First Three Reading Lessons of the School Year

I am really excited to wrap up my “First Three” blog series with my first three reading lessons of the school year. If you missed my other posts, you can check them outhere.

While I love teaching math and I definitely identify as a writer, teaching reading is also a passion. I have my Master’s in Education in Reading with reading specialist certification. Over the four years of my graduate courses, my philosophies on teaching reading have evolved.

Just as with my first three math and writing lessons, I think it’s important to consider what you are communicating to your students about the subject. Why are we learning to read? Most kids will respond with something like “So we can be better readers” which is true but our reasons for wanting to be better readers shouldn’t have to do with scoring well on a benchmark assessment or state test.

My beliefs about reading:

  • In order to build a love of reading, we must provide opportunities to read for enjoyment daily and that goes hand-in-hand with the freedom to choose your own books.
  • Reading is all about connections. It’s in the ways we make connections that reading shapes us.

I used to start my reading lessons with routines and procedures (still important) and building stamina (also important). But what am I communicating by starting with those lessons? Reading requires discipline and following rules (which is true and we will get to) but it doesn’t really get the message across that I want them to love to read.

Lesson One: Reading is to be enjoyed.

So this obviously isn’t going to simply be taught in one short and sweet mini-lesson. This is pretty much the overall theme of reading in our 2nd grade class the entire school year. Some students will already like to read and do it well. Others will require time to grow and strategic care in supporting their reading needs, building on their strengths, and pairing them with books that match their interests.  

Reading for enjoyment is a priority. We will do it every day starting on day 1. To stay consistent, we read at the same time every day–right after lunch and recess at 12:00. I have to say this is one of the most beautiful routines I have ever put in place. By the end of the first marking period, my students led a seamless transition into independent reading. I think they thrived on the predictability of that part of our schedule. If I was still in the middle of writing an email or grading a paper, I was barely even interrupted by them entering the classroom. And now that I reflect upon it, it really cut down on the tendency that 2nd graders have to drag recess drama back into the classroom. #winwin

So what goes into the first lesson about reading for enjoyment? We talk about what we feel when we are enjoying a book, whether we would rather read by ourselves, with someone, or be read to. Then, we read together with no agenda except just to enjoy a book.  A few of my students’ favorites:

Afterward, we discuss how we can recommend books to one another that we have enjoyed. I ask if they would recommend the book we just read to someone. We add it to our book recommendations chart with a post-it. I model getting my book box and finding a spot. Then, I send them off to read from their book boxes.

You can download the heading for the chart here for free

When our read-to-self time is over, students have the opportunity to add a book to our recommendation poster.

Lesson Two: Reading without distractions.

This next day is all about choosing SMART reading spots, transitioning quickly and quietly, and making sure that you have everything you need to focus on real reading the whole time. We take the first couple of minutes to make sure all of our needs are taken care of. Since my students will be reading independently immediately after lunch/recess, it’s important that they are allowed to take the time to get drinks and use the bathroom before settling in. Denying them the opportunity to take care of these needs will ultimately result in distractions. And while, ideally, I would love for our reading time to be completely sacred without any interruptions, that would be unrealistic. So even though I try my best to encourage not to get up during reading, it happens sometimes. As long as it’s not a daily habit, I think it’s okay. Again, we want kids to enjoy reading time–not see it as a punishment.

{this high top table and stool area is a student favorite for reading and working}

Next, we browse the room for SMART reading spots (Safe, Minimal movement, Attention to books, Relax, no Talking). We walk around the room and pick out SMART spots and not-so SMART spots (next to the door, in the closets ect). We head back to our whole group spot and I ask them to think about 3 spots around the room that would be good choices for them. Why 3? Well, what happens if someone is in one of your spots? Or someone who you know you shouldn’t sit next to is close by? You need to have backup options ready to go!

You can download the Smart Spot cards here for free

Now it’s time to see some model transitioning skills. We watch this video on read-to-self expectations from Cupcakes and Curriculum and discuss. Finally, we put it all into practice. We read for a while and then practice transitioning to a new SMART spot. We do this 2-3x and that’s day 2!

Lesson Three: Reading Response Routines

 In order to support making connections while we read, we will be discussing books A LOT. Text connections are crucial for developing readers who interact with text instead of only extracting information to answer questions or fill a graphic organizer.

Two ways we will respond to texts are through sharing our connections and turning & talking. In order to remember the different types of connections, I have hand movements we use to identify the type of connection.

Turn and talk is nothing new or ground-breaking but it’s important to make sure you go over the expectations and practice what should happen when you tell your students to turn and talk. Who are they turning to? What should they talk about? You could have students choose a turn and talk partner as their “go-to”. Sometimes I used to say “the person who is taller talks first” but then you have students asking who is taller and possibly arguing about it. It is crucial to have all of these things worked out.

You can download the turn and talk cards here for free

These turn and talk cards are easy to pass out quickly and identify who will be partners and who is partner 1 and partner 2. They are nothing fancy but a great tool to print, laminate, and keep close by!

So day 3 involved practicing these routines after we read one of my favorite books for text connections:

After we read, we practice turning and talking and sharing text connections using hand movements. One trick I use to make sure students are actively listening to their partner is when I call on a partnership to share, I ask “What connection did your partner have?”. They quickly learn that if they want to share out from a turn and talk, they better be prepared to show they were truly listening!

That wraps up the first week of school’s reading lessons.

If you are interested in other posts about my first three lessons, check out these posts:

My First 3 Writing Lessons

My First 3 Math Lessons

Happy Teaching!


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