4 Active Reading Strategies for Your Balanced Literacy Classroom

4 Active Reading Strategies for Your Balanced Literacy Classroom

Now more than ever it is important to create a classroom where students support each other, learn from each other, and learn through active engagement. To support a balanced literacy classroom, we want students to not only be excited about learning, but also invested in the work they are doing. Planning instruction that actively engages learners allows us to reach and teach all of our students.

Here are a few “up and out of their seats” activities that teach reading strategies while including the “fun factor” of learning.

Active Anticipation Guides

Before having students read (or before you read aloud) pose some statements that require students to make a choice. For example, the text is about whales. You pose the statement “Blue whales are the largest mammal.” On one wall post “true” (or “agree”) and on another wall post “false” (or “disagree”). Have students stand by the sign that they feel is the answer. Or, you can post large sheets around the room with a few statements and have students walk around, adding a checkmark under their answer/response. Besides giving students the opportunity to think about the topic before reading, this activity gives you a quick check on prior knowledge.

Moving Story Sequencing

For this active strategy, make large signs students can hold that state important events in a story. Distribute them and ask students to get up and assist each other in placing the events in correct order. Or, write them on large strips that can be moved around on the floor. Allow small groups to work together to order the events. You might even leave a blank strip to add “what might happen next?” in a story they are not yet done reading or listening to.

“Who Am I?” 

After reading a story, divide students into pairs. Have pairs work to create clues about a character in a story. Encourage them to think about less obvious clues that will make their classmates think about the story events. Then have students read aloud their clues and classmates guess the character.


Have students create a text set to go along with a book being read. Use the classroom or school library to have them seek out books that go together. Students could even use the Internet to find digital texts or other multimedia to include. For example, students are reading a story about the Civil War so they find historical fiction, poetry, and even map books to include in their text set. In this example, the books had similar topics but different genres. Text sets could also be formed with books on different topics but the same genre. The possibilities are endless!

When you engage students in active learning the sky is the limit! Then you as the teacher can watch the activities in action to do some on-the-spot assessments (Who is reading what? Who is leading the group? Who took the activity in a different and interesting direction?). That’s when teachers and students are both active learners!


Author bio

Mary Jo Fresch, Ph.D.

Mary Jo Fresch, Ph.D.

Mary Jo Fresch, Ph.D., began as a 3rd-grade teacher in Kent, Ohio. Throughout her career, she taught adult literacy at the University of Akron, reading methods at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), and teacher education at Deakin University and The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Mary Jo also taught at The Ohio State University for 20 years prior to retiring in 2015. She is now professor emeritus and an active literacy consultant and author. Mary Jo has authored and edited many articles, books, and teacher resources. Her latest book, Strategies for Effective Balanced Literacy, shares a variety of lessons and ideas to support literacy instruction in today’s classrooms.