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3 Steps to Help High School Students Not Hate Reading

Jul 20, 2021

Today on the Sustainable Teacher Podcast, I am happy to welcome Emily Fox, a high school ELA teacher who is a former hater of reading, and knows how to grow a love of reading in her own students after years of experience.

In fact, Emily is sharing with us today 3 steps teachers can take to grow a love of reading in their high school students, but she’s got two additional steps that you don’t want to miss out on in a free resource she’s giving to everyone - 5 Steps to Help High School Students Not Hate Reading. 

Be sure to head to your favorite podcast app to hear all of Emily’s interview as well.

Welcome to the podcast Emily!  Why don’t you start by introducing yourself - tell us all about your teaching experience and who Emily is.

I am getting ready to start my 7th year of teaching. I have taught ELA for all of those years. When I started teaching, I taught 6th grade for two, and then moved to high school. I have taught 9th and 11th grade English during my time at the high school level. One of my favorite things about teaching and planning for English is the freedom there is to choose stories and activities to engage students. My goal in teaching is to help change the negative mindset most students have about reading. 

 When I’m not teaching, I am spending time with my husband and our lab puppy. We enjoy playing board games like Catan and Ticket to Ride. During the summer, you can find me on the front porch, in the rocking chair with a book in hand. A few of my favorite books are The Fault in the Stars and If You Only Knew

 What would you go back in time and tell yourself as a brand new teacher?

First I would tell myself to just take a deep breath and be okay with making mistakes and learning from them. I would also say to find someone who can help you plan out the year and work through any difficulties. It is easy to feel like you are supposed to have it all together, but the reality is no one does, especially that first year. I felt like there was one right way to teach an ELA class, but what I quickly found was that is not true. Take ownership in the planning, so you can make it come alive. The last thing I would say is show your excitement and passion for the stories. The students will catch on to your attitude and feed off of it. 

Emily is now a part of Team Teach On A Mission as a Content Coach in English Language Arts, and will be here to support ELA teachers in ways that help them build sustainable ELA classrooms, taking away  some of their major to-dos, and allow them to focus on building relationships with students.

Emily's Why

So I asked her about her why.  Why is she taking on this role as a mentor to ELA teachers?

When I started teaching, I was told to teach ELA. I was given the standards and that is all. I didn't know where to start and was working days, nights, and weekends to come up with plans. I remember how stressful this was, and I felt like my students weren't getting the best. Once I started building thematic units, I started seeing my students become engaged, and I was able to have a life outside of school. I felt very isolated and didn't  have other ELA teachers to connect to.

During the membership, you will gain a community of ELA teachers, 10 units to use in 9/10 ELA, and content coaching lives throughout the year. You will be able to ask questions in the group and during live Q and A´s. My goal is to make your teaching better and students more engaged. 

Emily has some amazing advice for ELA teachers, and wants to help them build a classroom culture that revolves around a love of reading for students.  So she’s got 3 steps she’s sharing in this post, but has all of them, plus two more, she’s sharing in a downloadable resource 5 Steps to Help High School Students NOT Hate Reading.  Be sure and grab that right here.  And then read on for her explanation of three of those steps. 

Create a Classroom Culture of Reading

The first one is to create a culture. Now, this one sounds so cliche, but this goes beyond just doing a quick ice breaker and going over the syllabus. Although these things are necessary, they do not create the open and safe culture that is desired in the classroom. I use the six word memoirs and in the document you receive examples of these. They can be funny or serious. I always ask the students to write five, and then they choose one to share and write on a sheet of paper to hang up in the classroom. I then have a wall of all the six word memoirs. I also want to create an environment that encourages reading for fun. I show the students a slide with a picture of books I have read over the summer. I always make sure to have at least one YA novel and a sports book. The other books I show may not be of interest to the students, but it at leasts sets up the environment of sharing what we read. I try to always share with the students what I am reading. 

Infuse Some Fun

The second one is to Be Willing to Have Fun. This tip is inspired by the teacher who helped me to like reading. I incorporate games into each unit. I have done versions of Among Us and Headbands games. In the document you will find the instructions and all materials needed for the Headbands game. You will receive this document when you sign up for the document. I use this during the thematic unit about Identity. My students beg to play this again throughout the year. Most people know Romeo and Juliet can be very boring, especially to high school boys. We act this out and use light sabers during the fighting scenes. The boys then want to act in every scene so they can use them. 

Thematic Units

The third one is using the Thematic Units. My first two years I taught units based on short stories, novels, and writing. I create units based on them. One of them is identity. During this unit we read Lord of the Flies, three short stories that relate to identity, write poetry, and write an essay connecting the novel to the short stories. What I have found is this creates a variety of materials in the classroom. In the content coaching course, you will receive 10 units with what I use during thematic units and the resources that go with them. 

Before we go, I want to ask Emily a fun question  that pertains to her role as a content coach, and I asked about a teacher who has  mentored her and how they have impacted her teaching career.

Stephanie Overby is a math consultant for the West Kentucky Education Center. She constantly reminds me of my why and gives me fresh ideas of how to engage students. She was a high school math teacher for many years, and she was constantly looking to grow in her career. She started mentoring me in a year where I was burned out and discouraged. Finding my why again was crucial for me to continue in education. 

If you are an ELA (or if you know any ELA teachers, please be sure to send them to this post and that they grab the resource Emily talks about here), you absolutely need to stay tuned for more information and support coming from Emily.  The best  way to do that is to grab the 5 Steps to Help  High School Students NOT Hate Reading downloadable guide below.

Alright teacher-friend, please join us on social media to give Emily a warm welcome to Team Teach On A Mission, and to learn more about her and the support she’ll be providing to ELA teachers.

I’ll see you next week.

All my best,


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