Hit a homerun during your reading block

Ok, so picture this. You go to your local grocery store to pick up some Grandma Utz chips for yourself and some Martins BBQ Ruffles for your hubs. You arrive only to find out that your grocery store is only carrying one brand on plain lightly salted Lays. NOTHING ELSE. That's it! BOR-ING, who doesn't want a variety to choose from when shopping!

So how is it any different if you teach reading via a whole group lesson? I'm gonna tell ya something, it's not! Yes, I'm sure you may be meeting the needs of some of your learners, HOWEVER, many of your learners are wanting or needing or CRAVING something different or
 something more!!

So let's talk about hitting a home run during your reading block!!

I hear the groans. But Melanie (that's me), I have so many excuses why I shouldn't teach small group! Ok so maybe those are the exact words you would say---but maybe it sounds like one of these...

Ok so maybe you have been teaching since 1998, or 1983, or 2005---however long you have been teaching THANK YOU :) Second of all---have you always done it the same way? Maybe your school has purchased different programs---you have taught under different curriculum---but your delivery....has your delivery remained the same?? Just because you have always done something a certain way, doesn't make it right. Yes, it may be the way you are the most comfortable. But in a nation (the US) we have approximately 40% of our students reading below grade level----something ain't working!!

Ok so you are not comfortable with the whole idea of teaching lessons via small group. You have some questions and concerns---that makes you a great teacher!! All great teachers I know get nervous or anxious about trying something new. But, let me just be blunt, get over yourself ;)

 So maybe you're a primary teacher like me, or maybe an intermediate teacher. Maybe you're thinking---seriously? who is this chick? My kids are so far from being able to work independently--I would never be able to get any small group work done with the others interrupting! It's all about building that stamina--whether it is math, reading or writing stamina. Yes I have to agree, there is somewhat of a developmental ability to remain on task while a teacher is working with other students, but hopefully I can help with that! Start off small, I didn't start off with rotations on day 1. We worked on practicing each skill and building our stamina. Then like on day 15 I finally showed and we practiced how to do rotations. After 2 rotations, I would hold a short meet back at the carpet reminder of rules during rotations (no talking to teacher when meeting with groups, ask 3 before asking me)
Maybe you are questioning pulling small groups because you are concerned with what the other students will be doing at this time. Maybe you are thinking--hey I've tried daily 5 and that stuff the kids are supposed to be doing while I'm meeting with the other students just does not work in my classroom. The other students will be engaged in meaningful activity based off the learning they did with you in the small group session.  I oftentimes end my small group lesson with them and tell them to go back and work on the skill we just talked about. My students do 'rotations' (which if you have read other posts you have heard me talk about). My rotations are similar to daily 5, with more of a control factor from the teacher. I have an editable powerpoint that I flip every rotation. The 4 rotations the students move through--meet with me, read to self, word work, and buddy read. Two of these rotations are very social (buddy read and meeting with me) and two of these rotations are completely independent. I do that purposefully. They do one social rotation followed by one independent (or vice versa). The word work is completely based off their needs---if they are struggling with reading CVC words, I may have them building words with alphabet charms from my daughters' bracelet making kid, or building rhyming words with blocks. If they are struggling with basic sight words, I have some more tactile tools, like sight words written with puffy paint, or a salt bin for them to write the sight words. If they are more capable readers I have them working on unscrambling sentences. The word work (most of the time) aligns with the skills they are working on in small group with me.

Ok so maybe the last excuse that you may be thinking---my students are 1st graders (or 3rd graders or 8th graders) and they need to be taught their grade level standards and content!! Ok, I agree with you TO A DEGREE! But my question for you then is....what if they can't reach the grade level be-low's standards? What is the point of teaching them standards if they can't master 2 grade levels (or more) below. MEET YOUR KIDDOS WHERE THEY ARE! If they need to learn to read---teach them--don't waste their time or yours trying to compare and contrast two texts when they can't even read! Yes, I think all students need exposed to their grade level standards and curriculum or content, but what a dis-service we are doing by continuing to push them through and shove content down their throat that is so foreign to them.

Ok so I apologize if I've made you feel guilty. Well, not really. I WANT you to get out of your comfort zone. I WANT you to try something new. I WANT you to get mad that approximately 40% of the students here in the United States are reading below grade level. So here are your challenges :) You're welcome.

My school does MAP testing (Measurement of Academic Progress), maybe your school does something similiar. This MAP testing that my students do three times a year gives me data based off their RIT score. I use a tool called the Learning Continuum to see what skills my students need to work on. In reading, the MAP tests breaks the students scores into 4 areas: Foundational, Literature and Information, Language and Writing, and Vocabulary. I then created a table in Powerpoint based off the data from the different scores and areas. One student may be in the lowest scoring group for Vocabulary, but may be in the highest group for foundational skills.
For my lesson plans, I have made multiple copies of these data sheets. I then just highlight the skill I am working on with them when they meet with me.

Your school doesn't do any sort of testing like MAP testing?! That's fine! You can do some formative data collection to see what skills your kiddos need to work on.

I'm sure many of you pull small groups based off F&P level, fantastic, but that's not the needs I'm speaking to. Look at everything---from the way they form a sentence, to grammatical errors, to reading fluently. Your groups should be fluid---meaning they are constantly changing based off your students needs.

Data collection is key! The more data you collect, the more you know what your kiddos need. Yes, little Johnnie may read on an F&P level of J, however, he really struggles with fluency and comprehending the text. And let me also add, I don't mean take more grades. I mean informally (formative assessments) assess your students---pull groups based off skills and based off their needs. Continue to collect data--DAILY! The more you do it, the more skilled you will become at data collection--you will see and wonder why you hadn't done it before!

So hopefully you aren't gonna continue to serve up your kiddos those plain old lightly salted Lays potato chips---through a little Grandma Utz and Martins BBQ in there :)

Questions? Comments? I would love to hear from you!! Wishing you all the best in teaching reading :)

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