5 Effective Reading Engagement Strategies

When I walk around my classroom during independent reading time, I am looking for students who are applying reading engagement strategies.  When I see students totally immersed in their reading, it makes my teacher heart very happy!  It is important to set expectations for your entire class during independent reading time right from the start.  In addition, providing students with reading engagement strategies in a small group or individual conference is critical if they have not yet mastered this skill.  

Reading engagement strategies for the classroom

Reading Engagement Inventory

This reading engagement inventory will help you assess your student engagement during reading time.

How do you assess reading engagement?

A reading engagement inventory is a great way to assess student engagement during independent reading time.   To use the inventory, monitor the students in your class during independent reading time.  During each block of time, place a code next to students’ names to document what they are doing at that time.  Afterwards, you can analyze the data to make decisions on who needs additional coaching with reading engagement strategies.

At the end of this post, you will find out how you can get this editable inventory delivered straight to your inbox.  The document will also include directions for use and two other useful items coming up later in this post.

If you’d like more information on reading engagement inventories, Jennifer Serravallo goes into detail in her book, The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook.  This is an excellent teaching resource for reading workshop. 

How to Promote Engagement in Reading

One of my favorite lessons to encourage reading engagement is “real reading” vs. “fake reading”.  I found the perfect poem to hook students into the idea of being immersed in “real reading”.  “Far Away” is from the wonderful poetry book called Lunch Money (pictured on right).  

After sharing the poem with the students, we talk about the difference between real reading and fake reading.  Once students have shown they understand the difference, I take their pictures.  Each group of 4-5 models “real reading” and “fake reading”.  The photos are displayed on an anchor chart that is left up all year.  

A wonderful poem to promote reading engagement

Reading Engagement Strategies

How can I improve reading engagement?

When students need a little extra help staying engaged in their reading, there are several strategies you can try in small groups and/or reading conferences.  Here are five effective reading engagement strategies.  If you would like to keep these strategies handy, make sure you read to the end.  The list is included in the free download.

  1. Meet with a heterogeneous group of students.  Have them share ideas for what they do when they are distracted during reading time.  Type the list or post it on an anchor chart to refer to as needed.
  2.  Take breaks.  If your students are reading longer books, they can make a goal by placing a sticky note on a page.  Once they reach this goal, the student may “take a break” by reading a fluency book, an article, short story, or poetry.  A stretch break or water break may also be appropriate.
  3. Directly teach students to be aware of when their attention shifts.  When it does, coach students to go back to the last thing they remember and reread.
  4. Try “taking steps”.  Students set small goals and work toward a “reading reward”.  For example, a student could read five pages, and then draw a picture of what they read.  After that, they can read five more pages and earn a break reading fun poems or a fluency book.
  5. Encourage students to ask questions.  Questions can be “right there” questions that start with who, what, where, or when.  These types of questions encourage students to pay attention to specific details in their reading.  Students can also ask “I wonder” questions.  These questions encourage readers to stay engaged in their reading in order to satisfy their curiosity.  

Prompts for Reading Engagement

Self-awareness and reflection are an important part of helping students reach their goals.  The list below includes some prompts you can ask students for goal setting reading conferences.  This set of prompts is great to have handy when meeting with students.  You will find a copy of it included in the free download below.

The Most Important Thing

All the best reading engagement strategies won’t work if the students are not reading appropriate books.  Make sure students have book bins full of books that appropriate for their skill level as well as their interests.  Sometimes this may mean students alternate from a decodable book to one with a higher interest level.  The important thing is that they keep reading.

Make sure to fill in your email below for your reading engagement freebie!  This includes the reading engagement inventory, directions for use, a reference list of the five reading engagement strategies that were mentioned in this post, and a handy list of prompts to use with individuals or small groups of students who need more support applying reading engagement strategies.