Engaging Upper Elementary Students

Engaging Upper Elementary Students

One of my biggest struggles as a librarian has always been trying to create lesson plans that are engaging to my upper elementary students (keeping my 5th graders on task is no easy feat)! This becomes more of a problem after Christmas break. I have created a list of different ideas and activities that you can try to encourage learning and keep your students excited about reading and coming to the library. Some of the ideas are my own and others I gathered from my Staying Cool in the Library private Facebook group

Book talks for engaging upper elementary students

A book talk is a commercial for a book. It is one of the best tools I know of to engage your students in reading and to encourage them to check out books they would not normally choose on their own.

A book talk does not have to be an elaborate presentation. Ideally, you should prepare for book talks ahead of time, just like you do with any lesson. This includes writing some notes about each book you want to advertise, highlight specific phrases or sentences that will grab students’ attention right away and practice giving the book talk ahead of time.

However, realistically this may not be the case. There is so much on our plates that finding the time to write a formal book talk for every book you showcase to students is just not possible. So just make sure you know enough about the book to interest your students and you can show enthusiasm and passion for reading the book, then you are good to go. There have been many times when I have picked up a class and realized that my planned lesson for the day just wasn’t going to work. So I decided to do some book talks instead. I would grab some books that I thought students would like and that I had read and just go for it.

You want to introduce the book, show the book cover if there is one and provide some type of hook that will make your students want to read the book to find out more. The reason I say show the book cover if there is one is that I like to do book talks with books that have a plain cover or look uninteresting from the outside.

Book talks are perfect to do with older students because they usually hold their attention. A book talk should be short, under 2 minutes. And if you really get excited about describing the book and animated your students will react positively and most likely pay attention.

Book Trailers

A book trailer is the same as a book talk, instead it’s a short video of someone else talking about the book. There are many places you can go online to find book trailers. One of my favorites is Scholastic Book Trailers (think book fair video).

A few others are KidLit Book Trailers, HarperCollins and HarperCollins Kids YouTube channels. Other book publishers have their own YouTube channels as well. As always, all videos need to be previewed before showing them to students (especially anything you find on YouTube).

Scavenger Hunts, Engaging Upper Elementary Students

Scavenger hunts are a fun way to review the different parts of the library, where to find specific types of books and provide practice with call numbers. You can do something simple like writing a topic or genre on an index card and then having a student go to the bookshelf. You can do a relay race or incorporate them into your centers–which is obviously a really fun way to engage your upper elementary students.

Task Cards

One reason I have so many task card sets in my store is because I use them all the time. I use task cards with grades 2-5. I review different subject, not just library skills. Teachers love when I use task cards to review homophones or grammar or other ELA topics. And I can vary the specific activity depending on the class and their behavior. For example, I can put them in a center activity. I can do a Scoot game. If the students need to stay in their seats I will give a set to each of the tables and have them do it as group work. I can also use them whole-group by displaying the cards on the SmartBoard.

Word Chain, Engaging Upper Elementary Students

This game can have many different names, this is just the one I am familiar with. To play, choose a category and write a word on the board from that category. Then ask your students to take turns coming up with a word that begins with the last letter of the word you wrote on the board.

For example, try this game to review map skills. Give each student an atlas or a map. Choose one student to write the name of a place from the map on the board (or you choose one word to begin with). Students will then take turns finding a place on their map that begins with the last letter of the first place. Then the next student has to find a place that begins with the last letter of the second word. And so on and so on.  You could use this game to review other reference book skills like a dictionary or thesaurus.

Book Flyers

Use the book flyers for various sorting activities including genres, Dewey Decimal System or even by author’s purpose. I have also used publisher catalog pages for this as well.

Other Ideas--engaging upper elementary students

A few other ideas include reader’s theater, library musical chairs and create origami bookmarks. You can check out my pinterest board Free Library and Teaching Ideas to read about these different activities.

Take a look at some products in my store that go along with these ideas.

Want to download a free set of scavenger hunts to use with your students? Sign up for the free resource library to get these plus over 30 other free printables!

One Response

  1. Love your ideas for engaging upper elementary students, i tried a version of your book talks and it was hugely successful, so thank you! Instead of reading a chapter book during library periods (and thus taking months to finish the book), I decided to introduce one or two chapter book series to the students. I basically picked an exciting moment in the book to read, read the summary, or read part of Chapter 1…the books I showed/introduced were all signed out in teh same day and many asked to place holds on them! Thank you for the idea!

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