Foundation of our Reading Time: Unit 1

It has been a year for the record books so far. Lots of unexpected changes and challenges, but I do have to say my group of kiddos this year will continue to motivate me to become the best teacher I can be. They are great- and they have a lot to teach me. I just wish I had more hours in the day! But that's nothing new for a teacher.

It seems like each year, I become more passionate about making sure we ease into our content areas by getting students excited! This year was no exception. I look back at the beginning of our reading lives this year, and I've already seen huge changes! Students are finding books that they want to read and are staying focused, they are reflecting on the kind of reader they are, and they are trying our new learning in their independent work. What more can I ask for!? Here's a photo dump of our first unit.

We make a lot of charts. Like a lot. I'll let them do the talking as they are pretty self explanatory (as any good anchor chart should be). Often, I plan them out ahead of time, but then add to them with the students.

(P.s. I'm loving my boards in the back of my room. I want more!)

(I talked more about the chart on the left here. I was inspired and tweaked the chart on the right here)

The arrows which are large post-its (love!!) were the text evidence.

I led strategy groups from Serravallo's awesome book a lot during this first unit. When I met with a group and we discussed a strategy, I made a little reference chart and put it on the back board. I could easily pull them off and set them on certain students' desk as reminders and references.

Students did the work here. They came up with some awesome ideas! My new teammate gave me the idea for this chart!

(You can tell the parts that I wrote with the students... oops!)

4th year and 4th time I'm trying to make the reading notebook work. And golly I think I've found it!

I used the layout of my Classroom Journals to make tabs for my students writing and reading notebooks.

Whenever we read a book together where we jot in our notebooks, we write it down on the tab. We also add a star rating when we are done.

Here are a few things we've jotted in our read aloud section:

Students just started writing in the independent section this past week in their own books. They are doing the character maps for their own characters. Next we, we start our units on characters in a series, so I'm excited to see improvement in the types of things they record down after we do some lessons. This is great formative assessment for me to see what and how they jot ideas down before our learning begins. 

In the very back of the notebook, we started to glue in resources from me. We are going to work backward since I don't know how often we will use it. I'm not loving the gluing, but it makes the most sense right now, so we will continue!

 (for asking questions during our reading)

(for reading partners and accountable talk)

As part of my Masters work, I'm thinking of new ways to integrate academic language and vocabulary and make it accessible for my students. One way is through language charts. Each unit, we will redo this process and add words and phrases that we need to use during this unit. I have started one for science too (that's a whole new blog post haha).

I'll be honest- I haven't used this board as much as I would have liked to at this point. But I think now that the year is rolling, we'll add more to it. Here was our examples for how to write a fiction question for a character. I noticed students were not using character names and correct punctuation so we did a lesson and activity around this.

So that's a glimpse into our first unit of reading! This covered about 30 days (and of course there are some things that I didn't cover because I didn't snap any pictures, like our book buzz).  What did you do during reading in your first 30 days of the school year??



Making Differentiated Spelling Lists Work

I'm slowly crawling out of my hole. This year has been a doozie so far. We've learned so much and have come so far already, but my blogging will still be sporadic for awhile.

One thing I've never be proud of has been my spelling practices and routines. And much of it is due to our limited time and high demand. Those two things don't go together. But with some creativity and collaboration from others, I think this is the year where we will see a lot of improvement with our spelling. Here's how I got it rolling this year in 5 steps!

But first... our reality.

We literally have 10 minutes each day to devote to spelling. And that includes a major transition where students are trickling back in from their intervention groups around the building. So that means, I can't count on having all 10 minutes for instruction because they aren't all back at the same time. We (my co-teacher and I) agreed to do some shifting in another part of our day to give us time to introduce and teach new lists. I'll explain more of this throughout.

At the beginning of the year, I gave 2 assessments. One was the Words Their Way spelling inventory. This is our adopted curriculum. However, I noticed after the first word (bed) that there were some students who were not ready for sorts. So I gave another assessment that I created. I found a list of commonly misspelled sight words for 3rd grade and picked 31 of them. Why 31? I don't know, because I couldn't decide on just 30. So we go with 31. I had students take this sight word assessment too. And the results were very telling. Only 3 students scored 85% or higher on this assessment. More telling, over half of my class could spell less than 60% of the words. So I decided to start the year off with two lists: one sight word spelling list and one sorting word list. Students were placed in a group based on these two assessments.

So tip one: START SMALL! I could easily have 6 groups to meet students at their exact needs, but that would be a managing nightmare, especially at the beginning of the year. We are starting with just 2 different word lists and after we get into routines more, I will start to introduce another list to further my differentiation. This was the step that often intimidated me. But doing two lists is better than one in terms of differentiation, so we will celebrate that and continue on.

Next, I made sight word lists. 13 of them to be exact. Each with 15 words. We started on list 1. I also used the WTW books to find a sort to start with my other group who have sight words pretty well mastered. Both groups will also practice 1 prefix and 1 suffix each week.

Here's how it actually is rolled out then. On Mondays we have library time at our school library, so our writing instruction time gets cut in half. We decided to use the 2nd half of our writing time on Mondays for our instruction on the spelling lists. My co-teacher takes one group and I take the other. We review the list: Sight word list discusses multiple meaning words on their lists (their vs. they're) and practice reading each word. Sort word lists discusses sorting rule and patterns. Both groups also learn and record their prefix and suffix for that week. We write the prefixes in green and suffixes in red. We make a map to record examples. This takes 20 minutes per group. However, when there is two teachers, we each take one group.

Tuesday-Thursday are spent on individual practice during that 10 minute chunk. Since students trickle in, they are allowed to get started as soon as they get back. They take out their word work folders that contain their list and spelling contract that changes weekly and their notebook where they practice each week.

The contracts are done each week. I set a goal point system. They choose activities to practice their words. Most of the practice can be completed in their notebook or on paper that I've laminated to reuse or use in Smart Pals so I don't need to make copies of that each week too. I have a contract for sight words and the sorts so that it pertains to the type of work each group needs to do.

On Fridays, we test! It was tricky our first go, but it will only get smoother. I just alternate lists when reading aloud. Each group has 15 words (I pick 15 out of the 25ish from the sort; they don't know which ones I'm going to pick) Eventually, I will have the sort group do partner tests, where they quiz each other. After the tests, I grade them and hand them back. Then, they need to write down any words they spelt incorrectly on their index card (with a sentence). Now, each time they are writing during writer's workshop, they grab their card and use it as reference so they can practice writing the words correctly. Each week, they will continue to add to it so I also see which students continue to struggle with their sight words or sorts practice.

Then we begin again! I've even planned out alternative schedules for if we don't have school on a Friday or Monday to fill our time with other meaningful practice. Just having that laid out gives me piece of mind.

How do you manage spelling in your room? Do you follow a program or create your own? How much time do you dedicate to it? I'd love to hear!


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