Thursday, August 15, 2013

Helping Our Youngest Readers Move Up the Ladder of Text Complexity

Natalie Louis
This session was presented by Natalie Louis who is the co-author of Writing for Readers
(Heinemann, 2013) a unit of study for Kindergarten writers. 

The lower grade is potentially in danger with text complexity.  It's a huge learning curve from what we've been doing.  We need to find new ways to move readers forward faster.  Don’t abandon Fountas and Pinnell.  We still need reading levels, the progression of students has just been ramped up.

In kids book baskets, in the past the teacher would mostly have the students independent level.  We started to play around with the formula in the baggies.  Marie Clay says what most grows readers is the instructional level (stretch level). So already we aren’t putting the right thing in the book bags.  Reading Recovery studied and discovered kids grow one level every two weeks, so most of the instruction wasn’t at instructional level.
So we decided to get more instructional level texts in baggies - more shared reading with a small group, sometimes one to two levels above their grade level.

I want to read that book with you!!!!!
Kindergarten teachers understand the power of shared reading.  How you know its a good shared reading - the kids are excited and UNRULY!  And its mostly implicit (just doing reading - don’t talk about it).  Less blah, blah, blah, more do, do, do.  It’s why they want to read.  They hear that model of you reading and want to sound just like it.  If your kids are all sitting still, hands folded -it’s not a good shared reading (all eyes on same text - 1 book).  More like a MOSH pit where kids want to surf toward the book.  That's what she wants to see in classrooms.  Excitement! 

You do the dance of shared reading.  As much as they need, until they DO back.  Gesture for them to try, don’t talk about it. Continue saying "Join me if you can." as you turn the page.  Just read it with them.  We are talking levels below I , J. 

Take guided reading books and use them for group shared reading.  Teacher is only one with copy.  All eyes on same text.  The idea is that at the end they might be able to read by themselves. 

Kids below benchmark get this burst schedule of shared reading instruction from you.

Example "Burst Group Schedule"
You would do two week cycles where you take one group and see them intensely and work with the instructional books in their baggie.  This won't take much time!  These are low level books you can shared read the entire book pretty quickly.

Day 1: Two or three instructional texts (meaning books 2 or 3 levels above their independent level)  in shared reading. Saying to the kids: Join me if you can.  The kids are shouting out things they notice and you just don’t respond.  Keep reading and stopping and saying “Join me if you can”
Day 2:  Two shared reading two above level
Day 3: Guided reading at their level
Day 4:  Two shared reading  two above level and decide how each is doing
Day 5:  Informal or Formal assess to see if their level moved unless they are totally lost still

This can help them “burst” ahead.  Even if you can move a few up faster the one behind can get more focused one on one help.

Partner Reading - There is no reason to have a reading partner unless there is trouble.  If things are don’t need help.  A partner is there for help.  Make sure kids know why they have a partner - so there’s someone else to help when there’s trouble or join the joy!  They need to understand the why of partner reading.

Every child has that one book they keep picking up that is WAAAAY above their level.  Maybe its a book they've seen an older sibling read, maybe it's a topic or popular character right now, but whatever it is - Let them have it!  I call this the child's northstar book - way above your level but you will LEARN to read for this book. They want to read this book so bad they try to sound these huge words out when they are really a C level reader!  Mark it with a post it and say this book is special because it is hard for you but we will give you a shot.  Guess which book they work on hardest?  If I say a book is "just right" and you struggle with it what are you saying in your head to yourself in your head?  "My teacher said this book is just right and I can't read some of these words - ugh I'm so dumb."   A hard book they know is hard  they say, "Oh, I don't know lots of these words but she said it was hard for me so no big deal."  but they work harder.  Let them have it but label it with a sticky note with a star so they know that is their special hard book they chose.

As an aside...I remember when my son was in Kindergarten and hanging at the C level for so long and desperate to read Star Wars easy readers.  I bought them anyway to keep at home and I would read them aloud to him at times but he sat in front of those books longer than any others trying to sound out "Obi Wan Kanobi".  I'm pretty sure "the force" (or his Northstar books) propelled him through those primary reading levels. :)

I think the Common Core Standards and text complexity will force us to continue looking for new and different ways to get those "bursts" in reading levels.  Do you have any tips or trick to share?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher


dayle timmons said...

Oh my gosh! I LOVE this! I love working with a group intensely - everyday for a while and I love the idea of shared reading a couple of levels above where they are to get that burst! Never really tried this, but can't wait to try it this year. So interesting. Can't wait until you get home Melanie to give us the FULL version of this workshop!

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. Definitely makes me curious enough to want to create a small group of my ESE students to try this with. I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks for sharing!

Maria Mallon & Cheryl Dillard said...

Great new perspectives and ideas to incorporate into Reader's Workshop. Shared reading is one way to include all the students in active involvement with a book. Love the North Star books - I think we all carried around a book that was too hard for us when we were young readers. Loved the posts and can't wait hear more. (I remember your Padowon carrying around those Star Wars books.) :) MM