long, heavy sigh

Discussion in 'Fourth Grade' started by Emerson Squirl, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. Emerson Squirl

    Emerson Squirl Rookie

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    Feb 3, 2011

    It's Thursday afternoon and I feel like the world is crashing down on me. I've had a 3 week break (off track at a year-round school) which should have been enough time for me to regroup and prepare. Yesterday when I left the building I felt pretty ok at what I had accomplished and what was still on my to-do list. But now I once again feel as though I have bitten off WAY more than I can chew.:(
    My district uses a basal program that I know very little about which gives me very little confidence in my abilities to teach with it. On top of that, I don't like the way the program is structured since most of my kids don't read on grade level. I have decided to move away from the reading program, using books from the leveled library at school instead. I made this decision during this break, so I have not seen it in action yet, BUT I'm so overwhelmed at my decision now. I never had a chance to see how to set up guided reading groups or centers during my student teaching days, so I have no idea how to go about it. I feel like an idiot for not, on some level, just knowing or understanding how something so basic to teaching like guided reading or centers works. I've spent countless hours on the internet looking for ideas to help me piece together one of the biggest ventures I've taken so far. I'm so inspired by all the things I have found, but when it comes right down to it, I still have no clue as to how I would pull it off. By 4th grade, no other teacher really uses the "center" idea at my school. In addition, none of my team members have shown any interest in collaborating so I'm all on my own.:dizzy:
    I think I might develop a heart condition before I get tenure at this rate.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 3, 2011

    Ok...deep breaths.

    You need to ease into this. First, do you know the reading levels of all your students yet (which level of books to place them with)?
     
  4. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 3, 2011

    Second, decide how you want to do groups. Do you want to meet with students who are on the same level (guided reading)? Or do you want to meet with students who are struggling in the same area of reading (strategy groups)?
     
  5. mrs a

    mrs a Companion

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    Feb 3, 2011

    Which basal is it? Guided Reading is not a basic teaching skill. It was not taught as a part of any curriculum I was ever in. I wanted to do the same one year, and it is so difficult to wrap your head around the whole function of it all until you see it in action. I finally taught at a school who used this method of teaching, and I dove in with much guidance. I would not begin this venture until you have a little more confidence about it. Are there other classrooms in your district that you can observe who use guided reading?
     
  6. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Feb 4, 2011

    I would take it in baby steps. You will need to have your students get used to working in cooperative groups and have you get used to the noise. Have them move into groups for short skill practices (unless you do this already). Look for natural leaders and keep those in mind when making your groups.
    When I do leveled readers instead of the story, I still do the skills and vocabulary. We just read the leveled readers instead of the story. Chances are, you will need more than your allotted 5 or 6 low level readers. Since the others aren't using theirs, hit one of them up to borrow their set. I will usually pull the weakest readers to the back with me and do mixed ability groups for the rest. Sometimes, though, I put them all in mixed groups, and I move from group to group. Because I have the ELA sped, I have a sped teacher that is with me for reading. We both usually have a group. (I have 10 on intensive with Dibels.) I don't know about other series, but Storytown has skills pages, vocabulary pages, and activities for their leveled readers. You can use them when you do the readers.
    Once you have it working smoothly in your room, invite the others in. They may be just as nervous as you for starting it, but you can show them that it really works. (I say this as a former -"must be whole group or nothing else!" girl. ) The decision to step out of your comfort zone to do what's right for your kids, is an admirable one. Good luck!!
     
  7. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 4, 2011

    Guided reading and centers are not so basic to teaching, they take time to perfect! So, don't feel down on yourself because this is a new concept or something that you are struggling with!
     
  8. Emerson Squirl

    Emerson Squirl Rookie

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    Feb 4, 2011

    Mopar, I want to do guided reading. I have 13 students at an Intensive level according to my latest DIBELS report. (That's half my class!) I used what I know about my students' personalities and work ethics and other reading assessments like recent STAR tests to group my kids. I still think I'm just crazy for wanting to do this, but with that many students at that level and pressure to bring up scores, I feel like it's the only way things are going to happen.
    The students still don't have the stamina for extended time for independent work but I'm getting used to the noise that comes with group work. I feel like the lit. block has been my weakest point because I hate the basal so much. Imagine It goes way too fast for my class and is way too segmented to make sense to even me. I want to change things to be an idea I'm more comfortable with: groups that meet the needs of my students.
     
  9. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 4, 2011

    Independent work is difficult for most students, but you already have the hard work done.

    Now, do you want all students at the same reading level to work on the same book or will you offer choices of books?

    How many groups will you have?

    To start, I would choose a book that you feel is appropriate for each group and get multiple copies from the library.

    Then I would choose some more independent easy centers to be completed.
    *Start one or two groups at the listening center (depending on class size).
    *If you have computers, maybe have an independent computer center--this could be a website or computer activity
    *Try a spelling center. Make it the same for each week. Partners quiz each other on spelling. One partner gives the first ten words and then switch. Or an easy spelling game or word sort.
    *Try a vocabulary center. Maybe concentration with vocabulary words and definitions.
    *If you have an interactive whiteboard or overhead...this could be a center as well.

    Before you begin this, I would practice each center whole group with the students and show them what to do. Have some students model correct use of the center.
    (This part takes time!)
     
  10. Emerson Squirl

    Emerson Squirl Rookie

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    Feb 4, 2011

    do you want all students at the same reading level to work on the same book or will you offer choices of books?
    I have gathered 2 book choices for each level. My thinking is that when we do get together in groups, the first time we actually read something will be a result of the students coming to a decision as a group. My theory is that most of my students will need that little extra investment in this type of work.

    How many groups will you have?
    At this point I have 5 groups, 2 of which are relatively on the same level, but contain too many students to be considered 1 group.

    I'm picturing pretty much just having students practice the activities they will be expected to do independently within a whole group setting first. Meaning, I will explain the activity and my expectations, have pairs or three's practice at their seats, then have a pair model for the rest of the class to comment on. "I noticed that Kim and Toby both spoke quietly to each other" or "I heard Matt help Gabe when he had a question." How long do you think I should wait before I introduce the reading groups?

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all your help!!
     
  11. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 4, 2011

    That sounds perfect to get started.

    A second thing that I would add...once you get started, is book bags. This way, you can have an independent reading time. Teach the students the difference between their guided reading level and their independent level (usually 1 or more levels below their guided reading level). Then have them each keep about 5 books in their book bags. It could even be a book you have read together during guided reading or read aloud that they want to read again.

    Large zip lock bags work well for this if you don't want to spend a lot of money!
     
  12. mrs a

    mrs a Companion

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    Feb 5, 2011

    Great advice! I would only add to make sure the rules are established very clearly. Make sure they know the "Ask three, then me" rule. Ask 3 friends for help with something before the teacher. Have a rule for bathroom, or don't allow it during centers. My biggest struggle was interruptions.
    Identify your most independnet learners, and have them be in charge of each group. Avoid pairing kids who will bicker too much. Each week, I put a new kid in charge of their group (with the understanding that if they were not helpful to the group, they lost the privilege). Every 6 wks, I mixed the groups differently.

    Keep the activities simple and attainable. A lot of trouble happens when the activity id too complicated.

    Spelling: Word Sort, test each other, typing words on computer, spellingcity.com

    Language: Write a letter with 5 parts, Write an organized paragraph (using whatever writing curriculum you have) about a topic you choose.

    Reading: Illustrate favorite part, other simple activities reinforcing the skill of the week

    That's a very large intervention group. I don't think I can be much help with advice there. I usually only had a few kids in my lowest group.
     
  13. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 5, 2011

    Interruptions are something that you need to teach the students.

    1) Teach them what to do when they are confused (ask 3 is good).

    2) I also teach them to use a post-it. They write their question down and then I get back to them when I can.

    3) I have a pass for the bathroom. If they need to go, they can use it. They just put the pass on their desk so that I know where they are.

    4) You need a plan for early finishers. What should they do when they finish. Silent reading is good, journal prompt, quiet game...

    5) With behavior, I give a student two chances, then they work at their desk. The first few days, a handful are at their desk. Then, the students really start to behavior.

    6) Plan for work not finished. During center time, is it okay if they don't finish something or does this become homework? Do they use morning time to finish...
     

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