Top 10 Best Reading Strategies to Motivate Your Students

30 May 2016

My Top 10 Reading Strategies to Use TODAY!

 I Used to Help My Students Grow 8 Reading Levels in One Year!

As I am nearing the end of my fourth year teaching, I am finding the most success with my class this year in reading (and math), and I want to share some of the POWERFUL strategies that I have been using (ALL THANKS TO MY LITERACY COACH, MARY F.). While the majority of my class grew 4 5 levels, I have two students who grew 8 reading levels! That is unreal! I cannot even begin to explain how amazed I was. This has truly been the most incredible year of learning for my students and me!

Here are my truly amazing and helpful tips!

1.     Choice: It’s all about choice! My entire school uses Daily 5 during our literacy block and every student is familiar with the language, process, etc. While many teachers have their own processes and their own tips and tricks, I simply allow my students to use a paw print magnet and allow them to make their choice every morning for which round they would like to start the day in. Then, I change the choices for the rest of the day, but only to save time. If a student truly wants to stay in a writing round to finish a story, I allow them to. The really enjoy being able to have a choice! 

2.    Tic Tac Toe Boards: To help my students stay on track and apply the skills from the mini lessons taught, I use tic tac toe boards for our Daily 5 Rounds. There is always a “Free Choice,” so the students are never limited, but they are never left to question what they should be doing. I have created my own for ALL Daily 5 Literacy Rounds as well as for Work on Writing and Word Work. My students enjoy the freedom as well as the challenge, and it has really helped to familiarize them with the type of language we see in our benchmark assessments.

3.    SCOREBOARDS: This year I created an ice cream cone scoreboard. It works like this, every students begins with a cone and one scoop of ice cream (because I have to reward them for reading with me when they were so nervous from day 1). Then, after I progress monitor or do an assessment and see that they have grown a level, they add one more scoop. These scoops are for their ice cream party at the end of the year (the more they earned, the more scoops and/or toppings they will receive). Here’s a previous blog about my Scoreboards.

4.    Book Posters: Students need to fall in LOVE with reading if they ever want to be good at it. I have my students showcase their favorite books by creating posters. We have hung some of them outside to show our friends in the school. Perhaps next year we might try these on index cards to create trading cards with friends. 

5.    Reciprocal Teaching: If a child can teach it well enough, then the child has successfully learned the concept. I taught my students a writing strategy for the written comprehension using an acronym, RAP. This means that students must Respond to the question, Answer it, and finally, they must Prove it within the text. After modeling and showing my students how to do this several times, I decided to let them create a way to teach the rest of the class about the RAP. Each group created a song and dance to teach the whole class the RAP. We had lost of giggles and fun times, but the most important thing was that they all remembered it! When it came time for benchmarks, all of my kids would say to one another, “Good luck! Don’t forget the RAP!” They killed it!

6.    Book Baggies: This year, I sent home two books for my students to read for homework. In the past, I have had the students use a blank reading log and books from home or checked out from the library, but I still wondered whether or not they were doing the reading. So I switched it up this year thanks to the recommendation from Jen Jones at Hello Literacy! She suggested that I create a book baggie where students choose one book from my classroom for their parents to read to them and one leveled text for them to read to their parents. Wow! This saved so much time in our reading groups since much of the time is spent without the text (teaching strategies, etc.). My kids were ready to have book discussions in our small groups and they LOVED the fact that their parents had homework!

7.    Reader’s Motivation Survey: Part of unlocking the readers’ code was discovering what motivated the students. I wanted to get some real time data in a kid-friendly way, so I created a Reader’s Motivation Survey that you can get here for FREE! It really helped me understand where my students were coming from and what messages were being sent to them about reading from home and their friends and family. At the end of the year, we tracked it again, and the data went up! I actually have data on how much my kids ENJOY reading! 

8.    Books on a Ledge: This is super duper easy! I have a tiny classroom, and I try to use every inch of my space, so I placed “Featured Read Alouds” on my whiteboard ledge and my students were eager to read the book I just shared with them or preview what we were going to be learning about within the upcoming weeks. This was really a no brainer! 

9.    Accountability: Part of the problem that I have witnessed in my classroom and in other classrooms is that students are held accountable when they are working independently in their literacy centers. Before we head off to literacy centers, I don’t tell my students what they need to work on, instead I invite them to try the new skill we use, then I ask my students before they go into their round, “What are you going to be working on during Word Work, Work on Writing, etc.?” If the student can answer quickly, then I let them go to their round. If they are unsure, I keep them on the mat until I have released everyone else. Then if they are still undecided I offer a couple of suggestions and help the student make a choice. It really doesn’t take that much time, and you become more aware of what the students are supposed to be doing during their literacy block.

10. The Vault: My vault is a simply black cabinet with a box of my treasured books. I share with my students how I treasure each one of the precious books and tuck them away nicely in my black cabinet. When my students have mastered a skill in small group reading instruction, or if their behavior and effort was out of this world good, then I open the vault and let them choose ANY of the books they would like for the next 10 minutes. They think this is the coolest thing ever, and the best part is that it is FREE (except for the books you already have) and you don’t have to print anything out!

These are the wonderful reading strategies that have helped my class this year!  I hope that you will consider using these next year because you will be the coolest teacher ever!



How I raised my math test average 21 points!

01 May 2016
It's teacher appreciation week, and I appreciate you! First of all, I'd like to thank my teachers who encouraged me to be kind to one another, go to college, be creative, and pursue my dreams. Thank you! 

I want to share this with you because I have had so much success with a new game my students are playing. I have a feeling that you may have experienced, or are already experiencing, the same problem (that's unfortunate).

The problem I was having, is that half my class was bombing our Common Core math assessments while the other half was barely passing! I was getting nasty parent letters about how I wasn’t doing enough to help my students, my kids were becoming very reluctant to take the math assessments, and I was frustrated because those two outcomes were my WORST nightmare!

At my school, we use a popular and successful math program to teach Common Core math. The math itself is not hard and the lessons are easy to follow. The only problem is, there is not enough repetition to build fluency. While I know that Common Core is all about having students critically think about the numbers and having a depth of knowledge about numbers is the sole purpose, I still believe that my students should have ample practice testing their ideas, and this wasn’t being met due to the fact that my parents weren’t open to learning Common Core math strategies; therefore, none of the strategies were being reinforced at home.

The program we are using is terrific; however, it doesn’t have much repetition to it, and there’s a hodgepodge of questions on the assessments. Almost all, with the exception of one, of my struggling readers had an issue with this because they NEED the repetition. They are all smart kids; they just take a little more practice to retain the strategies being taught.

Knowing that I needed to give my students more practice for the test and appease my angry parents, I created a homework game. I was sick of sending home the Common Core math homework sheets because my parents would reteach the kids a different way to compute and manipulate the numbers confusing the students even more (Yes, I even posted YouTube videos and they STILL weren’t reinforcing the strategies talk about frustrating).

I developed this math game based off of the questions we were going to be tested on. A great majority of these questions are word problems, which help my students who need extra help in reading, understand how to comprehend that type of question. They are all multiple choice, which I know isn’t the best way to assess someone, but it closes the answers and gives those who aren’t sure a choice. This allows my students to feel less threatened by the question.

I printed these questions off for the entire grade level of our school in hopes that I would gain some feedback from the students and rest of the grade level. I couldn’t believe the responses that came back. Here were some of them:

“That game was a hit in our class!” teacher
“I really think those math games are helping with the test.” Mom
“(My child) really loves this game. She is even trying to teach her little brother how to play.” Mom
“Wow! I am so proud of that test score. I know it’s because we’ve been working hard at home and playing that game.” Mom 

Can I just take a moment and say MY TEST SCORES IMPROVED FROM A 72% AVERAGE TO A 93% TEST AVERAGE! I am not even joking! My kids were so proud of themselves. They are so confident right now, and what makes it even better is that they are not at all afraid of our district’s math assessment. They are ready to kill it because they all think that they are the best mathematicians.

In recognition of Teacher Appreciation week, I want to share my Holy Grail with your students and families in hopes that it will help them feel successful, motivated, and PROUD of themselves.

You can download a FREE copy HERE only on May 2, 2016. Please enjoy and take some time to let me know how it helped you your students.