I think reading engagement is every teacher's hope; we all want our students to love reading as much as we do. We want to see our kiddos engaged in reading, choosing to pick up books, talking about what they're reading, eagerly sharing their favorites with each other. I have vivid memories of seeing my own young children lose themselves in books, laying on a bed or a couch, oblivious to the world around them, immersed in a world that only exists in words... and I cherish those memories. We know that children who love
to read, and choose
to read, are going
to read, and in turn they'll become even better readers. Students like this are easy to teach, because they're eager to learn, and know that they CAN learn. If only there was a way to develop this love of reading in all our children!
After 25 years of teaching early childhood, I haven't found any magic tricks that always
work for everyone
, each child is unique after all! There is, however, something that has served me incredibly well, year after year, with hundreds of children: class books.
It makes a lot of sense when you think about it: our kiddos are interested in themselves, and in each other. They want to share their ideas, they want to smile, laugh, or reminisce together, they want to see their own words and pictures being read by their friends, and they want to see their friends' words and pictures. Class books meet all those criteria, and as an added bonus, they engage students in writing and drawing, as well as reading. It's no wonder I love class books!
There are many ways to create, publish, bind, and share student writing, and over the years I've tried a lot of them! When I taught first grade, I bought an inexpensive scrapbook with an impressive looking cover, and glued student work into it. The result was a satisfyingly solid "real" book - and as we only published finished pieces in it, students really worked to make their writing book worthy!
I also made class books about experiences we shared, such as a trip to the fire station or a pizza parlor. I took photos of each student during our experiences, and upon returning to our classroom gave each student a page with room for a photo and room to write about our experience. I'd develop the pictures, and then let my kiddos stick a real photo of themselves onto their page. Sometimes we'd bind all the pages together and make a class experience book, other times each child would add their page to their own "photo album". Can you imagine how much they loved to revisit these books?
Of course, photos aren't the only way to illustrate a class book. Oftentimes I'd have my students illustrate their page.
Sometimes we wrote about an experience as a class, with each student contributing something about the experience, while I wrote on chart paper. Next we would decide on what order the events of our narrative belonged in, and arrange their individual sentences into a retelling of what we had done. I liked to type up the story, print it out on multiple pages, and have students work in teams to illustrate the pages.
You've probably noticed that all of these methods took some effort on my part: taking and developing photos, or taking dictation and then typing up students' words. Yes, there is definitely a lot of teacher effort in these particular methods, and no, you probably can't manage this every day. Sometimes you need something quick and easy, right?
There's another method of making class books that is super easy: printed pages with a prompt, and room for student responses. I've found this kind of book is one of the best for my youngest students - preschool and kindergarten kiddos whose writing is much shorter, and more difficult to read (unless you're a kindergarten teacher, and can read phonetically spelled
words that are out of order, with reversed letters, missing vowels and
written in a shaky hand. Kudos to you then)!
This kind of book usually has a simple, repetitive text, with room for students to add just one or two words. It's easier for young kiddos to write, and the repeated text makes it easier for them to read too. Since the work in these books is their own, and their names, and names of friends are on every page, my kiddos have always LOVED this kind of book. They read them to themselves. They read them with their friends. They read them to their parents at pick up time. Sometimes I even let them check these books out to take home overnight. Win-win-win!
If you think you'd like to incorporate class books into your reading and writing time, you can find inspiration many places! Try pinterest - here's my board about class books to get you started:
I've put together many of my class book ideas into a print and go format. If you like the idea of class books and want a no-muss no-fuss ready to go resource that also covers every single preprimer word, I hope you'll check out:
Thank you so much for reading this long post - I hope you're inspired to
incorporate more class books in your classroom, and I'd love to hear
about how they work out for you!
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