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How to use fun reading strategies to keep your students engaged

Reading is an integral part of learning, but it’s not something that all kids enjoy. For this reason, many teachers are stuck wondering how they can make it more attractive to students. There are many reading strategies that you can integrate into your classroom to do this. When you implement new strategies, reading comprehension improves and everyone benefits.

9 reading strategies for students

1. Let the students choose

Allowing your class to choose the content that you read in class can improve engagement. What you might enjoy reading may very well bore your class to tears and make everyone feel unmotivated.

The next time you decide to assign a book report in class, allow each student to select the book they’d like to read. It’s a win-win: You won’t have to read different versions of the same report, and your students will write more passionately since they will have chosen an option that interests them.

Of course, this may not be a realistic option if some curriculum requires you to read a certain book. In that case, you can allow the students to decide how they’d like to demonstrate their understanding of the reading materials. For example, instead of requiring everyone to write a three-page paper, you can allow alternative assessments such as cereal box reports or podcasts.

2. Try popcorn reading

Popcorn reading is an interactive way to mix up reading time in the classroom. You can implement it with any text you need to present to your class. The process is simple: Have one student read at least one paragraph of text aloud to the class. When they finish, have them shout “Popcorn!” This signals that it’s the next student’s turn to resume reading where the previous student left off.

If the text is long enough, everyone can have a turn reading twice. This works for shorter documents, too. You can do this alphabetically by the last name, by seating chart, or allow the kids to choose who will read next. The only important thing is that you get everyone involved in reading.

3. Read aloud to the class

If your class is struggling to read on their own, it’s time to take action. You can choose a day to have everyone come into class and listen. Instead of assigning independent reading time, you can make sure everyone hears the literature by reading aloud to the class.

This method works for assigned reading and for reviewing a textbook. No matter what the subject is, sitting and listening will be a nice change of pace for the class. It’s always a good idea to keep things fresh and exciting, especially in school. Class engagement is a big part of being successful, so it’s essential to avoid boredom.

Make sure that you instruct your students that this in an interactive time and encourage them to ask for help when needed. Since your students will be listening to you read, it gives them an excellent opportunity to stop you when required to ask questions. You are their most significant tool in learning, and the sooner they take advantage of that, the better!

4. Implement the 3-2-1 strategy

The 3-2-1 strategy is a wonderful way to solicit a more profound comprehension of reading in school. It encourages students to summarize a text by focusing on the key points. This is especially helpful when assigning long pieces of literature. It allows students to thoroughly review one section before moving on to the next without wasting too much time.

The premise of this strategy is to summarize key points of the text. Students will fill out a chart with information like this:

  • Three Things I Learned
  • Two Interesting Things I Read
  • One Question I Still Have

The goal of this strategy is to encourage students to interact with the text — and to reflect on their reading — on a deeper level. When you require students to reflect on what they’re reading, it encourages better comprehension. Additionally, you give students the opportunity to ask any questions they may have, which makes for a more engaged class period.

These charts are usually filled out the day after reading a piece of literature. You can use your students’ questions to direct a new discussion about the assignment. Everyone will be more interested in the lesson because it consists of their thoughts and answers to the specific questions that they had.

Some students may have the same questions, which gives you valuable insight into areas that need more focus during lectures. The students with differing or more profound questions may be able to handle more challenging texts, for example. On the other hand, some of your class members may need a little extra support in other areas.

5. Summarize the story

If you want to make sure your kids fully understand what they’re reading, summarizing it is a great way to start. This tunes in their ability to identify critical points. It also helps each student to practice expressing ideas in their own words.

When a child can translate what they have read into a summary using their own words, you know that they have a more profound comprehension. A student who understands the reading is empowered to succeed and excel in school.

Some teachers find it helpful to provide their classes with a summary outline. You might consider dedicating a day or two to instructing the class how you would like them to structure their responses. This isn’t required, though; as long as students complete this written assignment, they’ll get all the benefits!

6. Use graphic organizers

Graphic organizers such as charts and Venn diagrams are especially helpful for your visual learners. This can help students to understand the similarities and differences between two texts and to categorize information.

Try having students break down a text by how many verbs or nouns are present. Then, have them compile their findings in a chart. This will challenge them to identify what role each word plays in a sentence and makes it fun to find them!

7. Try choral reading

In choral reading, the entire class tries to read a text in unison. This can get loud, but that’s the fun part! You can use this in class to ensure that everyone participates, or you can use it as a way for everyone to decompress.

When using this option, make sure your students know the objective. If you catch anyone not reading aloud with the rest of the class, you can have everyone pause and start again. This eliminates the need to embarrass a student, but it still emphasizes the importance of participating.

On the other hand, if the goal is to relax and decompress, encourage everyone to get active. They can read chorally while jumping up and down or spinning in a circle, for example. This is great for waking everyone up after lunch or right before a big test.

8. Identify predictions

Understanding a text based on its context — and anticipating what will happen next — is an important skill for students to practice. When you allow your class to make predictions regarding an assigned text, it encourages them to make connections based on prior knowledge about similar topics.

This is a great way to prompt your students to anticipate what comes next in a story, which requires them to carefully synthesize everything they’ve read so far and to examine context clues. This method is especially helpful in a debate or logic-oriented class, as it emphasizes the importance of knowing all the facts before making an assumption.

In order to track this activity in your classroom, have your students write down their thought processes. Start off with 1-3 assumptions listed next to bullet points. Make sure enough space is left under each one to write additional notes in case these assumptions change. Then, when they finish reading, ask your students to write a detailed report identifying their original ideas, the reasons for any changes to those ideas, and any new conclusions that they formed.

9. Ask comprehension questions 

Asking comprehension questions is a simple way to understand how well your students are able to comprehend their reading. You can ask these questions as part of an open forum in class or on a quiz or test. Be sure to document the responses that you receive so you can incorporate the feedback into future lectures and assignments.

After finishing a reading assignment, ask questions like these:

  • What is the setting of this story?
  • Who is the protagonist? Tell me about him or her.
  • Do you think this story could be true? Why or why not?
  • How do you feel about this story?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this story?
  • Who was your favorite character? Why?

When you ask questions such as these, it encourages students to think more critically about a piece of text. You’ll know they have a strong understanding when they can answer these questions with reasonable detail.

Reading doesn’t have to be boring

Sometimes, the hardest part of trying something new is getting started. Not sure where to begin? Choose one of the fun reading strategies above and jump right in!

If you need more ideas, check out Jon-Erik Stamatelos’s post “How my students’ interest in reading skyrocketed.”

Photo: Jo/Reshot

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