Practical Classroom Strategies
The big change for us is in the amount of talk about reading that goes on now in the classroom … but also in the playground and around the school. We hear them talking about reading – freely – incidentally! (TaRs teacher, Birmingham)
1. Make time for informal reading chats
Seize opportunities, such as coming in from the playground or before school to chat to children informally about:
- what they are reading and what they think of it
- what you are reading and your views on it
- their preferences and interests
- what they read at home
The key here is not formalising this, but letting it happen spontaneously and responsively as you see them getting their book bag out or chatting to a friend. You are joining in/triggering such conversations as a fellow reader not a teacher/ assessor.
2. Build time to talk about texts into other activities
Trigger book conversations through offering time at the end of independent reading time opportunities e.g. ERIC (Everyone Reading in Class) or after reading aloud time, as well as when clearing up. This might be by:
- offering children 4 choices of a read aloud picture book (reading the blurb and reminding them of other books by the same author)
- inviting children to suggest what should be read aloud
- adding two minutes to the end of ERIC to chat about that day’s reading
3. Create time to recommend texts
Book promotion is important, as are tailored recommendations for readers.
- read aloud a short opening that tempts children to want to borrow the book
- make reciprocal recommendations – suggest to a child 2/3 books they might like and agree to try one of their recommendations and discuss what you each thought
- invite each child to find a book they’ve read, and recommend it to a particular friend
- role play- in pairs, one child is a brilliantly knowledgeable librarian, another a child who is not sure what to read. The librarian finds some books they’ve read and seeks to persuade the library visitor to read one. Who is the most successful librarian in the class? What did they find out about from taking with each other?
- offer post-it notes to add brief reviews inside books
- create book displays with clear star ratings
4. Create a Book Blanket to trigger book chatter
With your class, take all the books out of your reading area/shelves and spread them like a blanket over every available surface in the classroom. Now the fun starts! You can use this resource by inviting children in pairs on different occasions to:
- find a book they remember enjoying and talk to their friend about it
- find a book or two by an author they both know and chat about this writer
- select a book each on the title/cover alone and discuss if the blurb is enticing enough to follow through
Settling to chat on a table in the reading area, on the carpet etc, this activity will find its own rhythm and may need you to support the less experienced readers.
5. Establish Reading Buddies
Set up a Reading Buddies system with other classes by pairing younger/older children to read aloud with each other and talk about the books that they like. Initially you may need to model this and provide prompts for the children to discuss the books.
6. Play Book Bingo
Playing Book Bingo can work as a classroom activity or resource to support book talk at home. Look at downloadable activities to support this, for example: https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/reading-bingo/
7. Establish Reading Advocates /Ambassadors
Children can be the very best advocates to promote reading for pleasure with their peers. Consider how you can promote reading ambassadors within your classroom. These may not be the most fluent or confident readers, but can be celebrated, for example as Reading Buddies (see Strategy 5 above). The ambassadors might do a survey of children’s interests or take a box of comics onto the playground to read and share with others. Children themselves will have ideas for this role. You could also explore projects such as JustImagine’s Reading Gladiators which promotes reading for pleasure and encourages children to collaborate with team mates
8. Nurture reading conversations on the playground
Create outdoor nooks and spaces for lunchtime reading, or take boxes of comics or picture books out on ‘Fun Fridays’ when children can borrow, chat and share these. Encourage TAs or teachers to join in and bring their own reading material to share with each other and the children.
9. Book Zips
Explain to the class that the new picture books that have just arrived are unusually protected by ‘Book Zips’ that are almost invisible, but not to those with imagination! In groups, they can choose one book to ‘read’ although they cannot open the book, since if they do, somewhere a fairy’s wings will snap and the poor fairy will never fly again! In groups they can however discuss and predict, for e.g.:
- names and nature of the characters
- what happens/key events in the tale
- key themes being examined
- the style of writing
- a sentence likely to be inside
It is best to use books with limited or no back cover blurbs and/or place them in zipped plastic bags, until the fictional ‘keys’ to open the books arrive in the post one day and the groups /class can open and read them.
10. Establish a reading group
Offer the children the opportunity to set up a class book club. This might begin with more confident readers and you suggesting a book/text/author for them to read. At first you could model discussion of the text and suggest how to best organise the group and independent reading time. Then suggest that children choose their own author/text/theme to pursue and also, where possible, the space where they read and discuss.
For further details about how this has been successfully run in classrooms, see The Reading Agency’s www.chatterbooks.org.uk