Flashlight Fridays

As a teacher, one of my main missions in life is to introduce my students to the joyous world of reading.  I want to find that one book that hooks them and makes them realize how fun reading can be.  I want them to meet characters that they will still love as adults.

We know that they don't all come to us already hooked on books.  So I spend everyday recommending new books that they would enjoy, talking to them about my reading life, and connecting them with other students that love the same books that they do.  Along the way, I want to include as many positive associations with reading as I possibly can.  One very simple way to do that is to institute Flashlight Fridays into your classroom.

The first thing you will need, of course, is flashlights.  The colorful finger lights can work well, and can be found pretty inexpensively these days. However, I prefer true mini flashlights because the white light is more conducive to reading for longer amounts of time.  I started collecting flashlights a few at a time from the Target Dollar Spot, Walmart bins, and Dollar Tree.  I even made a drawer behind my desk labeled "Flashlights" that we can pull out and carry around the room while we are passing them out.

Each Friday, when it is time for silent reading, I walk around and pass out a small flashlight to each student. They know that is their signal to begin moving around the room and getting comfortable for reading.  It is just novel enough that they get even more excited about reading than they usually do.

The first time we use them, we have a little talk about the appropriate use of the flashlights.  I always give them about 5 seconds when we first turn out the lights that first time to shine them on the ceiling (because for some reason that is so much fun for them!) and then they know that their light needs to stay on their book, and never, ever in anyone's face.  It is amazing how intent on reading they become as soon as the overhead light goes out.

The first year I used this idea with my class, I was surprised to see something else happening.  The students that sometimes struggled to stay focused (no matter how hard they tried!) suddenly had an increased level of attentiveness.  With the lights out, the visual stimulation around the room practically disappeared.  With the other students excited about using their flashlights with their books, the incidental noises almost disappeared as well.  I do have several lamps in my classroom that I also turn on, which gives me a slightly better view of each student, and gives the students the option of sitting under a lamp if they prefer not to hold a light while they are reading.

Flashlight Fridays is really a small thing, that requires no extra prep on my part or unnecessary prizes for reading.  The reading is still the motivator, but the flashlights help them to focus, give them something a little extra to look forward to, and create positive memories associated with reading.  

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