Pre-Reading Engagement Strategies

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“I hate reading!” and “I don’t want to read!” Obviously these comments are not from an engaged reader. Regardless of a student’s’ reading level or ability, reading can be an engaging past time. The key is to prepare your readers. There are many strategies you can use.

Book/ Picture Walk–  Through this activity, students become involved in the story by using picture clues. Students are encouraged to make predictions. You can encourage engagement by asking open ended questions. For example, “What do you think is happening in this picture?”.

KWL Chart-This strategy is very effective when used with non-fiction text. What do they K (know) about the topic? What they W (want) to learn, and What they L (learned).  By using this chart, students will discover information through their reading.

Book Talks– Getting kids “hooked” on reading is just a matter of time. You need to find the “right” book. Not all students enjoy fiction. Use a variety of books and summarize the books to encourage reading.

Student Recommendations– Utilize this feature on Big Universe and find out what other students are reading and enjoying!  The “featured books” are also an excellent place to start as well as using the “similar” feature.

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Featured Examples:

From the publisher, “A cricket, a rat, and a bat live happily in a dark cave. Each one has a unique way of navigating without light, but one day, an explorer enters the cave and brings light. Written in rhyme, this is a good beginner reader.”
From the publisher, “Malcolm and his best friend Dandy aren’t like other 10-year-old boys. Malcolm would rather avoid his older sister, experiment in his lab, and read his science magazines than play sports. In one magazine, he comes across an advertisement for an Ecto-Handheld-Automatic-Heat-Sensitive-Laser-Enhanced Specter Detector. Its arrival is the beginning of the boys’ new career as Ghost Detectors when they discover a practical-joking poltergeist! Calico Chapter Books is an imprint of Magic Wagon, a division of ABDO Group. Grades 2-5.”


What other strategies have you used to engage your readers?

Weekly Writing: What Should Students Write About?

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Students Benefit From Writing In Multiple Genres

Writing should consist of multiple types of writing in multiple genres. Make writing fun by offering brightly colored paper, an assortment of pencils and pens and/or the use of technology.

Write In a Diary or a Journal

A diary is a book in which you write down your personal experiences and thoughts each day. Students can improve their writing skills by writing each day. Teachers and parents can explicitly instruct students in writing techniques that can help young scholars to become highly effective writers. These tips help children to write with ease.

Make a List of Writing Ideas

The first question most people ask is, “What should I write about?”.

Having a list of writing ideas alleviates writer torment, anguish and fear of the blank page! With a ready made list, people now have things to write about. Keeping a running list of writing ideas ensures that the writer will never run out of ideas.

Keep a List:

On a piece of paper
In a notebook
On a cell phone, i-pad or electronic device
On a small notebook that fits in one’s pocket or bag
On the refrigerator

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Things to Write About

The world
My favorite…
My least favorite…
Online books
Video games
World events
The news

Collect Writing Ideas

Collecting items that inspire writing and placing them in box, bag, folder or treasure chest, helps to actively involve students in the writing process and get students excited about writing.

Create a Writing Box

Here are some ideas to help students create a Writer’s Box. The following items can be collected and stored in a Writer’s Box:

Magazine pictures
Flyers from events
Registration papers
Elements for nature (small rocks, feathers, etc)
Newspaper articles
Business cards

For detailed writing prompts click here.

Classroom Poster For Close Reading

CLOSEREADINGFORHOMEWORK.ethos.logos.pathos.priortolesson copy

Close reading is identified in the Common Core State Standards for all elementary, middle, and high school students. Teachers can post this Close Reading chart in their classrooms. Students can also be given a handout for reference.

Students should be taught to closely read short pieces of text to gain information. Students can read the text and code it. They can code the text on the first, second or third read.

Close Reading Information

Prior to reading the text:

  •  Browse the content

           Scan the text

Note important information such as headings, bold text, captions, italics, pictures, icons

 Number the paragraphs and circle the paragraph numbers

During Reading:

Box words that you don’t know

Put an E next to evidence

Put a heart next to your favorite part    heart1

!        Put an exclamation point next to interesting or surprising facts

Ο         Circle key terms, names of people, places and dates

Underline the main idea in each paragraph

Put a (question mark) by anything that you have a question about or that is confusing

Put an * (asterisk) next to possible test questions or important information

For more information on close reading visit Close Reading For Homework.


Close Reading: Steps and Questions To Post In The Classroom


Educators, parents and librarians can teach students these easy steps for close reading. Posting the steps and questions in the classroom as a visual reference for students helps to build automaticity in reading and comprehension.

First Read-Read For Information

  • What is the text trying to communicate?
  • What is the main idea?
  • Do you have any questions about the text?
  • What genre is the text?

Second Read-Reread Encourage readers to reread to find new information

  • What is the purpose of the text?
  • What have you learned from the text?
  • Note new words and phrases in the text. What are they? Underline or highlight them.
  • Use vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in the text. Can you figure out the meaning of new words by using context clues?
  • Find the answers to text-dependent questions. Can you cite evidence from the text?

Third Read-Deepen Understanding

  • What can you infer from the text?
  • Are there any new insights from the rereading the text?
  • What evidence can the reader cite from the text?
  • Make connections with the text to deepen understanding (text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-the-world)
  • Verify the answers to questions. Support with evidence.
  • How does your prior knowledge help you to comprehend he text?
  • What can you do with the information that you learned from the text?

For more information read Close Reading For Homework.

Want engaging text for students in multiple genres? Visit Big Universe.

Online Books and Instructional Guides

nonfiction books

Educators and parents can utilize these helpful teacher’s guides to help with planning instructional lessons. These content-rich planning guides include engaging ideas to assist with instruction in close reading. Online books offer a great opportunity to enrich student’s vocabulary and content knowledge. Big Universe offers hundreds of titles in many different languages on thousands of topics. Find these informational and engaging texts at

Combining practical content with visual appeal, the 21st Century Lifeskills handbooks read more like a magazine than a book. Highly readable with full-color photographs, a smaller trim size and an eye-popping layout, these 120-page handbooks are great for teaching life skills to a twenty-first century population. The 10 handbooks in this series will provide readers a thorough and non-threatening introduction to the multi-dimensional competencies, concepts, and vocabulary they need to achieve independences–including community resources, job searching, money management, job etiquette, health, moving and more. Used along or in conjunction with the 21st Century Lifeskills worktexts, these handbooks offer students a unique and visual way to achieve real-world literacy.

Helpful Homework Tips


Simple steps can make homework a successful daily event. Utilize these simple strategies to help students soar.

Have a Variety of Books and Materials Readily Available

A multitude of materials can be used. Students can use:

online books
reading books in a variety of genres
Big Universe Learning (online books, teacher’s guides, and an online writing program)
art supplies
a dictionary
a thesaurus
academic magazines
online learning programs
The Common Core State Standards
test preparation materials
hands-on learning materials

Incorporate Technology

Today is the era of technology. Children and teens become technology whizzes at a young age. Kids are eager to use technology. Computers and electronic devices excites the young learner. Computer assisted writing programs help children to create and publish writing projects. With the world wide web, students can even share their writing pieces with others in another part of the world! Big Universe Learning offers an easy-to-use program that helps students to create writing pieces. Students publish their writing and put it on a bookshelf for others to see. People can even write comments about the work that the authors have written. Children enjoy when others respond to their writing. It reinforces the importance of the written work. Students love to see their published books! It inspires them to write even more.

Introduce Online Books and Read Them With a Writer’s Eye

Online books are simple to access. Young children can quickly turn into bookworms when introduced to living books that include vibrant pictures and photos. These engaging texts can be used to develop student’s knowledge of a topic, and to build reading fluency. Teens and adults can enjoy ebooks while comprehending new information in a captivating format. Examining and closely reading books can help children to become better writers.

Use The Read Aloud Format

Using online books with the read aloud function is helpful in accommodating the needs of diverse learners. People can listen to books with the help of a computer or an electronic device. This is a powerful learning tool for pupils with special learning needs and those students learning to read. Audio selections can also assist with the acquisition of a second language. Many books are offered in multiple languages, which can be used to help readers develop their bilingual language skills. One helpful tip in building bilingual individuals is to read the text in the primary language and then to reread it in another language. For example, an English speaking teenager can read the book in English and then reread it in Spanish. Other languages are available, too.


Kindergarten Readiness

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Is your kindergartener feeling tired, scared, happy, sad, or possibly overwhelmed about starting school this fall? Reading can be a great way to connect with your child and reassure them as they experience school for the first time. You can also help build their confidence while building fundamental reading skills. These titles are sure to please your kindergarten!

From the publisher, “In this tender sequel to the New York Times bestseller and children’s classic, The Kissing Hand. Audrey Penn provides parents with another tale of love and reassurance to share with their children. Chester Raccoon has a baby brother — and the baby brother is taking over his territory. When Chester sees his mother give his baby brother a Kissing Hand — his Kissing Hand — he is overcome with sadness, but Mrs. Raccoon soothes his fears with her own special brand of wisdom, finding just the right way to let Chester know he is deeply loved. Brought to life by Barbara Leonard Gibson’s warm illustrations, this story is perfect for families who are adjusting to all the changes new members can bring.”


Starting school is an adjustment for everyone.   This funny story will make your child laugh as Rufus and his friends find out what school is all about.

From the publisher, “Spend a day in school! Rufus and his friends spend a day in school reading, writing, counting, singing–and making mischief in the library. Best-selling author/illustrator Iza Trapani extends fourteen nursery rhymes, including, “The Ants Go Marching,” “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” and “A Diller, a Dollar,” in this celebration of school. This book is good for your brain because: Starting School, Poetry, Emergent Reader, Picture Text Connection”


The first day of school can be very scary. This funny story will help ease your child’s fears.

Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending. Fun, energetic illustrations brighten page after page with the busy antics surrounding Sarah Jane. First Day Jitters is an enchanting story that is sure to be treasured by anyone who has every anticipated a first day of school.


Check out other titles on Big Universe that will help your child get ready for their big day.

Dinner Table Discussion: Conversation Facilitates Academic Excellence

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Meal times offer an excellent opportunity for families to sit together, enjoy a meal and participate in rich discussion. Children and teens acquire a broad vocabulary by regularly conversing with others. Research has shown that the most successful high school students, National Merit Scholars, regularly eat dinner at the table with their families. Many positive life skills can be developed through family dinners. Kids can learn and practice good manners. They can share their views with others and utilize good listening skills. Engaging in meals with the family helps to develop positive relationships and build knowledge about a wide variety of topics.

Ideas For Dinnertime Conversation

  • World Events
  • National Events
  • Local News
  • The best part of the day…
  • The worst part of the day…
  • Things we are grateful for…
  • Favorite books
  • Places people went that day
  • Exciting news
  • News at school
  • Family events
  • Animals
  • Green living and recycling
  • Helping others in the community
  • Cooking and recipes
  • Fun places to go
  • Vacations
  • Upcoming events
  • Healthy living
  • Community events
  • Gardening
  • Any other topic

Online Books and Instructional Guides

nonfiction books

Students can benefit from reading these online books that teach valuable social skills. Online books offer a great opportunity to enrich student’s vocabulary and content knowledge. Educators and parents can utilize helpful teacher’s guides to help with planning instructional lessons. These content-rich planning guides include engaging ideas to assist with instruction in close reading. Big Universe offers thousands of titles in many different languages, on hundreds of topics. Find these informational and engaging texts at Big Universe.

The Peddlesfoots have been invited to a fancy dinner party at a hotel. Alexa knows it’s respectful to always use good manners, but there are SO many manners to remember! Can Alexa and the Peddlesfoots be respectful and use good manners all dinner long?
Animals, Birds & Insects, Character Education, Characters & Series, Family, Friendship
Interest Age:
Ages 3-5, Ages 6-8
Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade


Repetitive sentences keep the reader engaged and illustrations sequentially move through the adventures of a mother trying to get her daughter to eat a proper meal
Family, People & Places, Picture Books
Interest Age:
Ages 3-5, Ages 6-8


For more information about kids in the kitchen and mealtime math click here.

Classroom Management Toolkit

In today’s day and age, teachers are being asked to deal with more behavior problems than ever before. Classroom management deals with more than bad behaviors, it deals with all aspects of the classroom and school environment. Work collaboratively to develop strategies, plans, and a reward system. Developing a school wide and classroom management system helps alleviate the stress put on one teacher. By utilizing these ideas, teachers can develop ways to ensure a learning environment for all.

Promote a positive learning environment  Find Resources that talk about learning and behavior.

This charming concept book puts the child-reader “in charge” of an assortment of unruly little monsters (stand-ins for their real-life counterparts). Each displays certain “monstrous” behaviors (crabbiness, selfishness, etc.), which kids will recognize in themselves. Being in charge motivates kids to handle/address these behaviors and provides a sense of ownership over how to help them be happier, more well-behaved monsters. It’s an ideal little book for young kids to share with a grown-up.


Students need to feel safe  Safety is a big concern for many districts.  With more random acts of violence in a school setting, districts need to have a plan for dealing with bullying and safety.  Discuss what you can do to help your students feel safe.

Each year, millions of kids are bullied. Bullying is nothing new, but today, it is more than hurting with fists or feet. For many young people, leaving school doesn’t stop the bullying, because the bullies are on the Internet.


Classroom structure Students need to know the classroom and school expectations.  Discuss what your day looks like and ways to make transitions easier for your students.

Good manners at school do matter! Learn which behaviors to use and which to avoid to make learning fun for everyone. Then see how these simple lessons can be used in fun stories of etiquette in action. Sidebars and back matter offer advice and did-you-knows about good manners in a number of cultures around the globe. Looking Glass Library is an imprint of Magic Wagon, a division of ABDO Group. Grades preK-3.


Plan for disruptive behavior Work with a team and develop a system that has consequences for misbehavior as well as rewards for positive behavior.


Wondering What to Post In The Classroom: Helpful Visuals In The Classroom

question-MarkWondering What To Post In The Classroom?

Research shows that the vast majority of learners respond to visuals in the classroom. Hence, a large number of children and adults are visual learners. Educators and parents can capitalize on this learning intelligence by placing posters in the classroom and student’s rooms.

Helpful Posters That Can Be Posted In The Classroom

Stems For Citing Evidence From The Text

Educators can post these sentence stems in their classrooms to help students cite textual evidence. Students can be given a handout with the sentence stems that they can use at school and at home.


In paragraph _________the narrator states________

Readers can tell that __________________________

This proves__________________

This demonstrates________________

I feel _________because

I think_________because__________

A causal factor was ________ and it is found on page___

An effect was_________

In the text I found____________

An example is_____________

According to the text___________

The picture shows___________

I know_________because____________

The text says__________

For instance__________

One example from the text is___________

Based on the information_________

The graph indicates___________

According to page ______ of the text_______

This incident provides further proof________

One example from the text is_________

The author wrote__________

In the text it states__________

After reading I know____________

On page_____ it states______________

Based on what I read________________

The graphic showed_____________

For more information about textual evidence read Citing Evidence From The Text: Sentence Stems.

Other Helpful Items That Can Be Made Visible To Students

Vocabulary Strategies

  • Comprehension Strategies
  • Steps To A Close Read
  • Coding For Close Reading
  • The Steps of The Writing Process
  • Proofreader’s Marks
  • Ideas For Writing
  • Types of Writing
  • Literary Genres
  • Pictures of Graphic Organizers For Writing
  • Word Lists
  • Time and order words
  • Other word lists
  • Types of Sources: Primary and Secondary
  • Questions for analyzing source type (Examples of primary and secondary sources are a good reference for students)

For more information on the topics listed above visit the Big Universe Blog.