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How to Squeeze Choice Reading into ELA (even if it feels impossible)

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Choice reading can sometimes feel like an out-of-reach dream. I recently heard from a busy teacher who wrote, “I love choice reading, but squeezing it in can be tough!”

Yeah, I get that. There’s so much going on in ELA.

In today’s episode, we’re talking about how to squeeze more choice reading moments into your busy schedule. Even if you don’t have time to hand over 10 minutes in class for reading regularly, you can still build your choice reading program with quick-and-easy additions like these.

You can listen in to this episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

Attract Attention to your Choice Reading Library

choice reading display headers

When you build a classroom library, you gain a partner in promoting reading. You can use your library area to promote reading even when you don’t have time to do it in class. By changing up your displays, featuring popular books, and making use of book recommendation posters and interactive bulletin boards, you’ll attract interested students to explore your reading material regularly.

With this colorful set of foldable display headers, you’ll have an easy way to keep your library displays fresh and intriguing for your students all year long. (You can find the table tent displays shown above on TPT here, and the free resources for Black History Month and Women’s History Month here and here.

Book Trailers to inspire Choice Reading

One super simple strategy for building choice reading energy in class in just two or three minute installments is to use book trailers, an idea Abby Gross shared so many great details about when she came on the show back in episode 250.

Maybe you have a bookmarked list of trailers ready for those odd days when your lesson randomly ends five minutes earlier than you expect.

Maybe once a week (or even once a month), you show a trailer for a book you love in your library.

Maybe you show a few trailers for choice reading options that can help introduce a new genre, like novels-in-verse, or graphic novels. 

Change out a Unit for more Choice Reading

If you’re struggling to fit choice into the cracks between your other units, maybe it would be a relief to give it a unit of its own. What if you could target the standards you’re focused on through the books your students choose, and the projects that they do with them?

The basics of book clubs are pretty simple. You present students with a variety of choices that revolve around a similar theme – like identity or immigration – and let them choose what they’re interested to read. Check out some of the example booklists below.

From there you give kids time in class to meet, discuss and work in their book clubs after reading chunks of the text. We’ve talked about this quite a bit on the podcast already, so I’m going to refer you to some wonderful past episodes. For a deep dive on this topic, tune into episode 242, “Building Better Book Clubs,” with Martina Cahill, episode 196 about Caitlin Lore’s verse novel book clubs, or episode 121 for Krista Barbour’s middle school success story.

Book Talk Podcasts

choice reading book talk podcasts

Find this curriculum on TPT here or in The Lighthouse Podcasting Section

If you’re launching into a unit on public speaking, it could be a good time to build in some choice reading through a book talk podcasting project. You can target all those speaking standards in a real-world context, when you have students read a book they’re excited about and then share their review through the project.

First Chapter Fridays

If you’ve been around here for more than 30 seconds, you probably know I’m a little obsessed with the First Chapter Friday concept. It’s such a quick and easy way to incorporate waaaaay more voices into your curriculum, even if you can only do it a couple of times a month. The concept is simple. Open up a book (or queue up an author reading on a podcast or video) and let students listen and sketchnote, then make the book available in your classroom library. You can grab help for launching a program like this (as well as lots of other great resources) in my free choice reading toolkit here.

Book Tastings before Breaks

book tasting

Grab this winter break book tasting curriculum here

If you’re struggling to find time to read IN class, maybe you could take a little time before breaks to inspire more reading OUTSIDE of class. Holding a book tasting on those pre-break days when no one can really focus anyway is a great option.

You may know all about book tastings at this point, and that’s great if so! But just in case, here’s a quick review. During a book tasting, you set up a cafe-like atmosphere in your room (go as all in or as chill as you wish). Pull your desks together into tables, maybe make cookies or bring in tea bags and cups, turn on some fun music, scatter books you think your students will love around the tables, and then welcome your kiddos in.

Each student’s goal is to walk around with their Book Tasting paper where they can jot down a few notes, and “Taste” each book. That means checking out the cover, reading the blurb on the back, maybe reading a review in the inside cover, maybe reading the first page or two. If they know they’re not liking what they see, they can abandon ship at any time and pick up a different book to taste.

Everyone wanders, sips or munches, and jots down books they think they’d like to read. At the end, they check out a book (or two) to read over break.

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