I got My Middle Schoolers to Like Reading and Lived to Tell About it!

It’s almost May, we are all wrapping up the end of the school year and for some of us, we are already dreaming about the summer days on the beach with a margarita in hand. For this teacher, I am getting increasingly sad as the days go by.

This year has been by far my most successful year when it has come to reading and writing. I have more students reading on their own. Furthermore, I see them having conversations about books without me prompting them. I am not a magician, but boy do I have a lot of students reading on their own this year and they are always wanting to talk about books. Though I am going to share insights into my classroom and some of the ideas I use in my classroom, it may not work for all.

1. Oral read to your middle school students. The idea was introduced to me this past fall during a professional development session I attended on Twitter called #titletalk. Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp co-lead the PD on the last Sunday of each month. I chose to read The Hunger Games to my students and I had countless students check out my copies of the 2nd and 3rd book, not to mention I had countless students order the books through Scholastic. They could not get enough and we had multiple conversations about the books. I even witnessed students talking about it at lunch.

2. Bring in authors. As my 7th graders finished up the myth and legends unit, I was able to bring in a Michigan author by the name of Frank Holes Jr. He talked to the students about the dogman myth and legend that exist here in Michigan and how he was inspired as a writer. It gave the students a unique opportunity to ask an author why he writes. Using a Michigan author helped keep costs down for my school. If costs are a concern, consult your student council leader for help, your librarian, and your principal. Boxtops for Education could potentially help too. I strongly believe this also showed my students that writers are real people instead of individuals who are untouchable.

3. Visit your school library. Early on I coordinated with my librarian for my middle school students to visit the library every two weeks. As the school year progressed, we have not visited it as often, but I still have students who request to go to the library to check out books. In addition, my librarian has done an excellent job of asking staff members, especially the language arts teachers, to give her book suggestions. She has taken our suggestions and put more books on the shelves for the students.

4. Read with your students. Every Monday we have designated time for our students to do silent reading and I make it a point to read with them. As teachers, we can’t preach to our students, especially middle schoolers, to read and not model it ourselves.

I could list a ton of other strategies for teachers to use. In addition to the four strategies I have listed, I am a firm believer in giving enough choices to both boys and girls in your classroom to be successful. More importantly, having a lot of choices when it comes to books is detrimental to their success.


6 thoughts on “I got My Middle Schoolers to Like Reading and Lived to Tell About it!

  1. Yay!!! I love these kinds of posts. All of these strategies score students that reading is a priority for you – and they rise to the occasion. I love looking out at a classroom of students and seeing READERS where I saw a lot of shuffling and fidgeting at the beginning of the year. Powerful reinforcement for us teachers. šŸ™‚

    One correction: #titletalk is the last Sunday of the month, at 8 pm EST. Which means it happens again this weekend. See you there? šŸ™‚

  2. Glenda Gregory

    Congrats! This is no mean feat to get Middle School kids reading šŸ™‚ No child, or person is too old to be read to. I am endeavoring to do the same, as I take over as a temp. teacher librarian in a high school in Australia.

  3. Awesome! I’ve had similar success with my 8th graders this year. I borrowed several ideas from Donalyn Miller (Have you read her book The Book Whisperer?), and have stood back and watch my kids take off. I threw out the challenge at the first of the year for each student to read 40 books. I had no idea what would happen. Twice each grading period, I have checked in with students to see how many books they’ve read and added up the totals. Not everyone is going to read the 40 books, but they have surprised themselves with how much they have read. Here’s the latest totals: http://kaymcgriff.edublogs.org/2012/04/23/look-what-weve-been-reading-3/

    I’ve also connected my students with authors through Skype. There are many writers who will do a Skype visit for free! So far my students have met Sarah Darer Littman, Gae Polisner, Tessa Gratton, and Patricia McCormick. My last class will meet with one of the screenwriters for The Raven after reading some Poe stories.

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