It was late afternoon at Werebored High School. I was entering grades and heard a low wail from down the hall. It continued for several minutes with varied pitches, lengths, and volume. I investigated. It came from Mr. Straitread’s room. I opened the door. On the ground, in the fetal position lay Mr. Straitread.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He sobbed a reply, pausing 2.3 seconds between each word. “My–students–read–aloud–all–day–and–listening–to–them–has–taken–away–my–will–to–live……” Mr. Straitread died later that night.
At his funeral, I shared reading activities that could have saved his life. I now share them with you.
High School Reading Activities
These reading activities focus on skills and comprehension and work with just about any piece of literature.
Assessing Individual Comprehension in a Group Setting
One of the difficulties when reading as a class is individual assessment during reading. This fun activity engages students and allows for individual assessment. Individual white boards work best, although large slices of paper work in a bind.
- Give each student a small dry erase board and a marker (give explicit instructions for when marker use is appropriate).
- At strategic points during the story, stop and ask a question.
- Instruct students to write their answers on their dry erase board.
- When all our finished, tell everyone to hold their boards in the air. You can also go row-by-row.
- Other options include students writing their own question or comment, writing a one sentence summary of a particular passage, or drawing a specific scene.
- In many cases, student answers and questions will spark classroom discussion.
Increasing Student Engagement Before, During, and After Reading
Another problem for extended group reading time is keeping students engaged. Here’s an activity that should help.
- Assign students into pairs (the quickest way is to match each student in one row with a student in the adjacent row).
- At certain points in the story, instruct students to stand up and face their partner.
- One student is partner A and the other is partner B. This activity is more fun when you assign each partner a name from the selection you’re reading. For example, the student with longer hair is Juliet; the other is Romeo. Kissing, however, is prohibited.
- Instruct partner A to tell partner B everything he or she knows about _____________; or instruct partner B to explain to partner A what just happened in the story; or instruct partners A and B to have 2-minute conversation acting like characters from the story. The options are endless.
Getting Students to Share Their Opinions about Reading
Sharing thoughts and ideas about literature with the class can be intimidating for high school students. However, sharing in a small group of peers is significantly less intimidating. This activity will get students thinking critically without fear of embarrassment.
- Assign a set of questions. The questions should require high-level thinking and an answer of 3-5 sentences. You may want to display a rubric delineating your expectations.
- Listen to students whine and complain while inwardly giggling.
- Put students in groups of four.
- Instruct students to answer questions as a group. Emphasize quality over quantity. In other words, four really good answers will get a higher score than six OK answers. This will encourage group discussion instead of divide and conquer.
- Class Debate – Pick an issue or character from the story and have a debate. Be sure to set the ground rules first.
- Graphic Organizers – There’s a reading graphic organizer to help students practice just about any skill–compare/contrast, decision-making, cause and effect, problem/solution, summarizing, chronology, making predictions, for example.
- Construct a Test – Tell students to make a multiple choice quiz over a reading selection. Tell them to focus on higher level thought.
- Create a Crossword Puzzle – Read a book. Make a puzzle. This is a great reading review activity.
- Make a Movie Poster – This forces the students to make connections to their world. They are, for example, forced to picture the story’s characters in order to match them up with a modern day movie star.
- Create Poetry
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Please share yours in the comments section below.
This post is part of the series: Mini-lessons to Improve Reading Skills
- Two Mini Lessons on Cause and Effect in Reading
- A Mini Lesson on Making Predictions in Reading
- High School Reading Activities
- Lesson Plan on Using Context Clues to Understand Nonsense Words