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Bringing the JOY Back into Your Reading Workshop

Maybe the 100th day of school has come and gone for you already. The excitement and hopefulness of the new year have begun to wane. And by now, it feels like you’re settling back into your own Groundhog Day of teaching online all day, ending the day exhausted, only to start all over again.

If you want to get off that treadmill, I’ve got a few tips for you to bring JOY back into your reading workshop. Because when you enjoy teaching, students are more likely to enjoy learning.

#1 Give students a choice

Virtual teaching has left many teachers feeling out of control and out of touch with what students are doing. Maybe to get back some semblance of control, you’ve started assigning students reading or focusing on just one text for the whole class. It’s understandable when it’s so frustrating to find that students aren’t reading much (or even at all). But dig a little deeper and you might find that students aren’t reading more even when you’ve assigned it. Research and our own experiences tell us that we’re much more motivated and more engaged in activities when we have autonomy or a say in what we’re doing. It may be that our kids need some reminders of how to find books they’ll love either in our online classroom library, in a digital platform like Epic, or even out in the real world.

#2 Share books you love

And help kids share the books they love, too. One of the first things I want to do when I finish a great book is tell someone about it! Allow kids to share books they’ve connected with either live or asynchronously. Reserve a few minutes each day or week to give or let students give a quick book buzz (recommendation) to get others excited about different reading titles. You can also use a platform like Flipgrid or even YouTube for students to record videos of their book buzzes. In the classroom, you might set aside an area to display book recommendations. You could also use Padlet or Jamboard to create digital bulletin boards with book recs.

Here’s an anchor chart shared by @smann2006:

#3 Start book clubs

What’s even better than telling someone about a book you just finished? Talking about the book together. Book clubs are an authentic way to give kids a choice, help them stay connected with their classmates, and build community. The good news is you can start these at any time, no need to wait for a book club specific unit. Another thing to consider is helping kids start their own book clubs at home with family or friends. For more on setting up virtual book clubs, check out this post.

#4 Celebrate!

When we’re feeling crunched for time or under pressure to cover this or that, it can be easy to let go of celebrations. But taking time to celebrate your readers can go a long way to bring back JOY and engagement, and we need both to learn! Think about celebrating any time, but one natural spot could be at the end of a bend in the unit or after a series of lessons around a particular goal or two. Kids can share the books they’ve read or their progress toward a goal. For upper-grade students, it’s important to give them an audience for their writing about reading. You could have students post a picture of a notebook page they’re particularly proud of on Padlet or in a Google presentation to share with the class. This shows students that we value their thinking and writing and gives other students a vision of possibility.

Of course, another time to celebrate is at the end of the unit. Give kids an opportunity to share their new learning. Again, kids could share books they’ve read or pages from their reading notebook. They might also share a reflection of what they learned about reading or themselves as readers at the end of the unit. You can do these celebrations live in your class meeting in breakout rooms, or you can do them asynchronously by posting videos or artifacts on platforms such as Flipgrid or Padlet.

Some teachers I work with in Rowland Heights, California, also came up with some ideas for celebrations. One suggested that we make an official Pajama Day for reading since every day is an unofficial pajama day right now. Other ideas for celebrations: making a reading fort, reading brunch or lunch, and dressing up as our favorite characters.

What are you already doing to bring JOY into your reading workshop? We’d love to hear your ideas and if you try any of these tips!

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