6 Amazing Back-to-School Reading Lessons and Activities

At the beginning of the school year, teachers need to establish so many routines and procedures.  When it comes to planning back-to-school reading lessons and activities, it can be overwhelming to say the least!

Check out this blog post with 6 strategies to consider when planning your back-to-school reading!

6 amazing back to school reading lessons

1. The Power of “Status of the Class”

To begin, one of the most powerful routines for back to school reading planning involves creating a system where you ALWAYS know what your students are reading–and how well those books “fit”.  I have taken “status of the class” for 30 years, and I honestly feel it is possibly the most powerful thing I do to help reach all readers.  Why?

  • It holds students accountable for picking books and sticking with them.
  • I have a handle on what books students pick and how long it takes to read them.
  • It provides me countless conference opportunities.  For example, we chat about book selection, home reading, reading speed, as well as more comprehension-based topics.
  • My status of the class records help me with goal setting, parent-teacher conferences, and assessment.
  • It helps me “connect” with every reader every single day.
  • Taking status daily builds routine and consistency.
  • Hearing about books other students are reading is highly engaging and motivating.
  • Status builds a “culture” for talking about our reading.

Want to learn more about how I keep MY status of the class?  Check out THIS BLOG POST for more or CLICK HERE to see the tool I use to track it all!

taking status of the class

2. Getting students to read “just right books”

This is SUCH an important job that we, as teachers, have.  We all have those students who pick Harry Potter when they should be picking A to Z Mysteries.  We all have those students who start a book and abandon it almost immediately.  Learning how to pick a “just right” book is a valuable skill that needs to be explicitly taught to many students.

We absolutely MUST give students time to read independently chosen or “self-selected” books to read every single day.  30 minutes should be the minimum for grades 3-5.  We can use that time to confer with students and do other things–but students must be reading books they choose every day.  That means we have to teach them how to pick the right books!

Start the year by brainstorming with your students on how to pick a good-fit book.  Model how to preview a book–and create an anchor chart with them to display.  Stuck?  Here are a few ideas to help!

When I “preview” a book I will . . .

  • Read the “blurb” on the back
  • Look at chapter titles
  • Read a few pages
  • Consider the recommendations of others
  • Consider the reading level
  • Look at the text size, length of chapters, and number of pages
  • Think about how interesting the topic is to me

Looking for more help with helping your students find those “just right” books?  THIS RESOURCE might give you some ideas!

3.  Book Talks

Another powerful back-to-school reading activity is doing short but frequent book talks.  There are so many benefits to “advertising” books to students.  We want students to be able to find those “just right” books, and sometimes a little boost is just what they need!

Consider the following!

  • Pick a day of the week to share 5-10 books with the class.  Read the “blurb” on the back or share some of the chapter titles.  Get them excited!
  • Do a book “browse”.  Put bins of books on different desk groups and let students browse and write down titles of books that look appealing to them.  (Want a recording sheet for that?  CLICK HERE for that and other great forms!)
  • In addition to your book talks, have STUDENTS do book talks!  Either have them meet in small groups to share about what they are reading, use an app like FlipGrid to record little videos, or even have them create a short slideshow or other “ad” for their book.
  • Showcase different series books by reading the first and then highlighting the other books in the series.  Sometimes reading all the titles or placing a bin of them in a special place builds excitement.
  • When you get new books (like from a Scholastic order, garage sale, etc), ask students to check them out for you and report back.  I love saying things like, “Justin–I know you are a hockey fan, and I was wondering if you could help me out by reading this and telling me if it’s a good fit for our library” or something to that effect.  This is a GREAT way to motivate reluctant readers.  Then you can even say, “This book is highly recommended by Justin….Justin who do you think the ideal audience for this book is?” which gives all sorts of feels to that child.
  • Place book holder easels up around the room to showcase books students might like.  I have the rule that if they take a showcased book, they have to find a REALLY good replacement to put in the stand.  Kids LOVE to have that job!
  • Visit your school library and find ways to get students to learn your collection.  Try a scavenger hunt where they have to look for different authors, have them find books that hide on the bottom shelves and aren’t often seen, or have them bring their “Books I Want to Read” list down and add new titles.
  • There are so many other ways to get students pumped about reading the books in your room.back to school independent reading lessons

4.  Back-to-School Reading Anchor charts

Part of getting students ready for back-to-school reading is making sure they have access to the information they need to be successful.  This is where anchor charts come in!

There are a number of anchor charts I have up all year–and some that I just have up at the beginning as we get started.  Check out a few that I use!

  • How do I preview a book?
  • What will stamina look like in our class?
  • When is it ok to abandon a book?
  • What do I do if I don’t know a word?
  • And so many more!  (These headers are a part of my independent reading resource if you want to see more.)

back to school reading anchor charts

5. Working on Stamina

One of the charts you see is all about stamina.  Like with many things, some students are able to read with stamina from the beginning.  They almost seem “born” to read!  I was lucky to be one of them–and perhaps you were as well.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for all students, and we need to find ways to help them build that stamina as we plan our back-to-school reading lessons and activities.

One of the most important things we can do is explain to students how important stamina is–and help scaffold that for them.  Learning how to minimize distractions, pick “just right” and engaging books, and learning how to regroup when focus or meaning is lost is key.

At the beginning of the year, we need to make expectations clear and help students recognize and minimize distractions.  Read for shorter amounts of time to start, and then celebrate as you extend the time!

6.  Creating a Culture of Reading

One of the best things we can do for our students is to help them understand how important reading is.  First of all, we want them to understand that reading is necessary–but also entertaining!

When we take all of the ideas above and add more–we build a culture where reading is valued and that culture is established.

So let me give you a few more back-to-school reading hints!

  • Model your own reading!
  • Get excited when you get a new book or find new reads.
  • Have books everywhere–at all levels!
  • Similarly, find books with engaging characters where all your students are represented
  • Make sure students know that you are there to coach them when they need it.
  • Find ways to celebrate books!  Design advertisements or do other fun projects where students can showcase their favorites!  CLICK HERE for one example of that!
  • In addition, celebrate when students finish books–and when you finish books as a class.  I keep a running list of all the books we read together.  After a chapter book, we often celebrate with a treat or activity that fits the book.
  • Help students feel good about the books they choose by helping those who struggle to find books.  I love hanging out in my reading area with students and helping them build their lists.  It’s great 1:1 time and gets them off on the right foot.
  • Use your status time to build positive energy about reading.  Things like “Wow!  Annika!  You read so much yesterday, can you tell us about why that book has you so hooked?” or “Miguel–you are almost done with that entire series.  WOW!”
  • Get. A. Lot. Of. Books.  Seriously!  Try garage sales.  eBay. Thrift stores.  Donations.
  • Gift students books if you can.
  • Make personalized bookmarks with inspirational reading quotations.
  • Help students see that reading is complicated–but that we can break it into different learning targets to work on.  We all have strengths and all have areas to grow! (CLICK HERE to see my ready-to-use reading learning targets)
  • Provide TONS of time for independent, self-selected reading.  Yes, I already said it.  I’m saying it again.

reading learning targets

Next steps

In conclusion, there is SO much we can do to get our back-to-school reading in order!  So I’ll stop there–and hopefully, you found some food for thought!  Getting our year of reading lessons off to a great start is SO important.  Let’s go share our love of reading with our next group of students!