Sample Reading Activities


The following activities and brief descriptions are sample activities to address the various reading components.

These activities may or may not work for your students. Consider whether or not they will be useful to you, how you might modify them for your students, and what other ideas they might suggest.

Comprehension Activities



book/story review

Students in small groups plan a review and then individual students write a review, which they share with group or class.

cause and effect charts

In small groups, students make a chart that describes a character’s actions and the outcome, or an if-then chart with a potential action and likely outcome.

comic strip

Students create a comic strip to present significant events in a story.

completing stories

Students write their own endings to stories. This should follow discussion and small-group graphic organizers.

creating questions

Students develop questions about a text that they will pose during discussion or for other students to answer in short responses.

discussion board / forum

An asynchronous form of discussion in which students post questions and responses on a board or other type of forum. Students do this throughout reading a text, with responses and answers used as part of discussion.

gallery / book walks

Small groups prepare posters for books or other visual representations, and then groups browse each other’s posters.

group brainstorming and decision making

Small groups generate ideas and information related to a prompt and seek agreement on the response or interpretation. This may be a form of KWL chart or other process for gathering information, making decisions about the information, and reaching consensus. (The nominal group technique is one good way to do this.)

group-generated choral read

A small group of students creates a summary of a text or writes a response to a prompt, and then reads it chorally to the class.

KWL chart

A chart for describing what the student KNOWS, WANTS to know, and has LEARNED. Students should modify their KWL charts as they read more.


The students restate the major information or central content in writing either to present (e.g., choral read, book poster) or to share during discussion.

plot lines

Small groups create a timeline of the major points in a story, identifying components of the plot (e.g., setting, rising action, climax)

posing research questions to other student groups

Small groups create questions for other groups to research and answer. A KWL chart is a good way to develop the questions. If used with non-fiction text, research may include a variety of sources.

promotional posters

In preparation for a book walk (or in place of other forms of text summaries), students create book promotional posters that not only represent the main themes or content but also express what is interesting or compelling about the text. (On of the few arts-and-crafts type projects I espouse.)


A general type of activity in which students read a text, respond to a prompt or questions, and share their responses and justifications with a small group. Each small group of students should have one or two prompts / questions, and other groups may have different questions. The discussion addresses all questions.

reflection journal

Students write freely about a text they have read or are reading. On occasion, the teacher may provide prompts. These are not ever graded, but the teacher may collect them from time to time and provide comments. Their main purpose is to help students reflect on their ideas.

research questions

See “posing research questions to other students groups.”

response to higher-level question

This is a fundamental aspect of small group discussion, and prompts and other activities can include questions that address higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

semantic maps

A map of word usage in a text, similar to a graphic organizer for vocabulary, but focusing on word interpretation as used in the text.

snowball discussion

Students in a small group call on one another to add information or additional responses to the questions.

sticky notes

Two ways to use sticky notes: 1) mark important information in the text, in which case the student leaves himself or herself a note about the content, meaning, or value, action; 2) create a very short summary of a paragraph or important section in the text, in which the size of the sticky notes forces students to be concise and focus on the main point.

structured debate

In 2 pairs, students argue for their particular interpretation of the text using standard formal debate rules. This can take quite a bit of preparation time but can produce amazing information.

T-chart for questions and answers

Students create a t-chart with questions on one side and answers, as they discover them, on the other.

T-charts for comparison

Students create a t-chart of comparable topics on either side, such as character comparisons, biases, points of view, their own and other students’ interpretations. Many options.

thumbs up / thumbs down

A very fast self-check on comprehension. The teacher stops the students during an oral reading, SSR, etc. and asks for thumbs up or thumbs down. Two thumbs up for good comprehension, two down for no comprehension, or one of each for tentative understanding. This indicates to the teacher whether or not to stop for discussion about the text.


Students use a timeline to describe the order of events, steps, ideas, etc.

Venn diagrams

Students use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two topics, ideas, characters, points of view, etc.