Just when you think you can get back to your normal routine...
...you realize that you have to do DRA testing the next day. Grrrr...
While I'm upset about this turn of events, I realize that it's been on my calendar for a while and it's the test that I'm most anxious to see the results for. This is the guided reading test that shows how much my students have truly progressed in their reading skills, and the test that I feel is most reflective of what I've been teaching them in reading class. As a Texas teacher, I know that I should be most focused on the STAAR test. We did our fair share of preparation for that...a LOT of preparation. But I don't feel that it will be an accurate reflection of how far my students have really progressed this year. The DRA test will be since it is geared toward finding a child's guided reading level.
Today one of our interventionists pulled a few of students to begin testing them. Of the students that she pulled, not one had progressed fewer than FIVE levels. In fact, the student that I was most worried about at mid year (she had not progressed at all from the beginning of the year to mid year) jumped SEVEN levels. I was absolutely blown away! Now I can't wait to see how the rest of my kiddos do. Results to come later this week...
For the majority of the week last week, I was in Houston attending the Texas Library Association conference. It was a great conference and I really learned a lot...and got Judy Blume's signature in my favorite Judy Blume book, Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing. I was quite excited about this!
Getting a signature by such an amazing children's author made me think about my love for reading. I love, love, love to read! I grew up in a home filled with books, newspapers, and magazines. We made numerous trips to the library. I was blessed with the natural ability to read. I don't remember learning how to read, and I don't remember a time when I couldn't read. But I know that not all children are quite so lucky. They struggle with reading and, therefore, hate to read. This breaks my heart.
As an upper elementary teacher, I've never really been in charge of teaching children to read. They've always come to me already reading. While most of the students in my room can read, they come with varying levels of reading skills. Most can read, but many still struggle with reading. I've found that guided reading is the perfect solution for meeting children where they are and improving their current reading skills.
This year has been a very gratifying experience for me, especially with the implementation of guided reading in my classroom. I've learned how to differentiate considerably with regard to reading skills and truly meet my students where they are. In turn, they have improved their reading skills and have learned to love to read. I've never heard students say, "This is fun," or "Can we read another book?" before. The students truly enjoy reading and the support they receive in their small guided reading groups.
With that being said, my students will be taking the STAAR test on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm sure they will do great...they've worked soooo hard this semester. Regardless of how they do on this test, it's really not the test that I believe is a true measure of how hard they have worked and how much they have improved in their reading skills. The test that really matters to me is the end of year DRA test that we will administer in the next few weeks. This test is a more authentic measure of a student's reading abilities. I believe that it is the test that will truly show just how hard my students have worked and how much improvement they have made since the beginning of the school year. Now if I can just remember this when test scores come out next year.
This past week went really well. We continued to work on reading dramas during our guided reading time and I think the kids enjoyed it as well. They really got into choosing which characters they would read and even asked to be more than one character! Again, just more proof that the kids enjoy guided reading.
One reason that I think my kids enjoy guided reading is the level of support that they feel when they come to the guided reading table. Each group is divided by level. I only pull books according to that group's instructional level. Therefore, they aren't having to read materials that are too hard, or too easy. They read "just right" books. In addition, there is no judgement between the student as they read. Since they are grouped according to level, the students in each group reads about the same. Therefore, no one is embarrasesed by their inability to read. The students also support and encourage one another. For example, I have one student who is considerably lower than all of the rest of my students. He doesn't really belong with the group that I placed him in, but I placed him in the lowest level group that I have in that class. There are three girls in this group with this little boy. Those three girls are so supportive of him. Each time that he reads they tell him what a great job he did or comment on something specific that impressed them about his reading. This is just one of the reasons why I love guided reading so much.
Another thing that I've been thinking about quite often is the integration of technology into guided reading. I have some ideas to share with you and will be creating a page specifically to give teachers ideas for using technology during guided reading. However, you should be aware that most of the ideas that I will share are things that students can use while I am working with guided reading groups. There isn't much that can be done with regard to technology when listening to students read.
Today I tried to video some guided reading groups, as well as students who were working independently on their daily five activities. I must say that I'm not quite sure yet how the videos will turn out. I didn't realize just how noisy my students were during this time until you really need them to be quiet. :-) They really aren't that loud during class...it's really a manageable noise level. I think it just seemed amplified because I was trying to video tape the lessons and wanted you to be able to hear what was being said. I haven't looked at the footage yet, but know that some editing will need to be done before posting it here for you to view.
Ahhhhh....that's my sigh of relief today after having spent most of last week being out of my classroom in order to STAAR test individual students. I don't mind doing it. It's what our campus does in order to help our kids succeed. However, it also means that I can't do guided reading for a week because I can't leave guided reading with a substitute. It's just too complicated to try to explain in a sub note.
There are only 3 more weeks until my sweet 3rd graders take their STAAR tests, and I'm a little nervous. I know that there are several things that I need to do in order to prepare them, but don't want to give up my guided reading time. Two things that I feel we need continued work on are poetry and drama. I just don't feel like I've done a very good job teaching these two things. I also have several skills such as main idea, summary, and cause and effect that need to be reviewed.
In order to accomplish reviewing these things without giving up guided reading time, I've gotten a little creative. To review poetry, I'll be doing a short mini-lesson (about 10 minutes) over a poem each day. The poems are about 10 lines each so we can really analyze it easily in the short amount of time. On the first day, we read the poem, number the lines, and identify the rhyming scheme (if there is one). On the second day, we will identify the type of poem, and the author's message. With this schedule, I will be able to discuss 2 poems per week.
During guided reading time, my students and I are reading plays. I wasn't sure if I would like doing it this way, but thought I'd give it a try. I had to review it sometime, and this allows me to do guided reading and still discuss drama. Teaching drama during guided reading actually worked quite well. The small groups enabled me to assign EVERY child a character to play. Had I tuaght this as a whole group, I would have had 14 students without a part to read. I also didn't have to write 10 sets of lesson plans as I normally do when I teach a different book to each guided reading group. That was definitely a nice change and huge time saver! In addition, I was pleasantly surprised with the sudden use of expression my many of my students. It was as if they knew that everything they said was part of a conversation and people don't usually talk in a monotone voice, or maybe it my telling them so during my introduction. Either way, they did a really nice job with expression. I think that in the future, I'll definitely incorporate dramas into my guided reading groups more often.
I still have specific skills that I'd like to review such as main idea, summary, and cause and effect, but I can review these skills during my main reading lesson time with each group.
Overall, I'm really pleased with our use of time this week. I think we (my grade level reading partner and I) implemented a great plan that will allow us to really focus on concepts and skills that our students still need work on in the amount of time that we have left before the BIG STAAR test, and still allow us to do guided reading each day. As you can tell, I LOVE guided reading and don't like weeks when I'm not able to teach using this method.