Unleashing young readers – Episode 3

Whether we are reading texts messages, emails, news articles, lesson plans, educational periodicals or a book to help us escape the daily grind, reading is a part of our everyday lives. However, for struggling readers, it’s often seen as more of a punishment than pleasure. Two reading teachers at Hunter’s Creek Middle School are working to combat that mindset.

Caitlin Chacon and Kellee Moye have filled their classrooms with hundreds of books to help students find “the goodness in reading.” Both teachers help students realize that if they choose a book that matches their interests, they are more likely to find joy. They also believe it’s important for students to practice independent reading because it provides an opportunity for students to select what they read, which aids in building a positive connotation about reading.

Books, books, and more books!

To help garner interest, Caitlin likes to conduct a Book Pass. Students hold the book, look at the cover and if it appeals to them (yes, they will judge a book by its cover), they can read the book synopsis. Then they pass it and look at the next one in rotation. For those that piqued their interest, students will add it to their list of books they want to read.

In addition to the book pass, Kellee likes to use Book Clubs. She has amassed sets of books, so students can choose from one of them and then each club member develops discussion questions to help spark academic conversation within their group. Students use Post-it Notes to annotate the book.


Stop hating on graphic novels 

While Caitlin and Kellee both concede that graphic novels do not have a lot of complex text, they do contain complex themes, they teach inferencing skills and they visually assist the English Language Learners with the content. It’s often this genre that helps the reluctant reader develop a love of reading.

Vocabulary Instruction

Many students possess reading fluency, but lack comprehension skills. These teachers us good old fashion flash cards to expands students’ vocabulary. Learning affixes helps students see the big picture. Plus, students love using Quizlet and Gimkit gamification programs to test their word-part knowledge and engage in friendly competition with their peers.

Teaching Writing – RATE

The bulk of writing instruction occurs in student’s English Language Arts classes, but these reading teachers reinforce the skills learned in those classes by having students answer assessments with solid paragraphs using the RATE system: Restate, Answer (in your own words), Text Evidence, Explain. Using RATE, students’ reading comprehension and writing skills improve.

Flexible Seating – seating variety stimulates students

This research-based classroom seating approach can increase collaboration, reduce extended sitting and help students focus. It is most commonly found in primary grades, but after reading Ethan Marcus Stands Up, Kellee’s students convinced her that they would benefit from flexible seating too. Now her classroom options include bouncy balls, standing desks, floor seats and regular chairs as options, and she’s seen first-hand how it’s helped them.  

Other suggestions to help build efficacy include attending the National Council of Teachers of English conference and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE workshop, as well as encourage students to READ.EVERY.DAY!

Finally got the book!

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Caitlin Chacon is a sixth grade intensive reading teacher, girls volleyball coach and CHEER committee co-coordinator. One of the books she loves teaching is Among the Hidden.

Kellee Moye is the reading coach and she teaches advanced reading (grades 6-8) and journalism (grades 7-8) for half the day. She is also the Lunch Book Club and Future Problem Solvers club sponsor and, in her spare time, she writes a book blog, Unleashing Readers. She enjoys teaching Hurt Go Happy which is based on a rescue facility located in Florida.

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