Monday, July 28, 2014

Classroom Reading Groups - A Fun Activity to Set them up in your Classroom, and a Freebie!

In one of my last posts, I talked a bit about the reading groups I set up in my classes at the start of the school year.  As the new school year is approaching (yikes!), I thought I would go into a little more depth about the Reading Groups I use, how I set them up, and some of the ways we use them facilitate learning. In this post, I will talk about a fun activity I do to get my students divided into Reading Groups,while making sure all students are reading an at-level book that interests them.

In my room, I have several small class sets of novels (4-5 books each), at a range of reading levels.  I was able to pick all of these titles myself (hooray!), so I made sure to choose ones that I knew the kids would really love.  I also tried to choose some titles from different genres, and some that were a bit obscure (but still great!), so my super keen readers would not have already read all of them.  The images below and at the top of this post show some of our favorites.

If you are in the process of setting up a class set of novels for Reading Groups, I strongly suggest these titles. Some are certainly more difficult than others, but having a wide range makes it excellent for differentiation.

At the start of the year, and every time I introduce new novels, I have the kids do a round of "Reading Group Musical Chairs".  I choose 7 sets of books, and place a set at each table.  I then put a timer up on the screen, and give the kids 5 minutes to read the book in front of them.  They then fill out their "Reading Group Musical Chairs" sheet, and make note of how challenging the book was for them to read, and their interest level.  I then have the kids stand up and move to a different group.  They can go to any table in the classroom, as long as they have not already read that book.  We then repeat the activity for another 5 minutes.  We usually do this 2-3 times a class, until all of the books have been read and recorded.  If I have them read for much longer than that they tend to get a little antsy.

At the end of the activity, I collect all of the "Reading Group Musical Chairs" sheets, and read them over.  I try to put the kids into groups with a book that has a high interest level for them, and is at their proper reading level.  I love that this activity prevents kids from choosing a book simply because their friend wants to read it.  The kids really like this activity, as they feel they have an actual say in what book they are going to read, and are therefore more engaged in the activities we do with them throughout the year.

If you would like to try this activity with your class, you can download the recording sheet (with instructions) for free by clicking on the image below.  I will take you directly to my Teachers Pay Teachers store, where you can download it for free :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Interactive Notebooks: Resources for your Classroom (and a freebie!)

One of the big struggles I had when first setting up Interactive Notebooks in my classroom was finding appropriate resources.  When I first started a few years ago, there were very few resources available, and gathering them was a constant struggle.  I felt like I was constantly having to hunt out and prep different resources, and desperately needed some sort of system for organizing everything.

Since then, with teachers discovering how effective Interactive Notebooks can be, the market for resources has exploded.  I have had mixed success with the resources I have purchased... some have been incredible, and some not so good.  Because of this, I decided to put my knowledge and experience with using Interactive Notebooks to good use, and create my own resources.

Next year I will be teaching a Reading Intervention class for the first time, so I have been really working hard on creating resources to use with my students.  I plan to focus a good chunk of my instruction on targeting specific reading comprehension strategies - I want to get the kids summarizing, asking questions, visualizing, inferring, determining importance, and making connections.

A few years ago, our administrator purchased each Humanities teacher a variety of novel sets.  Each set has 5 books, and I have about 10 different sets.  The best part was that I got to choose the novels for each set; I am a big fan of young adult lit, so picking out the books was super fun for me.  Yes, I am a huge nerd.  Anyways, next year I plan on dividing the kids into groups based on reading level, giving each group a novel, and then having the kids work on different Interactive Notebook activities revolving around the targeted reading comprehension strategies.  Because of this, I created this resource:

The package of resources is common core aligned for grades 1-4, but I am actually planning on using it with a group of grade 7 struggling readers. The great thing about the resources is that they can be used with ANY text - this makes it super easy to differentiate instruction with your students.   You can see some of the resources included in the package in the picture.  For more detailed information about what exactly is included, you can click on the picture and it will take you directly to my Teachers Pay Teachers store :)

If you are interested in checking the package out a bit further, I have created a free sample package.  It includes a few resources to go along with each of the different reading comprehension strategies, and is a great starting point :)  If you click on the image, it will take you directly to my Teachers Pay Teachers store, where you can download it for free :)  Don't you just love free stuff?!

If you like these resources, you may want to check these out as well :).  All of the units are specifically designed for use in Interactive Notebooks, and include foldables, detailed instructions, handouts, and worksheets.  As before, clicking on the image will take you directly to the product in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store :)

Are you planning on using Interactive Notebooks in your classroom next year?  I would love to hear about how you plan on getting started!  Leave me a comment in the space below :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teaching About Text Features!

When you take a close look at the Common Core Standards, or the Prescribed Learning Outcomes that we have here in BC, you will notice that a great many refer to Text Features.  Because of this, I dedicated a large portion of time to specifically teaching about Text Features with my grade 7's and 8's last year.  In the past, we have done some quick  mini lessons on them, but this time I spent a good couple of days focusing on specific Text Feature based lessons.  When they wrote their R.A.D. (a reading test that we have in BC) at the end of the school year, I was pleasantly surprised with how much better they did with the sections relating to Text Features, simply because we had focused some strategic time on learning about them.

The lessons went so well that I am actually planning on starting the school year with some of the activities this year.  This time, however, I am going to team up with the science teacher, and use their science textbook for a lot of the activities.  It will be a great introduction to the text features we will refer back to throughout the year, as well as a great introduction to their science textbook and curriculum.  I love, love, love finding opportunities to integrate different subject areas.

One of my favorite activities that we did involves the large chart paper posters that you can see in the above pictures.  After taking some notes on different text features, I divided the class up into groups.  Each group was given a sheet of chart paper, a marker, and a stack of magazines and newspapers.  Their job was to create an informational poster that displayed and explained a variety of text features.  As you can see from the above pictures, the end results were awesome!  I left them up on my classroom walls for the entire school  year, and we referred back to them often.

Another item that I refer back to throughout the year are my Text Feature classroom posters.  I hang these on my walls at the start of the year, and have found them to be really helpful.  I like that when a student comes to me and tells me that they can't find something in their textbook, I can refer them to the class posters and have them figure out where they should be looking to find the information.

This year, I plan to have my classes do a whole section in their Interactive Reading Notebooks about Text Features.  We will take some class notes, create a foldable or two, and finally create a mini book where they have to explain and illustrate the different text features.  Like the classroom signs, the kids will be able to refer back to the information throughout the year, which is fantastic.

All of the activities I mentioned above and plan to use next year, including my classroom signs, are available here: