I originally posted a bit about how I use Scott Foresman Reading Street in my classroom HERE. If you haven’t read that post and you are curious, I’d start there since I’m going to try to not repeat myself. Since that post I have received many emails and questions about more specifics. First of all, anyone who teaches with any sort of basal series knows that they often give you WAY more than you could possibly fit into a day and that to make the curriculum your own and best meet the needs of your students you must pick and choose what components you use (unless you are specifically told what to use). (This will probably be a lengthy post so bear with me!)
Here’s what I do use from Reading Street: spelling words, decodable readers, student textbooks, comprehension skills and strategies, and some assessments.
Spelling Words: I follow Reading Street’s phonics sequence also (since it goes along with the spelling words). I sometimes use the spelling or practice book pages (especially when there is a substitute). I give my spelling tests on Friday mornings and the test consists of the 10 words that go along with the phonics skill(s) for the week as well as the 2 bonus words which are high frequency words. On the back of their spelling test I copy decoding tests from Sound City Reading. (see example below) Early in the year the student is given 8 pictures but then it increases to 10.
Whether you use Reading Street or not, Sound City Reading has AWESOME resources. I also frequently use the Phonogram Pattern Spelling Worksheets from Sound City Reading. Basically, there are a couple of different worksheets for (almost) every phonics skill taught in Reading Street (and most other phonics programs as well). Sometimes the students do these independently and sometimes we just do them real quick together on the SmartBoard. These worksheets are great because they include most (if not all) of the pictures that are included on the decoding test I give them on Friday. I like this because when I give the test on Friday and students have questions about what the picture is I can remind them we saw that picture earlier in the week. I don’t tell the students what the pictures are. That defies the purpose. The point is for them to read the words and find the word that best fits the picture. I like that it often gives them words very close in spelling so they really have to look at all parts of the word and think. These are usually 2 versions of each sheet. One is where the students match the word to the picture. (I usually use this one on the SmartBoard because it’s quick). The second one is where students write the word that goes with the picture underneath. I like this one because it gives them a chance to practice their handwriting as well. These worksheets are AWESOME for introducing new vocabulary as well. In the examples below – smock and scuff – are two good examples. There are usually a couple of words my students are not familiar with and this provides a great opportunity to introduce some new words.
I send home my spelling word list on Fridays (a list is included on the newsletter as well as a separate full page decoding “poster” from Heidi Samuelson’s website (scroll down to Decodable Posters).
I like these posters because it includes the spelling words, high frequency words, and at the bottom there are words that follow the week’s phonics skills that students can practice reading. I teach phonics for approximately 30 minutes each morning. We usually have some sort of introductory video we watch on the SmartBoard. My team and I have found many videos relating to phonics skills on YouTube and we also use Starfall when we can. I introduce the new sound/skill. We practice it using the SmartBoard or hands on materials. I also introduce sight words during this time. Once a week we do a making words activity. We usually play fun games too like Whack-a-Mole or I Have, Who Has. (Next year I will also be adding Saxon Phonics to my routine. Not sure yet on whether I will go straight Saxon or do a combo of Saxon/SF.) I like to introduce new word work station choices during this time also. One of the first things we do in the beginning of the year is we all build words with Play-Doh during a phonics lesson. I teach them the expectations and what they are to do with the Play-Doh and model how to make letters with it. Last year I spent a good 30-45 minutes teaching them all about how to use Play-Doh correctly and it worked WONDERFULLY! After I taught the expectations if student was in the Word Work station they could choose to practice spelling words with Play-Doh. I only had to remind a couple of students the whole year how to correctly use the Play-Doh.
Decodable Readers: Each week Reading Street has two decodable readers that accompany the two phonics skills for the week. I pass out the one that corresponds to the week’s skill usually on the second day I cover that skill. For example- on Monday I introduce short a, we practice with short a and then on Tuesday I give out the decodable reader for short a. The students keep their decodable reader in their book box. (I use these plastic book boxes from Really Good Stuff.) This year I plan on sending the decodable readers home more often than I did this year. One thing my team has done with the decodable readers are time the students reading them for fluency. One teacher wrote the names of her students (only if they wanted her to) on the board and their best time beside their name. Another thing we have done with the decodable readers is Circle 5. Circle 5 is really fun. Circle 5 originated from Circle 7 which is a fun way to practice fluency that I learned about from Carolyn Downing who is an awesome resource in my state. Basically, the students are given a passage (or in this case, a very short decodable reader) and a Circle 5 sheet. The sheet looks like this:
(I have plans to cute-ify this by the way!) I cut the paper into three strips and give each student a strip. I assign each student a partner to start with. They take their decodable reader, their circle 5 strip, and a pencil and sit somewhere in the room with their partner (at a table, on the floor, etc.). Each student must read their decodable reader to their partner. After finishing, the partner signs their initials in one of the circles. The partner then reads to the student who read first and that student then writes their initials in a circle. After they have both read to each other they each go find another partner in the classroom who has also finished reading to their first partner. It continues until a student has collected five sets of initials and filled in all five circles. Like I said, the original idea was presented as Circle 7. We shortened it to Circle 5 and really 3 or 4 might be better! It does take a considerable amount of time to do this so sometimes we just have to stop after a set amount of time. The students LOVE Circle 5! I usually have a few who finish quickly and then they help me out by continuing to let students read to them.
Student Textbooks: I already mentioned in my previous posts and a little bit here that I do use the student textbooks but that the students progress through the series at their own rate. I LOVE this concept! All students start out on the first story in unit one – Sam, Come Back. I pass out reading books the first week of school, usually on Friday. The second week of school I begin one on one reading conferences. Basically, I read with one student at a time. I ask them questions, jot down words they miss, teach fluency concepts, etc. as they read to me. If they can read the story fluently with only a (minor) mistake or two then I let them move on to the next story. I give them a Nice Note so their parent will know what story they need to practice next. These are available for free in my TeachersPayTeachers store.
Students who are more advanced readers progress through the series more rapidly. Once they finish book 5, I either given them a second grade level reading book from a previous reading series, or they begin to read chapter books more exclusively. Students who are struggling remain on a story until they have mastered the phonics skills that go with the story and are able to read it fluently. Do students memorize the stories? Yes, many times struggling students start off by memorizing when they are learning to read. However, the stories become more and more challenging as the series progresses and it gets harder and harder to memorize. If I think a student is just memorizing then I begin asking them to read pages out of order at times just to check or sometimes I cover the pictures to see if they are truly reading the words or just saying what they remember.
I have only been using the textbooks this way for two years but I LOVE it! Parents love it too. They like how it’s individualized so that their child is on the story they need to be at based on their ability level. The students seem to love it too. They are always asking each other “what story are you on?” and they’ll say things like, “I can’t wait until I get on the Frog and Toad story that Sally is on. It looks really neat!” My teammates and I typically let a student eat lunch in the classroom with us when they move from one unit book to the next and they really enjoy that as well.
Comprehension Skills and Strategies: I typically teach the comprehension skill or strategy that is presented in the teacher’s manual each week. However, I do not really use any of the Reading Street materials to teach the skill since they go along with whatever the story is for that week. I strictly use the stories for students to read on their own. Sometimes I will read aloud the short little story that’s included each week for listening comprehension. By not following the manual as it’s laid out I am able to pull in some great literature and great activities. For example, when we were learning about Fact and Opinion, we read some great science vocabulary readers and I used Cara Carroll’s Fact and Opinion Fun packet. Her activities are way more fun than anything in some teacher’s manual!
Assessments: Reading Street has a variety of assessments. I typically use the fluency checks that begin with the story The Big Circle (I use these and DIBELS passages). Sometimes I use the word checks also (not sure if they are actually called that?). My team and I usually give the beginning of the year baseline assessment also.
That’s pretty much all I use from Reading Street. I record spelling test grades and decoding test grades. I keep anecdotal records and take notes every time I read with a student. I use these forms I created:
The first one is where I list what week we’re currently in. So if we’re in week 3 of the 4th unit I’ll write 4.3. I then write down the name of the story the student is on next to their name as well as what week that story is. For example, if a student is in the 3rd book on story 4 I would write down 3.4. If the student is on 3.4 and the current week is 4.3 I know that student is behind. I also have a place where I write down their most current DIBELS status (intensive, strategic, or benchmark). The second sheet is where I write down each students’ name and the dates I meet with them (pretty much what the Sisters do with Daily 5). I can look at this quickly and see who I haven’t met with that week. If I have a struggling student it’s easy to tell because they’ll have more dates written down than a student who is on or above level.
Now, last year was the first year I also tried doing Daily 5/CAFE in my classroom. I did my own version of both. I had my students to Read to Self as a whole class. They got their book box, chose a place to sit, and I’d set the timer (once our stamina was nice and built up). While they were reading independently, I would read with someone one on one at my table. If a student finished a book and wanted to take the AR test, they would write their name on our easel. During the day if they had free time they could take their test then. I did not allow students to take AR tests during Read to Self time as they were supposed to be reading the whole time! I had a 30 minute block of time where I did “Reading Stations” which was basically my Daily 5 time. My stations were: Word Work, Writing, Technology, and Read to Self. In word work they had many things to choose from: using play-doh, stampers, pipe cleaners, beads, blocks, sand, the list goes on! I have 6 student computers in my class so 5 were used where students could play games from my website or listen to reading and the other was left open for AR testing. I also purchased 2 iPod touches and an iPad for student use in my classroom. My “weakest” station was writing by far and I will be working this summer to improve that! I had a rotation chart of sorts (which is on my school computer) but basically was a list like this:
I made this list on my SmartBoard. I typed each student’s name and then moved their name down the list each day. I know Daily 5 recommends letting the students choose what Daily 5 they complete but this just worked so well for me. Especially with having the iPad and iPods. The students liked knowing what station they would be doing that day and they would count up how many more days they had to wait for the iPad (the school is getting me an iPad also so next year I will have 2!). I really like the structure of Daily 5 but I have had to tweak it to make it work for me and my schedule.
So this is what works for me. No, I don’t do formal guided reading groups. If I see more than one student is having a problem with the same skill sometimes I pull them together real quick but nothing formal/planned. We have teachers and aides who pull groups of students who are struggling and they work with them in a small group more intensively. Using components of the Daily 5 has been wonderful. The biggest thing is letting the students have choices. I try to have activities and materials that appeal to different learning styles. Next year I hope to set up some sort of structure for Daily 5 math during my math time. I’ve previously used Debbie Diller’s math workstations and would like to combine that with Daily 5. I hope this answers some of the questions many of you had and thank you for making it to the end of this long blog post!!