If you’re a librarian or language arts teacher looking for tips and strategies to inspire reluctant readers and writers, you’ve come to the write place. In the box below, I’ve written a few tips I’ve developed over the years.
1. If you’re already reading stories aloud to reluctant readers, great. Try turning sections of the story into plays that the kids can act out. Find stories that have fun dialogue for the kids to read. Double cast your reluctant readers with a strong reader so they can perform the dialogue together.
2. Challenge the kids to a quiz show competition to answer skill-testing questions about the novel they just read. Build cooperation by having the kids compete in teams where strong readers are put together with reluctant readers.
3. The story behind the story often triggers the interest in books. Authors can talk about how they came up with the ideas, but you can also reveal your connections to your childhood favourites. Forge a personal connection between yourself and the book to give the kids context about what reading the book can do.
1. My favourite game to play with division 2 students is Eyewitness, a writing exercise that illustrates how details can paint a picture. One kid leaves the room while another “steals” something from the front of the class. The other students are eyewitnesses who must describe the thief without pointing or using his or her name. You can adapt this exercise by getting the kids to write five sentences to describe their classmate and see how many sentences their friends need to guess the person.
2. If you’re working with younger students, try using props to spark stories. Use a stuffy as a character that can act out the kids’ stories. Alternatively, cover up the words from my picture book, True Story, and have the kids write their own version of the story based on the pictures.
3. Kids have an easier time writing dialogue than description. Invite reluctant writers to create a play, using dialogue. Then ease into the concept of narrative description by asking them to inject stage directions to give context to what the characters are saying.
1. If you want kids to deliver personal stories, create a safe environment for them to share their stories. The best way to do this is to open the unit by sharing a personal anecdote. You can talk about your childhood, family or pets, as long as the story is genuine and personal. Once the kids see that you can share, they will open up.
2. Some kids can’t stand the openness of creative stories. Give them a logic puzzle to solve instead. Offer the ending of the story and ask the kids to construct the steps that will take the protagonist to the final scene.
3. Writing a story is about being in the moment. Strip away the students’ self-consciousness by adding tasks to their writing time. My personal favourite is to give the kids between 3 and 6 words they have to work into their writing during a timed session. The words should reflect the genre (ie. scary words if the kids are writing suspense stories) to avoid any random story elements. When the kids focus on the words to incorporate, they dig deeper into the story.