Creating Learning EXPERIENCES for Readers

by mrsapia

I’ve had many experiences in my life.  Those experiences can vary in a range of levels but it’s those experiences who shaped who I am today. Being a teacher I like to use my life experiences as my muse. I embrace my learning through experiences of traveling, seeing live music, being a new dad, and translating that energy into learning experiences for my kids.

I currently teach 5th grade humanities, which falls under the umbrella of English Language Arts and Social Studies. I am a voracious reader and hope to instill that love of reading into my students so they can be passionate about the written word. Below are two ways that I created exciting learning experiences for my students.

Reading Warrior:

In the spirit of creating meaningful and memorable learning experiences for my students, I decided to dress up as a “Reading Warrior.” I called my brother up borrowed his sparkly cape and star sunglasses, and a new idea was born. This is a good time to note that Teach Like a pirate by Dave Burgess had a huge impact about creating learning experiences for students.

Sequence of Lesson:

To initiate the lesson I had the students listen to Superheroes by The Script. At the conclusion of the song I had the students turn and talk about the message of the song by analyzing the words and video. I went over to another classroom and changed into my atter ego, the Reading Warrior.  I came storming back into the classroom and took on the persona of my alter ego. Some students laughed, some students gasped,  but once the initial shock was over I went on to tell them my mission of the day was to create passionate learners who can become voracious readers.   The whole point of this lesson tied in music, close reading, collaboration, and finding their inner superhero. It was also my creative way to introduce about 40 new titles into the classroom library. so the last few minutes of class we did a countdown and I had students close their eyes and when we got to 0 I unveiled the new titles. I  passed one book out to each reader and they skimmed it for about 5 to 7 minutes. Then they had to reconvene on the carpet to talk about the book. The level of engagement and enthusiasm was infectious. The hook was successful!  Students then filled out books of interest on their Read Next list in Reader’s Notebook. After all, good readers always have a plan.

Click here to see photos and videos from the lesson!


Detective Read Aloud:

In order to teach the complex skill of inferring I decided to summon another alter ego, Detective Read Aloud. Detective Read Aloud was much more subdued than the Reading Warrior. At the start of the lesson I had some Inspector Gadget music playing in my classroom. The students were immediately questioning why this specific kind of music was playing. It was at that time that I left the classroom put on my fedora,  trench coat, and grab my magnifying glass and slowly strolled back into the classroom.

I then asked the students what the role of a detective is and told them that they were going to be junior detectives. I also mentioned how authors leave clues sprinkled in texts to help the readers deepen their understanding. With that idea in mind I had students pair up in groups and they went on an inference scavenger hunt around our fifth grade wing. I placed arrows on the floor as “clues” for students to follow. They read a short passage and had to answer comprehension questions tied into inferring. The passages were short and the questions were straightforward.  In order for students to move on to the next clue they had to check with Detective Read Aloud to ensure their responses were correct. It was only at the end of the lesson where I actually introduced the term inferencing to students.

This type of flipped lesson was incredibly successful because students actually walked through the learning process first, then learned the term.    As we reflected on the lesson the students said it was powerful for them to walk through the process and acting like detective which helped deepen their understanding of inferring.
Creating this experience for students can have a significant impact on their learning and also how they transfer the new information they encounter throughout a lesson. Not to mention it’s an absolute blast as a teacher to dress up and show that side of you to your students. This goes a long way to creating an environment of trust, student voice, and risk taking because it models those three skills for the students.  I’d be remiss if I did not mention Pernille Ripp for creating awesome “Reading Warrior” shirts!


I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach