowledge, Voice Threads.

Other resources are new ways and games to help students learn more, Reading Eggs, Raz Kids, and Reading Rockets.

If you want additional information check these links out to learn more about the balanced literacy program or check out OISE's balanced literacy diet.

If you want more information about Daily Five, this site is excellent!

There are a lot of great books circulating around! Some include:

  • "Guide to Early Reading" created by the Ontario Ministry of Education
  • Check out all the different Literacy modules developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education and TFO through the e-workshop website.
  • "When Kids Can't Read and What Teachers Can Do" by Kylene Beers is an excellent print resource.
  • Another print resource that focuses on getting boys more engaged with reading is "Even Hockey Players Read" by David Booth.