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How to Practice Active Reading

When you take the time to read something, it’s always a benefit when you can really understand and remember what you ingest. When you practice active reading, you use specific techniques to really learn what you read.

What is Active Reading?

Sometimes reading can be a rote activity that happens without really thinking about the words you’re seeing. Even if you go back and re-read text, it might not really resonate with you so you understand it. Reading comprehension is important for anyone who wants to focus on reading material to understand and learn it. When you engage in active reading, you are using specific strategies to make your reading more engaged.

Pre-Reading Activities

When you want to employ active reading, you might try a few pre-reading activities before you even begin.

Think about what you might know about the topic and about anything you might learn as you read. Try to make predictions about what you will read.

Write down a few things you want to know when you finish reading.

Learn about the author, publisher and publication date. Browse through the table of contents and read the back cover.

Tips for Active Reading

As you read, think about the information you gathered in your pre-reading activities.

Break up reading into smaller portions. You could also set a timer for small sessions about 20 minutes long, taking five-minute breaks between them to keep yourself fresh.

Ask yourself questions as you read. Are you surprised about information? Do you still need details?

Highlight or underline important words and phrases so you can find them again later.

Take notes as you read when you agree or disagree with points. Try making a code for yourself to use for note-taking.

If you get to a point where you don’t understand what you’re reading, stop. Look up words if you don’t know what they mean. Use context and diagrams to understand concepts.

Ask for help if you still don’t understand what you’re reading.

Who Can Practice Active Reading?

Anyone can practice active reading from children to students to adults, reading both for instructional purposes and entertainment. When you practice active reading, you engage yourself with the material so you better understand and remember it.

Reading to Comprehend

A tried-and-true technique for reading for the most comprehension is called “SQ3R.”

Skim text first to get a first look at the topic.

Question the purpose of the text, who wrote it, where and when it was written and why it was written.

Read the full text with clear focus.

Remember what you read by testing your memory of specific details.

Review what you read again and take notes, rewritten in your own words.


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Engaging Math Activities for Kids: Discover the Best Playground Games

Mathematics can often be perceived as a dry and dull subject, especially for young children. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By incorporating fun and interactive activities into their learning routine, kids can develop a love for math while having a great time. One such way to make math exciting is through engaging math playground games. These games not only reinforce mathematical concepts but also provide an opportunity for children to apply their knowledge in a practical and enjoyable manner. In this article, we will explore some of the best math playground games that kids can play to enhance their mathematical skills.

Number Line Hopscotch

Number Line Hopscotch is an excellent game that combines the classic hopscotch activity with numerical sequencing. To play this game, draw a large number line on the ground using chalk or tape. Each player takes turns hopping on the number line, calling out the number they land on. This game helps children develop number recognition skills and improves their ability to sequence numbers accurately.

To turn this game into a more advanced version, you can introduce addition or subtraction challenges. For example, instead of calling out the number they land on, players must add or subtract a specific value from their current position before announcing it. This variation adds an element of mental calculation to the game, making it even more beneficial for developing math skills.

Shape Scavenger Hunt

The Shape Scavenger Hunt is a fantastic outdoor activity that encourages kids to identify and recognize different shapes in their surroundings while having fun at the same time. To play this game, create a list of various shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, etc., along with corresponding point values assigned to each shape.

Divide the players into teams or let them play individually if there are fewer participants. Give each player/team a list of shapes they need to find within a specified time limit. The players then explore the playground or any outdoor area, searching for objects that match the given shapes. For each correct shape found, players earn the assigned point value.

This game not only helps children improve their shape recognition skills but also enhances their observational abilities and critical thinking. It encourages them to think creatively about how different objects can be categorized into various shapes.

Math Relay Race

The Math Relay Race is an exciting team-based game that combines physical activity with mathematical problem-solving. To set up this game, mark out a track or designate an area where the relay race will take place. Prepare a series of math problems based on your child’s grade level or current math curriculum.

Divide the players into teams and position them at different points along the track. When you give the signal, the first player from each team runs towards a designated problem station, solves the math problem correctly, and returns to tag their teammate who then proceeds to solve another problem.

The team that completes all the math problems correctly and finishes the relay race first wins. This game not only reinforces mathematical concepts but also promotes teamwork and healthy competition among children.

Fraction Tug of War

Fraction Tug of War is an engaging game that helps kids understand fractions in a visual and interactive way. Divide a rope into equal segments using colored tape or markers – each segment representing a fraction. Assign different fractions (e.g., 1/2, 1/4, etc.) to each player/team.

Players stand on opposite sides of the rope and pull it towards themselves based on their assigned fraction value. The team/player who successfully pulls the rope towards their side according to their fraction wins.

This game allows children to visualize fractions as parts of a whole while also developing strategic thinking skills as they plan their moves based on fractional values.

In conclusion, incorporating math playground games into children’s learning routines can significantly enhance their mathematical skills while making the subject enjoyable and engaging. Number Line Hopscotch, Shape Scavenger Hunt, Math Relay Race, and Fraction Tug of War are just a few examples of the many exciting games that can be played to reinforce various math concepts. So, let’s transform math education into a fun-filled adventure for our young learners.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


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At-Home Learning Laura Nicole Hill • Feb 16, 2022 • Last Modified: Mar 30, 2023

Six Easy Math and Reading Activities for Families

Academic work can sometimes seem intimidating to families. However, family engagement comes in many forms to fit the unique needs of students and families. Offering resources and options can help foster success. Here are six easy-to-implement math and reading activities that families can do to build confidence and inspire engagement.

1. Books with Comprehension Questions

As all educators will tell you, when in doubt—read, read, read! Books and reading, especially with an adult, are invaluable and a great use of time. As educators, sending books home to borrow (or even better, to keep!), creates a print-rich environment, an experience that values reading. Pair the readers with comprehension questions to guide family members as they support their child and give them the confidence and tools they need to be successful when working with the child as well. Don’t forget to include different genres, reading levels, and interests, as well as cross-curricular literature that supports different areas of learning, from math to social and emotional development skills.

reading activities math

2. Paper-Based Take-Home Work

Families find comfort in the structure, routine, and simplicity that paper-based activities provide. Products such as workbooks and flashcards are easy to use and provide good practice for skills and concepts covered in class. They are a good option for providing families with a user-friendly opportunity to engage in their child’s education.

reading activities math

3. Manipulatives & Resources

Instructional best practices encourage hands-on learning, which provides students with the ability to understand a concept, but also the ability to apply the concept at higher levels. Manipulatives and other related resources allow learning to be student-centered and guided as students engage with concepts beyond foundational applications.

reading activities math

4. Games & Activities

Math and reading activities and games are a great way for families to have a positive and non-threatening learning experience with their children. These can feel less like learning, and more like spending quality time as a family, which we know helps children in all areas of development. These experiences are exciting for students and families encouraging a level of participation that you may not see otherwise if solely traditional paper-based activities are utilized.

reading activities math

Family engagement special events range in design and creativity. The sky is the limit! Be it hosting a book fair, conducting a Read Around the World event, or family nights for literacy and math, these special events are exciting for families if they are thoughtful and effective in their planning, communication, design, and execution.  

reading activities math

6. Family Resources

Research has found that families do, in fact, appreciate and utilize resources provided by the campus that provides insight and information regarding raising their child and supporting their education. This can be provided in many forms, from informational classes and events, newsletters and brochures, the use of digital parenting apps, book studies and guides, and more.

Looking for More Family Engagement Tools and Inspiration?

School Specialty offers a wide selection of products that support family engagement. Our collection of engaging resources is a one-stop shop for your school community needs.

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Laura Nicole Hill

Nicole has served within the field of education for 16 years as a classroom teacher, specialist, assistant principal, and principal. She is certified as an educator in the areas of EC-12 Principal, EC-8 Generalist, 8-12 English Language Arts, Reading, and Social Studies, EC-12 Special Education, EC-12 Gifted and Talented, and EC-12 English as a Second Language. Her school experience varies and includes work with students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, both in Texas and Europe, and within communities that were uniquely diverse in terms of their demographics, size, and campus needs. While serving in these roles, she developed expertise in the areas of curriculum and instruction, professional development, and leadership. As the Instructional Solutions Subject Matter Expert for School Specialty, she provides expertise in the areas of Literacy and Math, as well as other content areas and classroom resources. Read more by Laura Nicole Hill–>

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6 Ways to Merge Literacy With Mathematics 

When teachers find creative ways to integrate reading and writing with math curricula, it humanizes the subject matter and allows kids to process unfamiliar material linguistically.

Three middle school students writing and working together at a table in the classroom

Research has long linked strong reading skills with improved math achievement —which may seem obvious when it comes to typical math tasks like understanding directions on a test, or parsing word problems. 

But literacy skills also support and deepen math understanding in unique and powerful ways. 

“Reading and writing are complex, fundamental, integrative learning skills that should be used to their full potential in math class,” writes Alessandra King , a middle school math teacher in Bethesda, Maryland. For all students, and especially those who “enjoy reading and writing more than the computational side of math,” King says that finding ways to fold literacy into math class gives them “a deeper understanding and stronger appreciation of the usefulness and effectiveness of mathematics.”

Blending the disciplines, when the lesson allows for it, also sets students up to “engage with math in a new—and often far more inviting—way,” explains educator and tutor Chelsea Miro in an article about math read-alouds . “Kids who have struggled with geometry may love the opportunity to write a shape story, for instance—and it might even help them to remember that a square is a type of rectangle but a rectangle is not a type of square.”

Here are six ideas, sourced from teachers and recent research, for merging math and literacy in ways that challenge students’ abstract reasoning and build critical thinking and collaborative learning skills. 

Explore Picture Books

Early-grade math problems tend to be straightforward and linear—much like the picture books that introduce them to literacy concepts. These shared properties make mathematical reasoning fertile ground for early-grade book authors. 

But not all children’s books that feature math are created equal. Just like in language arts classes, text selection is important, say educators Kathleen Crawford-McKinney and Asli Özgün-Koca . The trick is to find options that present a rich mathematical problem that students can work through alone or in groups, and then compare their answers to the solution in the book. 

In one of their favorite examples, Molly Bang’s When Sophie Thinks She Can’t , main character Sophie is challenged to form as many different rectangles as possible using 12 tiles. It’s a low-threshold, high-ceiling problem , offering  a challenge for students across a range of skill levels. For some kids, a related exercise might involve creating their own rectangles using manipulatives and comparing solutions as a class; a more advanced exercise could involve asking them to create squares instead and discussing the differences between shapes.

When designing lessons around picture books, Crawford-McKinney and Özgün-Koca suggest creating content specific questions for students to answer, which will vary by book. But they also favor asking general questions about how math concepts shape the story and how the author establishes this understanding—which can teach students to think more like mathematicians. 

For more book ideas, see former elementary school teacher Chelsea Miro’s list of favorite books for math read-alouds, including more abstract titles like Kate Hosford’s Infinity and Me .

Connect Thinking Through Math Journals

Teachers in subjects like English and science often use journals or logbooks to give students space to record their learning progress, make observations, and brainstorm solutions in a low-stakes format. 

In math class, however, the journals might look a little different, explains former high school math teacher Nell McAnelly, who used them often with her students. “It is a record of personal experience showing what a student tried, what worked and what didn’t, what practices should be continued, and what improvements a student should focus on going forward,” she says. “Consequently, journals can promote initiative and confidence, which we know are gateways to learning.”

There’s still space for written reflections, but also for illustrations, diagrams and charts—making math journals more formal than scrap paper but less polished than an exam paper.

In her experience, students use them to make connections across mathematical ideas and delve into the reasoning behind their answers—much like they might use a journal to analyze a poem or text in language arts. Entries can also be used as discussion prompts for group work, where students can learn directly from one another as they explore new strategies.

Design Math Magazines That Relate to Real-World Topics

In Alessandra King’s math classroom, while writing prompt activities are helpful, she prefers assignments that create strong connections between what students are learning in math class and the real world. “Reading and writing are particularly effective in developing a quantitative understanding of the world around us because they can be used to lead students to reflect on everyday experiences,” King writes .

To harness the benefits of reading and writing, King has students create math magazines, collaborative publications that they compile with summaries they’ve written of math-related articles and images from publications like Scientific American , The Economist , the New York Times’ Upshot section, and the Atlantic . It’s one of her most popular assignments of the year.

King keeps a thick file of articles she’s clipped or printed out that touch on math-related topics—from political gerrymandering to fractals in modern art and using machine learning to predict March Madness upsets—and lets students choose ones that pique their interest. They compose a page-long summary of the piece with special emphasis on the math concepts discussed and package their work with related charts or graphics. 

At the end of the assignment, everyone’s contributions are compiled into a magazine, and King uses a simple rubric to assess their content understanding, clarity of communication, editing, critical thinking, initiative, and creativity. 

Identify and Teach Math Vocabulary

When fifth-grade math teacher Kathleen Palmieri discovered that only about 40 percent of her students could accurately define key math vocabulary (of various levels of complexity), she realized she needed to make learning math terms a regular part of her instruction, Palmieri writes in an article for MiddleWeb .

But rather than simply memorizing a list of words, she found that students needed to understand how the mathematical concept worked before the term itself would stick. In other words, if her students didn’t know how fractions work, learning the definition probably wouldn’t mean much. Additionally, math concepts typically make the most sense when learned in sequential order.

Drawing on ELA vocabulary building skills, Palmieri began asking students to pull out key terms they don’t understand at the beginning of a unit for a math glossary that they add to as they learn each concept. Students also used colorful Post-its to create a math word wall that they add to as they learn new words—and can refer to at any time. Lastly, the class regularly decides on a word of the day or even a word of the week, with students responsible for tallying every time they see the word and describing how it’s used.

Identify Patterns and Connections Via Word Sorts

Another strategy inspired by ELA instruction, word sorts can easily be adapted to math class to help students recognize patterns and relationships between words. Working alone or in groups, students identify each term in a given vocabulary list and sort terms into categories—either ones created by the teacher (known as closed sorts) or that they come up with themselves (open sorts). 

Word sorts can be implemented using mathematical terms, symbols, or even expressions. Students can sort these based on various attributes—say, operation type (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), geometric shapes (circle, triangle, square), or algebraic properties (commutative, associative, distributive).

To sort a list of mathematical expressions, kids might separate them based on whether they involve addition, multiplication, or both (e.g., the expression 5𝑥 + 3). 

Younger students might perform a similar sort by placing the word “rhombus” into multiple categories, including parallelogram, quadrilateral, and two-dimensional, write Miranda L. Sigmon, Kavin Ming, and Daniel Herring—the authors of a 2022 piece on word sorts for the journal Mathematical Teacher . 

To drive meaning home, the authors suggest using sentence stems, such as “I think (insert term) goes under the (category name) category because . . .” —which gets students thinking more about the choices they’re making. Model a few examples yourself and split students into small groups to encourage genuine discussion and comprehension.

Encourage Collaboration With Math Circles

Inspired by literature circles , a common practice in ELA, history, and occasionally even science classes, math circles involve assigning roles to students that they perform as part of collaborative work in small groups. The goal is to foster math-related group learning, discussion, and advanced collaboration skills like leadership and flexible thinking. 

In Patricia Kridler’s middle school math classroom, student roles include Situation Summarizer, Vocabulary Master, Idea Guy/Gal, Model Maker, and Computation Kid, Kridler writes in the journal Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School . Since math topics can vary greatly, she often creates new roles depending on the assignment, and asks groups to complete a role worksheet that includes space for every student to share their contributions. After every cycle, she asks students to swap roles.

At first, she assigns simple word problems and lets students take turns in their roles before moving to more complicated or abstract projects that could take several class periods to complete. Typically, students use the role sheets to explain their thinking and their mathematical reasoning in depth, and the Situation Summarizer presents the findings to the entire class. 

Math circles allow Kridler to structure a math task “so that all students get to focus on different aspects of how to solve a problem,” she writes. “Students also develop the skills necessary to become better independent thinkers. In the process, I am learning much about how students think through problems.”

6 Strategies for Teaching Literacy in Your Math Class

Try out these activities, and, before you know it, students will see that reading and writing in math class is fun!

Two high school students learning together in class | Literacy + Math = Fun: 6 Strategies for Teaching Literacy in Your Math Class | Carnegie Learning

Even with the many benefits of teaching literacy in math class, if you’re still not doing it, I get it. On top of the other million things you’re already doing, it might just feel like too much to start planning for in-class writing sessions. Or, with the pressures to get every student performing at grade level , you may feel like you don’t have five minutes to spare to talk about the language in a complicated word problem. 

I feel you, but I'm also going to say that teaching literacy in your math class is worth it. Your students will build skills, confidence, and community. Need some strategies? Here are six fun ways to get your students reading, writing, and talking to one another.   

1. Incorporate Reading and Writing Into Every Class 

It’s fine to start small. When reading, chunk the text into manageable sections, especially with complex word problems. Writing assignments should be frequent and low-stakes . Write with your students, and encourage them to share what they’ve written. You can even share once in a while to show that you’re also committed to growing as a writer and a thinker. 

2. Have Students Write Reflectively at the End of Each Week 

You can decide on the prompt, and it can be as simple as, “write about two things you learned this week in math class,” or as complex as, “write about a time you used something you learned in math class in your daily life.” Not only will students build literacy skills but they’ll develop more ownership of their mathematical understanding and practice self-reflection , which will help them become more agile and independent learners.  

3. Have Fun Rewriting Word Problems 

Even if students don’t change the math in word problems, changing the details encourages them to write and personalize the problem , making it more relevant to their lives and more specific to their culture, interests, or identity. They’ll also have to engage deeply with the math in order to place the numbers in a different context.  

Group of middle school students in class discussion | Literacy + Math = Fun: 6 Strategies for Teaching Literacy in Your Math Class | Carnegie Learning

Help students build oral literacy and critical thinking by having them discuss the method they used to solve a problem and any challenges they faced along the way. They’ll need to justify their approach and pose questions to each other, and this requires deep mathematical engagement. For a look at a teaching resource where discourse is built into every facet of the learning experience, check out MATHbook . With MATHbook, discussions aren’t just tacked on as an afterthought; they're the vehicles through which the learning happens!     

5. Build Vocabulary 

Any ELA teacher will tell you that building vocabulary through discussion is way more fun (and  more effective ) than taking vocab quizzes or memorizing lists of words. Plus, learning integrated vocab lets students practice using context to determine meaning, which is good for all students, but for ELL students in particular. 

I remember encountering a word problem with my ninth-grade class of mostly ELL students that referred to a highway as “congested.” After discussing all possible meanings of the word, we had a good laugh picturing a coughing, sneezing highway and then moved on. My students not only solved the problem but they practiced analyzing definitions and choosing the most plausible.   

6. Close Reading: It’s Not Just for Poems 

High school students studying together | Literacy + Math = Fun: 6 Strategies for Teaching Literacy in Your Math Class | Carnegie Learning

You’ve probably heard your colleagues in ELA talk about “ close reading ” or “multiple read strategy.” Close reading involves reading a passage a few times and focusing on different details each time in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the text. Turns out, it’s good for math too!

The multiple read strategy in math class looks like this: 

  • First Read: Notice and Wonder . Ask students what they noticed and what they’re still wondering.
  • Second Read: Organize and Mathematize. Ask students which data is important and how it relates mathematically.
  • Third Read: Analyze and Interpret. Ask students what conclusions can be drawn from the problem and what conclusions mean in the given context.

While it will take a little practice for students to get comfortable close reading math problems, it will eventually lead to them feeling less overwhelmed, particularly by long problems with a lot of information. Plus, learning to slow down and take in information deliberately and systematically will be super helpful in their other classes as well.   

Resources Galore! 

Are you ready to bring more reading, writing, and discussion into your math class? We’re here to help.

  • Download our guide , “When Literacy and Mathematics Collide: Supporting Reading in Your Math Class,” for a sample of classroom activities that you can use to build literacy skills in your classroom.
  • Watch our webinar , “Utilizing Literacy Strategies to Build Equitable Access in Math Class,” where I talk with other math educators about how to teach literacy alongside math! 
  • Check out our blended core math solution for middle school and high school . It includes MATHbook, which provides a literacy feature called Language Links, which are point-of-use suggestions for clarifying the meanings of academic and contextual terms. 

Math class is a place where great things happen. Ideas are shared, misconceptions are righted, and confidence grows. Why not give your students even more ways to excel by including literacy in your teaching practice?  

reading activities math

  • Sarah Galasso
  • Director of Instructional Design, Math (6-12)
  • Carnegie Learning, Inc.

Sarah Galasso began her career teaching secondary mathematics in Anaheim, CA. Sarah’s passion for math education and supporting diverse learners led her to the University of CA, Irvine, where she worked to provide professional development for southern California school districts as they developed K–12 standards-aligned math curricula. She also partnered with Student Achievement Partners writing a series of blog posts on the Standards for Mathematical Practice for As the Director of Instructional Design, Math (6-12), Sarah applies her knowledge to help produce high quality instructional resources and tools to support student growth.

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  • February 09, 2022

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reading activities math

6 summer reading and math activities for elementary students

June 15, 2022

Help students have fun with math and reading this summer

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean students have to stop learning. Everywhere you look there are opportunities for them to expand their math and reading skills. DreamBox is here to help teachers support students’ learning this summer. Here are six fun math and reading activities that families can enjoy together while students improve their reading and math abilities.  

1. Play card games

Develop number sense with card games. Counting, estimating, adding, subtracting, multiplying and working with fractions and money are important skills. The more students use numbers, the better they understand number relationships. The simple game of “War” helps them recognize numbers that are greater than or less than others, or each player can take two cards from the pile and add (or subtract or multiply) their two numbers. The bigger number (or smaller number in subtraction) wins that round. Students practice computation skills, while improving their mental math strategies.  

2. Use storytelling

Fun with make-believe. Writing stories is great for practicing reading, writing and art skills – all things students would normally do in school. Give them blank pieces of paper or a journal. Have students create their own stories or recreate one of their classic favorites. Maybe have them write down everything they do in one day to turn it into a story the next day – complete with illustrations.  

3. Draw and build

Two-dimensional fun. Many students love to draw. Why not incorporate shapes and geometric vocabulary? Ask them to make an ice cream cone using two shapes. Talk about the attributes of the shape. How many sides does the triangle have? How many angles? Which lines are parallel? 

Three-dimensional building. Using building sets, let learners explore and create. Ask them to build a structure for a certain purpose or that meets certain criteria (it needs to have a way for people to enter and exit, or it must have a place for the horses to sleep). After they build it, they’ll love describing to you how it functions to meet its given purpose.  

4. Play vacation destination

Research and plan vacation dreams together. Have students imagine what they’d do on the perfect vacation. Help them research their vacation destination, writing down how long they’d stay, what they’d do and how they’d do it. For instance, a visit to a water park or National Park. Visit the site online and learn as much as possible about the rules, times, activities, cost per day and what to wear. Create a list of necessary items and turn it into a writing and reading adventure, complete with a story line.  

5. Solve real-life problems

Work through problems together. Involve your learner in real-life problem-solving: think out loud and explain your reasoning. When planting a garden, how many seed packets will we need? Calculate how many seeds we’ll need per row at six inches apart. What tool should we measure with or should we estimate? The more kids hear your reasoning, the more comfortable they will become using math!  

6. Get to know your library

Cultivate lifelong learning. Most libraries have summer programs to keep students learning while they’re not in school. Visit your library to learn about summer programs for kids. Libraries read aloud for younger children and have book clubs and discussion groups for older children and teens. Each summer reading program is a little different, so check with your local library and see what it has to offer.

You can have math and reading fun all summer long. Just visit and join the fun. 

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Content Area Literacy

Reading and Understanding Written Math Problems

On this page:, key benefits, suggested activities, key terminology.

Word problems in mathematics often pose a challenge because they require that students read and comprehend the text of the problem, identify the question that needs to be answered, and finally create and solve a numerical equation. Many ELLs may have difficulty reading and understanding the written content in a word problem. If a student is learning English as a second language, he might not yet know key terminology needed to solve the equation. In other words, ELLs who have had formal education in their home countries generally do not have mathematical difficulties; hence, their struggles begin when they encounter word problems in a second language that they have not yet mastered (Bernardo, 2005). For this reason it is recommended that students learn key terminology prior to attempting to solve mathematical word problems.

Once English language learners know the key terminology used in mathematical word problems, it will be easier to learn how to write numerical equations. It is important for teachers to provide ELLs with opportunities to learn and practice key vocabulary words.

While key words are very important, they are only part of the process. Understanding the language in word problems is critical for all students. They need to know the meaning of words. But because words are often used differently and problems are set up differently, there are some cautionary messages. Here is an example of problem that uses “fewer than” to set up a subtraction equation.

Maria has 24 marbles which is 8 fewer than Paolo has. How many marbles does Paolo have? If we were to only focus on using key words, “fewer than” is a signal to pick out the numbers and subtract. The student may immediately make the conclusion that the answer is 16, but that is not what the problem is asking, and the child would be wrong. (The correct answer, by the way, is 32).

What research has found is that if we ask students to only rely on knowing that certain key words signal specific operations, we can actually lead them away from trying to understand the problems. They will tend to look only for those words and whatever numbers are in the problem, even if they are not relevant to the answer. This will not help them be mathematically proficient later, even when they are proficient with English.

Although the finding on key words was done with regular students, the consequences for ELL students of relying on them is the same. They would not be able to solve the problem above. However, if teachers follow the suggested process of reading a problem several times (at lower as well as upper grades) and discussing what it means, students will understand. Another good tool is to teach them to draw or model the problems. To illustrate the problem above, you could state: “Here’s Maria’s 24.” Then, draw 24 units, figures, shapes, etc. to represent 24. “Here’s Paolo’s; he has more because Maria has fewer than he does”. Draw 24 units, figures, shapes, etc. to represent 24 and add 8 more. “So Paolo’s has to come to more than 24. How many more? 8. So what is Paolo’s total?”

The difference is between knowing the meaning of the words “fewer than” and using “fewer than” as a key to an operation. We want students to know the meaning of the words, but also to see them in the context of the whole problem.

Lower grades

Practice problem solving daily by simply asking more questions. For example:

  • How many students brought their homework today?
  • How many more children brought their homework yesterday?
  • We had 8 markers on the board, but now we only have 3. How many did we take away?
  • How many animals are there in this magazine? How many are mammals? How many are birds? (introduction to fractions and percentages)

Continue to use key terminology daily and put it in context (e.g., less than, more than, difference, times, each, etc.). Show students how easy it might be to misunderstand the problem.

Upper grades

  • Read word problems slowly and carefully several times so that all students comprehend.
  • If possible, break up the problem into smaller segments.
  • Allow students to act out the word problems to better comprehend what they are being asked to solve.
  • Provide manipulatives to help students visualize the problem.
  • Take field or walking trips to figure out distances, speed , area covered, etc.
  • Ask students to do surveys, interviews, hands-on research in real-world situations to figure out percentages, differences, and higher-order math skills.
  • Allow students to make drawings or diagrams to help them understand problems.

For more ideas that can be used to support math instruction in the ELL classroom, take a look at Math Instruction for English Language Learners (opens in a new window) .

Liked it? Share it!

Bernardo, A. I., (2005). Language and modeling word problems in mathematics among bilinguals. The Journal of Psychology, 139(5), 413-425.

Brenda Krick-Morales teaches at Reynolds Middle School in Lancaster, PA. She is currently teaching 6th grade communication arts and math. She has worked with ELLs at a beginners level as well as the intermediate level for the past 5 years. Brenda holds teaching certificates from Millersville University, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in teaching ESL through the University of Turabo, Puerto Rico.

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27 Fun Reading Activities To Try At Home or In The Classroom

Bird's-eye view of a teacher and five students sitting on the ground during reading activities.

Fun reading activities for the classroom

Reading activities for parents & children, activities to try after reading, other educational activities to help kids learn.

Learning to read is a huge milestone in a child’s life. We all know how important a love of reading is for future learning. When children love to read, they can learn anything. 

Make sure your children keep the joy of reading alive by using fun reading activities along with traditional reading strategies .

These fun daily moments can improve reading skills and help reluctant readers find joy in the written word. We’ll be covering reading activities by grade level both for the classroom and at home, as well as some activities to improve reading comprehension after your students are reading independently. 

A teacher reads to a group of young students during reading activities.

Though many children begin the basics of reading at home, most solidify their skills and become accomplished readers in the classroom. These activities keep early readers engaged and improving while helping reluctant readers master the basics. Here are our favorite ways to keep reading fun!

1. Find the secret word

Great for: Kindergarten to 2nd grade

Turn a reading lesson into a scavenger hunt! Give each student or pair of students a piece of text, then speak the first secret word. Once they find it, have them circle it in a specific color, or circle and number, then report back to you for word #2. 

Keep this word search up for as long as you like — we recommend choosing about 8 to 10 words for students to find. It’s one part competition, one part scavenger hunt! Choose a prize for each team to receive when they complete the activity. Or celebrate everyone reaching the end with a classroom dance party! It’s a great way to keep your kids moving and learning.

2. Read aloud as a class

Great for: All grades

Kids are never too old to hear a story read aloud. Reading aloud as a class is a great way to keep kids engrossed in a story. Since you are most familiar with the text, you can keep the flow going during the dramatic moments. Then hand it off to your students to take their turns.

Want to add a new element to your classroom read-aloud? Pass around a ball or stuffed animal to indicate the next reader. It’s a variation of popcorn reading to help minimize reading anxiety, and it gives kids the power to pass it on after spending a short time reading. 

3. Partner reading

Great for: 1st to 3rd grade

Sometimes trying to get the whole class to read together is just too much. To encourage more reading time, pair up your students for partner reading. 

During partner reading, each child will get more time to practice their skills. And being corrected privately by one friend may be better for a struggling reader’s confidence. Try to pair a confident but patient reader with those who need some extra help and watch them both learn to succeed.

4. Find the synonym

Great for: 2nd to 5th grade

Once your readers are feeling more confident, take our scavenger hunt game mentioned above and add a new twist. 

Instead of searching for the exact spoken words on your list, give students the challenge to find the word’s synonym in the text. It’s a great way to keep the game challenging for older students.

5. Word searches

For younger students, a word search is a challenging way to encourage early reading. You can do this much like our scavenger hunt-style games, but instead of saying the words aloud, provide a list. 

They can search for one word at a time, with you providing the next word to the team once the first is found. Or provide a full list from the beginning and let them work individually. Add in some color matching (marking the word in the same color as printed on the list) to keep this game fun and engaging.

6. Keyword bingo

Looking for a calmer alternative to the secret word game? Have each child work individually in a game of reading bingo. Choose a grade-level text and compile a list of words found in the passage. 

Read each word aloud, giving about 15 seconds before moving on to the next. It’s a race against your clock to find the words, or they can try to remember them while looking for the others. When they find the words, they can mark them out. Once the list is done, allow 20 more seconds to wrap up any remaining words, then pencils down and count. Whoever finds the most words, wins!

7. Decoding games

Decoding games focus on letter sounds and phonemic awareness. A favorite game for pre-readers is to say a letter and have students find an object that starts with that letter. As they bring the object back, reinforce the sound that letter makes.

Other decoding games can focus on the mechanics of reading — such as reading a word or sentence from left to right. This is a great time to utilize finger puppets, following along with a finger as you sound the words out together.

8. Thumbs up, thumbs down

Great for: Kindergarten to 5th grade

Thumbs up, thumbs down (or the higher energy variation — stand up, sit down) is a great game to keep your students engaged. 

Check reading comprehension when you ask students to give a thumbs up if a statement about a recently read story is true, or a thumbs down if it’s false. Help them grasp grammar concepts by having them stand up when you say an adjective word or sit down if you say a noun. 

It’s a fun way to keep their bodies and brains working. 

9. Discover the missing letter

When you’re teaching letter sounds, it’s fun to get creative. In this game, you’ll call your students to the front of the class by their names — minus the first letter. For example, Stacy becomes tacy and Roland becomes oland. Let the kids guess who you’re calling up, then have them decode the missing letter. 

You can do the same thing for objects, or drop middle letters for older children. Just be sure to prepare your words ahead of time to avoid any slip-ups!  

10. Guided reading ball game

Great for: 2nd to 7th grade

Grab a few beach balls from your local dollar store and get your classroom moving. Take a sharpie and write a discussion prompt on each colorful section of the ball. What is the setting? Who is the main character? What happened after…? 

Toss or roll the balls around. Students answer whichever question their thumb lands on when the ball heads their way. This is an exciting way to mix things up, practice reading comprehension and get kids thinking outside of their seats.

A mother and child sit on the couch and do reading activities together.

Not all reading happens in the classroom! Parents can play an active role in helping their children learn to read. Here are a few activities to try with your kids.

1. Reading together

Great for: All grades and ages

There’s something special about listening to a book being read out loud. It can capture your attention in a unique way. Whether your child is a baby or fully grown, it’s always a good time to read together.

Take turns reading chapters from a favorite story, or just read to your child. Enjoying good stories is a huge motivator in learning to read.  

2. Silly voices reading

Great for: Kindergarten to 4th grade

Kids love to laugh and joke, so play into this with a crazy story and silly voices. Get really high-pitched, speed it up like a chipmunk, and then pitch your voice low. 

Your kids will love seeing these stories come to life with your words, and you’ll all share a good laugh. To get them involved in the fun, ask them to do their own silly voice!

3. Dialogic reading

The word dialogic means to have a dialogue, and that’s exactly what this activity is designed to do. Instead of reading to your child while they passively listen, invite them into the story. Ask them what they think may happen next, or at the close of the book invite them to create a completely different ending. This is a great way to stretch your little storyteller’s imagination.

4. Reading outside

Kids thrive outdoors. They can run, climb, and dig in the dirt. Outside is also a great place to practice reading and letter writing. Invite your child to help you create words in a sandbox or take a stick and dig a letter into the dirt. 

Older kids can simply take their reading outside. It’s amazing how refreshing a change of setting can be. 

5. What word starts with…

Great for: Kindergarten to 1st grade

Letter sounds are an essential early reading tool. With this game, ask your child to think of words that start with “B” (or any other letter).

 Give an example, like b-b-butterfly, then think of more “B” words together. Choose your child’s favorite things to keep the game fun and exciting. Early readers especially love to talk about the letters in their names.

6. Try nonfiction

Great for: All ages

You never know what a child may love to read. Though many kids enjoy a good princess or dragon story, others will prefer non-fiction books. 

If your attempts at fiction are met with indifference, try a book about their favorite animal (sharks, dinosaurs, or lemurs are popular here), learn about space or strange weather events. Whatever your child is into, and whatever their reading level, there’s a book for them.

7. Create a “book nook”

A cozy spot dedicated to reading can add joy to the activity. Load up a corner or top bunk space with comfy pillows and blankets, make sure it has good lighting, and include some sticky notes and a dictionary. All your child needs to bring is their favorite book! Even better, snuggle in together and discover a new favorite with your child.

8. Who’s coming over?

This game can be played in a couple of different ways, and both are great for reading comprehension. First, try giving clues so your child can guess their favorite characters. These favorites can be from books or TV. You can mention physical characteristics, some of their best friends, or things that happen to them. Keep giving clues until they guess correctly.

The second way to play is to invite a favorite character over and then discuss what you’ll need for their visit. A special kind of bed, their favorite foods, or a place for their pet to stay are all things to consider. This is a fun way to create your own story around your child’s favorite characters.

9. Take turns reading

As your child begins to read you can invite them to read to you. Don’t push if they don’t want to, but as their confidence builds they’ll be excited to share their new skill with you. 

This may look like you both taking turns reading a new chapter book, or they may want to share all the creature descriptions from their favorite new computer game. No matter the topic, do your best to listen intently and congratulate them on their reading skills.  

10. What happens next?

Keep reading fun and active when you step outside the book and asking your child what happens next:

  • What do they think will happen?
  • What would you like to see happen? 
  • What’s something funny that could happen?

Any question that gets them thinking through the story on their own is both fun and helpful for reading comprehension. 

11. Talk about the pictures

Pictures are a great way for kids to follow along with a story. When your child is beginning to read, have them look at the pictures and ask what they think is going on. As they unravel the story, point out the words they are discovering in the text. Or just let them enjoy creating their own unique version of the story based on the pictures. 

12. Try new reading apps and websites

There are some amazing reading apps for both reading instruction and digital reading libraries. If your child enjoys spending time on their tablet, give some of our favorite reading apps a try and watch them learn while they play.

Close-up picture of a child reading a book.

After your child is reading on their own, there’s still plenty to learn. Reading isn’t effective if they’re struggling to understand the words on the page, or how they all fit together to create the story. Here are a few activities for children to practice reading comprehension.

1. Summarize the text

Once a child is done reading a text or section of a book, have them revisit the main ideas by highlighting or taking notes on the text’s biggest themes. Once students identify the main themes, ask them to break them down further and quickly summarize the story.

2. Book reports

Great for: 2nd to 12th grade

Book reports are a classic reading activity. Have the child analyze the book, highlighting the most important themes. Older children can present arguments pertaining to the story, and provide passages to support their theories. 

Keep book reports even more engaging when you invite kids to give a presentation, complete with dress-up and drama. 

3. Review the book

Ask children to rate their most recent reading. They can assign it a number of stars, but then they must also explain why. Was it too scary? Not funny? What were their favorite parts? What would they do differently?

Not only does this help students think critically about what they’ve just read, but it can also help parents and teacher identify what they might like reading next.

4. Extend the story

Great for: Kindergarten to 12th grade

“And they lived happily ever after…”

Maybe so, but what happened next? Ask your child to keep the story going. Where do they go next? Who do they meet? Favorite characters can continue adventuring when your child takes over the story. This is a great writing prompt , or just a fun dinner conversation!

5. How could it have been better?

Everyone has an opinion, so ask your child for theirs. How could this book or story have been better? Would a different ending be more fun? Or maybe they just think the main character should be named after them. 

No matter their critique, listen and discuss. Then encourage them to create their own tale.

How reading activities help kids embrace learning

Reading keeps kids learning for the rest of their lives. When a child can read, they can take more control over their education. And that’s a wonderful thing!

Fun activities are the best way to keep a child interested in the world of books. Learning to read can be a frustrating journey for some. Others may simply find it boring (especially if they’re being made to read about topics they care little about). These activities are designed to get kids moving and thinking beyond the page. Because when reading is fun, learning happens naturally.

Young girl writes using a paper and pencil during educational activities.

When teaching starts to feel like a drag, or the kids are fighting their instruction, revisit this article. Mix in some fun activities and keep the learning going. Getting up, moving around, or enjoying a laugh together can help stimulate everyone’s mind. 

Looking for even more great learning activities to engage your kids? Here are some of our favorite activity posts for reading, math, and more!

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