Fall Back Into Reading!

Starting the new school year means confronting a problem that I believe all teachers face: the summer slump. While we all love having the opportunity to unwind and recharge over the summer, our students often test lower on their SRI when they return and we end up having to play catch up come August and September. In this blog post, I'll provide tips for you to use during the first few weeks of school to get your students familiar with the Scholastic READ 180 library and rBook, and get your students to "fall back" into reading. 

Whole Group Activity: Sentence Starters 

1. Each student needs four 3x5 index cards.

2. Have students pull up the Scholastic Book List and scroll through all the titles and look through the READ 180 selections in the classroom. Take your classes to the library and have the students peruse the shelves looking for interesting books.

3. On each index card the students will write the title, author, Lexile, and two-three sentences about the book. The following sentence starters can be used:

I think...
I believe...
I rate...
I was reminded of...
I can't believe...
How do you feel about...
Explain the relationship between __________ and __________.
How might you solve the problem/conflict in this book?
Why do you think...?
What would you do if...?
I began to think of...?

4. When your students have completed their cards, have them give a card to someone, explain it, and then take a card from them as they explain theirs.

5. Exchange cards until students receive four new cards.

6. This activity can be completed monthly so students have a variety of genres to read over the year! I like to think of this as positive peer pressure that can be used to keep students motivated and reading the whole year.

If your students need help selecting books, check out my recommendations for each Stage of READ 180 below:

Stage A

Tom Sawyer, based on stories from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: 510 Lexile

Your students will read the famous anecdotes about Tom convincing his friends to paint the fence and attending his own funeral. The fence in front of his Aunts house is 30 yards long and nine feet high. Tom is assigned this chore by his Aunt Polly, but Tom figures out a way to trick his friends into doing the work for him. Tom attends his own funeral and listens to all of the wonderful comments said about him.

No Boys Allowed! by Christine Taylor-Butler, Illustrated by Mark Page: 390 Lexile

Jumping rope makes George happy! He loves to jump rope but he wants to Double Dutch with friends! George is persistent and his tenacity pays off! An awesome read to teach the lesson...never give up!

Stage B

The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers: 810 Lexile 

A group of students from the gifted and talented school in the city, Da Vinci Academy, were faced with a controversial teaching assignment. The eighth grade class was divided into Union sympathizers and Confederate sympathizers. The four students who called themselves the Cruisers, were given the assignment to negotiate a peace between the two sides before war broke out. The book teaches a message of make your word mean something. (Page 117) "But I don't think you can just throw spit, wipe off your chin, and say you were just kidding. If you say something to somebody's face or behind their back or on the Net or on the phone, you have to own it.

Hiroshima by Laurence Yep: 660 Lexile 

August 6, 1945, an American bomber, named after pilot Colonel Tibbets mother, Enola Gay, is heading toward Hiroshima, Japan with an 8900 pound atom bomb aboard. The bomb is dropped by the bombardier and it goes off 580 meters above the ground.  On the first day the the atom bomb is dropped 125,000 people die and 50,000 buildings are destroyed. The temperature reaches several million degrees Celsius immediately. People disappear, their outlines burnt into the cement like shadows.

ALCATRAZ by C.J. Henderson: 440 Lexile

The San Francisco Bay island prison, "The Rock", was open from August 18, 1934-March 21, 1963. The prison was a mile from land and five prisoners broke out of the "Super Prison" but they were never seen or heard from again! Did they escape or drown in the frigid San Francisco Bay or were they attacked by sharks? Homer C. Cummings designed Alcatraz to hold some of Americas most infamous criminals such as: Alvin "Old Creepy" Karpis, Robert "Birdman" Stroud, who spent 56 of his 76 years in prison, and Al Capone, who was behind over 1,000 murders. Warden Johnston ran Alcatraz with an iron fist until its closure

To complement your students' independent reading, be sure to reference these texts in the Stage B rBook:

Workshop # 1

"The New Americans" read Scholastic Young Americans: Tales of Teenage Immigrants by John DiConsiglio, Reality Strikes, "Growing Up Multiracial: Daniel de a Cruz ages 14-21, and "Coming to the United States: Irene" pages 44-48.

Workshop # 2

"When Disaster Strikes" read "I survived a Hurricane" from Scholastic Survivors: True Stories About Real Kids pages 36-41.

Workshop # 3

"Identity Crisis" read excerpts from Scholastic Survivors. Also, read excerpts from In Your Face: Poems About Real Life, especially "Getting Ready" by Debra Marquart on pages 13-14 "Forever" by Angela Shelf Medearis on page 23 and "Bandaids and Five Dollar Bills" on pages 37-39 by Sharon M. Draper.

Workshop # 5

"Under Pressure" read excerpts from Scholastic Survivors: True Stories About Real Kids and Survivors II.

Workshop # 8

"Turning Points" read excerpt from Survivors II: More True Stories About Real Kids and Reality Strikes: Real Kids, Real Problems. Real Life.

Workshop # 9

"The Streets of Harlem" read excerpts from Walter Dean Myer's  Slam! and Monster.

Stage C

We Were Here by Matt De La Pena

Wow! A book, I couldn't put down without continuing to think about the story and the characters! Miguel, the main character, has done something unimaginable in his teenage years. He has to live with this terrible event for the rest of his life and he isn't sure he can endure it. De La Pena, weaves you through Miguel's thoughts, heartbreak, and acceptance from beginning to end! After, Miguel is sent to a group home, he befriends three other boys. The three young men's lives intertwine throughout the novel. The boys develop a bond that non of them have ever experienced before. A novel for mature readers because of the subject matter. I recommend this read to all of my high school READ 180 readers. A book that was near impossible for me to put down

To complement your students' independent reading, be sure to reference these texts in the Stage C rBook:

Workshop #1 Survivors

1. All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

2. Titanic Young Survivors by Allan Zullo

3. Destined to Live A True Story of a Child in the Holocaust by Ruth Gruener

4. Survivors True Stories of Children in the Holocaust by Allan Zullo and Mara Bovsun

5. The Hidden Girl A True Story of the Holocaust byLola Rein Kaufman with Lois Metzer

6. Heroes of 9/11 by Allan Zullo

7. Survivors: True Stories About Real a Kids by Elizabeth Murray, Zoe Kashner, and others

8. Out of War: True Stories From the Front Lines by Sara Cameron

9. Broken Memory by Elisabeth Combres

Workshop #2 Killer Plagues

1. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

2. There's A Fungus Amongst Us! True Stories of Killer Molds by John DiConsiglio

Happy reading and good luck this year! Make sure to comment with your favorite independent reading picks and classroom activities! 

Stage C READ 180 Educator

Philosophy of Teaching All of my life, I have enjoyed working with children and have always desired to teach. It is my belief that no matter what socio-economic background, everyone deserves to achieve his/her educational goals. It is my ambition to facilitate this process.Growing up in the Houston area, I have always been aware of the Cypress-Fairbanks School District. The district's reputation of excellence is well known, not only in the Houston metroplex, but throughout the state of Texas. As a professional educator, it is important to be associated with a school district whose goals for its students are aligned with my philosophy of teaching.

  • Dee--Thank you for the book suggestion. I am going to check it out this week and read it! Thank you!


    You have provided so many ideas. Wow! You asked about favorite independent reading books. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is a great book to use with middle school students. Though it is not in the READ 180 Library, it is a good Level 4 book at 780 Lexlles. Scholastic has a discussion guide for it at http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/crispin-cross-lead-discussion-guide that can be used to help build response sheets for the book to replace the QuickWrites and Graphic Organizers. Dee

    I'm definitely going to use this activity next week. I have hundreds of books in my READ 180 Library, in addition to those provided with the program, and this activity will work great with my expanded library and the READ 180 Libraries. Thanks for such a fun idea!

    Thank you! Students then all have a stack of cards that recommend good books for their enjoyment!


    Great activity because it gets all of the students moving and engaged. I also like the books you selected. Thanks Andrea!