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.

Cheers!