Rethinking the Literacy Block


I struggled to let go of the things that made me comfortable in my classroom…mainly centers.  I felt that the students were engaged and productive so why would I change it.  The more I read, I realize that there is/was fault in my thinking.  Students need to read.  They need to read on their level, they need to read for interest, they need to hold books in their hands daily and be given time to engage in books.

“Kids not only need to read a lot but they need lots of books they can read right at their fingertips. They also need access to books that entice them, attract them to reading.  Schools…can make it easy and unrisky for children to take books home for the evening or weekend by worrying less about losing books to children and more about losing children to illiteracy.”     -Richard L. Allington

With all that being said I also realized that I am dealing with 6 year olds and they may struggle to just sit and read.  So I made different reading activities into centers.  For example, read in the library, read in your book bin, read big books, etc. All of the centers still focuses on putting books in the students’ hands (with the exception of the word sorts).  The following document is what I used to set it up.  The sheet with the schedules starts with my lowest group and progressively gets higher.  Literacy Time q  During computer, my students read on-level books through RAZ kids.  During Words Their Way Sorts their instruction is differentiated through the use of different sorts.

I am meeting with guided reading groups and I use a lot of the strategies designed by Fountas & Pinnell (we use PM Rigby).  One day the students will read an easy text and write about it, the next time they read a harder book and work on word patterns.  My higher groups focus more on thinking strategies. I confer during reading partnerships.

I really teach word work through the word wall and then during small group instruction so it meets the reader’s needs.

Check out these two articles by Dr. Richard Alligton, The Six T’s of Effective Elementary Literacy Instruction, and  What I’ve Learned About Effective Reading Instruction 

First, Allington states that teachers must give the students time to read and write,

Extensive reading is critical to the development of reading proficiency. Extensive practice provides the opportunity for students to consolidate the skills and strategies teachers often work so hard to develop. The exemplary elementary teachers we studied recognized this critical aspect of instructional planning.

Secondly, we need to be mindful with the selection of texts we provide for our students,

Simply put, students need enormous quantities of successful reading to become independent, proficient readers. By successful reading, I mean reading experiences in which students perform with a high level of accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.

Third, our teaching needs to center on strategies not assignments,

The exemplary teachers in our study routinely gave direct, explicit demonstrations of the cognitive strategies that good readers use when they read. In other words, they modeled the thinking that skilled readers engage in as they attempt to decode a word, self-monitor for understanding, summarize while reading, or edit when composing.

We need to engage our students in purposeful talk,

In other words, these exemplary teachers encouraged, modeled, and supported lots of talk across the schoolday.This talk was purposeful talk, though, not simply chatter. Itwas problem-posing, problem-solving talk related to curricular topics.

The other two topics are tasks and testing.  Both articles are worth reading.

When you stop and think about your classroom and the practices that guide your day ask, Why do I do this?  Does it have research that backs it up?  Am I planning the day to make my students successful readers and thinkers?  Do my students engage in purposeful talk everyday?  If the answers to your questions surprise you, then it might be time for a change. 

 My schedule:

5 mins, Read aloud a chapter (Junie B. Jones, we all think she’s a hoot)

15 mins, Work word (word wall, find patterns, use words in context, etc.)

10 mins, Mini-Lesson on reading skill   (If we do an Anchor Lesson for 40 mins, then we skip over centers or reading partnerships)

20 mins, Reading partnerships (conferring)

30 mins, Literacy Centers

10 mins, Workshop Share

The students also have free read at the beginning of the day and end of the day.

There is also a 40 minute intervention/acceleration time (we use F&P LLI kit).  Our high level learners engage in thinking strategies through reading using Comprehension Toolkit.

We also now have an additional 25 minute block that we meet with our fragile learners and work on Reading Recovery strategies.

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