With the arrival of Spring, it is more challenging than ever to keep kids reading and interested in learning. What techniques keep your kids inspired? How do we keep them motivated to work when their minds are on getting outside? How do WE stay motivated as the year winds down? The answer in my opinion is to use mentor texts lessons to embed reading across the curriculum. By making careful book selections for your mentor texts, we can expose kids to great literature AND meet our curricular demands. Make sure your book choices match your reading/writing skills, content area needs, AND are appealing to your students.
Last fall, I revised all of the Leo Lionni units in my store. The bundle expanded from four titles to seven, and now includes Inch by Inch, A Color of His Own, Swimmy, Alexander the Wind-up Mouse, Fish is Fish, Frederick, and A Busy Year. Kids LOVE animals, so you can pair any of these titles to nonfiction works as a way to tap into kids’ interest in animals. Honestly, they’d even work for upper elementary too if you want to share a part for modeling. You can also weave in studies of habitats, animal adaptations, and plants. I love using these books for character and plot development too.
One of my favorite author for upper elementary is Patricia Polacco, and she has several books that could be paired with nonfiction too. I love The Bee Tree for spring when bees are active, and I think kids are really interested in how bees form honey as well as other bee topics such as how hives work and the roles of the queen versus worker bees. You can also include how to handle bee stings, etc. too.
Another on the same line as The Bee Tree is When Lightning Comes in a Jar. It’s a great one for tying in lightning bugs or family reunions.
Aside from doubling up ways to use literature in the classroom, giving purpose to reading is huge. Using Project Based Learning is one research based technique that requires deeper reading. [This post on Adventures in Literacy Land] explains why PBL is a great choice and where you can find great resources to help you implement PBL in your classroom. Nell Duke shared recently at the VSRA conference that the reason PBL is for ALL learners is that it gives purpose for reading and requires students to dig more deeply into their texts which adds rigor.
Another way increase reading opportunities is through use of text sets. If you’re teaching plants, pull together a variety of texts about plants at various reading levels to allow all students to access the content. Text sets can extend content beyond just your text book and allow for second and third exposures to concepts you might only hear/read about once otherwise.
This last quarter is brutal, and I hope these ideas help you re-energize just a little. As we know, the end of the year is rough. If we can put this off just a little, I am sure you prefer it.
How will you keep your kids inspired to keep learning til June? If you have other ideas, please feel free to share in the comments.