I forget how students come in seeming so young and unable to do things you may think are simple. I think it is a true testament to how much our students grow in a year. We get those little learners to sail into capable seas. They read, they write, they add and subtract!
So the point for me is that right now I feel that sinking feeling you get when it all seems like too much to accomplish in just one year! We all know that it will happen but gosh I wish they knew how to write their name and use the bathroom correctly now 🙂
As a first grade teacher, I first watch them select books and read. It’s a pretty informal assessment. They all sit on the carpet with a book that we have both deemed “just right” and I walk around and just listen in. It gives me an idea to which students need a lot of attention and which ones are ready to be pushed. With the little ones that need a lot, I first give them a simple alphabet assessment. Then we move on to DRA. If you don’t have DRA, then find some kind of assessment that can track their progress and growth through the year. There is a free site that is not equivalent but that is helpful in tracking your students: www.easycbm.com. DRA helps me figure out the book levels that we should use when reading together (instructional) and what they should be reading when they are alone (independent).
I then group the students for guided reading groups, intervention groups and reading partnerships. Very likely the students will grow at different rates, so be flexible. Fountas and Pinnell have a great framework called LLI. It is so smart because one day the student reads on their instructional level (which may be a bit hard) and then the next day they drop down to a levelthat the student can be successful with. There are other components too, so be sure to check it out.
During your supported reading, remember that you are their support. You are there to teach strategies that they can implement even when you aren’t there. So during this reading, I teach the important strategy and then I hold them responsible for using it. I’m not saying that I don’t remind them but I am saying that I don’t feed them the word. I use my language stems, Prompting beginning readers cheat sheet, to support myself and the reader by helping them figure out how to use their strategies.
Little by little they start getting it and then USING it. It’s like they always had it. Your days become full of saying, Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it look right? and you listen to the beautiful sounds of reading.