5 Fun Ideas for Teaching Reading Using Theme Days!

Theme Days- that magical part of teaching when you are able to turn standards that students find boring (I’m looking at you, Reading Fluency!) into engaging lessons that they will remember years after they have left your classroom! How could a student forget the time everyone dressed up as actors to perform their most dramatic reading “on stage” (while you were rockin’ a fluency lesson…)?

Obviously, they won’t! And that is totally my point! So, let’s get a little Teacher Sparkle going on and turn those ordinary reading lessons into something special…. Theme Days!

Why Do You Need Theme Days?

If you have been a teacher for any length of time, you know that not every kid comes to school excited about learning! We wish that weren’t true, but that one kid who begs to sit in the front and always raises their hand to answer every question is not always the norm! 

Student bored in class.

Sometimes, those hard-to-reach kids need a little extra fun and laughter to put them at ease. Looking forward to Theme Days is a great distraction that takes pressure off your anxious students and sets the stage (that pun was SO intended!) for real learning to occur.

When you were little, did your mom ever hide your medicine in ice cream so that it wouldn’t taste so gross?

Think of a Theme Day as that! Add something students like (music, art, dressing up…) to something they don’t like to make it more palatable.

You know who else benefits from Theme Days? YOU DO! If you’re feeling a bit down or struggling with enjoying your job, a good Theme Day gives you something to look forward to and brings joy to your day just as much as it does for your students!

Not sure how you would take on a Theme Day? Here are five ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

5 Fun Ideas For Theme Days!

1. Song Lyric Analysis and Fluency- “Rockstar Day!”

Students dressed up as rock stars on a Reading Theme Day

Get students excited about reading words with music and a beat! Allow your students to dress up like “rockstars” and either let them bring in song lyrics of their own choosing or provide printed lyrics from several “safe for school” songs.

Students should read the song lyrics and try to figure out what each line (or every two lines) means. Once they have done this, students can illustrate the meaning of the song, then practice reading/singing the lyrics several times to improve Reading Fluency!

When students have had plenty of practice reading the lyrics (and even singing them if they want!), have them give a performance for the class! Using a microphone (toy or real), your rockstars will actually read or sing the lyrics for the class!

2. Making Inferences- “Detective Day!”

Students act as detectives to study a picture. They must make observations about what they see (evidence) and then discuss what they know about the evidence they observed (prior knowledge).

For example, students might notice kids wearing jackets outside and playing in red, orange, and brown leaves on the ground. Their prior knowledge is that people wear jackets when it’s cold and those colored leaves usually fall off of trees in the Fall. 

Student dressed up as a detective for a Reading Theme Day.

As detectives, students must create inferences (guesses) about what is happening in the picture based on the evidence they saw, using the prior knowledge they discussed to prove their inferences are correct.

Encourage your students to defend their ideas with “evidence” from the picture as well as prior knowledge and connections they had with that evidences. Students may have differing opinions due to their background knowledge, but there could be several answers as long as students can prove they are right.

Students could wear all black or dressy clothes, sunglasses, a hat, and a badge to really get into the spirit of the day! Adding magnifying glasses would be a fun detective touch as well!

3. Plot Elements/Character Traits- “Hollywood Day!”

For this activity, students actually watch a non-educational movie. Choose one that has strong characters and an interesting plot such as- Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, Inside Out, Sing, etc… depending on your grade level and what you know your students would enjoy.

Classroom decorated like a Hollywood red carpet on a Reading Theme Day.

After the movie is finished, hold a class discussion where students identify the story elements in the plot, analyze the characters in the movie, and share the lesson they learned (theme). Students could even create a new movie poster or write their own story based on the movie!

Students can come to school dressed up as a movie star or you can provide props like sunglasses or scarves! Have them walk the “red carpet” in your room when it’s their turn to “perform” the story they wrote!

Extra Teacher Sparkle Bonus Points if you bring popcorn and dress up to give a performance of your own! It helps if you have a famous Hollywood Actress Alter-Ego (but THAT is a story for another day….).

4. Vocabulary- “Cowboy Day!” 

Give your cowhands 1 hour to read as much as possible (chapter books, picture books, fact books, etc…) and “round up” as many new or cool words as they can and write them down on Sticky Notes.

Students dressed up as cowboys on a Reading Theme Day.

After the hour is up, students will be responsible for researching the meanings of at least 3-5 words (or more depending on your need for differentiation) from their list and making a card for each word.

Students will take turns teaching their words to the class by using pictures, definitions, rhythmic chanting, hand motions, or any other creative way.

At the end of this activity, the word cards will be added to a class-created Word Wall where students can continue to review the words long after the day is over!

Students dressing up in flannel, boots, hats, and jeans are the icing on the cake for this fun day. Yee haw!

5. Context Clues- “Pirate Day!”

Eye patches, eyeliner beards, and hook hands- Oh my! Teach your students the different types of context clues a few days before your Pirate Day. Together as a class, practice finding context clues in texts to figure out the meaning of unknown words.

Students dressed up as pirates on a Reading Theme Day.

On Pirate Day, students dress as pirates and use colored pencils or markers to “dig for buried treasure” on printed copies of text!

Ok, they really search for context clues for unknown words and highlight them in the text, but “digging for treasure” is waaaay more “teacher sparkle”!

Once students identify the context clues they find in the text, they will then figure out the meaning of each unknown word.

Walking the plank is optional, but asking students to create pictures explaining the meaning of the words they just learned shouldn’t be…. and neither should the pirate talk! Arrrg, matey! 

Ready For Theme Days Of Your Own?

Sounds fun, right?! I can hear the wheels spinning in your brain right now as you excitedly plan your first Theme Day! Whether it’s one of the ideas listed above or one you come up with on your own, you are SO ready, friend!

One thing to keep in mind…. These “Theme Days” shouldn’t happen every week! Use them sparingly so they remain special (and you remain sane!). You can put as little effort or as BIG effort into this as you want. Simply allow the kids to dress up or decorate your room with props and visual aides– it’s completely up to you how far you take the theme!

Free print and go reading activities for Reading Theme Days.

If you want a big head start on preparing your own Theme Days, I have 3 Free Resources to make it easy!

These 3 ready-to-go resources (along with the accompanying Implementation Guide) will get you prepped for the first 3 Theme Days that I mentioned above: Song Lyrics, Inference Pictures, and Plot Elements!

Simply click here to grab these amazing Teacher Sparkle Freebies to use with your students!

Pin These Theme Day Ideas

Save this post to your favorite Teaching Pinterest Boards so that you can remember these ideas later! You are going to have so much fun with Theme Days in your own classroom!

Pinterest Pin 5 Fun Ideas for Teaching Reading Using Theme Days

If you have any questions or want to bounce any ideas off a colleague, I’m here for you! Teacher Sparkle always grows when it has other Teacher Sparkle to share in the excitement!


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