Students attending summer classes are often reluctant readers already and having to go to school when everyone else is on vacation makes them even less thrilled about books. Spark their interest with hands-on summer school reading activities designed to reinforce skills and comprehension.
Give Them a Choice and They Will Read
One tip for encouraging struggling or reluctant readers is to allow them to select their own reading materials. Clearly, if you are working with them in a classroom setting, you need to guide them to books at an appropriate instructional level, but giving them choices calms the area of the brain responsible for “fight or flight" survival responses and allows activation of the learning portions of the brain.
Helping Primary Grades (K-2) Readers
Review blends or digraphs with word chains. Allow children to cut the strips to improve motor skills at the same time.
Things You Will Need
- Construction paper
Print cutting lines on construction paper, about 1 inch apart.
On one of the strips, have students print the target consonant blend or digraph. For example, print “sh" on the first strip in bold letters.
On the remaining strips, ask children to write the rest of the letters for words containing the target blend or digraph. In the example above, a learner might write “op," “oe," or “irt." When applicable, encourage students to illustrate their words.
When they have written all the words they can think of, students glue the first strip into a loop, and then slip the next strip through the loop before gluing it, continuing until all the strips have been joined.
Challenge students to see who can make the longest chains (most words).
Practice letters, sounds and alphabetical order with one fun project, as well as helping students recognize letters in different fonts.
Copy an outline of the capital and lowercase form of the targeted letter onto cardstock.
Help students draw pictures or write words beginning with the letter inside the outline.
On the rest of the page, let students glue examples of the letter they have cut from magazines and newspapers.
Practice beginning, middle and end of stories with fun “fashion" accessories.
Things You Need
- Brown paper bags (grocery sized)
- Markers, crayons or paint
Read a story with students.
Cut the front of the bag up the center.
Cut arm holes in each side of the bag.
Ask students to illustrate the beginning, middle and end of the story on the front flaps and back of the bag vest.
Allow students to wear their vests as they share their illustrations with you, providing you with a quick check on comprehension.
Reaching Intermediate (Grades 3-5) Readers
Group students by the genre of books they’ve selected to read from your classroom library. Provide talking points to help them share similarities and differences between the characters, settings, plot elements and literary devices.
Extend the group experience by allowing students to create “tradeables," small artifacts from the book. Hold a swap meet during which students collect the pieces by explaining the significance of the items they are trading.
Camping in the Classroom
Set up a tent, turn out the lights, and gather students around a flashlight-tissue paper fire. Serve hot dogs and s’mores as students share oral reports on what they are reading. Take it up a notch by assigning horror, mystery or science fiction for the gathering.
Engaging Middle and High School Readers
Middle and high school students are often eager to be considered grown-up. Take advantage of this by modeling book studies on the adult book discussion clubs.
Provide a list of titles related to issues of interest to teenagers, including coming-of-age books.
Group students by the title they select. Assign group members to lead the discussion of certain sections of the book. Provide question stems based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Group leaders compose relevant questions and use them to guide the group’s discussion of the assigned sections.
Use lower questions as a quiz at the end of the project. Assign one or two of the higher-level discussion questions as essay options; select questions that were successful at generating a great deal of sharing.
Novel Unit: The Lightning Thief
Incorporate parallel or related readings from other genres, along with writing and craft activities. Most of the activities from one unit can be adapted to other books, as well. Along with traditional reading activities like story maps and character trait descriptions, consider these for the Percy Jackson series introduction.
Sticky Summaries and Predictions
Useful for any reading assignments, this task helps lead students to actual summaries instead of retelling of the story. Provide 3-inch x 3-inch sticky note pads and ask students to write a summary of each chapter on a single note. The summaries are then “filed" on the last page of the chapter. The limited writing space serves as a concrete reminder that only key events should be included, while providing the teacher with a quick comprehension check. Use 1-inch x 3-inch sticky strips for one-sentence predictions of what will happen in the next chapter; attach the prognostication to the first page of the chapter.
Provide students with different versions of the same myths that are associated with those mentioned in the novel--Greek, Roman and Egyptian myths usually share common stories or characters. After reading the stories, students make Venn diagrams for comparison and contrast.
Games of the Gods
Let students work in small groups to create a game based on the novel. The game board should include scenes and events from the story and should be accompanied by question cards to be answered by players. Cards contain questions about the plot, about vocabulary and about literary elements and devices used, such as setting, mood, theme, metaphors and others. Give groups the following categories to guide their question writing: facts, sequence, context, conclusions, generalizations and inferences.
Guilt or Innocence
Conduct an investigation and a mock trial into the thefts in the novel. Assign students to play the characters in the novel.
During the preparation stage, students explore the text for information, interview “suspects," and write police investigatory reports.
After the evidence-gathering stage, review court procedures with students. If possible, take a field trip to observe a trial in progress. Afterward, hold a moot court mock trial to determine guilt, innocence and consequences in the novel’s “crimes."
With these summer school reading activities, not only will you and your students get through the session painlessly, you'll even have a bit of fun!
Activities for this article come from the author's many years in the classroom.