Teaching the Classics in Middle And High School

Even though kids consider classics to be “old”, they have stood the test of time because of their outstanding quality.

The characters, settings and conflicts of these pieces are relatable even hundreds of years after they were published. As teachers, it’s up to us to show students that these texts are truly gems.

In order for students to really appreciate these works of art, they need to comprehend the plot and make connections to the themes and characters. Below are some suggestions for teaching classic pieces of literature to middle and high school students.

Choosing the right text

For many teachers, our curricula dictate which texts we teach. While we may not have much wiggle room when it comes to choosing what woks we use, we do have control over the right type we use based on our student population.

Use the original work. During my time in public schools, I always used the original version of the text. To differentiate, I provided reading comprehension questions to my students and spent time reviewing major characters, plot events, symbols and themes. I also provided students with graphic organizers for writing assignments and to record their notes.

The version I used with my students.

Use alternative resources. Companies are constantly creating new materials to support teachers and students. Personally, I have my own preferences of the alternative texts I’ve used, especially with my struggling readers.

  • Great Illustrated Classics. This is by far my FAVORITE resource to use when working with my population of readers. I remember going to a bookstore out in Pennsylvania with my grandparents growing up and seeing the huge display of these books in the front of the store. It allowed me to read Oliver Twist as a fourth grader because the works are geared towards younger readers. The vocabulary and sentence structure are more simple, and some small details are changed, but the characters and plot events are the same. I will admit, that there were words I didn’t know in the book, but I was able to independently read and understand the books.
  • Textbooks. Years ago, when I did sixth grade curriculum writing, I was super excited to read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I was a little surprised to find that the textbook we were using did not include the novel, but rather it had a play version. I did supplement parts of the plot by reading aloud the novel, but my students really enjoyed the play and were able to practice recognizing and interpreting the various literary devices.
  • No Fear Shakespeare by SparkNotes. Unfortunately, I just missed these amazing helpers as a high school student. Many students are so put off by Shakespeare because they get confused with the Old English language. No Fear Shakespeare takes the stress out of figuring out this older wording, allowing kids to comprehend the plays, with minimum effort. Through sparknotes.com, teachers and students can access side-by-side Old and Modern English versions of Shakespeare’s works. FULL TEXT versions :)!
SparkNotes’ No Fear Shakespeare- The Prologue from Romeo and Juliet

Supplemental Aids

Educator’s know that all students learn differently, which is why it’s so important to present information to classes in a variety of ways. Providing different activities to keep students engaged is essential in the classroom.

Unit Plans/Reading Guides. There are TONS of pre-made activities floating around online. A simple Google search will provide you with thousands of results, some free and some you can purchase. Teachers Pay Teachers is a phenomenal resource that always pops up on my Google searches.

I just finished reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with my students, and I used the vocabulary, reading questions and activities from this awesome free reading guide. I LOVE the police report activity for chapter four and made sure to use it with my class. I also paired it with a sample police report and did a mini lesson on formal writing.

Audiobooks. It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE fan of using audiobooks with my students. There’s something magical about listening to someone read a story. YouTube is full of free versions, and I also use Audible if I can’t find exactly what I want on YouTube. For virtual teaching, I prefer to use YouTube so I can post/share the link with my class in case they’re absent or want to go back and re-read. I used this version for Jekyll and Hyde (I did speed up the reading a smidge, which made a big difference).

Film Versions. Again, I LOVE using films and TV shows with my students. Being able to see the story in a visual way helps many with reading comprehension. A popular teacher favorite moving pairing is using The Lion King when teaching Hamlet. As with any form of media, always make sure to check the rating and content before showing a film version. I was all excited to use a Jekyll and Hyde movie on YouTube, until I saw in the comment section that some kind person mentioned an inappropriate scene. Needless to say, I went with a cartoon version instead for my students.

Activities for Teaching the Classics

Every classroom looks different and every teacher is different. What works for one teacher will not work for another, so the ideas listed below are just that, suggestions on how to read classics in the classroom.

  1. Act out scenes (readers theater). I have personally seen this in action with Shakespeare and it’s engaging for students. While kids can read aloud from their seats, there is nothing wrong with taking it up a notch. Include props, have students create a mini set, take a trip to the auditorium and read on the big stage.
  2. Have kids teach the class. Who says the teacher always needs to be at the front of the class? Allow students to get hands-on and create a lesson. Whether kids work individually or in groups, assign them a concept and give them freedom to teach it. I would suggest giving them some creative freedom with this choice and a rubric, so they know what the expectations are.
  3. Virtual field trips. Since field trips may not always be realistic, having a few virtual options is always a great choice. These can be done in-class or for homework and can provide students with some new information about topics relating to the classic text.

Importance of Theme

As with any text, teachers know to focus on plot, characters, conflict, figurative language, quote analysis, etc. We know these works are classics for a reason, and our goal is to show students how magnificent “old” books can be.

Universal themes are truly fantastic, as they can be found in any text, so incorporating these themes into class discussions, writing prompts and homework help students of all ages realize that even though the story is not modern, it deals with similar themes as books today.

Love, good vs. evil, jealousy, friendship, family, etc. can all be seen in classic literature.

For instance, one of my favorite themes of all time is good vs. evil. This can be seen in The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde quite clearly AND it is also seen in the Harry Potter series (especially book seven). Giving students copies of quotes from both works and asking them to write a comparison paragraph explaining how the theme is used and its meaning is a great activity to help students make connections with a classic text.

Classic pieces of literature are timeless for a reason. With modern technology, creative thinking, and the right resources, students of all ages and skill levels can read and enjoy these works of art.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

10 Reading Comprehension Tips

What is reading comprehension?

Reading comprehension is understanding what is being read. The reader is able to grasp information from any kind of text (fiction or nonfiction) and demonstrate knowledge of the piece by answering questions, discussing aspects or completing an activity.

Why is reading comprehension important?

Reading comprehension is important because everything is text-based in education. Students are expected to read articles, novels, directions, discussion responses, essay prompts, lab reports, and more. Once they read these works, students are then expected to do something with the information- participate in discussions, complete a homework assignment, fill out note sheets, etc.

Whether we realize it or not, reading comprehension is the crux of what students need to be successful in education.

There’s typically a shift in English/Language Arts classes when a student enters middle school. They not only have five different teachers, but they are expected to read and interact with texts in all of these classes. There is no Reading class where students practice decoding or have phonics lessons. These are some HUGE adjustments for young readers, and the need for strong reading comprehension is crucial.

So, what do we do if a student is having difficulty with reading comprehension?

Over the last ten years I’ve worked with thousands of middle and high school students and have figured out some really awesome tips for improving reading comprehension.

Tip #1- Activate prior knowledge.

When introducing a new text, tap into a student’s knowledge on an aspect of the text. It can be historical knowledge, a connection (text to self, text to world, text to text, text to media) or an experience.

Last month I had my students read an article about the history of education in the United States. To activate prior knowledge, I had students talk to their parents about what high school was like for them. What clothes did they wear? What did they eat for lunch? What did they do for fun? How was your parents’ school life different from your school life today?

The purpose of activating prior knowledge is to prepare student for what’s ahead. I like to think of it as giving my kiddos a “heads up”. They are able to focus on a specific concept and will be on the lookout for this idea while reading the text.

Tip #2- Provide necessary background information.

This is honestly one of my favorite pre-reading activity, that totally lends itself to reading comprehension. Author’s always use some sort of inspiration in their personal lives in their writing and this can typically influence the author’s purpose. Some teachers LOVE to give pre-reading information about the author, which is never a bad idea, but I personally prefer to dive into the historical aspects of a new text.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle is legit one of my favorite novels to read with students. Before I start this classic piece of children’s literature, I spend time going over the timeline of events during the 1960s, since this is when the book was written. The Space Race and Communism are underlying themes and concepts in the novel, so it’s important the students are familiar with these ideas before we read.

I’m currently reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde with 8th-10th graders. Before we even opened the text, we spent about a week learning about the Victorian era and watching parts of Oliver! to help students visualize the setting. For the record, this musical has superb costumes and sets that really capture London during this time period.

Providing background information helps students become familiar with time periods, historical events, the author, or concepts they will be reading about. It can also help with visualizing (one of the reasons I showed Oliver!).

Tip #3- Introduce new vocabulary

So many times students glaze over an unknown word and continue reading. Why? Because it takes extra time to try and figure out how to pronounce a new word, let alone try and figure out the definition. This typical strategy tends to cause some problems with reading comprehension because one word can change an entire sentence, paragraph or part of the plot.

Listing new vocabulary words for students before they start reading, will remind them that these are new words they will encounter in the reading. These words can be right from the textbook or hand-picked by the teacher. Some teachers also go ahead and give students the definition of the vocabulary words to make it even easier for them. As an English teacher, I usually have my students define the words on their own.

Tip #4- Provide a summary

SparkNotes are amazing. I can honestly say that as a student AND as a teacher. In college, to help with my understanding of various Shakespeare plays, I would read the SparkNotes after I finished reading a play. This worked really well for me because I would often miss concepts since Old English always threw me off.

As teachers, we usually think to summarize a text after we read it to fill in any gaps with reading comprehension. Whether it’s a teacher summary, SparkNotes or a video, there are plenty of options for providing students with a condensed version. My kids are really loving chapter summary videos from Course Hero on YouTube.

It’s okay to give students a summary of the text before or after they read.

Recently, I started giving a summary of the chapter before I read it with my classes, and it’s been an awesome game changer for my special education students. I’ve read the SparkNotes for the chapter to highlight the important plot points for my kiddos and it has been quite helpful. I will also point out key information while we’re reading and at the end, but adding that extra at the beginning is a new favorite technique of mine.

Along with SparkNotes, other websites like CliffNotes and Shmoop are also great resources to use for summaries. Personally, I like the sense of humor with Shmoop, especially for high school students.

Tip #5- Listen to the audio version

I will admit that I was never an audio books fan until about two years ago when I came across Jim Dale’s version of Harry Potter. (Which, for the record, is AMAZING and I’m totally addicted to listening to it).

Currently enjoying book 5 of Harry Potter…again :).

So, how exactly do audiobooks help with reading comprehension? When a student listens to the audiobook version of a story, it helps relieve the pressure of decoding. He or she can just focus on what is happening in the story without stressing about how to pronounce a word.

While I LOVE my Audible app, when I want to post the audio version for my class of students I generally use YouTube. Teachers have been so kind to post themselves reading full novels aloud for free and there are also some professional readers on there as well.

Bonus tip: one audio version for Dr. Jekyll and Hyde was too slow for my kiddos, so to keep them engaged I sped up the video. In YouTube, simply click on the gear (settings), go to Playback speed and change it up.

Tip #6- Read the eBook version

Nowadays, kids are used to reading from screens whether it be tablets and Chromebooks, so why not take advantage of this technology? While some students prefer to read a hard copy of a text (as do I once in awhile) there are quite a few perks to reading an eBook.

Students can change the font. Whether you’re reading on a phone or tablet, iBooks and the Kindle app offer this feature, which is great for students who are visually impaired.

Students can look up unknown words. Ebooks have this amazing quality where with just a few finger taps a reader can look up an unknown word. As we discussed with Tip #3 , defining new words plays a huge role in reading comprehension, and these nifty pieces of technology make this task super simple for readers.

Students can highlight and record notes. One of the drawbacks about having a class set of novels/texts, is that students aren’t allowed to write in the books. Many teachers, including myself, rely on the Post-it method for notes. However, eBooks allow students to highlight and make notes right on the text. Students can truly make notes their own, while interacting with the information.

Students can read anywhere at any time. I LOVE the portability of eBooks. I have the Kindle app on all of my devices and rely on iCloud to save my place as I switch back and forth. It’s no big deal if I forget to bring a book because I have a whole library in my pocket. In addition to Kindle, apps like Vooks, Epic!, Raz-Kids and ABC Mouse offer incredible eBooks (many with audio versions) for readers of all ages. For more information on ABC Mouse, check out my review on this online learning program.

Bonus tip: For my auditory learners and special education kiddos, I always recommend listening to the audio version and following along with the text of the story. Many prefer to use their phones or tablets so everything is in the palm of their hands.

Tip #7- Covering the basics

This is the go-to for every teacher, regardless of what grade or subject we teach. Guided notes or just straight reading comprehension questions require students to DO SOMETHING with their new knowledge.

In my early years of teaching, I tried to get away from this “traditional” method of teaching. During literature circle discussions, I found that I had some students missing key plot points. Now, learning from this, I ask some of the basic questions (describe this character, discuss the main conflict, etc.) but I will also throw in higher order thinking questions focusing on quote analysis. This allows me to touch on those basic points while also hitting making inferences and drawing conclusions.

Other than using reading comprehension questions, there are other ways to cover the basics:

Students can bullet point important key information from the text. To differentiate this, the teacher can provide a template with headings to help students navigate the text and note sheet

Students can complete Cornell Notes. This website offers a bunch of different templates students can use.

Students can draw a picture with captions. I really like this idea for breaking down chapter events, even for older students. Students can either physically draw or they can create a Google doc and copy and paste pictures from the web.

For more note-taking suggestions, check out my post: 6 Effective Nonfiction Note-Taking Tips.

Tip #8- Always share thoughts

Along the lines of having students do something with the new information they read, it’s just as important to talk about what is read.

Whether I’m tutoring one-on-one or teaching an English class, at the end of every chapter we read, I ask students to share their thoughts, comments or questions. This encourages students to reflect on the reading and evaluate their knowledge of the chapter. When kids ask questions, I’m able to determine if I need to re-teach or summarize the chapter. If a student says the almighty, “I don’t know.”, I often ask what the purpose of the chapter is. Is it a fluff chapter that is just there to connect the plot events? Does it move the plot along? Why?

When in a class, I tend to use Think-Pair-Share (turn and talk) with kids for this part. I then take volunteers at the end so every student can hear other thoughts, comments and questions. Why? You never know what a kid misses during a reading. They may go to the bathroom, day dream, or get distracted, etc. This is a quick strategy that allows all students to get filled in.

Tip #9- Encourage connections

The first few weeks of sixth grade are always the most challenging as a teacher because we are helping kiddos transition from elementary school to middle school. For those that have taught this age group, we all have stories where we mention a dog as a character and we get hands waving frantically for kids to tell us all about their dog. Kids love to talk and make connections to things we say all the time.

So, why not encourage students to make connections with the various texts they read?

This not only increases student engagement, but it also helps kids interact with a text. Connections (text to text, text to self, text to world, text to media) will not happen with every reading, but suggest for kids to make connections whenever possible. Also, make sure you take a few minutes here and there for students to share their connections.

Tip #10- Keep communication open

It’s very rare that a kid will approach me and say they don’t understand something. A student will sit in silence, skip quiz questions and not complete homework because they are struggling.

As teachers, we need to create a system of communication that works for our classrooms.

When I taught in brick and mortar schools, I created Communication Cards. I took red, yellow and green index cards, fastened them together and had kids “show me your color” during lessons. Sometimes I had kids hold up their cards, but mostly I had them lay the card down on their desk. Red cards meant a student needed help ASAP, yellow meant they wanted to chat and green meant they were good to go. I would approach red cards first to see what they needed from me before moving onto the yellow cards. It’s amazing how honest kids were when they knew they didn’t have to ask questions in front of the whole class.

In my virtual classrooms today, I encourage kids to private chat me in Zoom or send me an email. This year more than ever I have had kids ask me specific questions about assignments and advocate for themselves. I also text my students A LOT because I know they hate talking on the phone. Many of them will send me a quick text with a question and then they are able to get right back to work. Keeping that chain of communication open is incredibly important.

Involving parents in supporting reading comprehension.

Every year I have parents reach out to me asking about how they can support their learner at home, especially in middle and high school. My usual suggestion is to read our class novel together at home while we are reading it in school so parents can talk about it with their student.

Head over to my TpT store to snag this FREE resource

In addition, I also recommend doing family read-alouds a few times a week and asking some reading questions. I developed this FREE list of reading questions for parents to use in this exact situation.

For more specific tips and tricks for parents, check out my post on Reading Comprehension at Home: 5 Things Parents Can Do.

Reading comprehension is necessary for all classes, not just English. It is never too late to introduce students to new tips and strategies for improving reading comprehension.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Best Virtual Activities to Celebrate Read Across America & National Reading Month

March is National Reading Month. Schools dedicate time for kids to enjoy reading at all age levels by incorporating fun-filled literacy activities. These activities can be used throughout the month, not just during Read Across America week.

Virtual reading activities can still promote the love and joy of reading. In fact, there can be even more creativity to be had in the online environment.

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read)

This is an oldie, but a goody. D.E.A.R. is one of those activities that can be done at any age, that allows kids to choose whatever they want to read. Whether it’s a graphic novel, or a classic piece of literature, giving students time to just read is always beneficial. However, if you’re looking to take this classic idea up a notch, add in an extra step to increase student engagement. Pose a question for students to answer in the chat, on Padlet or a Google doc so all can see the responses. Some really great prompts include: What kind of reader should choose your book? If you like ____________ then you’ll love this book because…

Themed Reading Days

Similar to D.EA.R, having students participate in themed reading days adds a little bit of fun to reading time. Teachers have more creativity with this chunk of reading time. My personal favorite themes are:

*Camping– when we think about camping, many of us instantly picture a roaring fire, s’mores and the great outdoors.

Some great ideas to make this set up virtual is to have a video of a campfire going on in the background, have kids wear camping clothes, make microwave s’mores using a recipe like this one, and allow kids to choose one of these ghost stories to read during class.

*Beach Day– students should bring their devices on the ground while sitting on a beach towel, wearing shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops, so they can read their favorite book. Personally, I prefer to sit in a beach chair for added comfort :).

*Coffee Shop- with the popularity of Starbucks, many students LOVE coffee shops. Kids should sit in their most comfortable chair with their favorite beverage (hot chocolate, tea, smoothie, etc.) and read some Time for Kids articles.

*Pajama Party– this is by far, my absolute favorite theme. Who doesn’t like to read in their pajamas? Students should wear their pajamas to class and bring a copies of their favorite bedtime stories to read.

Read Aloud Videos

As educators, we know that we are working with the YouTube generation, so why not incorporate videos into the classroom? There are TONS of read aloud videos on YouTube from picture books to chapter books. You can check out my latest read aloud video below.

My personal favorite read aloud channel on YouTube is Storytime Now for picture books.

School Wide Story Time

Now more than ever, schools are really trying to encourage school spirit and socialization in safe ways. Holding a school wide story time is a great opportunity for all students to come together and listen to a story. If the plan is to make this a one time occurrence, I would suggest reading a few picture books, especially for elementary kiddos. If this will be repeated a few times I recommend a short chapter book like Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, which is one of those books that appeals to grades K-6.

Guest Reader Visits

Sometimes it’s good to change up the readers in the virtual classroom, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to have a guest reader. Having parents or even other teachers in the building read a story adds some extra excitement to reading time. Whether the reading happens live, or a parent/guardian sends a recording of the reading, having difference faces and voices reading goes a long way. If you’re unable to find guest readers, a website, like Storyline Online, is a fantastic option for any elementary classroom. Storyline Online features popular children’s books read aloud by different celebrities.

Student Choice

As educators, we know to try and give students choices as much as possible in the classroom. Why not let kids pick the book the teacher reads? Online platforms Vooks and Epic! are amazing resources for activities like this. For more resources for teaching reading online, check out this post.

Divergent is a great read aloud book for grades 6-12.
Divergent is my all-time favorite read aloud book for grades 6-12.

Teacher Read Aloud

While all of these ideas are great options to celebrate the joy of reading, sometimes just reading to a class is engaging. Whether a teacher reads a book from the curriculum, or changes it up by reading a personal favorite, kids LOVE being read to all the time. For more specific suggestions about virtual read alouds check out Effective Read Alouds in the Virtual Classroom.

It is possible to celebrate National Reading Month in the virtual classroom.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with reading activities. We always want to show kids that reading is enjoyable, even if it’s being done virtually.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

New Year’s Activities for Kids

New Year’s is known as a time to reflect on the past year and make goals for the new one. New Year’s resolutions are set and there’s a sense of optimism and hope as we end the holiday season.

Now that Miss Molly is four, I wanted to start explaining the importance of this holiday to her. As always, I start by researching some books and other forms of media to help me with this process. Below are some great activities to help kids learn and celebrate this holiday.

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller. To be honest, I was drawn to this book because Molly always points out squirrels. This picture book does a fantastic job of not only explaining what a New Year’s resolution is, but following the main character Squirrel come up with one. This book is available in paperback, hardcover and ebook on Amazon. There is also a really lovely audio recording of a read aloud on YouTube by Storytime Now! .

Happy New Year Around the World (coloring book) by Sylvia Walker. I’m in love with this book for a couple reasons. First, it introduces young readers to how different cultures around the world ring in the new year. Some countries include: China, Germany, Italy and Mexico. But the absolute best part is this story has pictures for readers to color! So it’s pretty much a 2 in 1! My little reader always needs to be busy, so the fact that we can read AND color this book is fabulous!

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the classic holiday films from the 70s, even if Eon still freaks me out a little. I love how this movie discusses the passage of time through songs and Rudolph’s journey that help little viewer’s understand the theme. It’s available on DVD and it can also be streamed on Amazon.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Incorporating Virtual Read Alouds for Grades K-12: Tips and Tricks from a Virtual Educator

Read alouds are a time when students of all ages can get immersed in different worlds, make new friends, and go on amazing adventures. As teachers, we constantly read aloud in our brick and mortar classrooms, and this can still be a possibility in virtual classrooms.

I’m a strong believer in the power of read alouds for students in grades P-12. About two years ago I shared how I conducted read alouds in the virtual world via Zoom (click here). Since then I have experimented with a few different ways of incorporating read alouds for one-on-one and classes with students in grades K-12. I share my screen via Zoom and use e-books with students, or I read aloud from a paper based novel depending on the lesson.

Read Alouds for Grades K-5

When: I dedicated my morning meeting time to a read a book of the day. Typically this time is about 15 minutes, which is just enough time to read and touch on some reading comprehension questions. However, this can also be done as a mini-lesson. Read alouds can also take place during snack time and while transitioning subjects in the virtual world.

What: For early elementary read alouds, or beginner readers, I get picture books from Kindle Unlimited since I have a subscription, but some other options include Vooks and Epic!. Since I’m also a book reviewer, I love to use books I’ve reviewed with my students as well (check out one of my favorite authors below). This activity can also be done with nonfiction texts if you’re looking to include more in the curriculum.

What is the title of the book? Rescue. What is the picture? Three dogs. What do you think this story will be about? Dogs helping people.

How: I structure my read aloud with pre-reading, during reading and after reading sections. These can be super quick, or extended a few minutes depending on the text. Pre-reading– We always start by discussing the cover a book. Where is the author’s name? What is the title of the story? What is the picture? What do we think this book will be about based on the picture? I pose these types of questions and have students verbally respond, since typing would take them too long. During reading– Every few pages I stop and ask questions about the character, plot, text to self connections, setting, etc. Some are purely comprehension based and others are geared more towards making inferences. Who is the main character? What is the problem? My questions can usually be answered by using the pictures and the text, so all of my readers are able to participate, regardless of their reading ability.

What is Phoebe’s problem? She can’t find her favorite tennis ball. How does she feel about this? She’s surprised.

After reading– Similar to pre and during reading, I pose questions to my students about theme, rating the book, explaining their thoughts on the book, etc. Students can verbally answer this or use a white board/piece of paper to rate the book. If you’re looking for a more extended after reading activity, have students draw a picture and write a sentence or two related to the book. For instance, if the book is about pets, have students draw a picture of their pet (or their dream pet) and write a sentence with the pet’s name.

Read Alouds Grades for Grades 6-12

When: I would include a read aloud during language arts time, or at the start of a language arts class. If I’m reading aloud at the beginning of every class period, I dedicate 10 minutes for me reading and 5 minutes for students to respond to the reading. If I’m doing a live lesson for my virtual students, my read alouds last between 45 minutes to an hour about once a week.

What: For daily read alouds, I prefer to use a novel with students. Over the years I’ve used the following texts: City of Ember, The Face on the Milk Carton series, Among the Hidden, Divergent (censoring certain parts), The Hunger Games, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

How: My focus is to have students enjoy the story, so I do pre and after reading activities. My pre-reading consists of either me giving a recap from the previous days’ reading or having a student do it, and a brief “heads up” about the day’s chapter(s). I will also tell students what the after reading question is before I start reading to give them ideas to focus on during the read aloud. After reading activities can look a little different depending on how long my lesson is. One option is to have students respond to the reading question. This question can be answered in Padlet, Poll Everywhere, Google form, etc. In the past, I’ve used Padlet and I usually use one or two student examples or have a student pick their favorite response, one they disagree with, etc. to review the question. For an extended read aloud (45 minute to 1 hour) check out how I utilize chat to generate discussions here .

New Tricks

Since March, I’ve tweaked some of my instructional practices to provide additional support for reading comprehension.

*Discussions include more quote analysis to help with making inferences, drawing conclusions and other higher order thinking skills. Students are also encouraged to use to keep an eye/ear out for quotes that catch their attention.

*Audiobooks have been life savers. As an online teacher I teach English and English-based electives for grades 6-12, which includes A LOT of novels. I can’t read them all to my students, so by providing audio versions (thank you YouTube) my students can get the support they need. Also, during small groups or one-on-one sessions, I will use an audio version depending on the text. No one can read Harry Potter more perfectly than Jim Dale.

*Incorporating more connections for my students has also helped their reading comprehensions. For instance, in Divergent when Tris starts wearing eye liner and black clothing, I share a text to media connection I have with the movie Mulan. Both scenes show the girls stuck between two different identities of themselves and both help students understand the theme of identity.

To check out Rescue click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

The Edupreneur’s Side Hustle Handbook Book Review

Since I began teaching I’ve always had at least one part time job. I’ve tutored, been an official scorer for Pearson, and taught Saturday school. I’ve always had big dreams, but living on a teacher salary isn’t that easy.

A year and a half ago I decided to completely change my life. I took a really big risk (switching from being a full time virtual teacher to a part time one) to follow an idea.

Today, in addition to offering tutoring services, Little Reading Coach has a YouTube channel, a blog :), a Teachers Pay Teachers store, and some additional happenings coming soon. I’m an edupreneur. And, guess what, you can be one, too!

The Edupreneur’s Side Hustle Handbook: 10 Successful Educators Share Their Top Tips, is an incredible guide to help inspire and motivate teachers to make a difference (and make money).

I came across this book while scrolling through Instagram, since the book was released in May. I’ve been following Jen Jones (an incredible literacy guru) for a while, and I often wonder, “how does she do it?”. This book finally answered my question!

Readers learn about how 10 educators (Eric Crouch, Lisa Dunnigan, Kristen Donegan, Michelle Ferre, Cynthia Frias, Jen Jones, Kisha Mitchell, Kayse Morris, Bryce Sizemore, and Tosha Wright) not only got started, but created brands for themselves in the education world that isn’t in teaching or administration. As teachers, we often feel that we are limited in making money in the system, but these inspiring educators show readers how to take their experience and passion and turn it into a side hustle. YouTube, podcasts, professional development, TpT, and more are mentioned to show teachers the possibilities that exist.

Being super transparent, I LOVED this book. I have one word to describe all of these authors: honest. Each and every single one of them discuss all sides of having a successful side hustle. There are no Instagram filters used to focus on the glamor. These edupreneur’s give readers the good, the bad and the ugly about teaching, wanting to make a difference, starting a business, and making money. The amount of hours, weeks, months and years they have put into gaining followers and creating quality products reminds us that success does not happen overnight.

The structure of this book is truly like a handbook. Throughout the text there are places for readers to stop and reflect using questions based on the passage. The questions are thought-provoking and are meant to help readers brainstorm and think outside the box. Each author has their own chapter, which is broken up into sections. The length of each section is ideal, not once did I start to zone out or flip a few pages to move ahead. The writings are concise, informative and personal, which is a superb combination because it allows readers to relate to the author’s while learning important business aspects. I felt like I was getting advice from friends. There are also key ideas and tips highlighted throughout the book in bullet form, text box or italicized to help emphasize some of the big ideas. Yay text features!

This book will ignite a fire in any educator thinking about starting a side hustle. Readers will not only feel informed about the business side of this industry, but also supported because the experts share so much about their personal experiences. My biggest takeaway from this handbook is to go for it. So what if there are YouTube channels already out there. So what if there are a million TpT stores. Go for it.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Reading Comprehension at Home: 5 Things Parents Can Do

Whenever I chat with parents, they always express concern with their child’s reading comprehension. They worry that their child struggles with reading because they don’t understand what they are reading. While every child learns differently, there are some general tips and tricks that parents can do to help their learners at home. Below are some of my favorite, easy to incorporate ideas that I share with my families:

  1. Background information. This is HUGE! The more background students have about a topic or idea before reading about it, the more their brain is prepared to learn new information. Take a look at the passage or book your learner is reading and provide them with some information about the topic. For instance, if your student is going to read Anne Frank, find a Youtube video about WWII. Videos and movies are a great resource for background information, especially since kids will be reading in the near future.
  2. Predictions. This strategy works really well with elementary students, who seem to really enjoy it. Stop periodically and ask your learner what they think will happen next, where will the character go, will the problem get worse? Always try to keep the questions opened-ended so kids can explain their answers fully using examples from the text. Feel free to ask follow up questions, such as why or how to get your student to expand on their prediction.
  3. Stop and check. Kids need to learn to check in with themselves while they’re reading. No one wants to sit and waste 20 minutes reading a short story to realize none of it makes sense. Help your child figure out when is an appropriate time for them to stop in their reading and do a quick reading comprehension self check. Maybe have younger students stop after every paragraph or page and see if they can summarize what they just read to you. For older students, maybe have them stop and give a summary or main idea every 10 pages or chapter. If your child got all the big ideas then keep reading. If he or she missed some big concepts go back and re-read.
  4. Re-read. This is by far the best reading comprehension strategy for kids to use, in my opinion. Once a student realizes they are lost or confused, re-reading can usually help them get back on track. We all zone out sometimes when we read, or get mixed up at a particular part, so re-reading is a great, quick way to clarify any confusion and continue reading. Sometimes just re-reading a sentence or two does the trick, but if a student needs to re-read a few paragraphs or a page let them.
  5. Visualizing. I knew I was a strong reader as a kid when I could read a novel with no pictures and have a movie playing in my head. Elementary students rely on pictures in books to help them visualize when they are learning to read, but as kids get older and the texts become more complex, usually there aren’t any pictures to help students. That is where visualizing comes in. Usually a novel will provide readers with a great description of a setting or character. Stop and have kids draw what the description is using colors. For those that don’t like to draw (like myself) show kids some pictures. For instance, in Divergent readers are introduced to the city of Chicago, so show students pictures of the city to help them visualize.

 

Does your learner in grades 3-12 need additional support with reading comprehension? Check out https://www.littlereadingcoachllc.com/ for details about online reading and writing tutoring.

My 5 Favorite Books of 2019

2019 was a really big year for this blog. I took a HUGE nose dove into book reviews, and I loved every second of it. I have worked with some absolutely incredible writers and read some amazing texts. As 2019 draws to a close, I thought I would recap my favorite five books of the year before we ring in 2020 (in no particular order).

Bound in Silver

Bound in Silver by Marie Grace. This book is the ultimate YA fangirl book. I love the creativity and all of the amazing reminders of other great YA books (Harry Potter, Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc.). The plot moves at a great pace and really sets up ideas for the next books. And, as a plus, the author is a true book lover with an amazing Instagram account.

Arial the Youtuber

Arial the Youtuber by Mary Nhin. It’s no secret that I have fondness for this incredible unicorn, but this is my favorite Arial book. Being a virtual teacher, I’m drawn to ideas that involve technology, and this one shows how much work is involved in making it in the Youtube world. Nhin allows has life lessons mixed into inventive plots making her books engaging for young readers.

Timothy's

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values by Christopher Gordon.  I always find it hard to find good books for boys that teach life lessons that don’t feel super Disneyish. This text definitely engages all readers, especially boys, with the use of a superhero. The stories are quick and effective, while focusing on one core value at a time. The questions at the end of each story also allow readers to interact with the text and make it personal.

Under the Scars

Under the Scars by Isabella Morgan.  This book is a little outside my usual review genres, as it’s an adult romance novel. It’s nothing like 50 Shades. It’s an incredible love story that will have you falling in love with Nick from the moment you meet him. This book will make you believe in the power and magic of love, and I guarantee each reader will want their own Nick or Violet.

Swimming Sideways

Swimming Sideways by C.L. Walters. This realistic fiction YA book is truly one of a kind. It’s the first in a trilogy that follows three extremely relatable characters as they struggle through life as teenagers in today’s world. The characterization is so intense and realistic that I can picture Abby, Seth, and Gabe as my own students. The realness of this book will leave an impression on any reader, especially those in high school.

Arial the Youtuber Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I absolutely love that I have connected with so many incredible authors over the last few months. Every time I read a new book I remember how powerful words truly are.

Arial the Youtuber, by Mary Nhin, is a fabulous picture book about a unicorn on a mission to encourage others through her Youtube channel.

This is my second blog book review for Mary Nhin, (click here for How to Win the World Cup in Pajamas ) and again I’m in love with her work. Mary is a true boss babe, who is building an empire with her whole family (so amazing!). Grow Grit (her business) is all about positivity and following a dream.

In this book, Arial learns a valuable life lesson that the way we speak to others makes an impact (both positive and negative). By encouraging others we can all make a difference in someone’s life.

Arial is an extremely relatable character. She says the wrong things without meaning to. Personally, I am totally guilty of doing just this, so I instantly felt a connection to the main character. After an inspiring talk with her mom, Arial learns how popular Youtube is and decides to encourage others by creating her own Youtube channel.

As a teacher and a mom, I thought it was so clever that Arial did research, created a checklist and got permission from her parents before diving into the world of Youtube. I’ve seen so many students just want to jump into a project without doing the necessary research, so having Arial take these steps sends a great message to young readers.

Once Arial is ready to go, we are with her while she makes, edits, and posts her first video. I was really hoping to know how successful the video was, but as readers we are left with a viewer leaving Arial a positive message, which is just as delightful.

I’m also slightly obsessed with the illustrations. They truly help readers comprehend the story and learn new information (checklist for creating a Youtube channel). The bright colors help create an upbeat and happy vibe throughout the reading, which enforces the message of the text.

As if the book couldn’t get any better, there are worksheets at the end!! My teacher heart did a happy dance because I could totally see this book working as an anti-bullying activity for grades K-2. There’s vocabulary, discussion topics, a writing component and a drawing piece, which would make for a great multi-day lesson plan.

Click here to purchase the book.

Spring Song Book Review

 

As a mom of a toddler, I’m always looking for quality children’s books with multi-sensory elements to help keep her engaged. Instinctively, I go for touchy-feely books, or noisy books so she can press buttons.

Spring Song by Anetta Kotowicz and illustrated by Nina Ezhik, is a delightful, multi-sensory story to use with preschool aged children. Not only is it a picture book, but there is also a Youtube playlist to accompany the reading, in addition to some great crafts and activity ideas.

I’ve been teaching figurative language with my students for the last nine years, so the teacher in me gets excited when I see these elements used in any type of text. The use of sensory details and onomatopoeia makes this a super fun story to read! When reading this with preschool children, I would have students repeat the onomatopoeias after me because there are so many. It gives kids a chance to practice saying new words and makes them feel like they’re also reading the story.

In my experience as a Reading Specialist, a lot of my students benefit from additional auditory support when interacting with a text. The Spring Song playlist on Youtube provides young readers with four different songs that correlate to the story. Songs are available on Arts Kindred Magic YouTube channel under Spring Song playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVltdElxMWR0dMxq1sVmv3iKhgJ7_m2N9

The e-text does have an icon to click which takes listeners right to the song for that page. Readers can sing along with the story. This is a fabulous way to introduce little ones to reading! If you want to practice reading skills, I suggest reading this text on a tablet and pointing to the words in the songs while singing.

A great surprise is what is included at the end of the book for parents and teachers. There are pages of additional craft ideas and a game. The game involves kids doing an action (clap your hands, act like a bird, etc). This is perfect for a preschool classroom!

Interested in this fabulous book? Check it out on Amazon.

 

For additional texts and information, feel free to check out www.ArtsKindred.com . Summer Song was just published and there are ones for Fall and Winter!