Hands Up for Sight Words

What They’ll Practice: Recognizing sight words and high-frequency phrases

What to Do: Recognizing sight words is usually done with the eyes, but here’s a fun way to get students’ bodies into the action. In small groups, read a story aloud. Any time a sight word or a high-frequency phrase is read, everyone in the group should give a thumbs-up or some other signal (for example, sticking out their tongues, standing up, or ringing a bell). Place these identified words and phrases on a Wall of Fame bulletin board. Pick a day (or two, if you’re brave!) when the whole class gives the signal whenever a sight word or common phrase is spoken by you or a student.

Photo Finish 

What They’ll Practice: Using pictures to aid comprehension

What to Do: Cut out and laminate a variety of interesting pictures from newspapers and magazines. Give each student a photo to examine. Ask students what they think is happening in the pictures by looking for clues such as facial expressions, the setting, objects in the background, and other details they notice. Have each student write a short story or caption about his or her picture. Next, place the pictures and text in the reading center and challenge students to match them up. Variation: Give each child either a random picture or story. Have them move around the room and try to find its “twin.”   

Language Trip

What They’ll Practice: Discussing author’s word choice

What to Do: A good writer has a suitcase full of great words to take readers on a trip. Read a book aloud as a group. Discuss why an author might have chosen specific words (to create a mood, show a character’s personality, appeal to a certain audience). Next, have students create their own “word suitcases” using a cereal box or other similar container. Encourage kids to take note of unusual, fun, or mood-creating words they come across in their reading, write them on slips of paper, and keep those slips in their suitcases to use in their own writing.

“Put Me in, Coach!”

What They’ll Practice: Relating to stories in a personal way

What to do: Have students select a story of their choosing. Then have them write a letter to the main character, telling him or her what they liked (or didn’t like) about how he or she handled the conflict in the story. Have them tell the main character what they would have done if they’d been in the same situation or how they would have liked to see the story end differently. For a challenge, have students rewrite the story using themselves as the main character.   

The Main Event

What They’ll Practice: Summarizing

What to Do: Breaking down a plot to its most basic form can be tricky for students who tend to get caught up in the story’s details. To help, have students create “Main Event” tickets for each book they read. First, create a fun and realistic sporting event ticket and print on card stock. On the ticket, invite kids to fill in the appropriate information. (Protagonist) v. (Antagonist) goes on top. Next, have them fill in the rest of the missing information: When (an event that happens), (Protagonist) must (take this action). Have them include the date the book was read. Display the tickets or let kids collect their tickets to earn a small prize or reward. Variation: Students can create sports trading cards for favorite books. On one side of a note card, have them draw a scene or character. On the other, have them give the book’s “stats” (characters, plot twists, ending). 

Book Passport

What They’ll Practice: Identifying setting and plot details

What to Do: Books take us places we’ve never been. To play off this idea, have kids staple together a few small pieces of paper and attach a cover and their school photo to create a “passport.” After they finish reading a book, or after you’ve read a book as a group, invite students to create a page in their passports for the book’s setting. They need to include a name or a basic description. Next, have them illustrate the setting or write down a few descriptive details from the story. You can approve each page by stamping it with a travel-themed ink stamp. 

Gold Medal Detectives

What They’ll Practice: Using titles to make predictions

What to Do: Create a list of titles from a variety of genres or reading levels. (For a challenge, include a few titles that don’t immediately indicate what the book is about.) Next, read the titles aloud and have students categorize them. For instance: fiction or nonfiction; books for preschoolers, older readers, or grown-ups. Discuss why they chose a category and get them to explain how they looked for clues like word choice, title length, and subject. Variation: Have students write a title of a book they’ve read on the outside of a manila folder and a brief description of the book on the inside. Hang the folders on a bulletin board and let other students read the titles and make predictions about the book before flipping it open to see how well they did.


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