Spring Into Literacy Grade 3

April/May 2019

Ways to Keep Students Motivated When They Have Spring Fever by Lori Sabo

We want our students to finish the year deeply engaged with self-selected texts, maintaining a sense of urgency about the importance of their reading lives. These ideas will help keep interest high until the last bell of the school year rings.

Tidy the Tubs

Give everyone a book tub and a few minutes to straighten it. Students check to see if all the books in the tub belong there, return misplaced books to their correct homes, and tidy it up by making sure all the covers face front. This brief activity accomplishes two things: the library gets a quick cleanup, and interest in books is generated. It isn’t uncommon to hear, “Oh! I want to read this!” or “_______, you would love this book, because you are interested in books about _________.”

Student Book Talks

If you grew up with Reading Rainbow, an image immediately comes to mind of what happened right after LeVar Burton said, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Student recommendations can be highly effective ways to increase interest.

Teacher Book Talks

Grab a stack of books you believe students will love. Briefly tell about the plot of each one or read its blurb. Ask who wants it. If more than one person wants a particular book, put names on a sticky note. Students will pass it to the next person on the list when they are finished.

Teacher Recommendations

When we know who they are as people and as readers, it becomes second nature to match our students with books, especially when we are voracious readers of children’s literature ourselves. Students are often highly motivated to read a book when it’s accompanied by the words “I found this book and thought of you.”

Add Variety

Bring in newspapers, poetry, graphic novels, and magazines.

Book Trade

If you do not have an extensive library and students are ready for some new material, do a temporary trade with another teacher. Swap tubs for a month.

Public Library

Bring new choices in by borrowing books from the public library. The librarian can suggest titles and authors for your age group.

Read Around

Read Around is an idea that came from Steven Layne and is one of our favorites. Students get to preview a book or magazine for about a minute. When you say, “Pass,” they pass the book to someone else. Students add items they are interested in to their “want to read” list.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to keep motivation high. These ideas will help your readers stay engaged until they have to leave you for the summer.

Good Bye Leveled Libraries


By Caroline Petrow

Every conference began this way. “What are you working on today as a reader?” Response: “I want to read yellow (aka above-grade level) books.” Despite my varied best attempts to instill in this reader the purpose for reading at his independent level and my knowledge that he may never read “yellow” books that year, his reading goal remained the same. This was a direct failure on my part and I was far too frequently hearing students want to advance to the next level – not wanting to find the next great book to read.

This problem nagged at me all school year, until I attended the NCRA conference and heard Donalyn Miller as the keynote speaker. She spoke directly to me – and my aspiring “yellow” readers. In reference to a short blog post by Irene Fountas my discomfort was remedy. Leveled texts are a tool for teachers to plan for instruction and monitor progress – NOT a label for students and parents. I had permission to rip the red, green, blue and yellow stickers off the books in my classroom library – and I did. Well, I first wrote the DRA level in teeny tiny numbers on the back of each book for my reference.

While liberating at first, I’ve returned to my classroom library, trying to figure out how to arrange the unleveled books while scaffolding readers to select books they can read.

Most books are organized by a category. Kids need opportunities to select books they have background knowledge about and motivation to read. Sorting through leveled books to find one that fits these two criteria takes kids mental energy away from picking a readable book. By setting up the library where kids can easily locate books they already know about and are interested in reading, they have more capacity to look through that limited selection and find a book they can actually read.

Sometimes Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s is worthwhile, where I opted for $5 book bin labels instead of creating my own.

Some books are organized by reading skills. After sorting by topic I still had lots of books that were initially labeled “beginning readers.” I wanted to avoid ALL labeling of this sort, so decided to group them by reading goals. Typically beginning readers are working on decoding and fluency. I have bins that match those levels so kids can also shop according to their reading goals. Additionally, more advanced books have new vocabulary and multi-syllabic words with corresponding labels.

Easier books in each bin have a “smiley face” tag. The purpose is two-fold. Beginning readers typically have a more challenging time sorting through books to find one that fits. The smiley face is a simple cue to direct them toward books with less complexity. Additionally, more advanced readers might check these books out when trying a new topic where they have limited background knowledge.

Now I’m eagerly awaiting for my readers to arrive and get the right books into the right hands at the right time.

Update: check out Good Bye Level Library Part #2 for five lessons to support readers selecting their own books

Visit A Reading Or Writing Lab Site

Please remember that we continue to support your visitation to your colleagues' classrooms through our reading and writing lab sites. If you would like to visit a colleague, just reach out to your building's RDT. Think about an area of focus for your visit in order to make your time in your colleague's classroom meaningful and purposeful.

Happy Visiting!