Creating a Literacy Rich Classroom

Entering into my 6th year of teaching has me reflecting a lot on what works and what doesn’t work in my classroom. Unfortunately, the past two years at my new school have proven unsuccessful….. according to state and district standards. Putting aside the “standardized test,” my students have made great gains and have been wonderful learners. But I can’t help but think that something I’m doing has to change. So this year, after 6 years of doing “what I know” I’m changing the game. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new proven literacy techniques.

I spent last summer studying away to become a Certified Master Reading Teacher. I learned so many great research based strategies, but did a poor job implementing them in my classroom. Instead, my focus has been on test prep and evaluation which I know many of you can relate to. Although I taught my heart out day after day, it wasn’t enough, and many of my students did not meet state requirements. So I am taking this leap, and changing it up.

Throughout this year I am going to keep data on my strategies used and effectiveness in hopes of inspiring others to try some of these strategies. Keep a look out for future posts and updates about how it’s going! Nothing I do will be new, but it will be a radical change from my focus the previous years. So here’s the plan…

My reading block is broken into two parts, Whole Group Lesson (30 minutes) and Guided Reading (1 hour). My guided reading is the time I will introduce our state standards called TEKS. The TEKS will be introduced in small group on students reading level. Because I am a bilingual teacher, my students reading levels range from non-reading to on grade level. Introducing the state standards at this time will allow all students to practice the skill. In the past, I would introduce the skill whole group with an on-grade-level text. The problem is that I was only teaching to about 5 of my students. For the rest of them, decoding and reading the grade level text took all of their cognitive abilities making comprehension almost impossible. Now, each kid will be successful with our standards at their individual reading level.

But what about grade level texts?!?!?!?! I got it covered. I intend to start my reading block with a skill-targeted read-aloud. You can use just about anything as a read-aloud including recipes, articles, advertisements, etc. We will practice and review the skills learned in small group with a text that I have read-aloud to students. After reading, students will then complete a reader’s response page where I ask them open-ended questions like the ones they will see on our state assessment.

The second part of my Whole Group lesson will focus on vocabulary. ELL’s have limited experience with Tier 2 words, and I need to spend more time explicitly teaching vocabulary. After much research and thinking, I have decided to purchase a Flocabulary license. I will use their Word Up program and lesson plans to teach Tier 2 words. Check out their sample units here! I am also going to supplement this with the following vocabulary activities:

  • Student created word wall. Students will draw a picture to represent the word.
  • Word Wednesday. Each Wednesday, students will be given a word to wear and will be asked about the word by adults throughout the day.Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 4.18.20 PM
  • Game Day Friday. On Fridays, we will spend 15-20 minutes on vocabulary games like Swat It, Bang, and vocabulary basketball.
  • Vocabulary Worksheets. My school is 1:1 with iPads and I’ve created some interactive worksheets on Pages that students will complete independently after repeated exposure to Tier 2 words. This document is a work in progress, but you can download it as a PDF (Vocabulary Work) for free.
  • AR vocabulary tests. If your school uses AR then this vocabulary tool is free. Each AR book that has a comprehension quiz also comes with a vocabulary quiz as well. Students can take vocabulary quizzes for their books and receive grades. I am going to reward students if they pass a certain number of vocabulary quizzes each grading period. I’m still hammering out the details for this one.
  • What other ideas do you have? Comment below!

Part three of my Whole Group teach will be about fluency. Students must become fluent readers, and I will accomplish fluency by practicing Fry Phrases, using 6 Minute Fluency, and Reader’s Theater. Each guided reading group will be given a reader’s theater script to practice and perform in front of other students. Repeated oral reading of texts is proven to improve comprehension. Want more facts on effectiveness of reader’s theater? Click Here! Students will also practice their Fry Phrases and read their leveled fluency passages daily, as well as graph their progress. This part will take a lot of organization and planning on my part, but I’m up for the challenge!

So there you have it! My reading block is being completely overhauled and I can’t wait to get started. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? I would love to hear from you!

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