Where the Magic Happens. This week's topic is organizing the literacy block. I work in a district that is very committed to guided reading and balanced literacy. For the past 7 years I have organized my literacy block with the district's time guidelines in mind:
- 60 minutes for shared reading/writing
- 60 minutes for writers' workshop
- 60 minutes for guided reading
If you do the math and add in everything else such as math, recess, lunch, PE, music, library, science, social studies, computers, etc., you quickly realize the day is not long enough for it all. Integration has been my get it all in method. That's worked pretty good for me. However this past year I started a professional book club among the teachers at my school. We voted on books to read and our first book was The CAFE Book by The Sisters. There were many things I liked about the book but as I already said my district is very committed to guided reading. Plus I am teaching first grade right now and guided reading is a great instructional strategy for emerging readers.
|This is a new edition of the book. I need to order it and see the changes they've included|
because I've only read the original version.
Now in the past I have hated a timed center rotation with a passion. I have always thought it was difficult to have all the centers last the right amount of time, plus what if I needed extra time with a group or less time with another. Of course, this was in the old days of a different center activity for each center, each day. The Daily Five actually gave my loosey goosey approach more structure. Almost all of the activities I already had established fit into one of their "daily five."
Ok, so there's six here. Respond to Reading is an added one, but I rotated it with Word Work so that we only had 5 on any given day. I had my students pick the center they wanted to start with but then they had to rotate from there in a certain order. I put smaller versions of the cards for the daily five activities in my pocket chart. As students came in for the day, they put their name under the activity they wanted to begin with and then I rotated the cards as we switched throughout the day. Now I have to admit that this REALLY broke up my day. But you can't believe how fast the day went - we were just moving. Talk about improving my pacing! The day looked like this:
- Math Calendar
- Round 1 of guided reading
- Whole class time - 20 minutes
- Round 2 of guided reading
- Whole class read-aloud - 10 minutes
- Round 3 of guided reading
- Round 4 of guided reading
- Whole class time - 25 minutes
- Writer's Workshop mini-lesson whole class
- Writer's Workshop
- Computers/PE/Music/Library/Art times
Now as you can see, there's not a lot of time for whole class lessons. That was hard for me. So I had to look for some things to cut out. First on the list was phonics and handwriting practice. I realized that phonics and handwriting practice was probably not as effective in a whole class situation. With a full 20 minutes per reading group, why not fit them in there? Think about it this way - If you are teaching students how to use a final -e to make a letter use it's long vowel sound to the whole class, you probably have a big chunk of students who already know this. Now they are either tuning you out or yelling out answers before others have time to think. You also have a group of students who are still struggling with their short vowel sounds. You are now teaching something they aren't ready for. They are either tuning you out or starting to feel frustrated. So what does this leave? THE group of kids who need this. They are the ones ready to learn this. But all around are kids that are tuned out, yelling out answers, misbehaving, etc. because they themselves aren't ready for this. So why not take a small focused group and teach them exactly what they need. A 20 minutes lesson to everyone can probably be condensed into only 5 minutes with a small group. Now what about handwriting practice. Yes, I want my students to learn to correctly form the letters. But with 26 kids, it's hardly a guided practice. For some it just became practice in the wrong formation of the letter because I couldn't catch their mistakes right away. Once I put this into a small group, the practice took a minute or two and I was right there to help everyone.
I know I mentioned that I was trying it for the third term, well, I didn't go back. I kept it this way for the fourth term too. Why? Because in an hour of guided reading, I was talking to kids constantly after the first, maybe the second group. They just couldn't go for an entire hour independently. By breaking it up I found that my students were more focused, they were able to work independently in 20 minute blocks thus cutting down on behavior problems and they were more productive. They were using their time better. I will definitely break up my time next year too. You probably already noticed that I don't have just an hour of guided reading, with this new schedule I'm actually getting in an hour and 40 minutes. I definitely want to keep that the same.
You may like some of my free word work activities:
During my guided reading word work I use Guess the Missing Word on the iPad. It's so easy and already prepared.