Saturday, April 20, 2019

Seven Fun Ways to Review for a Test Using Multiple Choice Questions

It's sort of become a necessary evil. In order for kids to be successful in the awkward format that
standardized tests have, we have to give them some exposure to navigate the format of multiple choice questions.
But it's soooooo boring. 

Here are six ideas you can use to make multiple choice fun and destroy the test prep blues. They'll help you give the kids the practice they need while keeping them engaged!

The best part? You've probably got all this stuff already. You don't have to go to Target or the Dollar Store...unless you want to. Let's face it. Who doesn't want to go to Target? Nobody.

1. Dry Erase Response Boards

Low tech, low prep

To prepare for this strategy:
This is such an easy strategy! Give each student a dry erase board and a marker. These are sold at Target at the beginning of the year in the Dollar Spot, at the Dollar Store, or (even cheaper) you can make your own! Just laminate a piece of white or light-colored cardstock!

Test prep can be fun and motivating with these ideas for answering multiple choice questions! Each strategy can be used for math, reading, or writing questions to practice for any standardized test. Grab a freebie to get you and your students started.


To use it:
1. Place a multiple choice question on the projector, or have each student look at their copy of the question on their desks.
2.  Give them a set amount of time to work on the question.
3. When the timer goes off, ask them to record their answer (A,B,C,or D for multiple choice) on the dry erase board.
4. Use a signal word, such as "GO!" or "Show me!" for students to hold their boards up, all at the same time, facing towards you. 
5. Ask a student or two to justify their thinking, or to explain their thinking to their partner. 

You can easily scan across the room and see who's got it and who doesn't!

Alternate method: 
First, ask students to choose the answer that's clearly wrong and display that. Then ask them to choose one more wrong choice. This will help them integrate their multiple choice strategies into their thought process!

2. Answer Choice Cards

Test prep can be fun and motivating with these ideas for answering multiple choice questions! Each strategy can be used for math, reading, or writing questions to practice for any standardized test. Grab a freebie to get you and your students started.Low tech, medium prep (just the first time)

To prepare for this strategy, you have a couple of options...
1. Print out A, B, C, D options on different colors of paper. Laminate them. Hole punch them in the corner. Put them on a binder ring.

OR

2. Use different-colored index cards. Write a different answer choice on each one: A, B, C, D. Laminate them. Hole punch them in the corner. Put them on a binder ring.

How to use it:
Similar to the dry erase response board, you're going to...
1. Place a multiple choice question on the projector, or have each student look at their copy of the question on their desks.
2.  Give them a set amount of time to work on the question.
3. When the timer goes off, ask them to choose their answer (A,B,C,or D for multiple choice) and place that card on top.
4. Use a signal word, such as "GO!" or "Show me!" for students to hold their cards up, all at the same time, facing towards you. 
5. Ask a student or two to justify their thinking, or to explain their thinking to their partner.

Because you've used different colors for each answer choice, you can easily see who's got it. If most of your kids are holding up pink but two are holding up green, you can immediately tell who might need some intervention. (Hopefully, in this scenario, pink is the right answer.)

Alternate method: 
First, ask students to choose the answer that's clearly wrong. Then ask them to choose one more wrong choice. This will help them integrate their multiple choice strategies into their thought process!

Test prep can be fun and motivating with these ideas for answering multiple choice questions! Each strategy can be used for math, reading, or writing questions to practice for any standardized test. Grab a freebie to get you and your students started.

3. Four Corners

Low tech, low prep

To prepare for this strategy...
This one's easy peasy. Designate each corner in your classroom as a different answer choice (A, B, C, D). You can stick a post-it or a sign up there if you like, to help kids remember.
 How to use it:

1. Place a multiple choice question on the projector, or have each student look at their copy of the question on their desks.
2.  Give them a set amount of time to work on the question.
3. When the timer goes off, ask the kids to decide on their choice. Then, use a signal word such as "Move!" or "Choose!" to signal that students are to move to the corner that represents their choice. They must move in as direct a path as possible, without changing directions. It's also important to teach them not to run. That's why I don't recommend making "Go!" your signal word, as that is pretty much going to start them off at the races! 
4. Once students have moved to their spots, you can ask them to justify their reasoning.

Test prep can be fun and motivating with these ideas for answering multiple choice questions! Each strategy can be used for math, reading, or writing questions to practice for any standardized test. Grab a freebie to get you and your students started.

4. Toss It

Low tech, low prep

To prepare for this strategy:
1. Gather four containers and label them A, B, C, D.
2. Collect enough mini erasers, counters, counting bears, talking chips, or any small manipulative for each student in your class to have one.
You can do this in teams or groups by using smaller containers (cups and min erasers work really well), or you can do this whole group by using larger containers (bins, trash cans, and counting bears or balled-up pieces of paper).

How to use it:
1. Place a multiple choice question on the projector, or have each student look at their copy of the question on their desks.
2.  Give them a set amount of time to work on the question.
3. When the timer goes off, ask the kids to decide on their choice. Then, use a signal word such as "Move!" or "Choose!" (again, I do not recommend "Go!") to have students move to the container that represents their choice and drop their answer in.
4. Have a few students justify their thinking.

This one works well when you're not concerned about figuring out who got it right or wrong, but you do want kids to do the thinking and justify their reasoning.

Test prep can be fun and motivating with these ideas for answering multiple choice questions! Each strategy can be used for math, reading, or writing questions to practice for any standardized test. Grab a freebie to get you and your students started.

5. Stick-It Chart

Low tech, low prep

To prepare for this strategy:
1. Divide a piece of cardstock or construction paper into four quadrants and label them A, B, C, D. Make one of these charts for each team or group.
2. Give each student a post-it and have them write their name on it.

How to use it:
1. Place a multiple choice question on the projector, or have each student look at their copy of the question on their desks.
2.  Give them a set amount of time to work on the question.
3. When the timer goes off, ask the kids to decide on their choice. Then, use a signal word such as "Stick it!" or "Smack it!" Students use that cue to stick or smack their post-it into the quadrant that represents their choice.
4. Have students take turns justifying their thinking. Each student should justify their response.

Test prep can be fun and motivating with these ideas for answering multiple choice questions! Each strategy can be used for math, reading, or writing questions to practice for any standardized test. Grab a freebie to get you and your students started.

6. Dot Stickers

Zero tech, low prep

To prepare for this strategy:
1. Divide a piece of construction paper or cardstock into the number of questions you want kids to work through and number them. You can use the back, too. Each group needs one sheet.
2. Provide each student with a sheet of dot stickers. If you want, they can label the stickers A (red), B (blue), C (yellow), D (green, or whatever colors you've got).


How to use it:
1. Place a multiple choice question on the projector, or have each student look at their copy of the question on their desks.
2.  Give them a set amount of time to work on the question.
3. When the timer goes off, ask the kids to decide on their choice. Then, use a signal word such as "Stick it!" or "Smack it!" Students use that cue to stick or smack the dot that represents their answer choice into the square for the number they worked on.
4. Ask students to justify their thinking and come to a consensus on their answer choice.
*This can also be done whole-group if you use chart paper.

7. Plickers

Some tech, more prep (only you need a smart device)

Ok, this is the one that requires stuff you might not have, just because you have to print out the plickers - the first time. 
To prepare for this strategy:
Plickers is a fun online tool that you can use for free!
To prepare for this strategy...
1. Visit the Plickers website and set up an account.
2. Follow the directions for creating your cards and questions.

How to use it:
1. This works in a similar way to the dry erase response boards. Students will hold their plicker (paper clicker) up in the fashion that represents their answer choice.
2. Scan a smart device across the room and your students' names and answer choices selections will pop up on your device!


Want all of this information on one handy, dandy FREE page? You can get it by adding your email address below!


 
 
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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Four things to remember about data

​It's mid-April. And that means that, by now, you've spent a solid 9,347 hours looking at data.

I've looked at data until my eyes crossed. I've wanted to crumple it all up in a big pile and toss in a match.
I know that sounds like I'm exaggerating, but you're teachers and instructional coaches. You get it.

You want to light it up, too.

So I wanted to help you think about data a little differently, so you don't get so bogged down in all the percentages and color-coding, and end up with zero plans for the future and a little raincloud over your head.

Here are four things you need to know about data.

1. Data can tell us things, but it doesn't always give us the whole picture.

Sometimes administration looks at data from a particular class and says, "Wow! This class is really kicking everybody's tail! Let's find out what they're doing!" And that's great. I mean, sharing and collaboration should be our go-to, and when we have teachers doing awesome things, we want them to share with everybody, right?

But sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers. What is the make-up of that class? Does that class have any students who have historically struggled? Show me the teacher who's closing the gaps for the kids who haven't been successful in the past, and that's the teacher I want to hear from. The teacher who's staying consistent is doing a good job, but the teacher who's moving mountains: that's the gold.

Low math data might tell you that your students are struggling to read on grade level. Or that they aren't identifying the correct operation in a problem. Or that they have difficulty with algorithms. Or that they were really tired and just circled some answers.

You have to look back at students' actual work to figure out what they were doing and where things went off the rails. Without really trying to understand how the student is thinking, data is just a bunch of numbers that stress us out.



2. Low scores doesn't mean "do more".

Sometimes we'd look at data, and people would say, "What more can we do? How about we pull kids in from PE and fine arts, and Saturday School, and after-school tutoring?"

All of these are things people to do spend ​more ​time with kids. But doing more of the same doesn't mean you'll get different results. You'll probably just be more tired, and the kids will be more frustrated and disconnected, and then they'll do the same thing on their test. 
More does not equal better. So to really respond to the data, make sure that you're considering the why. Why are you seeing these patterns? Why are kids responding in this way? That'll help you figure out what to do differently to reach kids.



3. Data is for helping you figure out next steps

This is where the wheels usually fall off the wagon. Instead of using data to figure out how to respond to student learning, we say things like, "We gotta get after it," or "Let's do Saturday School." Ok. So you "get after it" and "do Saturday School".

But what does that mean?

When you look at data, make sure that you're actually planning for the ways to revisit content in a different way, reteach what needs to be retaught, and reinforce the strategies and skills that students need.

One way to do this is to analyze the assessment you gave by question. Really dig in and see which students chose which choice.

Group together the students who need to work on the same skills and pull them in for a small group.

To look across the whole test, talk to your colleagues. Have a conversation about what patterns you notice and what those patterns can tell you about your (and their) teaching practice.

What possible ways can you respond to the challenges students are having? What have your colleagues done that has helped students be successful in this way? How can you build a bridge from the learning students have done to the format of the test?

Make your conversations purposeful instead of fear- and frustration-driven, and you'll walk away with some great ideas. Need help facilitating this kind of a meeting? Check out my post on data PLCs!

4. Test scores aren't the measure of your success.

This one might be unpopular in some (many) circles, but who cares? It's the truth. You are more than the scores your kids earn on a test. If you are using authentic teaching practices, growing relationships with kids, and becoming an efficacious educator, then guess what: you're doing a great job.
We can really get stuck in looking at the data and thinking, "Why am I failing? What else can I do?" And I totally get that. I did it, every year. My kids should've been making more progress; we should've been outscoring the classrooms who weren't using the great practices we were.

And yeah, that would've been awesome. Of course, I want kids to do well on the test because it can limit their opportunities if they don't.

But that percentage of passing on a piece of paper didn't tell me what kind of a job I was doing.

Walking down the halls, and hearing students implement things they'd learned from me, or choosing great books to read, or being engaged in learning something new showed me the impact I was making on my class.

Do we want good scores? Well, yeah! But is that the only indicator that you're doing a good job? (Or even necessarily a good indicator that you're doing a good job?) No way.
And remember, you're more than your scores.

Want to learn about some fun, hands-on ways to get kids excited about multiple choice questions (without having to buy anything?) Check out my post on 7 Ways to Make Multiple Choice Fun!



Are you reviewing data by yourself, with your grade level, or as an instructional coach?

I've got the  freebie for you. I'm sharing my Data Review bookmarks and a printable data review guide to help you get started.

Just enter your email address below and you'll have the bookmarks & guide sent right to your inbox. Stop stressing about data and start making it work for you!
 
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Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to Create a Fun Test Review Camp

Setting up a test review camp, whether it's for STAAR or any other state test, can be fun and low-stress! Games and camp-themed activities are great motivation for elementary school students. Whether you're planning a reading, writing, science, or math camp, read about ideas for setting up the camp, organizing, decorating, planning hands-on activities, and fun tips for making your test prep camp a hit!Test review camps. They're fun, they're memorable, and they're definitely a better way to spend the last few days before the test than slogging through more passages or 1,000 multiple choice questions.

Looking for fun ways to motivate your elementary school students without breaking the bank?

These ideas will help you plan an engaging test prep camp, meet your standards, and give your kids an experience to remember!

Special thanks to Mary Lou Fierro, @crystaltxteach, Tiffany Brown, Leslie Turner, and @sidetalkingteacher for sharing your camp photos!

How to structure your camp

Depending on how your grade level is functioning as far as team teaching, self-contained, etc. there are a few different ways you can structure your test review camp.

#1 The Team Approach

The team approach means that you and your colleagues will work together to pull of a test review camp. To do this, you'll want to divide up the activities into different rooms. Each teacher is going to be responsible for a different test review activity. Kids will rotate from room to room completing the activities. This means you have to consider a few different things:
  • Activities need to take about the same amount of time to complete
  • Will you group students by their existing class, or into differentiated groups? This could be an opportunity to teach at different levels if students need different levels of support to be prepared. For example, you could have a group of students who is needing to meet the standard at a basic level. You'll provide them with "survival skills". Then you may have a group who's been successful to this point and you want to provide them with extension activities, or lessons to help them move beyond the basics.
  • If kids have been taught to approach the test-taking strategies differently in different classes, you'll have to figure out if you're prepared to align those strategies, or if the kids will have the freedom to approach problems and questions in the way they're already familiar with.
  • What behavior expectations are in place? Are they consistent enough to support your students as they move from room to room?
  • Any specialized support personnel who come into your classroom should be used effectively. Group students so that there will be a support person for those who need it. Will they travel from room to room, or stay in one room in which the kids will need the most support?

#2 All in one Room

If you do your test review camp all by yourself (which I've done MANY times and it's still fun),  you will create the stations in your own room and have students move from activity to activity within your room. You can schedule it to take place all throughout one day, or two days, or you can do it a little at a time, like I explain in #3.


#3 A Little at a Time

For this approach, you'll reserve a chunk of time every day to have students complete either one activity as a class, or to complete one station activity. This can be a challenge if you want to create a camp-y setting, though, because you'll have to have your decoration-type stuff out for a week or two, depending on how long you're running your "camp".



How to plan activities that actually meet your standards

This is the most important thing, right? When you're planning your activities, I REALLY recommend that you think about the following things:
  • How many kids will you want in each group? This might determine how many activities you plan. If you need to, you can create two stations of the same activity to keep the group size small. (I recommend groups of 3-4, tops.)
  • Will you run a station? Plant yourself at a table and support students through a station that will challenge them, or one that you NEED them to learn something new or finally make the connections they need to in order to be prepared.
  • Will you have kids check their work before they finish the activity? You can provide an answer key in a folder if you want kids to check that they've done the work correctly.
  • What standards will students be tested on the most? This is where you should focus your activities.

  • Look at a released test to see what kinds of thinking kids have to do and what the context of the thinking is. 
  • Cute activities are fun, but the activities the kids spend their time on need to hit the exact standard that they'll be tested on. 
    • Writing example: Will they be asked to combine sentences? In what way - using FANBOYS? Complex sentences? Appositives? Whatever the kids are asked to do, your activity needs to require them to do that.
    • Math example: Will students have to problem solve using graphs? What kinds of graphs? Pie charts? Bar graphs? Pictographs? With keys? Whatever the kids are asked to do, your activity needs to require them to do that.
    • Reading example: Students obviously have to answer questions. But in what genres? What strategies are kids being asked to use? What kinds of evidence do they have to find?
  • Provide students with a blank notebook or journal as their "Camp Journal". They can write in their notebooks whenever they finish an activity. 
  • Hands-on materials are especially engaging. Using sentence strips for sorting or revision, puzzle pieces or index cards for matching, dry erase markers and laminated materials, and dice make for a fun day.

How to keep track of the stuff kids do

Why do you need to keep track of what they do? There could be a few reasons: quality control, accountability, and grades. To keep track of what kids do (and motivate them at the same time) you have a few options.

1. Use a punch card or bracelet. Create a punch card with a table on it. Each square in the table represents one station activity. As students finish the activity, they earn a punch on the card.


2. Have technology in your classroom? Use the Seesaw app. Have students take a quick picture of the activity they have completed and turn it in.


3. Create a Camp Memory Book. Each student will have a set of recording sheets that they will complete as they move through their activities.

4. Have students earn a "camp badge" for each station they complete.


How to make it camp-y

Here comes the fun part! Tons of fun ideas for making your camp...like a camp!

#1 Dress up. Wear khaki, a bandana, a whistle, and carry a clipboard. Allow students to dress the part too, by wearing sunglasses and bringing sleeping bags and canteens.

#2 Set up sleeping bags, kayaks or canoes, camp chairs, wading pools, and pop tents for different activities.









#3 Decorate with red checkered tablecloths, small lanterns, stuffed or inflatable "wildlife", and tackleboxes.







#4 Use butcher paper to decorate and create rivers, bushes, and trees for a campy ambience!






 #5 Create a campfire out of paper towel rolls or rolled-up butcher paper, or project a fire video using your laptop and a projector.



#6 Make s'mores or fun camp snacks.


Scooby snacks, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.
Cinnamon toast crunch, marshmallows, and chocolate chips or chunks.


#7 Turn out the lights and have kids read with flashlights!

Setting up a test review camp, whether it's for STAAR or any other state test, can be fun and low-stress! Games and camp-themed activities are great motivation for elementary school students. Whether you're planning a reading, writing, science, or math camp, read about ideas for setting up the camp, organizing, decorating, planning hands-on activities, and fun tips for making your test prep camp a hit!


#8 Sing camp songs or play them on a speaker.


#9 Use camp themed activities. Ideas that are related to camping include...
  • fishing
  • pitching a tent
  • backpacks/gearing up
  • hiking
  • wildlife, such as bears
  • white river rafting
  • building a campfire
  • telling ghost stories around the campfire
  • s'mores & hot dogs
  • observing nature: trees, wildflowers, etc.
  • looking at the constellations
  • national parks
#10: Use camp themed materials. This might include read alouds like A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee or test prep materials specifically designed to help your kids review the skills they need, like Camp Reading Ready or Camp Write-a-Lot!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Texas-State-Writing-Test-Prep-Camp-Camp-Write-a-Lot-2459907

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

 
Want to try out a free nonfiction features station from my reading test camp? 

 
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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Creative expository introductions mentor text lesson *free resource!

Expository introductions. Gone are the days when "I'm going to tell you all about sharks" was an
acceptable introduction. I mean really, was it ever acceptable? And yet, here were are, in the 21st century, teaching kids not to do it.

But, even if they know they shouldn't do that, they don't always know what to do. This is where mentor texts become really important. 

To help your kids learn a different kind of expository introductions, turn to the authors who do it best.

One of my favorite mentor authors is Nicola Davies. She writes about the most interesting topics in such an engaging way: sharks, sea turtles, bats, and even poop. (Yep, poop.)

One of my favorite Davies mentor texts is Surprising Sharks. It's full of interesting information and a new perspective on sharks. But the best part might be the introduction.

It's a unique introduction. It asks the reader to imagine swimming in the ocean and think about what is the scariest thing about being there.

She asks a few questions to get the reader's brain ready to think about sharks, and then she introduces her topic.
To use this book as a mentor text, you'll want to follow these four steps. You may want this to be a differentiated lesson.

Writers who struggle to write more basic introductions may need more practice with those before they try out this fairly challenging one. Writers who have mastered the basics could try this out as a new challenge!

Here's a tip for using mentor texts to teach writing strategies:

Every time you read a new book, read it as a reader. When you go back and reread it, put on your "writer's hat" and read it as a writer. Notice the kinds of things the author did and think about why he/she did it that way.


Writing anchor charts for reading like a writer. Help students identify and discuss the writer's craft authors are using so they can apply it to their own writing. It's a fundamental part of Writer's Workshop and using mentor texts!
This will give you opportunities to discuss writing strategies authentically and to help you apply them as you model your own writing.

Step 1: Notice It!

1. Read aloud Surprising Sharks by Nicola Davies for fun.

2. When you’re ready to introduce this type of introduction, reread the introduction and say, “I’m noticing that Nicola Davies did something interesting here with her introduction.”

3. Have a discussion with students about the technique she used in the introduction: she asked the reader to imagine something and then asked questions to help them do it.

Step 2: Name It & Explain It!

  • Chart the introduction and title it “Imagine This…”
  • Identify the parts of the introduction:
  1. Tells the reader to imagine they’re in the setting your topic is in.
  2. Ask questions to get the reader’s mind ready to think about the topic.
  3. Introduce your topic.
Anchor charts are really important for giving kids an anchor experience in examining the strategy an author used and applying it to their own writing. Here's the chart I built for this introduction to help kids understand the parts and try it out collaboratively!

Step 3: Teacher Tries It!

Teaching your students creative expository introductions is a lot easier when you use quality mentor texts. This sequence of lessons includes a mentor text, an anchor chart, a guide for you to try writing your own creative introduction, and free printables for students to try out the strategy in their own informational writing. This strategy works for opinion writing, too, and is especially effective for helping 4th graders write their introductory paragraph for STAAR Writing.
1. Choose a topic to write an expository introduction about. 

2. Think aloud as you identify the setting you want to introduce to your reader. For example, if you’re writing about a science topic, you could say, “I’m going to describe the setting that will help my reader visualize the setting for volcanoes. Many are on on a tropical island.” 

3. Write a sentence that tells the reader to imagine they are in that setting.

4. Think aloud about the questions you can ask the reader to get them thinking about this topic. You could say, “To help the reader visualize this topic for themselves, I’m going to ask them questions that will get them thinking about how they would feel if they heard the word, “volcano” while they were on a tropical island.

5. Write a couple of questions that help your reader envision these details.

6. For the last sentence in your introduction, name your topic.
  

Step 4: Kids Try It!


To help your kids apply this strategy, it's going to be important to give them several opportunities to practice. It's sort of a tricky one! In this handy free download, I include a handout with lots of opportunities for kids to try this strategy out, as well as some possible answers to help you! You can get this free download by entering your email below!. This free download includes...
  • A step-by-step guide to introducing this strategy to students
  • A sample anchor chart
  • A handout for students to try writing several introductions of this type, plus a possible answer key
  • A handout for students to apply this introduction in their own writing
  • Sample introductions written with this strategy for modeling purposes



And it gets even better. You can win a COPY OF THIS BOOK!
Just enter the giveaway below! As you head through the blog hop with the links I share at the bottom of this post, you can enter to win a copy of each book to grow your mentor text collection!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Looking for other great writing mentor text lessons and free resources? Check out the other posts in this link-up from The Reading Crew! You're sure to get TONS of ideas.

Inlinkz Link Party

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Beyond Dr. Seuss: Ideas for Celebrating Read Across America

Are you looking for ideas for celebrating Read Across America without focusing on Dr. Seuss? This post includes activities that you can use for the whole week to celebrate reading with your elementary or middle school students. Fun themes, bulletin board ideas, and activities that share the joy of reading with kids! Are you considering moving beyond Seuss for Read Across America? You may have come across  this article from the Conscious Kid that is moving you to try something different this year.

While many of us have celebrated this event with Seuss-themed activities and books (March 2nd is his birthday),  you can definitely celebrate the love of reading in a million ways that don't involve Seuss! After all, he is one of thousands of authors! This annual event is a great opportunity to celebrate reading with students expose them to something new in the world of literature.

If you're looking for new ideas to try out at your school, read on! You'll find tons of activities and theme suggestions to help you plan a fun schoolwide event!

#1 A Read-a-thon

When do you have time to just read? When do your kids have time to just read? The best way to grow the love of reading is to spend time reading! A read-a-thon is a fun way to encourage all-day reading. There are a few ways you can do this:
  • Schedule a day of reading across your school. Everybody reads, all day in their classrooms
  • Schedule guest readers throughout the day. When there's a reader, kids listen to them read. When there's not a reader, kids read on their own or with their friends.
  • Guest teacher and faculty readers. Rotate teachers from one classroom to the next to share their favorite read alouds.
  • Read with stuffed reading buddies. Each child can bring a stuffed animal, or the teacher can supply some, to read with!
  • Read with human reading buddies! Schedule older students to read with younger students. 
  • Make it into a contest: have kids keep track of their reading by # of pages or books read. Each class can have a thermometer and, at the end of every hour, you can check and see how many pages or books have been read. Color it in to keep track!
  • Everybody reads. This means that, for a certain amount of time, everyone on campus will read. Principals, coaches, office staff - everybody reads in a visible place so kids can see it. You can have each person join a different class to make sure the kids know that everybody reads!
Are you looking for ideas for celebrating Read Across America without focusing on Dr. Seuss? This post includes activities that you can use for the whole week to celebrate reading with your elementary or middle school students. Fun themes, bulletin board ideas, and activities that share the joy of reading with kids!

 #2 Book Battles

This would be a month- or week-long event. Choose several books and have classes read them. Have classes vote on them to determine a winner! If you do a Read-a-Thon (like suggested in #1), you can ask teachers to read the books during the day and have classes vote on them in the afternoon!

We did something similar with Dr. Seuss books a few years ago, but you could easily do this with any books you'd love kids to read! We provided each class with a tally sheet. Each book title was listed and students voted on their favorites. Then we used this data to make a bulletin board to represents which books we loved the most!

Are you looking for ideas for celebrating Read Across America without focusing on Dr. Seuss? This post includes activities that you can use for the whole week to celebrate reading with your elementary or middle school students. Fun themes, bulletin board ideas, and activities that share the joy of reading with kids!

#3 Have an author study week

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of authors who your kids would love to get to know. Choose a great author and feature their books and activities around their books all week! You could also do this with a book battle (which I describe above in #2!) Here are a couple of great suggestions with books that could appeal to a range of ages.

Jacqueline Woodson writes about things that kids can relate to, while, at the same time, broadening their cultural experience and awareness. Books you could use to feature this author include The Day You Begin, The Other Side, and Each Kindness. Read about how you can use The Day You Begin here!

 Peter H. Reynolds would make an INCREDIBLE featured author for Read Across America. His books are accessible but powerful to a wide range of ages! Books by Reynolds that kids will love are The Dot, Ish, and The Word Collector. Just think of the visual arts connections you could make!

Allen Say teaches us to value our stories. Spending some time reading Allen Say books and having your kids share their stories would be an amazing way to spend the week. Books you could use to feature Allen Say include Grandfather's Journey, Tea with Milk, and The Bicycle Man.

Other fun authors could be Andrea Beaty, Kim T. Griswell, and Tad Hills.

Looking for some diverse children's authors to feature? Check out this list!

    #4 Create your own theme!

    You can choose an awesome theme of your own and build book experiences, crafts, and engaging days all around your theme! Here are a few ideas:

    Reading Adds Color to Our Lives: feature crayon activities and books like The Day the Crayons Quit, and Red: A Crayon's Story.

    Blast Off to Read Across America: use fun space-themed books like Rufus Blasts Off! and Mousetronaut, and meaningful books like Mae Among the Stars, or Hidden Figures.
    Reading Changes the World: Include books about changing your world like I Walk With Vanessa, Let the Children March, and Rosa. 

    Reading Helps Us Grow: Use books like The Gardener, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, and Grandpa Green.
    Are you looking for ideas for celebrating Read Across America without focusing on Dr. Seuss? This post includes activities that you can use for the whole week to celebrate reading with your elementary or middle school students. Fun themes, bulletin board ideas, and activities that share the joy of reading with kids!

     #5 Host a Bookmark Contest!

    It's pretty easy to host a bookmark contest! We hosted one to celebrate the Grand Opening of our Reading Lounge! Here's how you do it:
    1. Create a template. We contacted our school district's print shop because we planned to have the winners of the contest printed and distributed to kids. They provided us with a template they wanted us to use. If you're printing and cutting in-house, you can use whatever size you'd like!
    2. Distribute the template to students who are interested in participating in the contest. Provide some basic rules about content, if it needs to be related to a theme, and what kinds of materials they used. Our theme was "Reading Helps Us Grow" because our reading lounge was garden themed. As for materials, we said pencils, colored pencils and/or crayons were fine.
    3. Set a due date, a place to turn in their entries, and remind students frequently about the date.
    4. Choose the winners. Once all entries are submitted, have a group of teachers get together to judge the bookmarks. Select as many winners as you'd like and have them printed, or print them on carstock and cut them out yourself!
    5. Distribute the bookmarks to the kids! We had trouble choosing, so we had a winner from each grade level. Students were able to choose which bookmark they wanted from the eight different choices!
    6. Feature the winners somehow: we made a bulletin board and announced it on our campus TV news. 

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    Are you looking for ideas for celebrating Read Across America without focusing on Dr. Seuss? This post includes activities that you can use for the whole week to celebrate reading with your elementary or middle school students. Fun themes, bulletin board ideas, and activities that share the joy of reading with kids!
     
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