Friday, April 19, 2013

Marathon Reading Day

Our current unit of study in Reading Workshop is a test prep unit (click to link to a previous post about our materials and resources). We renamed it Journey Through Genres because we thought that sounded much more appealing. This also matched well with the students' reading passports (another previous post).

Lucy Calkins' A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop Grade 3 describes the need for increased stamina and volume during this unit. She refers to it as a Marathon Day which also fits in with our journey theme.

Tuesday is our Reading Marathon day. They get warmed up by listening to Eye of the Tiger while they get their book baggies organized and get their reading logs open. One day they ran a lap around the track with their baggies! 

The students read for 60 minutes. Yes, they do. They really do. Seriously!

The boy in the blue shirt was talking to a friend of his at the end of our first marathon and he told him this was the best day he had ever had in school. He said, "can you believe she let us read for 60 minutes?!"

After they completed their first Reading Marathon, they earned gold medals at the end of the 60 minutes. Some students will wear them on Tuesdays now.

Students keep 10-12 books in their baggies now. They have a variety of genres including magazines and some passages we use in minilessons. Students also select some books that are slightly above and below their Just Right levels. This was decided on by the students because some of them found some books that "they just really needed to read please!"

My special needs students do not read for an hour,
but EVERYONE reads on Marathon Day.

No Better Feeling in a Teacher's World

I have a student this year who is The Little Engine That Could. He came to 3rd grade unable to speak coherently. He would babble animatedly and we would have to listen very hard to initial consonants to try and figure out what he was saying. We knew he was an identified exceptional needs student, but after one day of school we knew we would be digging into our toolboxes to help him learn.

He was a nonreader. Now he is a level F. He wants to read all of the time to everyone he sees! He used to use the string of letters eyeyeyeyey no matter what he was writing. Now he has published 2 books--one personal narrative book about swimming and one nonfiction book about flies. I wrote a previous post about this student titled The Reason.

I pulled the student over yesterday to conference during Reading Workshop. I asked to see his My Reading Life Log. He brought it over and proudly told me that he was filling it out all by himself.

His log in September

His log yesterday, April 18

The entire date (M-D-Y) is written by him. The genre is not correct. The book levels range from a C (read independently) to an H (read to). The titles are written by him. His time for reading ranges from 20 to 45 minutes! His page numbers are sometimes inverted. He has a variety of read to, read with, and read independently.
Everyone who knows this student is excited for his progress. The special needs teachers who work with him celebrate his growth. His speech therapist shares his progress. The literacy facilitator writes him notes. The principal gives stickers when the student comes to his office to read to him. The secretary claps when she hears him read. The teaching assistants congratulate him when they see him read.
There is no better feeling in a teacher's world than when the reading spark ignites in a student. This is why I love teaching reading.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Using Tests as a Teaching Tool

Tests should be used as teaching tools. They should not be administered, graded, and then put away. Students should be able to dissect the test and learn from it. Yes, this does not happen with standardized tests, but a classroom is a place of learning. In my classroom students see their tests and review them to learn from their mistakes.

I took our last assessment and tore it apart based on the data results from my students. On the cover of the test, I wrote out the steps that I use to review the test with students. I wrote out the steps for one of the instructional assistants at my school so that when she comes in my room to help students she and I can be on the same page regarding instruction. I know what I am doing, but I want her to be familiar with my process.

I set up work stations in my classroom. I wrote the students' names that we are working with on index cards. I am working with the neediest students and my assistant is working with the midlevel students who need some practice with strategies to give them that boost to be on grade level. I also placed a basket of sticky notes, pencils, and pens (students think work is so much more fun with pens, right?).
Beside each question in the test I wrote the percentage correct that each of my blocks earned. This lets me know on which questions I need to spend more time. If both blocks scored poorly, then I need to do a whole class reteach. I also mark which answer most students selected to help me understand why they struggled with that particular question. Finally, I write notes to myself about teaching points.

Passport to Reading

My team decided to call our Test Prep Unit "Journey Through Genres" because that sounded more appealing and exciting. To carry out this theme we designed a passport filled with genres. Each child is working towards earning a sticker on each page after they read 5 books from each genre.

When children go  book shopping, they make sure to choose books from a variety of genres. They can also choose authentic literature such as magazines and cookbooks.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Test Prep Unit Plan and Resources

My district is new to the Balanced Literacy framework, so we do not have any curriculum plans or guides to help us. We have a simple outline organized with monthly basics, but it is up to us as teachers to develop our lessons.

Before my third grade literacy team met to plan for this new unit, I outlined the research I had found on the unit so far. I listed materials, anchor charts (which can be found in my blog post Test Prep Unit Anchor Charts), technology, and main ideas from our resource books. I have a 1st year teacher (who was my student teacher last year) and a teacher new to third grade via kindergarten. I think it was helpful for them to have this information in front of them. It cut down on them being overwhelmed (I think).

I found the following guide online that is used in New York. I trust curriculum guides and lesson ideas from NY because I was trained in balanced literacy from the Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project. I add in the North Carolina standards and the Common Core State Standards so that my students get all of the  necessary and appropriate instruction.

The following pages in the guide were especially helpful when planning our unit. We reviewed the teaching points grid and crossed off the ones that we felt were not necessary for our instruction. Some of them we combined to streamline the unit. Some of them are more appropriate for small group lessons.

The Lucy Calkins A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop Grade 3 presents a Test Prep Unit framework. I created Smart Board slides using the guiding questions for the genres found within this unit on pages 118-130. I also created games using the ideas on pages 130-134 (I will post more about these later so you can see them in action). Page 116 provides a very useful layout of how to incorporate whole class, partner, small group, and independent practice of reading strategies during the unit.
After we chose our teaching points, we recorded everything on a calendar. We found passages that matched the teaching points. We pulled a variety of genres to copy so students would have Just Right books from the classroom library in addition to passages that were at and slightly above their levels. We created a Reading Passport for students to fill out as a way of keeping track of the genres they read (this will be a later post...check back at the end of the week). We planned out small groups to pull based on past data and conference notes. We planned out partner and small group activities for students to do from the Florida Center for Reading Research (click on FCRR in the labels column to the left).
The book below has some interactive reading strategies that I am going to use with small groups of students. I plan on using them with at- or above-level students who need a new way to use their strategies. There is a coding list that I think these students will enjoy using as a way of road-mapping their passages to show their thinking (also found in the Lucy Calkins curriculum guide on pages 121-122). It does explain that a few codes go a long way, so do not teach the entire list.

Since this is a new unit for me, I will post what I change and add throughout the month I am teaching.


Test Prep Unit Anchor Charts

I created the anchor charts for our Test Prep Unit using the information in A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop Grade 3 by Lucy Calkins. Below each chart I cited the page numbers that correspond with the information.

Students should continue developing more stamina as they read during this unit by having one day a week where they have 60 minutes of independent reading time (p. 112).
In addition to using close reading techniques, students will be practicing how to use road-mapping when they read passages (pp. 121-122).
These are tips to remind students what they can do to be successful readers (pp. 114-118). This anchor chart will be posted in an area of the room that students can reference during both independent reading and small group instruction.

There will be students who will struggle with standardized tests because they are below grade level. Obviously if a third grader is a Level L, they are going to have a difficult time reading and comprehending end-of-the-year third grade text. This chart will give those readers little tips to help them stay resilient and focused (pp. 122-125)
Teaching Points:  This last set of charts will help me stay focused on what I want students to learn during the Test Prep Unit. This unit is designed to help students use what they have learned as readers throughout the past year.   This unit is not designed to show them how to pass a test. Unfortunately there is currently no way to get around these tests. My students have show tremendous growth as readers this year and the end-of-grade test will most likely not showcase all of their learning.