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Bring New Energy to Your Springtime Classroom

by Mrs. Mimi aka Jennifer Scoggin
 | Apr 08, 2015

Having a hard time focusing? Finding it difficult to stay in your seat? I'm just talking about teachers...forget about the students! This has always been the time of year where the routines of the day were both my best friend and my worst enemy. They were my best friend because my classroom ran like a well-oiled machine. Despite countless interruptions, meetings, and the inevitable spring fever, we were able to stay (mostly) on track. But, at the same time, these routines made the day feel so...ho-hum.

I have seriously rethought our independent reading habits over the last few weeks, trying to find something to give a new life to this essential part of our day. Yes, students are reading—and reading well—but are they loving it? Is there excited chatter about books? Are there groans when it's time to stop reading?

Here are a few ideas to pump up independent reading and turn spring fever into reading fever:

  • Add two-minute book talks. I stole this one right from the great Donalyn Miller. Once or twice a week, right before dismissal, students take two minutes to "sell" a new favorite to the rest of the class. Now, this could quickly become a real drag if teachers slap a formula or rubric on this activity (put that graphic organizer down!). But, after a little modeling, and when kept fresh and casual, these two minutes have served to get more kids excited about what book is up next in their reading lives.
  • Take a "shelfie." Although the idea of students posing for selfies and posting them on social media makes me cringe, posting a shelfie makes me want to jump up and down with nerdy joy. Ask students to pose alongside a set of books that are favorites or a stack of books that represent those texts that are in their “to read next” piles. Students don't even have to appear in the photo if you'd prefer. Post shelfies in your classroom and let them work their magic.
  • Set a class reading goal. Work with your students to set a goal for the number of books you plan to read over the next three or four weeks. Ask students to keep track of their reading and create a bulletin board or chart to map the class's progress over time. Celebrate small successes and quickly set a new goal.
  • Give students a voice. Instead of selecting your next chapter book read-aloud for the class, read aloud the first chapter or two from a handful of books over the next week. Then, allow the class to vote on the book the class will complete. Have copies of the contenders on hand so students who get excited about any of the books have access to them right away.
  • Breathe new life into your classroom library. You don't need to spend millions at your local bookshop, but breathing new life into your classroom library can create big buzz around the room. Exchange books with a colleague to get some different titles in your room. Hit a garage sale. Put together a DonorsChoose.org request. Spend those Scholastic bonus points. Switch up your displays. Put out a new basket. Whatever! Then make the reveal a big classroom event celebrating books.

Mrs. Mimi, aka Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom and It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.


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