Year 2 of teaching literacy is half way complete. Despite the change in content area, I’ve finally adjusted and can comfortably say that I’m an ELA teacher. I no longer have to avoid eye contact in PDs when presenters are name dropping Kelly Gallagher or Ralph Fletcher while simultaneously Googling to find who these literacy gurus are. Last year, my data looked pretty good. I had the highest attainment and growth percentage I’ve ever had as a teacher so that’s pretty cool. (Yes, I know my students are more than a number, but the reality is that our school and district care about these numbers, especially when your school is on probation due to historically low numbers.) I attribute these successes to the implementation balance literacy with fidelity, fostering a community of readers with diverse texts, using formative assessment data to plan small group instruction, and integrating scientific literacy into the classroom.
My school has spent the last year and a half transitioning to a balanced literacy school. We’ve been using Dr. Policastro’s book, The New Balanced Literacy School, as our guide to aligning our instruction to the Common Core instructional shifts. I blogged about this book last year. It is a straight forward, easy read that provides best practices for implementing balanced literacy school wide. Here’s what my balance literacy schedule looks like.
Fostering a community of readers has been an essential part of my literacy classroom climate. In a study by Keith Stanovich, he shows the relationship between independent reading and student achievement. In a nutshell if we want students to show achievement, we need students to read! How do we get kids motivated to read outside our classrooms?
- Use interactive reading logs: Last year, I created an interactive reading log to develop skills we were studying in class with independent reading books.
2. Schedule independent reading time daily: My students get participation points for independent reading time. My district provided us with a rubric for independent reading and I spend the first week of school modeling the appropriate behaviors of an independent reader. We created an anchor chart of what “reading to self” looked like and I circulate with my clipboard while observing and documenting what I see everyday. I may use this time to conference with students if I observe wandering eyes or students reading the wrong books based on lexile or guided reading level.
3. Keep the shelves filled with high interest texts by diverse authors: I found a local organization that supports literacy by providing teachers with free, high interest books at the beginning of the school year. Additionally, I’ve tapped in to the Donors Choose community for paperback books, guided reading sets, and audio books.
Knowing you students is key to planning small group instruction, especially when the range of readers is full spectrum (2nd grade to 10th grade). I use both NWEA data and formative assessment data to group my students. When surveying through a plethora of teacher created resources on blogs, TpT, and in professional reads, I created anecdotal notes forms to fit my needs for documenting small group instruction. I’ll do a deep dive for planning small group instruction later this month.
While working with my STEM fellowship last year, I read and interviewed one of the authors of Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy by Hazen and Trefill. Essentially, the book provides readers with a comprehensive overview of scientific concepts that are necessary to understand public issues. Through my reading and interview with Trefill, I recognize the importance of providing our students with the skills needed to critically examine the world around them. Exposing students to “wonder” and ways in which to discover the answers to their wonders has added life to our ELA clasroom. Students are reading Science World Magazine daily courtesy of Donors Choose in efforts to develop scientific literacy.
I’m still working out the kinks of my reading block, but look forward to sharing my teaching and learning during the second semester.