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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Potato Chips and Books

In recent blogs~ Ive elaborated on Common Core~ school wide programs~ and other complex topics.

But this week~ lets keep it simple and talk about potato chips.

In truth~ I want to share strategies and ideas for making your independent reading sessions for gifted and all students come alive~ and for teachers to avoid those session from becoming too monotonous and predictable.

If one of our goals as educators is to foster a love of reading~ then we must challenge ourselves to be creative during reading instruction. One simple way is to utilize themes during independent reading time. Students still read and accomplish the same goals (using comprehension strategies~ journaling~ conferencing~ etc.)~ except the environment around them becomes more exciting or pleasurable.

The following are some ways to make that happen (feel free to suggest your own ideas):


During this event~ students can bring in potato chips and other snacks (you can put a healthy twist on it by substituting with fruit and veggies) to munch on while reading their independent reading books. You might want to have them bring napkins or train them to turn the page with one hand and eat with the other to avoid getting grease stains on the pages. In regards to crumbs~ you can hold the event outside (weather permitting)~ and students could lie on beach towels or sit on beach chairs.

One school year~ I had parents set up tents in the classroom as well as a fake fire using lighting and paper. Students laid on sleeping bags and pillows while reading their books in the dark using flashlights. The children snacked on smores while sounds of crickets chirping played on a computer in the background. It was a lot of preparation~ but I remember that the students loved it.


One school year~ we moved the desks together and covered them with table clothes. We put fake flowers on the tables. Students drank lattes (which was really chocolate milk) from Styrofoam cups and snacked on crumb cakes~ muffins and other caf delights. I played classical music in the background to create the mood of a caf. You could even finish the reading session with students reciting poetry they have created.


You cant miss with Beach Day. Have students bring in beach towels to lie down on while reading. They can also wear sunglasses and hats to get in the spirit. Find a track that plays ocean waves crashing to create the proper sound effects.

How often should you conduct a themed-reading session? I would suggest quarterly or maybe twice a year~ depending on your schedule. I think offering it too many times during the school year kills the novelty and places too much work on teachers. Of course~ youll want to draft a letter to parents explaining when the theme day will occur and what students should bring to school. You could also use this letter to ask for volunteer helpers.

So whats the theme of your next reading session? With a little creativity and a little food (of course)~ you could really liven things up!

Thank you~