5 Ways to Engage Upper Elementary Students in Reading

August 31, 2019

Hey Teacher Friend,

   I'm so glad you stopped by today! Today, I'm writing about one of the most challenging instructional topics for my 3rd-5th grade students! Having spent the last 5 years teaching 100% push-in Special Ed. I found that many of my students lacked interest in...drum roll please...Reading! In fact, I found that this wasn't solely a Special Ed. issue! Since I spent all of my teaching day in Gen. Ed. rooms helping my students and also Gen. Ed. kids, I found that many students lacked interest in reading in the upper grades. 
   The reasons for this vary somewhat from student to student, but nearly all of my students lacked confidence in their reading abilities because they had experienced little success in Reading. Confidence equals success. A kid who is willing to try Reading (sub. in anything here) because they believe they can do it, will eventually be a reader! Confidence is everything!<<<---That is half our battle as teachers most days!
   So, how can teachers engage these kids who have lost interest in Reading, again? How can we engage kids who may have never had an interest in Reading?

5 Ways to Engage Upper Elementary Students in Reading:
1. Allow student choice
   I know back in the day we had a lot less choice in what we could read as students. The teacher often picked the book for reading group, read aloud, and the school library was small, so a student's choice in what they could read was small. But, today it is different! Thanks to online libraries like OverDrive and Epic students have thousands of choices in addition to our classroom, school, and local public libraries.
   Why allow students to choose what they read? My answer would be that choice is motivating and that it allows for differentiation. (1)A student's motivation levels are very important and can help/hinder a student in school (and in life, too). Allowing students to choose their own texts allows for better differentiation, as long as you have taught them how to select the appropriate level book. 

2. Read aloud to your students daily
   All to often when students get to the age where they can read on their own the adults in their lives stop reading aloud to them. When in reality kids still enjoy hearing stories read aloud and it still has benefits for them.There are many reasons we should continue reading to older students: increased vocabulary, modeling fluency, let's them experience the joys of a story, and much more!(2)

3. Teach kids to use text to speech apps and embrace audio books
     As teachers we need to equip all students with the tools they need to succeed in our classrooms, this looks different for each student in our classes. Some of our students would greatly benefit from using one of the many text to speech apps. available through a Google Chrome extension. My 5th grade students who read below grade level were able to participate in the whole group lesson and discussion, after having the article read to them via a text to speech app.
   Remember the Listening Center with the tape player and tapes from childhood? Bring it up to date with digital audio books on tablets or Chrome books! You can check out digital audio books for free from your local library, my near 11 year old at home figured out how to do this all on his own! My 5th grade son loves listening to audio books and so have my 5th/6th grade students over the years!
4. Make Reading a Social Experience
   Reading is not just about enjoying a story by yourself. Start a student book club in your classroom and have students select the book from several sets you have access too. Do a book tasting, do book previews for your class of new books in your classroom library, have kids make video recorded commercials for books they have enjoyed, and so on. Allow kids to talk about the books they have read with their classmates. 

5. Teach Reading Strategies

 Close Reading Passage Bundle available from Undercover Teacher's Store
   While there are multiple reading strategies you could use to engage your 3rd-5th graders I'm going to talk about my favorite strategy. My favorite reading strategy for engaging my upper elementary students is...high-interest close reading passages. Many students often have questions about history, historical people, how we can help the Earth, and so on. I have use these sets of passages with lots of success in class! My students enjoy reading and listening to information about the different holidays and people. 
  Many students want to read about people in history who were like them. There are many close reading passages about women and minorities so that all students can read about a person similar to themselves. (Click on photos to view available resources.)

   As a special thank you for all your hard work trying to engage your students in reading, I'm offering a coupon to my store for $5.00 off any $10.00 purchase, this includes many of my close reading passage sets! The code to enter when you at checkout is: IREADTHEBLOG

  Thanks for stopping by! 

                         Happy Teaching,
                         Amanda, the Undercover Teacher

For more reading see sites below:
(2) https://www.readbrightly.com/importance-of-reading-aloud-to-big-kids/

5 Secrets of the Successful Teacher

August 5, 2019

Hey Teacher Friend, 

    It's Back-to-School season here in the Chicago-land area! I'm kind of in that ready/not ready phase right now! I'm excited for my 16th year as an educator! Over the years, I've learned a lot of tips and tricks that work really well for me. Today, I'm going to share 5 Secrets of the Successful Teacher with you!

1. Build Relationships!
    I know, as teachers, we are really, really busy. I promise you, you will NEVER regret taking the time to get to know a student. Having taught push-in Special Ed. the last 5 years, I can't tell you how many times knowing that a student had a soccer game last night or asking how his brother's birthday party went has made a difference in that child's learning for the day. A kid could come in to school in the worst mood ever, but when I ask her how her grandma is doing in the hospital, she smiles so big! Why? Because, I have taken the time to learn about her family, her likes/dislikes, and what's going on in her little 9-year-old world. 
    As teachers, we need to teach standards and objectives, but unless you take the time to build relationships with your students you are just going to be up there in the front of the room talking to yourself! Your students need to feel a connection to you to learn from you! So, please, start from day one this year, find out who your students are as people! Don't forget to share things about yourself! They need to know you are a human too! 

2.Trauma is Real!
   I know it is not a pleasant thing to think about and I wish it weren't true, but many of the students sitting in our classrooms have experienced some form of trauma. Some of the kids in our rooms have or are experiencing multiple forms of trauma right now in their lives. 
   Trauma comes in many forms: homelessness, a parent's drug/alcohol addiction, domestic violence, violence in the community, divorce, physical/sexual abuse, and the list goes on.  
   Kids can be very good at hiding their trauma. Kids who have experienced trauma may: act out in class, have trouble forming relationships with teachers/peers, have negative thoughts, be hyper vigilant, and have difficulty learning. 
   When you see a student experiencing these challenges, take the time to get them the help they need. I know your busy, all teachers are busy. But, kids experiencing trauma need our help. We need to be trauma sensitive teachers. 

3. Be a Positive Force!
   Years ago, I walked into a teachers lounge to eat my lunch. I was a long-term sub. covering a 6 month maternity leave. There were about 10 teachers in the room, all of them talked negatively about their day, the kids, and their work. After a few minutes of listening to them I got up and went back to my room to eat alone. 
   As teachers, as humans, we must decide to be a positive force in our world. Life isn't going to be perfect. Teaching is hard! But, each day I choose to be positive. I seek out the good in life. I seek out positive people in my life. If you do this you will see that being positive attracts positivity in your life.

4. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff! 
   Each day is busy and full of what appears to be important tasks for you to accomplish. I promise most of the things we busy our days with, both in and out of school, are not that important. This year, as we begin school, I want you to consider what is truly important for the success of your students this year. I promise your students do not need: a Pinterest perfect classroom, all new flexible seating (bought from your checking account), or a massive classroom library.
   Find a few things you like to decorate your room with, but leave lots of space for the students to make the room their space too. Don't feel like you need to go broke to create a classroom your students will love. Pretty classrooms don't always equal learning, but students who know they are cared for often learn a lot that year. Choose books that you love and want to share with your students. Choose books that come recommended by other kids. Again, don't go broke buying books! 
   Don't sweat the small stuff! Make sure your students know that school is a safe place where they are cared for and they will learn. 

5. Make Learning Fun! 
   After 15 years in the classroom, I can make any subject fun or I can make it the most boring thing ever studied! 
Here's how I make learning fun!

  •  Allow choice, all students don't have to complete the assignment the same way.
  • Let kids work in groups or pairs or alone, give them the choice.
  • Make it a game, if possible.
  • Involve technology and apps., kids love them!
  • Let kids draw, color, and make things to show their ideas.
  • Let kids make and build things.

  Here's to a great new school year! It's going to be amazing one! Don't forget to subscribe with your email over on the side! I've got some great things I want to share with you this year! 

Much love,
the Undercover Teacher

Back-to-School Giveaway and Survey

 Hey Teacher!
    Guess what? It's Back-to-School time here in the Chicago area! I'm pumped! I've stocked up on Dollar Spot goodies at Target to spruce up my room a bit!

     I have the cutest Floral Farmhouse Classroom Decor theme for my classroom this year! I can't wait to decorate in a week or so! 

    Seriously, does the Back-to-School season stress you out? (Me, raising hand! Plus, I'm moving schools this year!) I'm interested in learning more about how teachers manage stress! Click the survey below to register to win an AWESOME HANDMADE BEADED LANYARD and help with my research! 3 of these pretty lanyards will be given away on July 29th!

Have an Amazing Year,

Amanda the Undercover Teacher 

Dear 1st Year Teacher

    Dear 1st Year Teacher, 

    Are you ready? I know in your head your probably thinking that you're not ready for this, your first year of teaching. But, I promise you are ready for this! After 15 years of teaching and helping many first year teachers, I know you can do this! 

    Here's three reasons why you're going to rock this year!
    1. You graduated, you passed all the tests, and now you're a real teacher! You have the knowledge to build relationships with kids! You have the knowledge to teach kids who need a person just like you! You have the necessary training and skills to rock this teacher thing!
    2. You know that relationships with these kids, which will quickly become "your kids" is the most important thing. Think back to 3rd or 4th grade. Do you remember much about the day to day lessons back then? I don't, well I do remember long division, but that's another story. I do remember the relationships I had with my teachers. I remember high-fives with Mr. Kesling (My 5th grade teacher) and hugs from Ms. Hursoky (My 3rd grade teacher). Years later the the test scores, classroom themes, and silly fights between friends will not matter! Kids will remember the relationship they had with you forever! So, make it a good one!
    3. You know that you are a human being and so are those kids in your class! Guess what? We humans make mistakes! It's okay to make mistakes. Please, don't pretend to be perfect in front of your students. It's important to model making mistakes, realizing you made one, and working to fix your mistakes! If we want kids to think "growth mindset" we have to model it! So, forgive yourself and your kids! After all, you're all only human! 

   I hope you have an amazing year and a long career in education! Don't forget to subscribe for freebies, more blog posts, and fun stuff!

   Thanks for stopping by!
                               Much love,
                               (Undercover Teacher)