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25 things to do before / during / after Reading

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The following collection of reading activities first appeared in the appendix of The English Teacher's Companion by Jim Burke.  They are excellent ideas to engage students with texts.

Jim has 103 of these in total that can be found in his many books about teaching English more effectively.  Check them out below.

  • Pantomime a  scene you choose or the class calls out to you while up there.
  • Dramatic monologue for a character in a scene: what are they thinking/feeling at that moment--why?
  • Dramatic monologue for a character while they are out of the book: where are they? why? thinking?
  • Business Card Book: write the story in the most compelling way you can on paper the size of a business card.
  • Postcard: write to a friend about this book; to the author; to a character in the book; write as if you were the character or author and write to yourself.
  • Mapmaker: draw a map of the book's setting.
  • Moviemaker: write a one page "pitch" to a producer explaining why the story would or would not make a great movie.
  • Trailer: movie previews always offer a quick sequence of the best moments that make us want to watch it; storyboard or narrate the scenes for your trailer. Focus on verbs.
  • Billboard: as in the movies, take what seems the most compelling image(s) and create an ad.
  • Adjective-itis: pick five adjectives for the book or character(s), and explain how they apply.
  • Collage: create an individual or class collage around themes or characters in the book.
  • Haiku/Limerick: create one about a character.
  • Cliffs Notes: have each student take a chapter and, using Cliffs' format, create their own.
  • Roundtable: give students a chance to talk about what intrigues, bothers, confuses them about the book.
  • Silent Roundtable: the only rule is the teacher cannot say anything during the period allotted for class discussion of book.
  • Silent Conversation: a student writes about a story on paper; then passes it to another who responds to what they said; each subsequent respondent "talks" to/about all those before.
  • Fishbowl: impromptu or scheduled, 2-4 students sit in middle of circle and talk about a text; the class makes observations about the conversation then rotate into the circle.
  • Movie Review: students write a review of (or  discuss) a movie based on a story.
  • Dear Author: after reading a book the student(s) write the author via the publisher (who always forwards them).
  • Surf the Net: prior to, while, or after reading a book check out the web and its offerings about the book, its author, or its subject.
  • Inspirations: watch a film inspired by a story (e.g., Franny and Alexander is inspired by Hamlet) and compare/contrast.
  • Timeline: create a timeline that includes both the events in the novel and historical information of the time. Try using Post-Its on a whiteboard or butcher paper!
  • Mandala: create a mandala with many levels to connect different aspects of a book, its historical time, and culture.
  • Transparencies: copy portion of text to transparency; kids annotate with markers and then get up to present interpretation to class.
  • Gender-Bender: rewrite a scene and change the gender of the characters to show how they might act differently (e.g., Lord of Flies); can also have roundtable on gender differences.
  • Picture This: bring in art related to book's time or themes; compare, describe, discuss.
  • Kids Books: bring in children's books about related themes and read these aloud to class.
  • Downgrade: adapt myths or other stories for a younger audience; make into children’s books or dramatic adaptation on video or live.
  • Draw!: translate chapters into storyboards and cartoons; draw the most important scene in the chapter and explain its importance and action.
  • Oprah Bookclub: host a talkshow: students play the host, author, and cast of characters; allow questions from the audience. 

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