Sunday, February 3, 2019

Reading Around the World You Can Do

For the second year in a row, I've collaborated with a 3rd grade teacher, Anne McEldowney, to bring a little fun to her reading class. Last year, it was an Olympic themed reading game where students earned badges upon completion of various reading activities. Her goal was focused on their written responses. Her students would happily read, as long as she'd let them. However, the responses about their reading were coming up short. We focused on improving this skill through a variety of activities - some Anne already had in place; others were brand new - and the students earned badges. Ultimately, these badges earned them bronze, silver, and gold medals.

THIS year, Anne has a different group of students who need a different focus. Anne came to me saying these students need encouragement TO read and to increase the length of time they read. She also wanted to incorporate an "around the world" theme. [Geography + reading = 💖!] 

We had a few conversations, threw some ideas around, back-and-forth, up-and-down, and from this was born "Mrs. McEldowney's Reading Around the World"! The ultimate goal is to read around the world in 9 weeks.

To do this, we are bringing together several pieces, and housing it in a Google site. The basic idea is a time goal for each continent, starting in Antarctica and ending in North America. To track their progress, a Progress Tracker was created for each continent with a custom goal. Various reading activities have also been added for each continent and a passport is used to record the students' responses.

the "homepage"
The home page of the site has an embedded Google Map of the world. Each student added a pin to represent themself and then customized their "pin" by choosing their color and an icon of their choice. This allows them to see themself along their reading journey. As they progress, Mrs. Mac will move them from continent to continent. [I added a pin to each continent so they knew the order of their journey from one continent to the next.] It is very exciting to watch as the students move from one continent to the next!

The 1st Continent on the Journey

Each continent has its own page, displaying the Progress Tracker for that continent. Each day, Mrs. McEldowney checks the students' reading logs and credits them with their time. The Progress Tracker is a Google Sheet, published to the web, that is coded to show a progress bar for the corresponding continent. The best part of this tracker is Flippity has this all set up with a template you can, too, can grab and use! 

Once a student reaches the goal for that particular continent, their pin is moved and tomorrow's reading time is credited to the next "stop". 

This style of gamification is low-key, yet is yielding some pretty exciting results! Being able to share this 'journey' with the students as well as their parents is thrilling. Students have a very visible record of their reading. 

This is a fairly low-tech way to add a little "game" to your class ... the Google site is very simple, one page per continent. provides the template for the Progress Tracker. [I entered the students names, assigned them a color by going red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple-gray-black and then repeat] After I had the first tracker done for Antarctica, I duplicated it for the remaining 6 continents. Anne customized the goal for each continent, and I embedded them on the right sheet. Finally, I found an image to customize the header for each continent and voila! It's definitely something you can add to your classroom.

... UPDATE: Feb. 23, 2019 ...

Yesterday morning at school, I received this text from Anne, "you should come up and check this out". Intrigued, I made my way to her room. I entered her room to see students spread around the room learning - some on their chromebooks, some tucked in a corner writing, some at their desks working on paper, and a couple at the small table near Anne's desk with Anne. She stands up with a huge smile and says, "Look!" as she spreads her around her room. She updates me with her reading around the world ... she has brought in old suitcases and tucked activities for each continent students can choose from once they have completed their reading goal for that continent. It was AWESOME!!! She continues to add to her website and her students continue to work toward their reading goals. I asked how her couple students who were doing that hadn't "bought in" ... she smiled warmly and said while the others do their activities, she gets to have a small group instruction with them. Maybe not the worst thing ... 

Have a question or comment or would you like some help getting your reading around the world up & running? Feel free to comment below or on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me (

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