If you want to encourage your students to take charge of their own reading habits, make sure they know how to perform the Five Finger Rule to determine if a book is appropriate for their reading level. This is one of those amazingly simple techniques that can be overlooked simply because it is so easy. But it is a very effective indicator to quickly determine a child’s reading ability.
We recommend that K-5 teachers post this rule somewhere in the classroom—all year— as a reminder for young readers, because we know that children are sometimes hesitant to ask us to repeat things.
Make a poster that says something like this: (Or download one from the Internet)
THE FIVE FINGER RULE FOR ALL READERS
How to choose a book that is just right for you!
Step 1 Pick a book that interests you.
Step 2 Open the book to a page in the middle of the book. (No pictures)
Step 3 Start reading the page outloud to yourself.
Step 4 Hold up a finger for EVERY word you do not understand or cannot pronounce.
If you raise
0 - 1 Finger - put the book back, this book is too EASY!
2 - 3 Fingers - this book is fine for an interesting read.
4 Fingers - this book will be a challenging read; try reading it with a buddy.
5 Fingers - this book is not a good choice for now; please choose another title.
Posting this simple rule in your classroom will help maintain a positive literacy rich environment. Readers of all ages and levels must be exposed to a wide variety of literature on a regular basis. Give your students exposure to many different types of books, magazines, newspapers and web resources. Provide reading opportunities during structured and non-structured times.
Building your classroom library also helps readers. Do not rely solely on your school or city library for book selection. Teachers can get inexpensive books at garage sales, church book sales, second-hand bookseller clearance tables, and a really great resource we heard about called paperback swap. Also, you can appeal to your students’ families for donating age-appropriate books for your class.
It helps, too, if you can sort your classroom books into levels for multiple intelligences. Fountas and Pinnell is a good resource. But if you need some good, free lists, these will get you started. One teacher we spoke with says you can keep your leveled books organized with color-coded stickers on the book spines, then sort the books into sturdy dishpans of the same color. The color of the dots indicate the level of difficulty of the book. These dots make sorting books back into the bins at the end of the day a snap. It’s an easy-to-assemble, leveled library for students to help themselves!
The best way we know to preserve a classroom library is to buy hardbacks whenever possible (check out those garage sales!), and cover paperbacks in clear contact paper. Be sure to attach those self-adhering colored dots to each book’s spine before covering in contact paper. Also, stamp your name on each book, or place a bookplate inside each one.
The bottom line is to offer students the opportunity to read, read, read. You’ll notice a difference in your students' abilities.
For more helpful tips to improve reading comprehension in your classroom, download our Free Best Practices Guide now!