If you have a large class of students, you might have learners at a variety of reading levels. Some students might need a little extra help while others are reading grades ahead of what you would expect. How can you keep these advanced learners engaged without overwhelming your other students?
Reading is a lot more complex than you might think. While students might understand the words and sentences, they may need a little more help with reading comprehension and organizing the plot structure. In the same way that some students like math and others like science, each student in your class might have different reading strengths.
Fortunately, there are plenty of reading activities you can develop that use scaffolding to introduce new concepts. Here are a few ideas for changing up your lesson plans.
1. Establish Background Knowledge
Background knowledge is essential for almost any student, from introductory readers to advanced high school students. If you introduce a story about space exploration, your elementary-age students might picture planets, spaceships, and even aliens steering otherworldly UFOs. But what happens if you mention the Ottoman Empire? Or the 1960s? Without touch points, your students won’t be able to picture the story in their heads or identify important words.
One way to scaffold reading comprehension is to talk about the subject material discussed in the book before asking students to read it. You might provide an overview of the story if you want students to focus on vocabulary terms or play a video that connects students to the time and place. Letting students explore the setting, time, and plot points before they start reading can help them push through when they get confused.
2. Stop for Predictions
Your students don’t have to read an entire passage at once. You can break down the material and teach kids how to discuss various texts and interpret the information they are given. (If you have advanced students who will ignore your discussions and read ahead, consider breaking down passages and presenting them on a screen so your students have to stop when everyone else does.)
At each break in the reading, open the floor to discussions, reflections, and predictions. Tell your students that there are no bad predictions for what comes next. In order to keep these discussions down to earth, ask your students to pull context clues from the story for why they think their prediction will come true.
Example: the big bad wolf blows down the house made of straw. What will happen next? Will the house made of sticks survive? Why or why not?
3. Create Reading Groups and Buddies
Think of lesson plan scaffolding as building training wheels into the learning experience. Instead of asking students to read on their own, they are able to learn as a class or in groups. There are plenty of ways to make reading a group activity.
You can ask students to read silently and then have discussions together. This is an ideal option if you have shy learners who don’t like speaking up in front of the whole class. You can also create reading circles where students each take turns reading a sentence out loud while their peers follow along. This is less intimidating than reading a whole paragraph in front of the class.
Consider establishing reading groups for the semester or month, so students can feel comfortable learning with each other. You can also break students into different groups each time so they learn to read with different people.
4. Use Reading Charts
A reading charge breaks down the characters, setting, plot, tone, and other elements of a story. Both adults and kids can use reading charts when they are consuming complex material. (To put yourself in your students’ shoes, pick up Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and try to keep up with the differences between Cassius, Caius Ligarius, and Claudius.) If your students are still working on their basic reading and vocabulary skills, they might forget about various story elements that are important for comprehension. Reading charts provide useful reminders about the story.
Reading charts can also be used to teach analytical reading. Students can review the various adjectives and background information related to characters to infer what the author wants readers to know about them. What predictions about a character can a reader make based on the information in their reading chart?
These charts can be used throughout the year to gauge reading comprehension in relation to a story.
5. Review Passages By Acting Them Out
Scaffolding is based on the idea that learning isn’t a straight line. You may need to go back to something you learned earlier before you can move forward to a new concept. Consider inviting your students to act out what happened in a previous reading before you move on to new material. Teachers often do this with plays or books that have accompanying movies. They will ask the class to read a chapter and then watch or act out the corresponding scene.
Acting is a great way to get students up and moving. Plus your students are guaranteed to laugh when one of their peers takes on a dramatic character or has to act out an engaging plot point.
6. End With Honest Opinions
Kids don’t get to make many choices or share their opinions throughout the day. End your reading activities with a few moments of reflection and sharing. Ask students if they liked the story. Why or why not? Take a vote as to whether the story was exciting and engaging. You can even play music for a few minutes and ask students to dance out how they feel about a passage. Reading isn’t just about memorizing vocabulary words and plot points. It is meant to be enjoyable and subjective. It’s okay to not like something.
To add further options to your reading activities, allow students to vote on the next book or passage they read. This creates buy-in and builds excitement about the stories. You can read summaries of the passages before calling for a vote so students are already familiar with the material in the next class.
You can also build scaffolding homework assignments by asking students to research a certain person, decade, or topic before the next reading so they have context about the material.
Use Reading Activities to Meet Different Learning Objectives
Each reading lesson plan in your classroom comes with different objectives. Sometimes you want students to expand their vocabulary, other times you want to introduce different grammar concepts. This is good news for scaffolded learning. Students can tap into a previous lesson (like thinking critically or foreshadowing) as you focus on the new content.
Explore these various reading activities and consider incorporating them into your lesson plans. If you can engage a classroom of eager readers, you can explore all kinds of subjects and stories throughout the year.