My school uses Scott Foresman Reading Street. When I moved from the computer lab to teaching first grade I was SO overwhelmed with all of the Reading Street materials! There are like a bazillion worksheets! Grammar worksheet, spelling worksheets, workbook pages, etc. There is just so much “stuff!” My first year I tried to fit in as much as I could. Obviously, I didn’t fit it all in.
The 2010-2011 school year was my third teaching first grade and I finally made a way for things to work for me much better. I can’t really take credit for it though. There are three other first grade teachers at my school and one of them sort of always “did her own thing.” I say “did” because she will be moving to second grade next year! So anyway she sort of did her own thing (and it wasn’t a bad thing at all!). The other two teachers and myself decided to try her “thing” out this year and boy, oh boy did we ever love it! So what is this “thing?”
We do NOT do the stories whole group anymore. (No more reading The Lady in the Moon or Mister Bones all week long! Hooray!!)
Instead, each student progresses through the five books in our reading series at their own pace. Therefore, students who are advanced can move ahead at a quicker pace. Students who are struggling are given more time to practice at their level instead of being pushed ahead. It is absolutely fabulous!! How do I accomplish this? First of all, I was a little worried about not having the traditional reading test every Friday. I quickly got over that (one less thing to grade!). I mostly use the Reading Street phonics/spelling components. I only use workbook pages when I am out sick usually. I’ve made several worksheets of my own that students work on during literacy workstations or during any “free” time they may have. My whole group comprehension lessons do not revolve around those Reading Street stories. Instead, I am able to pull in a variety of books, GREAT books, to teach my lessons. (Including my Fabulous Fairy Tales unit!)
Students all start on the same story. Early in the year the stories are so short. During literacy workstation time, I read with as many students as I can, one-on-one. I do not do guided reading groups. I’ve never had much success with guided reading groups. I understand why they could be beneficial. My first year of teaching I was pretty much forced into “do guided reading groups this way or else” and I guess it just turned me off to the whole thing. Working with students one-on-one really allows me to truly “know” where my students are at. I am better prepared for parent conferences because I can narrow in on what each student needs to work on. If a student can read the story with accuracy and good fluency then they pass on to the next story in the series. The cool thing is if a student passes all of the first grade books they are given a second grade book! (A second grade book from our old reading series. We don’t want students reading the second grade stories from Reading Street and then going to second grade and having to read them all over again.) I had several students who made it to a second grade book by the end of the year!
Below is the form I used to keep track of students’ progress. I wrote down their GRADE and DIBELS assessment scores. I wrote down the story they were on. I also made little notes as needed. At the top I wrote what week we would be on if we we WERE doing the stories whole group. That way I could quickly see who was behind, who was on track, and who was ahead. Next year I will use this quick form as well as individual forms for students. I am working on running records for all of the stories in Reading Street.
My students were amazing readers this year! Parents helped their child read at home more than parents in the past had. Students were very motivated! They were always asking their friends “What story are you on?” It really encouraged the students that might have been behind to work harder to catch up to their friends. It also challenged my advanced readers because they all tried to pass each other’s stories.
Needless to say I will NEVER go back to making all of the students read the same story all week! B-O-R-I-N-G! When we all did the same story together, some kids were lost and some were so bored! It takes time to read with all of the students, one-on-one, but it is so worth it! They would all beg to read with me! The kids loved it. I loved it. I am never going back to my old ways! I’ll be doing Daily 5 next year, and my one-on-one conferences will work perfectly with Daily 5! I know Daily 5 also makes use of strategy groups, and if I need to pull a strategy group here and there I can and will, but most of my time will be spent with one-on-one reading conferences.