Q. How do you structure your reading block?
A: I get 60 minutes for my entire ELA block (crazy, right?!) because I’m in the dual language program. So, my reading block will look entirely different from yours! Normally, we spend about 20 minutes reading and discussing a book (either whole group or in small groups/partners). For this part of the day we are reading the same book, or subject matter. Sometimes we are all reading the exact same book, while other times we are reading books about a specific topic (penguins/spiders, Henry and Mudge books, books by Robert Munsch, etc). While we are reading these books we are focusing on a certain skill (identifying the main idea, finding the problem/solution, comprehension strategies, etc). We do part of it together through anchor charts or me modeling this skill. Then, the next 20 minutes we practice that skill with a partner (filling out a graphic organizer, responding to reading, etc.). The last 20 minutes I use to integrate writing and reading. So, if we are working on a grammar skill we focus on that while writing about what we are reading. In the picture above you see a letter writing… we tied in writing letters to our Chocolate Fever unit. I try and integrate grammar and reading as much as possible!
Q: How do you fit it all in?
A: I don’t, ha! What you normally see on the blog is a compilation of activities that we have done over the course of a week. Every craft and activity has to be carefully thought out because I don’t have time to waste! This is why I DO NOT USE WORKSHEETS EVER!! If I’m going to make the most of my reading block then I’m going to have to fill it up with engaging and meaningful activities!
Q: Have you ever used a basal series?
A: No, I have not ever used it as my main instruction. When I taught first grade I used it as a “listening to reading” because it came with tapes. I don’t even check out the books for my classroom now.
Q: Do you still use Daily Five?
A: While I just don’t have the time to incorporate D5 into my day like I would like to, I still use aspects of it. I really like the mini-lessons and different teaching techniques that they write about in the book. So, I teach partner reading and independent reading like they do in the Daily 5 so that my kids know what is expected of them, BUT they normally only get to practice that when they are finished with their work. I just don’t have the time to spare in 60 minutes of reading, writing, grammar, spelling, etc.
Q: How often do you give reading assessments?
A: Well, I don’t give the same type of reading assessments weekly since we don’t follow a basal. A lot of times I will do comprehension checks or graphic organizers to get my grades. Each week I vary how I get grades… we may do sorts, chapter questions, venn diagrams, etc. I don’t like anything that is repetitive, so I just mix it up a lot!
Q: How do you spiral concepts in your reading curriculum?
A: I do this during read-alouds. If we have talked about main idea for a week, we don’t just drop it there. We may not formally address it again for a while, but we continue to discuss that when we are reading. With reading you can touch on a number of things every time you read a book, so I find that’s the easiest thing to do… just let if flow through discussion! Obviously, everything has to be introduced, so we will spend a week on inference skills, character analysis, etc… but after it has been introduced it can be an ongoing discussion.
Q: What kind of literature do you use to teach the standards? Does your district tell you which books to read?
A: I have a lot of freedom in my teaching. My district will tell us when to teach the standards, and give suggestions on what to use, but they don’t tell us HOW to teach the standards. It can be scary because you are kinda left out there with no raft to help you float, but once you realize how lucky you are to not have someone jumping down your throat, you just spend the extra time prepping each week! So, we may need to teach fiction vs. nonfiction, but I get to choose that I want to focus on spiders, penguins, biographies, etc. I choose the books based on what I have in the classroom, what my school has in the library, and what our grade level has in our literacy library. I try to find high-interest topics, enjoyable novels, and books that will really help nail the concept in!
Q: Do you have class sets of the books you read?
A: Yes and No. Several of the units that I make/teach I do so because we have at least 6-10 copies of that book. Some of those my school has purchased, and some I have bought during Scholastic sales or dollar deals. Any chance I get to buy books for $1 I always buy multiple copies. I want my students to be holding the books and reading by themselves as much as possible. Some of the texts are more difficult (like Chocolate Fever) so I will read aloud while they are following along. We will do partner re-reading and discussions in the more challenging novels because I want them to initially be able to comprehend the book rather than being able to read it word-for-word. If we are doing a series such as Henry and Mudge then I don’t have multiple copies of a particular title, but I do have tons of different titles. So, my students will read any Henry and Mudge book and complete a Beginning, Middle, and End or reading response with whatever book they have in their hands. So, it really depends, ha!