Monday, February 11, 2019

Increasing Reading Time! Here's how!

Tick, tick, tick, tick!  It's all about time, in the classroom, isn't it?  That clock just keeps-a-tickin' along.  Time just seems to rule us.  That is true when it comes to reading improvement, too.  You all know that we ask parents to have their children read for a certain number of minutes each night at home.  Have you ever wondered though, exactly how many minutes total each day a child needs to read to increase reading achievement at least one year's growth?  Did you know that it has been figured out?  Yes!  People who are far better than I at statistics, have it all worked out for us.  So what IS that number, I hear you say?

It is 80 minutes total per day.  Yes, that's right.....80 minutes.  That includes ALL of the reading that is "just right" that students do all day.  It includes problems in the math book, directions on a test, charts on your bulletin board (thus the reason you always hear me talking about that), and all the books and stories your students read at school and home.....everything! Here's the key thing though, the reading material must be either "just right - independent level" reading if the student is reading on their own, OR instructional level reading if they are reading with a teacher who can give them support.  It NEVER includes material that is too hard.  Now, if your student is one year below grade level, he or she must read at least 160 minutes total per day to catch up to grade level standards!  Ouch!  That's a tough one!  That is where your reading interventions come in.  They can provide extra reading each day to work toward that total. But we, as classroom teachers, must work to make sure it happens, too.



Yeah right, you say.  How do I do that???  Well, start by checking the reading level of everything your students read.  For the most part, it should be at their "just right" level, especially for your students who are not at grade level.

Think about it for a moment.

Your on and above grade level students can probably read everything in your class, but your strugglers cannot.  That means that your students that can already read well, get more minutes toward increasing their reading simply because they have more to read.  Whereas your struggling students have far less available that they can read, so they have less opportunity to get the minutes they need, and potentially fall farther and farther behind.

Sooooo.....take a look around your room, what reading/difficulty level are your charts at?  Can your lowest readers read them?  What about your math book's directions?  Can ALL of your students read them?  Do you use reading passages or articles for students to read?  Are they an exact match to your student's reading levels?  If not, find some that are or retype the article into several different levels.  What about morning work?  Can all of your students read it?  Why not meet with your best teacher buddy and brainstorm ways to reach the 80 minutes or more that your students need?  Are the books that your students take home to read, at their "just right" level?   Once you start looking around with the "80 minute mindset" at what is provided in your classrooms, you will begin to see so many ways to adjust things and to make sure that all the text there is accessible to all students.  That alone will increase the opportunity for your students to have more things to read and more minutes spent on reading. Why not give it a try?  You and your students will reap the benefits!

Want to read more?  Check out this book!  This book will tell you about the statistical formula used to figure this all out.  Are they experts?  You bet!  They turned a whole school district around and increased the reading achievement of all of their students....below, on and above grade level!


Need more leveled resources?  Here is an Apples, Apples, Apples! freebie of our leveled passage sets for you to try out.  If you like it, we have lots more available for you here.


Happy Reading!

Smiles,
Kristin

Monday, January 28, 2019

Closing the Gap - Using Interventions Effectively - #3





Through The Eyes of a Struggling Reader
Teacher, help me…
I don’t know that word.
I don’t know what sound that says.
I don’t know what that word means.
I don’t know what the story said.
I don’t know how the character feels.
I don’t know what the story means.
I don’t know what I’m thinking….or how to tell you.
I don’t know how to be a good reader.
Teacher, help me.  I am counting on you. 

In this series of blogposts we have shared ideas for your students in Tier 1, (here) and in Tier 2, (here). In this final post of the series, we’d like to share ideas for Tier 3 students, those that are one or more years below grade level standards..  Tier 3 students struggle for many reasons, but the most prevalent are:  ELL newcomers, lack of literacy in the home, attending many schools over the years, and suspected learning disabilities.  No matter the reason, it is important for us to do all we can to catch these students up.  Their futures quite literally depend upon it.  So, what do we do? 

The 5 Necessities
To help Tier 3 students catch up as quickly as possible, these five things must be in place.  
     1.     Whole class instruction that is differentiated and scaffolded so Tier 3 students can    access the learning target.
     2.     Daily small group guided reading that is at the student’s instructional level.
     3.     Individualized instruction that is focused on the one thing that will move the      student forward as quickly as possible.
     4.     Hours and hours of independent level “high success” reading practice.
     5.     Any special needs met and addressed.

Let’s go through these one at a time. 
1. Whole class instruction that is differentiated and scaffolded, so that your Tier 3 students can access the learning target, is the first layer of teaching.  When we say differentiated, we specifically mean that the reading level of the materials being used in the lesson, must be at a student’s instructional level.  This includes not only texts, but anchor charts and other visual materials as well.  You can differentiate your texts by choosing those that are already leveled.  The one-size fits all text just doesn’t cut it for your Tier 2 and Tier 3 students, and if used means that much of the lesson will go over their heads.  That’s why it is essential to have instructional leveled texts for all of your students. 


The same is true for your anchor charts.  Anchor charts that are full of text only, are not easily accessible for your students that struggle.  Adding picture clues and icons to the text, will make them more accessible to your struggling students and will turn them into a useful resource tool for them.  Without the pictures, they will not be accessible to your struggling students, who really need the anchor charts more so than your non-struggling students.


Differentiating your instruction also means that you are teaching the vocabulary that you will use in your lesson.  A great way to teach vocabulary, is to act it out…or in ELL terms….TPR.  This means having students repeat the word and its meaning several times, while using an action at the same time. For example, at our school we do this for plot - We say: “Plot - All of the events in the story.” We do these actions while saying that….Make a fist and put up one finger after another as if counting on your fingers (this represents the first, second, third events and so on), then put palms together and open them as if opening a book (which represents the story).  TPR makes vocabulary accessible and memorable for all of your students…not just your ELL students, and is a great way to scaffold vocabulary learning.




2. Daily small group guided reading.  Most teachers are familiar with how to do guided reading, but there are some things to keep in mind with Tier 3 students. It is important for your Tier 3 students to receive guided reading every day.  It is also important that the strategies and lessons taught and reinforced in guided reading group, come directly from what your assessments have shown that each child needs. General learning targets are not as effective with Tier 3 students, as those that come directly from each child’s assessment.  That is why it is also important that your groups are formed around like needs.   

3. Individualized instruction for the one, “next big thing” that the child needs to move forward in his or her reading, is very important with Tier 3 readers.  This is in addition to whole class instruction and guided reading group.  The focus may be blending and decoding with a phonetic element that the student is having difficulty with.  Another focus of instruction may be the ability to recall and retell the story events in order.  Or it may be reading in phrases so that the story will make sense and so the child’s comprehension will increase.  One way to provide this is for you to teach the strategy to the student during your conferring conference (our school does this during independent reading time for example), then to have a paraeducator, parent volunteer, or older grade student helper provide coached practice with the student. 



.
4. Hours and hours of independent “high success” reading practice.  Richard Allington* describes “high success” reading materials as those that the student can read with 98% accuracy or higher.  He talks about how struggling students get far less practice than non-struggling students in class, because they simply cannot read most of the materials provided. Not only do struggling students need as much practice as non-struggling students…they need hours and hours more, if they are to catch up.  That reading, according to Allington, must be high success reading to be effective. Take a look around your room.  How much of what is available, is actually high success materials for your struggling students?  Don’t forget to check the anchor charts and displays.  Just something to reflect upon. 
*For more information see:
”What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-Based Programs” and “What Really Matters in Response To Intervention: Research-Based Designs” by Richard L. Allington
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5. Special needs must be addressed.  Some of your struggling students may be showing signs of other things that may be impacting their learning.  Attention and focus difficulties are common barriers for learning effectively.  So are memory storage and retrieval difficulties.  Students with this type of difficulty often learn something one day or even on one page, then forget it on the next.  Struggling with letters/sounds/words, how they are put together and taken apart and keeping the order of the sounds in a word straight, is also an indicator that something else is going on that is impacting learning.  If your students are showing any signs of these types of things, it is important to discuss them with the school psychologist, nurse, Special Ed. teachers, and any other pertinent staff member, to see what the best steps forward will be for that child.  Tier 3 students are sometimes students that would qualify for, and benefit from, Special Education services.  It is best to check it out with your specialists to be sure.
VERY IMPORTANT - Document ALL Tier 3 interventions and progress every week. You will need this to determine if interventions are working, and should further testing be needed for Special Education.

Tier 3 students are terribly in need of your help.  They are counting on you to help them move forward in their learning each day.  It is no less than a daunting task for us, especially if we have many Tier 3 students in our class, but we are their best hope for progress.  Let’s not let them down.

We would like to thank you for all of the care, concern, worry and work that you put in to help these students.  You may never see the results, but rest assured dear teacher, you are changing these students’ lives for the better.  THANK YOU!


In this series, we have tried to share some ideas for how to help your students who struggle with reading.  We hope we have done that or have sparked a new idea that you can use.  If there is anything we can help you with in this endeavor, please feel free to ask.  We are all in this together, and we are only too happy to help in any way that we can. 

Click the pictures below to get more specific ideas for when and what to do in your tier 1 and 2 interventions, and we will share with you how we do it at our school.

                  


Smiles,

Monday, January 14, 2019

Closing the Gap - Using Interventions Effectively - #2





Through The Eyes of a Struggling Reader
Teacher, help me…
I don’t know that word.
I don’t know what sound that says.
I don’t know what that word means.
I don’t know what the story said.
I don’t know how the character feels.
I don’t know what the story means.
I don’t know what I’m thinking….or how to tell you.
I don’t know how to be a good reader.
Teacher, help me.  I am counting on you. 

In the news the other day, there was a factoid about the percentage of struggling readers in the classrooms all across America.  It was quite a surprise to hear that the average classroom has just over 50% of students reading below grade level standards.  Even though we two teachers behind this blog...2 Literacy Teachers...have worked at a school for a very long time that has a typical minimum average each year of 63% of students reading below grade level, we never expected to hear such a high percentage for the rest of the U.S.  We ALL have our work cut out for us in the area of reading, it would seem.  So lets get busy!  In this blogpost series, we hope to share some tips for providing effective interventions to students reading below grade level standards.  
In the first post, here, we talked about the basics of providing interventions, and how to get ready to do so.  In this second post, we will share some tips and ideas for providing effective interventions to your tier 2 students. 


Planning:
Tier 2 students can really be thought of in two groups; those that are performing between just below grade level and up to 6 months below,  and 6 months below up to 1 year below.  In the first group, interventions are usually different than those in the second group.  Regardless of the group, we must start by carefully analyzing the difficulties that each student is having, so we can make a targeted plan.  An easy way to do this is to list the students, analyze their running records, DRAs, conference notes, and any other reading assessments you have to determine their most critical difficulties, then write them next to their names.  Are they struggling with phonics and decoding?  If so, with which sounds or word parts?  Is it fluency such as reading word by word instead of in phrases, to such a degree that it affects comprehension?  Is it comprehension and if so, is it one particular thing such as not being able to determine main idea? Being able to specifically name the difficulty, will help you to provide targeted instruction for it. We usually choose the top 1 to 3 difficulties the student is having...those that if improved, will have the biggest positive affect on the student's performance.  With this plan in hand, you can begin to specifically teach to those needs. 

Here are some examples of just some of the things Tier 2 students typically struggle with:

Kindergarten:
  • Shoring up letters and sounds
  • Blending cvc words
  • Reading sight words with mastery
  • Reading beyond repeated, patterned reading - Getting over the hump from guided reading level B to C  (DRA level 2 to DRA level 3)
First Grade:
  • Blending ccvc and cvce words
  • Using decoding strategies efficiently
  • Getting over the hump from reading guided reading level C to guided reading level D/E (DRA level 4 to DRA levels 6/8)
  • Remembering and retelling a story accurately and in order
Second and Third Grade:
  • Shoring up decoding strategy use 
  • Shoring up mastery of phonics patterns in words
  • Expanding sight word mastery
  • Being able to think about the text and respond to it verbally and in writing
Fourth and Fifth Grade:
  • Reading with fluency 
  • Thinking deeply about the text and responding to it verbally and in writing
  • Citing appropriate text evidence
Providing services:  
All interventions must be in addition to the core instruction that is provided to the whole class. Typical ways to provide services are:  
  • in a second small group that is formed based on instructional need and for which targeted instruction is provided during guided reading time  
  • Additional conferring in small groups that have like strategy needs - which is a good choice for students who just need a little bit of support or a little bit more practice with extra coaching by you
  • More frequent one-to-one conferring times
  • Having a paraeducator provide additional practice time for students who need it.
  • Additional practice with an older student buddy  
Upper Tier 2 students typically are struggling with just one or two things and tend to learn quickly with just a little bit of extra practice and coaching. They typically make progress and overcome difficulties within one or two intervention rounds of about six weeks each. This means you can rotate your groups and be more flexible in constructing groups with these Tier 2 students. 
Lower Tier 2 students typically have been struggling with reading for a while, may have other concerns such as ELL, and need more pinpointed direct instruction provided by you, with lots of extra practice time with the targeted need.. They may need many intervention rounds of about six weeks each. Think of adding layers of instruction and practice for these students which include differentiated whole-class instruction, small group guided reading or conferring, a possible extra small group, and as much extra practice time as you can provide. 


Example:

Here is an example of how several grade levels in our school provide interventions.
  • All students receive differentiated, whole class instruction
  • All students receive guided reading in a small group
  • All students receive regular conferring during independent reading
  • Tier 2 students receive an additional guided reading strategy group with a teacher or paraeducator



These grade levels schedule one hour daily to provide their guided reading groups. They divide the hour into 3 - twenty minute groups.  They see their high group one time per week, and their medium to low, and lowest groups every day.  A paraeducator is scheduled for all or part of this time as well. Students in small groups rotate between the teacher group and independent word work or reading work. Tier 2 students also receive an additional group with the paraeducator to receive targeted instruction in an area of need.  (In many schools, the teacher provides this extra group. However, it is rotated between the groups who need it, so they usually are seen every other day.) This means that Tier 2 students have two, twenty minute groups and then have an additional twenty minutes of independent word and/or reading work. 



As with all interventions, be sure to document them for each student by noting the focus of instruction and methods of teaching, the additional minutes of time spent in intervention, the dates of the intervention, and the beginning and ending data to show that it worked or didn't work.  Should a student not make the progress that you hoped for, this documentation will be crucial should a decision need to be made whether to do any special education testing in the future. 




There are as many ways to schedule and provide Tier 2 intervention services as there are schools in the U.S.  It just takes a little creativity and a bit of planning.  We hope this post has given you some ideas. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like some ideas for your particular situation.  

Click the pictures below to get more specific ideas for when and what to do in your tier 1 and 3 interventions, and we will share with you how we do it at our school.



                       


Smiles,
Kristin

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Closing the Gap - Using Interventions Effectively - #1





Through The Eyes of a Struggling Reader
Teacher, help me…
I don’t know that word.
I don’t know what sound that says.
I don’t know what that word means.
I don’t know what the story said.
I don’t know how the character feels.
I don’t know what the story means.
I don’t know what I’m thinking….or how to tell you.
I don’t know how to be a good reader.
Teacher, help me.  I am counting on you.

Hey teacher friends!  Doesn’t this poem just tug at your heart?  That’s why you are such an amazing teacher.  You care and you do whatever you can to make sure that every child is successful and feels good about him or herself.  And you do it Every. Single. Day! 

This blogpost series aims to help you in that endeavor by getting you started using interventions, or to refresh what you already know about them.  We will give you some tips and some ideas about how to provide effective interventions appropriate to your students’ needs, and what you can do for different areas of need. 

In this first post, we will talk about the basics and share ideas for what you can do in your core instruction and in the classroom setting.  You, dear teacher, are the first line of intervention defense and we want to help you with that.  Let’s get started!





Before you can begin to target instruction, you’ll need to assess students with something that will give you essential information.  At our school, all students are screened with the STAR Reading Assessment.  This is a good start for us, but because of the way the assessment is designed, (too complicated to describe here), it is not sufficient for our teaching needs.  The students are also given the DRA - Developmental Reading Assessment, to help us get the information we need to target instruction.  If you don’t have an assessment like the DRA or the Fountas and Pinnell BAS, running records on leveled texts can do the trick.  You might also want to do a phonics and sight word check as well.  Even if your students are intermediate students, if they are really struggling, then a phonics and sight word check will tell you if that is the problem.  (Here is a free phonics assessment if you need it.)  

After assessing all of your students, you will want to divide them into tiers based on their assessments.  We group our students by level first, then by need in phonics, sight words, and/or comprehension. Students on or above grade level are your tier one students.  Students up to one year below grade level are your tier two students.  Students one or more years below grade level are your tier three students.  (You can read more about tiering here.)  Why does it matter?  It matters because your interventions are based on student needs, but the intensity of intervention is determined by how far below grade level your students are.



Here are some general things to keep in mind as you provide interventions to students in each of the tiers.

Tier 1
Students in tier one are performing well with your differentiated core instruction, and rarely need interventions.
 
If needed, typical interventions include:
  •          Extra practice
  •          A second session of strategy modeling or explanation of concept.
  •          Conferring with students once a week, if you are using the conferring model.

Tier 2           
Tier two interventions can be a little tricky, because the students that are closer to the top of this tier, (closer to grade level), need something different than those students who are performing closer to the bottom of this level.  However, all interventions in tier two are in addition to the core curriculum or teaching.

Typical interventions include:
  • Additional small group teaching and coached practice of a specific needed skill or strategy, and…
  • Additional conferences each week if you use a conferring model  (Conferring alone is not enough for tier two students)
  • Careful, consistent progress monitoring and documentation of student progress (Every two weeks)
  • Increased minutes reading "just right," high-success texts
Special notes:  For higher tier two students, groups can meet as little as 3 days per week and can include up to 5 students per group.  For lower tier two students, groups should meet a minimum of 4 days per week and include no more than 4 students per group.

Tier 3
Tier 3 interventions are far more intense in their focus and include even more time for practice. They are also in addition to core instruction. Typical interventions include:
  • Focus on no more than three skills (Example: words with one phonetic element/sound or feature such as -ay words, cvc words, -ed endings, etc., up to 5 sight words to practice, and one comprehension focus such as retell or finding main idea) in a small group setting at least 4 days per week and including no more than 3 students per group
  • Focus strategies, skills and/or words are sent home to parents each week for practice at home
  • Student conferences at least every other day if you are also using the conferring model
  •  Additional one on one practice if a paraeducator, tutor or parent volunteer is available  (older students can do this too, with direction)
  • Even more minutes of reading "just right," high-success texts
  •  Careful, consistent progress monitoring and documentation of student progress (Every week)
Special notes:  Tier 3 students are often being watched closely to determine if further evaluation may be needed by the special education team.  It is very important to document all interventions and the student’s progress with them.


Now that you have assessed and tiered your students, and have thought about how to provide interventions in addition to your core instruction, let’s think about what you can do within your core instruction every day in your classroom. Here are some of the most effective things you can do.
  • Keep all kids engaged during all lessons - Don’t let their attention drift away or allow them to be “invisible.”
  • Keep learning active and engaging - Call on all students.  Turn and talk.  Chant and sing new learning.  Get up and move. (Think Ron Clark Academy and Go Noodle types of learning.)
  • Make sure ALL posted materials are able to be read by ALL levels of readers in your classroom, especially those at the lowest level, because they need the most practice - Anchor Charts.  Songs and Chants.  Poems.  Directions.  Schedules.  EVERYTHING! The more things you have that ALL students can read, the more minutes of practice they will have and the more their reading will improve!

                      Chart credit:  Aliya Raintree



  •  Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate! - Provide multiple levels of text for all reading tasks, for response sheets, reading center activities, and everything else that you can think of (even math problems).  It takes a little extra time to prepare the first time around, but you will have them for the future and best of all you will be rewarded by improvement in your students’ achievement. (Divide and conquer by creating them with a buddy teacher.)  We have lots and lots of leveled passage sets available for you here, if you need some. 






  • Put differentiated and individualized learning cards on student’s desks for them to practice at every spare moment, then between every lesson or at every transition time, have them take a minute to practice their learning cards by reading/explaining to their neighbor - Sight word cards.  Phonics word cards. Vocabulary word cards.  Concept cards.  Math formulas.

  • Talk, Talk, Talk!  Having students talk about what they are learning, increases their retention and understanding!  So allow purposeful talk at all possible moments!


We hope this blogpost gave you some new information about interventions or sparked an idea or two that you can use.

Click the pictures below to get more specific ideas for when and what to do in your tier 2 and 3 interventions, and we will share with you how we do it at our school. 

                                 


Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

#just one word





Did you know that there is JUST ONE WORD that will transform your teaching and cause you to have an even better year ahead?  There is!  Yes it’s that simple!

You see, as teachers we live a scattered life.  We are always scrambling to do the million things each day that must be done.  We juggle a thousand balls at once and try not to drop any of them, and we don’t look like that well-practiced ball juggler we see in a circus who does it so smoothly and effortlessly. Nope!  We look more like someone trying to snatch and catch those balls, and throw others up at the same time in a jerky, higgledy piggledy way.  It’s just a fact of teacher life that we all accept.


Through all of that though, we often become scattered and actually end up doing many things, but not very well…..just kind of mediocre….to get them done and checked off the “to do” list.  And if we are truthful, sometimes when the meetings happen almost every day, the reports are all due, the pile of papers to be taken care of is stacked high,  and the list of parents to contact goes on and on, well….we end up teaching by the seat of our pants or on autopilot. Needless to say, our lessons then become mediocre too.

But JUST ONE WORD can keep you on track, focus you and focus your lessons, and focus and center all that you do throughout the year, so that you and your teaching are purposeful instead of scattered. Even in the craziest, and most busy weeks of the year!


So get on with it then! Just tell me! What is THIS one word you ask?  I can’t tell you.  Nope.  Sorry.  It has to actually come from you!  YOU decide the one word.  If you do, that one word will focus and guide all that you do for the entire year!  IT REALLY WORKS!  There are even books written on the effectiveness of just one word, and a whole “movement” on social media!  There is even a whole line of wildly popular pottery that has just one word on it (think Rae Dunn). So, give it a try! Choose just one word and make it your word for the entire year ahead.  You may even want to choose one word for your teaching life and a different word for your personal life.  I tell you…it is transforming!


 
Don’t know what to choose?  Just be still and ponder for a moment….it will come to you like a lightning bolt, because there is one word that fits you!  You might try "engage" for your teaching life if you want your lessons and students to be more engaging and engaged. You might choose "grace" for your personal life if you want to give yourself and others more "grace" in the year ahead.  Or the word "balance" is great for both your teaching life and your personal life.  If you need some more inspiration, check out the list of possibilities below to get you thinking.  Then post that word everywhere!  Post it in your classroom, on your computer, in your plan book…and everywhere.  It will always be on your mind then and will tie all that you do together for the entire year.  


Another idea? You may want to have your students do this as well.  It works especially well with second graders and up.  In the words of Mikey from that vintage commercial…..”Try it!  You’ll like it!”  And be sure to watch for #justoneword on our Facebook and Instagram pages, too! You'll find us there at 2 Literacy Teachers. 

#just one word idea list for teaching

engage 
focus
balance
active
think
kind
reflect
laugh

#just one word idea list for you

balance
refresh
restore
healthy
move
mindful
serenity
grace
joy
forgive
happy

Happy Teaching!

Kristin


 

Monday, January 1, 2018

FREE Index and Ideas for Using Our Leveled Passages and Leveled Quick Reads




Hey teacher friends!  We are just popping on the blog today to answer some questions we've received about how we use our leveled passages.  We've also included a freebie Index of all of our Leveled Reading Passages and Leveled Quick Read sets to make your planning easier.  The index will be updated each time we post a new set, and we have lots more on the way.  So here we go...

1. How do you use the leveled passages sets?

We use them in our guided reading groups.  We typically use the leveled passage sets for one week out of the month, but sometimes for other weeks, too.  We choose the topic that matches the season or holidays we are studying during that month.  The rest of the weeks, we use our school's reading curriculum materials and our own guided reading sets called "Ready, Set, Go - Guided Reading."

We also use them when teaching a theme.  For example, if we are learning about rocks in science, we teach the vocabulary to our students as a whole group with the provided materials, then they can each read and research about the topic at their own level with the passages. They can also answer the provided text dependent questions either alone or with a partner, after reading.  Before or after reading, we can then use a whole group activity to respond to or record our learning.  Several are included in the sets.


2.  How do you use the Leveled Quick Read Sets?

We use these in our reading centers.  We wanted a way to be able to provide even more reading practice for students, on the current learning topic or theme and at their own levels.  So we put them into our reading centers.  Each student gets a booklet of the passages at their independent level.  They read a passage each day and complete the text dependent questions that are included in the sets.  They also write about their learning at the end of the week.  Lower level readers and writers can use the included Picture Dictionary mini poster to assist with their writing.


3.  What are other uses for the leveled passages and the Quick Read Sets?

Thanks to all of your wonderful feedback and comments, we have learned that teachers LOVE these and are using them for many things in addition to guided reading and centers.  They have told us they use them for:

*Differentiated teaching to meet all of their students' needs.
*Teaching during their observations. Principals love differentiation because it is a highly effective teaching strategy.
*Pre and Post-tests for various CCSS, TEKS and reading strategies.
*Teaching NF reading strategies.
*Teaching how to close read.
*Teaching how to answer text dependent questions.
*Teaching topics and assessing their new learning.
*Homework,
*Partner reading and learning.
*Providing "just right" materials to "up" the minutes that students practice at their own level.
*Tutoring by parent volunteers.
*Buddy reading with older grade students - "cross age peers"
*Sub plans

Want to see them in action?  Check out our previous post here, or any of our leveled passage theme teaching posts on the blog as well.

And the FREEBIE!  Our index lists all of the Leveled Reading Passages sets and the Quick Read Sets that we currently offer, side by side.  This makes it easy to see how they go together and will make your planning easier.  We are working fast and furiously to make sure that all leveled passages sets have levels A - M and that there are Quick Read Sets to go with the topics of the Leveled Passages sets.  As we finish new sets, we will update the index, too, so check back often for the latest version. Click here if you would like a FREE copy.

Let us know if you have any questions!  We love connecting with you!

Happy Teaching!

Smiles,
Kristin and Lindsey





Sunday, October 15, 2017

When Your Reading Curriculum Isn't Working!




Have you ever been told to use a reading curriculum that isn't working for your students? Most of us have been in this predicament throughout our career.  You see, even the most stellar curriculum cannot and will not meet the needs of 100% of your students. If you are very lucky, a very good curriculum will meet the needs of 80% of your students, and more likely far less than that. Just watch your assessment scores and you will know within a few months if the curriculum is working or not. So, what do you do to make it work? We've got some tips for you.



First of all, grab all of your reading assessments and analyze them very carefully and deeply.  Most likely, something in the curriculum IS working for most of your students. That's great!  Keep doing it! Now, look at what is NOT working and for whom it is not working. What do your assessments show? Be exact. Is it your above grade level students that are not getting their needs met in more rigorous word work, specifically in how to break up the different kinds of syllables so they can decode large and unfamiliar words? Is it your below grade level students that are constantly being asked to read materials at their frustrational level?  Both of those are very common difficulties with reading curriculum materials, but your assessments might show something different depending on your demographics.  At our school for example, which has a very large ELL and low income student demographic, the three big curriculum difficulties are learning to explicitly decode very simple to very complex words, strategies for understanding exactly how to figure out the meaning of new vocabulary words, and a lack of enough reading materials at every student's instructional and independent levels.

Now that you have an idea of what isn't working, what can you do?  Here are some ideas to try.



1. Adjust the timing.
Are the units zipping by so quickly that your students aren't mastering the material?  Or are they dragging on forever to the point of wasting time? Then speed up or slow down..or even repeat. Sometimes students need many repetitions of a difficult lesson or new concept before it actually sticks and becomes useable for them.  Repeat with the whole class or repeat with those still needing it, in small groups. 



2. Break it down.
Often times, if students aren't getting something, it is because it is either not being taught very explicitly in step-by-step fashion, or because it is not broken down for them in small enough chunks. For example, intermediate students who have difficulty decoding large words, either because they miss letters/sound combos or endings, or because they can't seem to figure out where syllables break, is because they need to be explicitly taught the specific rules for these things.  Even better if you teach it in multi-modalities as well (seeing, hearing, speaking and movement). Dyslexic students (and statistics tell us that 20% of your class has some form of it) often need this.  So do most ELL students. 



3. Provide appropriately leveled reading materials...and much more of them.
This is the number one reason that students do not make enough progress with a reading curriculum.  Make sure there are enough reading materials at every student's instructional and independent reading level. As we mentioned above, most reading curricula do not include any or enough reading materials for each and every student's instructional and independent levels. Research is very clear and leaves no doubt...students become better readers by reading instructional level materials with coaching, and volumes and volumes of independent level materials. If your curriculum teaches in theme units, but the reading material is too hard, consider retyping the information at the student's reading level. Another idea is to find alternate reading materials on the topic at your students' reading levels. We are often told to scaffold the reading for students "so they can access it," but this usually indicates that the material is just too hard for some students. In that case, the students will not make the progress that they need to.
**A disclaimer...we DO believe that students should be allowed and encouraged to read what interests them, even if it is too difficult at times.  It will motivate them to read, may increase their vocabulary,  and teach them to not give up.  It's just that this will not make them better, more efficient readers, so it should be in addition to enormous amounts of reading at instructional and independent leveled materials.



4. Teach vocabulary so it sticks.
Some curriculum materials don't teach vocabulary at all, and many seem to teach it quickly and then move on.  Research is clear on this as well...having a large vocabulary helps comprehension, school success, and even future opportunities in life.  So teach it well, review it often, and play lots of games with it! They help the brain incorporate the new words quickly, and to be able to recall them on demand. Not sure how?  Start with a search for Marzano, or Beck and McKeown vocabulary strategies.  They are some of the best "gurus" for teaching vocabulary. 



5.  Make sure your standards are taught and taught well.
This goes without saying. However, it is very common for reading materials to be missing lessons for entire standards.  Most are missing at least some standards and others teach them very weakly, even though the publishers will tell you that they do teach all of the standards.  So whether you teach the CCSS, TEKS or some other standards, make sure that they are actually taught well in your materials.  Tweak or supplement as needed!  Go ahead...we give you permission!  After all, your students will be held to them on their testing, and the standards have been designed to make sure all students are highly successful readers. 

These are just a few ideas to think about and try when your reading curriculum isn't working for all of your students. We hope we have encouraged you to make some changes and not keep on with the same thing if all of your students are not highly successful with your current curriculum.  After all, we teach students...not the curriculum.  We aren't sure who originally said that, but we just love that saying, don't you?  After all, our students are counting on us to do whatever it takes to help them ALL be successful readers.

Happy Teaching!

Smiles,