Sunday, 16 October 2016

My Guide to Guided Reading

This blog focuses on guided reading which involves a teacher working with a small group of students who have similar reading abilities.

I feel this is an important subject for a blog because there are many different approaches used by teachers and questions about which approaches work.

The following details how I approach guided reading in my Grade 2 and 3 classes.

Running Record

Prior to beginning a guided reading program, I conduct a running record for each student.  This entails assessing each student’s reading level.   Our school supplies Nelson’s PM Benchmark Reading Assessment Resource which consists of short fiction and non-fiction texts along with comprehension questions which enable you to assign a reading level for each student.

Organizing Tips

Reading Level Chart

I create a chart on the inside of a file folder with columns on both sides where I record the reading level for each student.  

For example, if the lowest reader is at level 14, that would be the first column in the chart and the last column would be 30+ for a total of 18 columns.

I write each student’s name on a Post-it 1/2” flag and place the flag in the appropriate column (red flags in the chart to the right). This enables you to move students to different levels as they progress throughout the year. As well, the file folder protects the Post-its once the folder is closed and keeps the information private.  It also visually assists you in organizing the students into reading groups of four to six students. 

Now that your guided reading groups are established, it's time to choose a level appropriate book for each group that best suits the composition and interests of the students in the group. 

Please go to my TpT store for a free Reading Level Comparison that I created that relates the various guided reading levels to each other.  For example, PM Benchmark Scholastics, Fountas and Pinnell. 

Student Guided Reading Pocket Folder

I give each student their own pocket folder in which they keep their guided reading book, the comprehension questions, a pencil and a small quantity of Post-its (2”x1½”) which they use to write down unfamiliar words and then stick it on the edge of the page where the word is first located in the book. 

Cam Jansen,The Mystery of the U.F.O.
As I described in my first blog, 7 Tips for the First Day Back to School, I have the students keep the pocket folders in their literature box which is kept on a shelf in the classroom.

I also make my own pocket folder for each reading group which contains a copy of the book they are reading, recording sheets for each student where I write anecdotal notes after each session and a copy of the comprehension questions and answers.  

How Often

I meet with each group once a week for twenty minutes unless I have a group that is reading well below grade level which I meet with twice a week.  I organize my class into five groups because I run my Daily 5 centres (guided reading being one of the centres) on a Monday to Friday schedule and the students go to one centre per day. I feel this is sufficient because students are exposed to other reading activities during their individual Daily 5 language activities.  For example, the other four groups could be doing word work, independent/silent reading, completing comprehension questions and a computer reading comprehension activity called “RAZ”.    

Independent/Silent Reading Assessment Tip

As part of independent/silent reading, students are expected to write a letter to me every time they complete a chapter (or a small picture book) which describes a connection or prediction (whichever reading strategy we are focusing on that month) they’ve made to the book.  I give the students a letter template with paragraph starters for them to explain the reading strategy.  

All Daily 5 activities are displayed on a pocket chart in the class.  Each group is assigned a number which I rotate in the chart daily to show what activity they will be doing on a particular day. 
What to do during Guided Reading

At your first meeting with each group, hand out to each student their pocket folder with their name on it and ask the students to remove the guided reading book.  After reading the title and looking at the front cover, I ask them in a group discussion setting to predict what they think the story will be about and their reasoning. If the students are not supplying a reason, I make sure to model how they should make the prediction making sure to use the words “I think that” and “I think this because”.   

I then review any words from the book that I feel they would not know.   This is the time that I explain why they each have small Post-its and how they are to use them to identify words they are unfamiliar with.

Next, I explain that when they are silently reading, I will be going to each student and leaning in close so they can softly read out loud.  At this time I can assess their reading level and fluency.  After I have listened to each student, I allow the students to continue silent reading until the end of the 20 minutes.  If they haven’t completed the assigned reading (either a small book or the first chapter), they need to finish it for homework that evening.  

I use Guided Reading Assessment and Anecdotal Notes, which is for sale in my TpT store, to record each student's reading assessment.

The next day, before I begin the session with Group 2, I give Group 1 their reading comprehension questions which they complete during this 20 minute period.

In week two, when I meet with the groups for a second time, I review any words that they have noted, and discuss the reading comprehension questions with the group.  I would ask a student to read out their answer as a starting point for a discussion by asking the other students if they agreed.  Once completed, the students would begin silently reading the next chapter.  While the students are reading, I record my observations on fluency, rate of reading, ability to answer questions and which type of questions they are having difficulties answering.

While this approach may seem to focus on reading comprehension questions, the questions have been structured to include reading strategies in addition to the who, what, where, when, why and how comprehension type questions.
Reading strategies include predicting, connecting, visualizing, summarizing and inferring.

My language block is broken up into three separate time slots: Daily 5; writing; and reading.  During the reading portion, I give individual lessons on the reading strategies so that the students understand how to use them while reading.

Four Corners Reading Book Talk

In addition to the above, once a week, four students are each asked to give a verbal book report to the class on a book they select.   I refer to this as Four Corners Reading Book Talk which is available at my TpT store.  This unit includes a rubric to assess the book talk and oral reading skills. They are expected to complete their book talk outline and practice their presentation at home.    

Student Reading Assessment

Assessing student’s reading for report cards is something many teachers struggle with.   My approach is to assess a variety of different reading activities which together determine the final assessment.    

These activities include:
I have developed my own reading comprehension units to use during my guided reading program.  If you are interested in this guided reading approach, which I have found to be very successful in progressing a student's reading level, please go my TpT store, Laurie's Classroom, and check out my units.
Stay tuned for my next blog.

Happy teaching.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Long Range Planning

"If you don't know where you are going, 
you might wind up someplace else."

Yogi Berra

I have found long range planning to be an indispensable tool in meeting the demands of teaching today.   While winding up someplace else might be fun on a summer road trip, it’s not the place you want to be during the fast paced school year.

What is it?

A long range plan is a high level, comprehensive, progressive monthly based plan for each subject that will ensure that all expectations are covered by the end of the school year.   
High level refers to including the overall expectations for each subject matter and names of unit plans but not daily lessons. 

By progressive, I mean ensuring that students have the requisite knowledge to meet an expectation.  For example, number recognition has to be taught prior to teaching addition and subtraction.   It also applies to cross curricular links whereby if students need a particular skill such as jot notes for a social studies unit, you will need to plan to do the social studies unit at the same time or soon after teaching jot notes. 

Comprehensive refers to including all elements for each subject e.g. language including reading strategies, writing forms, grammar, spelling, printing/cursive writing as well as the number of weeks each unit will take.

"Plans are nothing; planning is everything."

Dwight D. Eisenhower 

In teaching, plans are important, however, we can’t lose sight of the need to be flexible and make adjustments to the plan as required.   For example, it’s easy to spend extra time on a specific subject such as when the students are having difficulties.  This is where adjustments to the plan will need to be made such as removing other aspects of your unit to keep you on schedule.   A clearly laid out plan enables you to more easily decide where the adjustments can be made and to what degree.

Why do it?

Yes, the first time you develop a long range plan requires a considerable amount of thought and work.  However, once it’s done, it can be used every year with only some fine tuning.   
  • It saves you having to regularly refer back to overall expectations over the course of the year.
  • It keeps you focused and on track to complete all subjects on time for report cards.  
  • It assists in reporting to parents who are interested in knowing what’s going to be covered over the course of the year.  Similarly, if a student is going to be absent, since you know in advance what you will be teaching at that time, you can get material ready for the student if you chose or at least better inform the parent of what will be missed.
  • If for some reason the teacher is absent for a long period time, a substitute teacher will know exactly what has been covered and what still needs to be taught. 

What’s Next?

When my long range plan is drafted, I develop my units for each subject to meet the required specific expectations.   Units consist of daily lessons and assessments.  A first year teacher or a teacher teaching a new grade for the first time would likely do this on a monthly basis since they don’t have a full inventory of units previously prepared.  

Now that you know the number of days to complete a unit, you can develop a monthly calendar for all subjects.  Once your monthly calendar is developed, you can write your detailed day plans for each week.   Here is a sample of what your monthly planner should look like.

You can get my free editable monthly calendar and day plans at my TpT store.

My TpT store has detailed long range plans for grades 2, 3 and 2/3.  Included in these plans are language, math, science, and social studies.

While you’re there please check all of my teaching products and other free materials.  

Stay tuned for my next blog.

Happy teaching.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

7 Tips for the First Day Back to School

How would you like a supply teacher telling you that they didn’t really need to be there first thing in the morning since your students knew exactly what to do? There’s no better time to start these classroom routines than the first day back to school.

Entering the classroom

I start by showing my students how I expect them to enter the classroom which is single file in the order in which they arrive outside the classroom. Relate this behavior to real world expectations such as lining up at a bus stop and ask them how they would feel if a person who arrived at the stop after them pushed to the front of the line. I practice this routine all year.

 Morning routines

Once inside the classroom make sure you provide clear instructions of what is expected.  For example, I tell the students that they are expected to place returned work into designated bins and letters to the teacher or money envelopes in a bin on the teacher’s desk.  The students must then return to their desks and write in their agenda the work of the day which has been listed on the board. 

They then get their literature box, which is a magazine file for each student, where they keep all their reading e.g. silent reading book, writing, grammar etc., from a central area, and place it on their desk.  If necessary, they exchange their silent reading book from the classroom library. 

They then go and sit at the carpet where the chart stand is located and work on the Grammar Morning Work Activity. 

I use this grammar activity to help students with punctuation, phonics, spelling rules and more.
This routine is repeated daily which keeps the students focused and permits the teacher time to do morning attendance and check agendas.   

Walking as a class

With the class, I discuss and practice walking the hallway in an appropriate way.  I ask the students what our class should look like to others as we walk down the hall.  We jointly come up with a list of behaviors such walking in a straight line, being quiet, not pushing each other etc.  This can be done in a lighthearted way by the teacher demonstrating an inappropriate behavior is an exaggerated way and then ask the students if this is the proper way. 

Washroom rules

To prevent behavior issues with more than one student leaving the classroom at the same time as well as students constantly asking to leave the class, my students are allowed two washroom breaks each day during classroom time.  I try not to allow breaks during instruction time except for an emergency. This does not include recess, lunch, and snack time.  Students do not have to ask to visit the washroom during non-instruction time.  Only one boy and one girl are allowed to go at the same time.   

Free Washroom Cards
I have a chart with a pocket for each student in the classroom with washroom cards at the top. A student will place a card in their pocket to indicate they are in the washroom.   When they return to class, they return the washroom card and put a popsicle stick in their pocket to indicate they used one of their two washroom visits.   One of the classroom jobs that are assigned to students for the end of the day is to remove the sticks from the pockets to ready the chart for the next day. 

Get your Free washroom passes at my TpT store, Laurie’s Classroom.

Fire drills

Again, I use an interactive approach to jointly develop the rules for responding to fire alarms.   This includes how to line up to leave the classroom, where to stand outside and what to do if they are in the washroom.

Asking for help

I start by asking the students how they would get my attention to ask for help. For example, a student will say they should put their hand up.  I would then raise my hand and wave it back and forth while loudly saying my name and then ask them if this is how I should do it. This approach is fun for the students and gives them a sense of being part of the rules development.

By implementing these simple techniques and reinforcing them throughout the year, you will be a supply teacher’s dream come true and you will have the time to do your morning routines.

Numbers, not names

While not an activity for the class, one administrative technique that I find really helpful on the first day is to assign each student a number based on alphabetical order.   There are numerous benefits including: 
  • collecting material from students since it allows the teacher to quickly determine if someone has not handed it in;
  • recording attendance, marks etc.
  • behavior charts in the classroom are anonymous;
  • organizing any activity that involves placing the students into groups.

As new students come into the class, rather than renumbering all students, I add letter suffixes and prefixes.  For example, if the new student should be numbered as 17 based on alphabetical order, I would number them as 16A. If the new student is now number 1, they are numbered as A1 and the former number 1 student remains as number 1.

My next blog will deal with how to develop long and short range plans to help you cover all required expectations for the year.

Want to make this year even easier?  Visit my TpT store, Laurie’s Classroom, for lesson plans, daily activities and more free teaching materials: