November 7-11 is Young Reader’s Week, which has the goal of raising awareness around the importance of reading. At School on Wheels, we realize how important learning to read is for our students and encourage them to read with our volunteers every night at tutoring.
We also know that making reading FUN is a huge first step in making students want to learn. Through our Tutor Toolkits, iPads and Creativity Kits, we try to equip our tutors with as many resources as possible to provide educational support to our kids that’s also fun – and activities to support reading skills are no exception!
In this blog, I wanted to share 5 of my favorite activities that support literacy skills for students during tutoring!
1. EPIC! (grades K-7, books): When EPIC! first made an appearance in the iTunes store a year or two ago, I was SO excited. Since I’m also in charge of our library, I know that we work really hard to provide great books for our students at every tutoring location, but this can sometimes be difficult. EPIC!, has revolutionized our ability to support reading during tutoring, as the app allows instant access to over 20,000 books.
Not only does the app have a great selection of high-interest fiction and non-fiction topics/series for a variety of ages, it also provides many of its books in a “Read to Me” format. While our goal is to provide 1:1 tutoring at all locations, sometimes there are more students than tutors. A feature like “Read to Me” allows students to read along while the text is narrated, providing literacy help to kids even if you need to help another student with homework!
2. Phonics Fun on Farm (grades K-2, literacy skills): If you’ve been to tutoring lately and have worked with a kindergarten student, I’m sure you’ve noticed that kids are learning to read at a MUCH earlier age than when most of us were in school. Teaching students the necessary literacy skills such as sight words and how to sound out words can be challenging. That’s why Phonics Fun on Farm is one of my favorite apps to use when working with young students. It provides a wide variety of activities and games that reinforce skills such as initial sound identification, letter sounds, letter writing, sound blending, sight words, spelling and more!
3. Newsela (grades 2-12, nonfiction reading comprehension): One of the requests that we receive most often from tutors and Program Coordinators alike is more resources for students to practice reading comprehension. Newsela, which is a website we’ve bookmarked on the iPads, provides high-interest nonfiction articles to help students improve their reading. Each article is available in 5 different reading levels ranging from grades 2-12, and many are also offered in Spanish. Each article also includes a quiz and a writing prompt to make sure students understand what they’ve read.
Tutor Toolkit activities:
4. Crazy 8 (grades K-1, short vowel sounds): While it is often difficult for us to offer games that provide literacy skills for early elementary students due to their super-specific nature, we do have a few in the Tutor Toolkit! CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, such as bar, cat, dog, etc, are some of the very first words that students learn to sound out. Our Crazy 8 card game is a great way to practice these skills! Our version of Crazy 8 is played nearly the same as a regular crazy 8 game, but instead of matching number cards, students instead match cards with the same short vowel sound (for example: /a/ as in ham and /a/ as in cat).
5. Vowel Ladder (grades 1-2, short and long vowel sounds): After students have enough experience with short vowel sounds, the next step in the process of learning to read is to understand long vowel sounds. Our Vowel Ladder game is great for helping students practice distinguishing words with short and long vowel sounds. To play the game, each player chooses a ladder (one person is the long vowel ladder, one person is the short vowel ladder) and then take turns choosing a word card, reading the word aloud, and identifying if the word has a long or short vowel sound. If the word has a short vowel sound, the person with the short vowel ladder moves their place marker up a rung; if it is a long vowel sound, the long vowel ladder moves up a rung. Whoever makes it to the top first wins!
In addition to these fun activities, always remember that we do have books at tutoring, which are labeled by reading level. If your students has a special request, make sure to let your Program Coordinator know. We have a pretty large library in our office and will work to get any special requests for students!
Do you have a favorite way to support reading at tutoring? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our Tutor Video on reading comprehension strategies!