creative reading activities

Creative Reading Activities: The Classroom Reinvented

creative reading activities

More often than not, curriculum plans that teachers get are very academic, and for good reason.  But middle school teachers know that if their daily routine only includes academics, it will take about one hour on the very first day of school to lose most of the students' attention.

So based on this knowledge, what have I learned through research and many years of working with children regarding classroom reading and the creative activities that go with it?  Creative reading activities ALWAYS trump learning by only reading and doing work and/or homework.  But your class should still be reading together! I believe that it is necessary to read together to develop lifelong readers. Together these two things form a perfect learning environment for your students.

So how do you figure out what special creative reading activities to do that reinforce learning and don't just feel like random time-wasters in your day?  There are several different ways, but I will just talk about six of them here.

1.  What is the Book Talking About?

The absolute first thing you can do is what actually makes your book come alive.  You simply draw from what the characters are doing or saying in the portion of the book you are reading at the time.  So if they are talking about a certain game, you play it.  If they are talking about a certain food, you make it and eat it.  If there is a battle, middle schoolers especially would love to recreate that battle scene.  Whether you are doing that battle scene with your students, a computer game, or even a giant army man regiment, the point will be driven home.  And the kids will love what seems like a rabbit trail, even though you realize it plays an important part of the day's lesson.  As a bonus thought, this battle idea actually works even better with history lessons!

creative reading activities

Your options in this point are only as limited as the books you are reading with your class.  You will have a whole world (or multiple worlds actually) at your fingertips!

Before we move to the next point, here is a printable chart to help you organize and balance your own reading activities.  It also gives you two additional spaces to add your own favorite activities.  Feel free to print and use as it benefits your classroom.

Balance of Activities

2.  What was Important or Popular in the Time and Setting of the Book?

This is a perfect time to focus on what life is like in different cultures and time periods.  And you are doing it in a way that is not boring your students to tears!

An example of this could be decor for your classroom in the style of what you find in your reading. You could draw from the cultural themes of the book's setting. Or you could use specific items that you find described in the book.   This activity could be done as a crafting time or just as something that you own or buy and incorporate into the classroom.  And when you do that, it opens the door for discussion with a physical prop that allows the students to take in what you and the book are talking about.

It could also be an activity that the book recounted that you are able to reproduce in the classroom.  A party in a different country or time period will look very different from a modern day classroom party.

Also, games that children have played throughout history are very similar yet incredibly different than many games being played today.  For instance, P.E. class on different methods of playing ball throughout history would be fun and immensely educational for the kids.

These ideas can get you started, but your possibilities are pretty huge.

Again, this also incorporates very nicely into history lessons.  If you had a book that was writing about a time period or location that you are also working on in your history lessons, the tie in is amazing and the retention of the students increases exponentially!  Admittedly, this does take some planning, but it is well worth it.

3.  Building Learning with Location

Where did the events in the book take place?  I know I am stating the obvious a bit here, but if there is a local place that the book or author comes from or talks about, then surely add that to the list of things to do.  But what if it is on the other side of the world?  Is there a local museum or other educational venue that features that book's location?  It could be a perfect time for that field trip.

Or maybe it is a place that you can reproduce in miniature in your classroom.  Miniatures fascinate just about everyone.  What a great way to give the students a very visual example of what a place looked like in almost real life!  An added benefit to miniatures is that the students can see a whole lot more of the big picture without it being as overwhelming as being "on location."

4.  Emphasizing  Scenes that Stand Out

Most books have specific events in them that stand out in the readers' minds more so than others.  So capitalize on not just the event, but also the lesson that can be learned from that event.

You can re-enact that event with your students.  Let students that want to directly participate take on roles from the book.  Have the rest of the students participate from the sidelines.  That could look like them evaluating the event as either individuals or groups.  You could make some of the students journalists interviewing spectators.  And you could also have a student play a newscaster, who then summarizes the details of the event after you are done re-enacting it and interviewing.  This is such great review for everyone to do it this way!

This only touched on a couple of suggestions.  There really are nearly infinite ways you can do this step.

Regardless of the activity you structure for your class, to take a scene in a book that already stands out and then capitalize on it in this way will make lifelong memories for those students.

5. Reflecting on the Moral of the Story

Most books, fiction or non-fiction, have some sort of moral or lesson tied to them.  Some are overt and some are very subtle.  But since all books pretty much reflect life, this allows for the reader to draw some great life lessons from just about any book.

There are some great things you could do with these "life lessons."  You can make classroom posters for the students to decorate.  Or you could make and decorate a poster yourself for inspiration and then let them make their own posters to take home.  Middle schoolers are generally not short on creativity, so this is a perfect time for this sort of activity.  And while they are doing this project, you can discuss how the moral of the story played out in the lives of the book characters and how it applies to them.

6.  Create a Theme Fair

At the end of the book you are working on, you could have a mini-fair with several "booths" (desks lined  up around the room work perfectly for this).  You can have students work individually or in pairs or teams.  They take a theme from the book that stood out to them and then can demonstrate it in some tangible way for their booth display.

You can add as much or as little structure to this as you want.  Let students pick what they want to do (especially good for the more creative students) but also have a list of ideas for the less creative.  You can also have a display table of one that you do so that the students have a good example to draw from.

Give them a designated amount of time to work on it and then have a fair day.  Make sure to add some special snacks to the fair at a food table--you can't go to a fair without food!

Conclusion

I know that for a lot of you who have been reading my blog, coming up with creative reading activities is not a new concept here.  Most of my planning articles are about how to maintain variety while saving as much time as possible and reaching all of the kids all of the time.  (Or as much as is humanly possible!)

That is a super tall order, and where things can get pretty tricky.  And it is a concept that can never be successful all the time.  But it is something that develops over the course of the year you have with your students.  And it really does reinvent the traditional classroom in some pretty awesome ways.  It takes seemingly non-academic activities and uses those activities to reinforce the academics.   And that huge difference will stay with them long after they graduate from your class and move on.

For another great article that will hopefully answer any questions you still have and give you more information on some of the best ways to add variety and life to your classroom, click here. 

Related Questions

What are some good independent reading activities?  Some good independent reading activities are crossword puzzles which help with vocabulary and spelling,  writing a small paragraph reiterating or related to the passage they just read, or drawing a picture of the vision that came to them as they read the passage.

What are some good reading activities for struggling readers?  Some reading activities for struggling readers are frequent review of a particular sound until they can remember it easily; and reading with them slightly below their level so they can continue to pick up patterns they have learned and get comfortable with them, and with moving on to new sounds.

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Comments 58

  1. Love the prompt sheet. I used to ask students how they would end the book and give reasons, they seemed to enjoy this especially if it was say a classic and times and norms of changed – Jane Austen for example.

  2. As a teacher and a mother, I really appreciate this article! My daughter is in kindergarten and they are identifying the plot, settings, and main ideas of stories. I love the “re-enactsing scenes that stand out”. That is something I will definitely try with my daughter!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you, Leticia! I hope you have the best of times with your daughter doing this. And it sounds like her kindergarten teacher is on point!

  3. I would have loved to have activities related to the books we had to read, in school. It would have made reading so much more interesting back then, as some of the books were really hard to read for our young ages.

    1. Post
      Author

      I did have a couple of teachers that did some of this stuff when I was growing up. Who knew it would give me a lifelong love for teaching children in amazing ways? Teachers in general never know the long term effects of what they do in the classroom, good and bad.

  4. I guess good reading activities for struggling readers could be to just take a scene and have the reader tell it in their own words and even recreate the scene to be something they find more compelling.

  5. My neices and my friends love your site. It had always helped them. These are also super good. Reading to children helps them develop their language and listening skills and prepares them to understand written words. However, some children lose focus when sitting still and listening, so it’s important to find ways to keep them engaged. One way to do this is to create a bingo game.

  6. I’ve put already a few of your tricks to work with my kids when it comes to doing the homework. This is why I always come and check what you have to say always interesting.

  7. This is a great way to capture kids’ attention and let them learn more about creative reading! These tips are really helpful and interesting, thanks for sharing these with us!

  8. This is so informative and very helpful post to all teachers I’m sure kids they got attention to this reading activity ideas awesome tips!

  9. Thanks for your insights and sharing and I agree – everything, everywhere and everytime is a teachable moment for kids – we have to make sure they have the analytical mindset to observe and digest what they see. ~ knycx journeying

  10. This is a great article especially this time when most parents have been turned into teachers. For those with little knowledge on how to handle the children as they learn while at home.

  11. This is such a well-directed and well-conceived idea. Would like to see it implemented in the classrooms. Would definitely benefit the students.

  12. This looks like a something teachers need to try in their students. For sure kids would be attractive and easy to learn with this cool activity.

  13. I love how you took the story beyond the book and incorporated what was going on in the time the book was written. That’s a great way to help the kids understand the book’s purpose and why it was written.

  14. Those are all awesome ideas for making reading more creative! Especially decorating the classroom with some sort of theme from the book. Maybe the kids could dress up as characters from the book. Maybe if there is a movie based on the book, that can be an end of the class prize or something.

  15. With one homeschooled and one in remote learning, plans like this are so important. There is such joy from seeing your child connect with books and grow from them. We are currently reading the Percy Jackson series one chapter at a time before bed each night.

  16. Loved your ideas of creative reading activities! Couldn’t agree more with you that these learning techniques will help kids in grasping the concepts better!

  17. I love all these ideas for creative reading activities. Re-enactment can be so much fun, especially for action and adventure stories or those with lots of narration. Great list!

  18. I could imagine it’s hard to be a student at this time of pandemic! 🙁 And yes to finding creative ways to continue learning and instilling to young kids the value of reading! 🙂

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