Reading Carnival

Host a reading carnival at your school -- it will give your students a chance to demonstrate the reading skills they've acquired and their parents a chance to be a more integral part of their education.
Teaching Strategies:
Grades:
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Updated: June 9, 2019
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How Can You Make It Happen?

Planning a school-wide event like a Reading Carnival requires coordination from the entire staff. While every staff member need not actively participate in the planning process, it is important that the staff be well represented by those who will be planning the event. The following are some steps in planning a Reading Carnival.

  1. Create a planning committee.
    The committee should be made up of grade level representatives, an administrative representative, and a PTA member. If a school-wide effort seems unrealistic, it is also possible to have a smaller Reading Carnival, celebrating the work of a single grade or grade level cluster. This will make the planning process somewhat more manageable, and might be an especially good way to go for a first effort.

  2. Decide how the event will be structured and when it will be held.
    Since the key feature of this kind of celebration is the presence of parents and other members of the community, it is practical to have the event in the early evening, perhaps on a night traditionally used for PTA meetings if parents are accustomed to coming to school on those nights. Some schools find it easier to attract families if a meal is offered at the school immediately before the event. This can be a relatively simple and inexpensive meal like a spaghetti dinner or hot dog cookout.

  3. Plan the events of the Carnival.
    Each classroom can function as a different station, offering a variety of literacy-related activities. Students could be included in the planning process, as the more invested the students are in the evening's activities, the more likely they are to encourage their families to attend the celebration!

Here are a few ideas for classroom stations at the big event:

  • Young Authors' Room
    Students share their original writing with the community. Before the event, have students practice reading their work aloud to make this a comfortable experience. One way to organize logistics of this station is to assign time slots for different letters of the alphabet (for instance, students whose last names start with A-C can read during the first 10-minute period). This way students and their families will be dropping in throughout the event and the chances are reduced of having a few overcrowded times and a few very quiet ones.

  • Book Swap Area
    Collect books that students no longer want and trade them for other students' discarded books. Do this a week or two in advance so that there are plenty of books to choose from for the first families to arrive. Students who bring in a book in advance could receive a ticket to be used to get a new book the night of the event. The book swap station is also a great way for teachers and media specialists to clean out books from their own collections! Parents can also have a section for a book swap, exchanging their own books and actively participating at this station.

  • Reading Games
    There are many different games that allow students to sharpen their literacy skills. Some of these games might be played in 10-minute rounds, while others can be played by individual families in a less structured way (such as Mad-Libs). Students can also be invited to create games to be used during the Reading Carnival. Give students an opportunity to learn how to play these games prior to the Reading Carnival. This will allow for more comfortable participation during the event.

  • Storytelling
    Don't forget simple activities like reading aloud. Students enjoy being read to, and the teacher is able to model good read aloud techniques for parents, such as checking in with students about what is being read by asking questions or checking for predictions.

  • Use Those Computers
    Computers in a lab or within the classrooms can also be integrated into the celebration and utilized for such activities as Internet scavenger hunts or parent-child collaborative writing. For an Internet scavenger hunt, it is helpful to have some instructions written out for families to use, outlining strategies for searching and suggesting some appropriate search sites. The items being searched for may follow a theme such as Caldecott Award winners. Be sure to leave space for families to record the URLs (web addresses) they find and the facts found at those URLs. Setting up a collaborative writing environment is fairly straightforward if students in the school are accustomed to the writing process and writing in pairs. Students and their families simply write together using whatever word-processing software is most comfortable for the students. Once students and their families have composed their original pieces, it is nice to find a place in the school to display this unique writing.

  • Recruit Volunteers
    A Reading Carnival is also a good place to ask parents and other community members to volunteer as reading buddies for students in the school. A booth can be set up to explain what is involved in being a reading volunteer and to let people sign up to help out.

How Can You Measure Success?

The definition of a "successful" Reading Carnival should be determined by the planning committee. Is success a 50% or 80% attendance rate? Is the hope that 20 new volunteers will be recruited?

Lots of data can be collected at the Reading Carnival to inform future events. A few questions that could be answered are:

  • How many people attended the event?

  • How many people came to each station?

  • How many students from each class attended?

These questions lead to others. For instance, do more people attend the Reading Carnival the second year it is planned? If it is clear that one station is more popular than another, why might this be so? Were students more invested in one activity than another? Should the less popular activity be included in subsequent Reading Carnivals or should it be replaced with something else?

Collect qualitative data along with your quantitative data. Have teachers be observant during the Reading Carnival, and take notes about reading behaviors of students in this atmosphere. The event could be videotaped, and written up for the school newsletter. Consider having parents complete a survey about the event or collecting feedback in some other way to gauge participants' thoughts and feelings about the event. This is also a great way to gather suggestions for improvement, which can be used to plan the next event.

Students can be active participants in sorting though all this data. By including students in the data analysis not only will they be better able to assist in the planning for the next Reading Carnival, they'll be sharpening their math skills as well!

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