We Want Your Best Reading Ideas!

Teachers, today is your lucky day! Are we having a giveaway? Roger that! Are we purchasing ideas? Roger that! Here’s the scoop.

The Mailbox editors are on the hunt for teachers’ favorite reading ideas! They’re looking for whole-group activities, small-group activities, partner activities, center activities, independent activities—you name it! Any ideas or tips for building reading skills (from phonemic awareness to phonics to comprehension and beyond!) are welcome. Be sure to include the grade(s) you teach.

Each idea shared on this blog will be evaluated for purchase (payment per idea is a $20 gift certificate from The Mailbox). Ideas are evaluated in the order in which they are received, so don’t delay! And about that giveaway—it has a green theme. 🙂 To be entered in the drawing, leave your reading idea(s) right here before midnight EDT, Thursday, March 21!

Hats off to the Irish!

Congratulations to Roxie! She’s the winner of our giveaway!

21 thoughts on “We Want Your Best Reading Ideas!

  1. 1. I have a small manilla envelope for each child who comes back to my small group reading with manipulatives in them (all numbered with the same number as the envelope to decrease confusion). The manipulatives include a mini highlighter (finding sight words, answers to questions, word endings, ect.); wikki stick; what I call a word window (an index card with a short window on one end and a longer window on the other end that is laminated) to find sight words; and a tongue depresser with a wiggle eye hot glued onto the end (to “put your eye on ____”).
    2. Story sticks. I have written comprehension skills on popsicle sticks (setting, characters, reminds me of, ect.) and placed them in a cup. Students take turns pulling a stick after reading a book and answering.

    My class is fortunate enough to have a class set of iPad minis, so I have been focusing on ways to use them to help with reading. I have had to adapt my ideas to make them work with an iPad. I have hot glued a pompom to my tongue depresser on the opposite side of the eye so my kiddos can still “put their eye” on a word and the pompom touches the screen and not the stick (and it doesn’t make the page of the book on the iPad turn). We don’t use the wikki stick, but a piece of yarn. The Word Windows work fine, though!

  2. I try to buy 2 books of the same story. One I cut up the pictures & pages to make puppets, puzzles, etc. As I read the other copy to the children, they are interacting & listening. I teach infants & preschoolers.

  3. Although I currently teach PK, I used this idea with my 1st-3rd graders…
    Spring into Reading Comprehension! Make a flower garden of books (or just one flower). Print the title of the book on a circle of colored paper which will be the flower center. Program petals for the flower with: who, what, when, where, how/why.
    I’ve done this with the class in groups, letting them fill in the information to create a whole ‘garden’ of flowers. I’ve also done this for one book at a time, creating a worksheet for them to fill out for the current book we were reading as a class.
    I have done this with my PK class, only I ask the questions a little differently, but they can tell you the answers!

  4. I do Reading Rainbows with my preschool class.
    Print the letter/sound on a cut out sun or pot of gold. Make 3 arches to correspond with each letter/sound, printing a clip art picture on each arch. Students are to create a rainbow coming from each sun (or pot of gold).
    EX. I have a pot of gold with /p/ printed on it. I have three arches to go with it…one has the picture of a pencil, one has a penguin, and one has a pig. At the same time, the child also has a pot of gold with the /r/ and arches with rabbit, ring, and a robot. This way the student as to sort the sounds and think about each picture’s beginning sound.

  5. I always start my year with my preschoolers with immersing the environment with their names. Each child has a name mat (laminated colored paper with their name) that they sit on at circle times. I move them around each day. They have name cards for dismissal and name tags that I hang on their coat hook that I vary. Within the month they are reading their name as well as most of their firends.

    With my 4’s I write color names in a matching colored marker. Example I am writing the word red I use red markers.

    I also laminated pictures with the written word. For example the door has a small picture of a door and the word door printed. Everyhting in my room has a picture and the word.

    My daily schedule is printed and posted with pictures relating to what we are doing.

    My rule list also has pictures that depict actions. For example Walk has a child walking.

    Our bathroom has a green go sign on it that when someone is using it they flip to a red stop sign.

  6. I teach reading using mini-lessons and literacy stations. My mini-lesson varies each day; for example author’s purpose, phonetic skills, story elements, etc. The mini lesson usually lasts around 15 minutes. After the mini-lesson I go over each station’s instructions and remind my students of proper behaviors. Then my student rotate through the literacy stations that I have set up. The stations include: teacher station, fluency station, listening station, classroom library, and working with words station. My students are divided in to groups of 3 or 4 and spend approximately 10-15 minutes at each station. In the teacher station I work with the group of students on various skills, sometimes reinforcing the skill from that day’s mini-lesson. Sometimes the students read to me and we also play learning games, such as those sometimes found in Mailbox. In the fluency station my students practice being fluent readers with poems, readers theatres, iPad recordable books, and iPad apps that teach fluency. Students in the listening station listen to books on cd, books read online using a laptop, or books read aloud on iPads. In the classroom library my students read books of their choice and test when they finish books. The working with words station varies according to the phonetic skill we are working with that week. Students in this station work at the activboard on various internet sites, which I list on my class blog for easy access. My students are very engaged in their learning and love working in the stations!

  7. The secret to teaching reading & comprehension skills to my autistic students is through pictures. Before reading a book for the first time I prepare an activity. I cut out pics from magazines or from Internet to re-tell the story. I make either a felt board, a Velcro board or a little book. This way the student(s) gets to take part in re-telling the story.
    Puppets can also be made. I laminate everything to last.

  8. I teacher both first and second grade students. Many struggle with phonemic awareness. Daily, in small groups, we do an exercise using bingo chips. I pronounce a word, the student move one chip for every sound in the word I say. Once everyone have moved their chips I call on one student to tell me the sounds they hear in the word (they must tell me sounds). I then write each sound the student says on the board. If there is an error we work together to correct it. We examine the word and talk about why the word sounds like it does and the job of the vowel. We then count the sounds we heard in the word.
    As the year progresses along I change this exercise, I move the chips as I say the word and all students write the word on their whiteboard. We then complete the same steps, except I have them spell the word pronouncing letter names.

  9. I teach pre-k, and one of my classroom jobs is Daily News. Each day, a different student gets to tell the class a bit of news that he/she would like to share. The class reads the sentence back to me after I read it. I use different pointers throughout the year (to go with the season or theme) in order to point to the words as the students repeat the sentence.

    We look in each word to find our letter of the week. We circle and count how many of the letters we find. It helps students not only with letter identification, but it also helps them to understand that words are made up of letters.

    At this point in the year, we are also looking for sight words. Students take turns coming to the board and finding an assigned word.


  10. Oops – I forgot to note in my original post that I write the student’s news on the board. After I do that, then we read it, look for letters, look for words, etc.

    Sorry about forgetting the writing part! 😉

  11. Glow Reading!! During my first year of teaching I was in a fifth grade classroom and toward the end of the year I was struggling to get students to stay excited about reading. Silent reading, paired reading, reading lessons… It was all becoming a bore to my students. So I started Glow Reading!! I bought 30 neon glow bracelets (the kind you have to crack) which only cost me $1 for a tube of 10. We shut off the lights and closed the blinds and held our reading lesson in the dark. They used the glow sticks to light their books and read read read! I used a flashlight when needed for something on the board but for the most part it went perfectly in the dark.

    When I introduced Glow Reading, I used it as an incentive for my students to get caught up on their missing work, but I of course made sure all of my students could participate. They loved it so much that I made it a weekly thing! It was so cheap and they loved it so much that it was worth it. Many parents and students started bringing in glow sticks of their own so that really helped with cost as well. On “Glow Days” my students would beg for reading time. They would read ravenously independently, as a group or in pairs a long as they could read by the light of their glow sticks. We would usually end up doing extra reading or even having Glow Science bc they loved it so much. I of course had rules around the activity especially since glow sticks are basically toys, but the kids were great about it and it was fun for me too!

    Since then I have used Glow Reading as rewards or incentives in a first grade classroom as well as a special education position. It has been wonderful and so fun! In other classrooms I have had to put black paper over the windows but for the most part it has remained a realively easy activity!

  12. I teach third grade, and use comprehension cards with questions such as “What would you have done if you are the main character?” “What is the setting of the story?” or “How would you change the end of the story?” The students each get a card at the beginning of the lesson about the story and when they feel they have the answer, they get a turn to answer. Using this helped my students focus on what we were reading and made them more responsible for their own learning. They love the cards and it has increased participation because they all want to answer their question.

  13. I have a reading rainbow (just different colored paper attatched together up the wall). I have 10 pages of sight word flash cards in the same colors. I paired my students together (high/low combinations) and they work together to move their marker up the rainbow. When they learn 10 words they get the next set of words and move up one color. The thing that makes it wonderful is that both children must know the word to move up. They work hard teaching each other and learning the words. It is a great way to have children work together to learn. I have dollar store coupon holders to keep their sight words in. Each pair has their own set of words that they add to when ready.

    It is working great!

  14. Small group activity

    We use plastic plates (like the summer picnic ones)
    and dry erase markers. We practice writing letters. I will make a letter and hold it up and the class will call the letter name out and then write it on the plate. They love to hold their plate up and show off their great hand writing. Then a student will write a letter on their plate and we will name it and then all write it. We take turns letting each child get a turn. The kids love this activity.

  15. I currently teach K-1 special education. I do a lot with auditory processing and oral comprehension, skills that can improve phonemic awareness. I hold up a card with a black and white picture on it. The back of the card has a short story (4-8 sentences) directly related to the picture on the front. I read the story twice and then ask 3-4 questions about specific details mentioned in the story. i.e. What color was the boy’s shirt? What instrument did the girl play? You’d be surprised how difficult this can be for some students. It really highlights how short a student’s attention span is or how limited their working memory may be. I use this as a filler, transition or group activity.

  16. At a workshop over the summer I learned how to make a “smoosh book”. (I’ve now seen this same book floating around Pinterest as a “one page book”.) Once my students have made their books, they number the inside pages 1-6. Front cover has the title and author of the book we are reading. The rest of the pages are labeled (and completed):

    page 1: Main Character
    page 2: Supporting Characters
    page 3: Setting
    page 4: Author’s Purpose
    page 5: Problem
    page 6: Solution

    On the back, often (but not always) it will be labeled “My favorite part” with the students writing and drawing about their favorite part in the story.

  17. I took the 5 W’s and turned it into a foldable. Students turn their paper to “landscape mode” and fold it into 3rds (burrito fold/tri-fold). While the paper is still folded, they bring the bottom part of the paper up to the top part – folding it in half. When they open up their paper, there are 6 sections. The first section (top left) is the title and author of their story. The rest are labeled (and completed) like this:

    section 2 (middle top): Who? (who is the story about)
    section 3 (right top): What? (what did the character do?)
    section 4 (bottom left): When? (when did the story take place)
    section 5 (middle bottom): Where? (where did the story take place)
    section 6 (bottom right): Why? (why did the character do what he/she did)

    Once they are able to fold the paper on their own (without me modeling it), this turns into a partner activity or a solo activity. This can easily be turned into a reading station as well.

  18. I teach third grade.Upon completion of reading a book of their choice students must sell or convince another student to read their book.This is done by getting in front of the classroom and in three minutes or less tell the most exciting things read,aha moments,or pictures to make their classmates want to read their book.When this is completed students must rate the book based on their presentations and tell why you rated the book this way.The skill for this activity is Media Messages and how we are enticed to buy things based on a quick presentation.

  19. I teach pre-k. I like to use the song “Goin’ on a Bear Hunt” to “Go on a letter hunt”. A small group of children are given a clip board, piece of paper, and a writing instrument. The children walk around the room or down the hallway chanting this tune: “we’re goin’ on a letter hunt. We’re gonna find big ones, (or little ones, depends on whether you want them to find upper or lower-case letters). Coming to the (name an area in the room or hallway). I see a…” (name a letter.)Have the children find the letter in that area and write it down on their clipboards. Continue until a number of desired letters have been found. Then go back to your small groups table, and have the children recite all the letters they found. Encourage those who are ready to identify the letters sound.

  20. Wow – there is so much that could be said on this topic, and I keep putting off commenting because I couldn’t decide where to start. Here are a few of my favourites:

    1) During circle time I like to ask the kids simple questions (e.g. what is your favourite food) and too write their responses, together with their names, on a large sheet of chart paper. The kids (aged 3-5), can identify their name on the chart, and since they know the answer that they gave, they can begin to decipher the letter sounds related to the word picture of their answer. They can also locate their friends names and begin to recognize their answers.

    2) To work on alphabet sounds, we set out spot markers with different letters of the alphabet on the floor. With a smaller group, someone can say a word, and the kids can run and jump on the letter that represents the beginning sound of the word. For larger groups, set the letters out in a circle and have the kids walk around to music. When the music stops, each child identifies the letter she is on, for more advanced kids, to try and think of a word that begins with the sound the letter they’re standing on represents.

    3) Rebus stories are great! Working one on one with a teacher, classroom assistant, or reading buddy, a student can help to read the story by following the rebus pictures, learning to recognize the words around the pictures, and get a feeling for following the pages from left to write, top to bottom. For circle time, we sometimes create our own rebus stories on chart paper, using cut outs from magazines or hand drawings for the pictures. Kids follow along as we point to and read the words on the chart, and kids fill in by saying the picture word out loud when we reach it.

    4) Read to your teddy: We have a quiet area with books where young kids are encouraged to read a book out-loud to their favourite stuffed animal. This gives each child a chance to practice reading allowed (or for younger kids to telling a story through pictures), without the fear of having to speak in front of the entire class.

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