Stoplight Reading: A Favorite Reading Activity For Student Engagement

I did the most incredible thing (an engaging reading activity) with my students a couple of weeks ago! On a dreary Tuesday, I told my work wifey, Whitney, that I felt like really pushing my advanced 7th graders. I explained to her that I’ve been focusing a lot recently on really “fun” and joyful activities and games like the one I shared last week, “Spring Scavenger Hunt” or “¡Seis!”. I’ve also been using low-no prep activities like the ones I shared in my fourth podcast episode.

I felt like challenging them, and I knew they were ready for it. I pulled out a reading strategy that I learned in a workshop I recently led with Bertha Delgadillo. We shared our favorite strategies for bringing music to life in the classroom to increase engagement, buy-in, and connection! 

This is a strategy Bertha learned from ELA teachers, and I just can’t get enough of it! I was BLOWN AWAY by my student’s focus, drive, and willingness to participate in something so rigorous! (Sometimes all it takes is introducing something NEW!)

“The Brain craves novelty” after all!

My favorite Carol Gaab quote

Below is a video of me explaining the activity as well as classroom footage of one of my 7th grade classes participating in the reading activity! Read on for instructions… 

I mean??? just LOOK at that engagement!!!!

How To Use This Reading Activity With Your Students

  • Find or write a text for your students that is written at a slightly higher level than where they currently are… (i+1)
  • Next, everyone gets a text. You also instruct them to choose a green, yellow, and red marker, crayon, colored pencil, or highlighter! 
  • Then, students highlight the ENTIRE text as follows: 
    • Green represents “easy” comprehension; students can read with fluidity and ease.
    • Yellow represents “can understand with context clues”. They are underlining words that they think they comprehend with the help of context clues.
    • Red of course means that the words are incomprehensible to them.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t have enough for everyone. In one of my biggest classes, I told them to make a “color key stoplight” at the top of their paper indicating what color they chose to represent red, yellow, and green.
  • If you have colorblind students, an easy variation would be for them to underline all known words, squiggle underline words they figure out with context clues, and circle words they don’t know. 

Continuing The Activity

After students read independently for 7 minutes, I had them pair up with someone else in the class to see if they could collaborate and share each other’s thinking to help identify unknown words. Their collaboration was awesome!  Then, they finished reading the article in that pairing before we came back together with the whole group for me to define any words that still felt incomprehensible! (In higher levels you could totally have them read longer! There are so many ways to use this reading activity!)

I was so impressed with my students’ investment in this activity, and it was also a really wonderful formative assessment for me to see where everyone was and what words I needed to focus on more strategically moving forward!

I’m very grateful for Bertha for teaching me this!

If you’re interested in learning more about our MUSIC workshop, you’ll be happy to know that Bertha is transforming it into a COURSE! Stay tuned for the sign-up link! We are so excited for this!

Sending you loads of love for the rest of your week! 

Until next time, sending you JOY and Positivity!


La Maestra Loca

P.S. Did you see my last blog about the Spring Time Scavenger Hunt and Coloring activity? I’m super proud of this go to resource and activity and it is READY TO GO for you and your students!, Check it out HERE!

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