Teaching Language Arts in my classroom is never the same from year to year. I am always experimenting with new lesson plans and ideas trying to find that elusive “right” way to teach. Unfortunately, there is no one way that works for every child in the classroom and that is why I am always changing what I am doing. After having read The Daily 5 and The Book Whisperer this summer, I have been trying to do the following.
We started off the year by sharing our favourite picture books, learning about genre, and speed book dating . We built up our reading stamina and learned how to choose books in the library. I shared books I love and even now I am always sharing what I am reading so that the students can feel my enthusiasm of books. After silent reading time every day, students are invited to share books that they would recommend others to read. We keep a “Books to Read” list so that we can jot down what we would like to read next, just like Donalyn Miller suggests in her book. I keep a list of my own and I add to it as students suggest books for me to read. I also invited students to The Forty Book Challenge (another idea out of The Book Whisperer). We do a shared read aloud and this year we participated in the Global Read Aloud 2013 which was a great way to connect with other classes around the world. (Here is link to our culminating project)
Then we spent a while learning about digital citizenship and our digital footprint (Common Sense Media is a great resource). Lessons about how to conduct ourselves online will be ongoing throughout the year. We wrote blogs on paper and learned how to write proper comments using the ideas from the third graders in Linda Yollis’ class. The students keep a blog notebook where they write their rough copies of their blogs. They need to go through a self-editing and peer-editing process before they can publish online.
1. include the title, author, genre
2. tell a little about the book without giving away too much
3. include a connection, a prediction and a question (later on they will be encouraged to include an inference as well)
4. include an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence as well as check for spelling, grammar and punctuation.
I invited the students to do a free-write and then I introduced the BC Performance Standards. Students use the standards to look at their own writing and do a self-assessment by highlighting where they are. (Here are the Performance Standards in student friendly language) Then, I use the Performance Standards and highlight where they are and return their writing to them so that we can discuss it.
We have on-going writing mini-lessons based on the needs of the class and we have a space in the classroom where the students can go for ideas on what to write about. We talk about the writing process and ways to publish their writing. Students can choose to either make a physical book or publish on their blog.
I use Words their Way to assess the students and to place them in groups to study word patterns by doing various activities throughout the week. I meet with each group once a week to discuss the patterns. Every day they have a different activity they do in class and then they practice that same activity for homework (see Words their Way for the various sorts).
Conference with a Teacher
Before the conferences begin, we discuss and practice effective ways to read aloud. We talk about reading pace, enunciation, volume, and the use of expression. I encourage students to record their oral reading and listen to themselves. They are asked to practice reading aloud a piece out of their book to share with a small group. There is a weekly chart posted in the classroom listing when everyone meets with the teacher to conference about his or her reading. During the conference time, students share their books in the small group, do a short read aloud and we discuss a reading comprehension strategy. Some students who are hesitant to read aloud can share their recording of their reading. I use the Reading Performance Standards to create a 4-point scale for assessment.
Every day, students complete their Word Work and then choose to work on one of the following:
1. Read to Self
2. Reading Response Blog
3. Writer’s Workshop
4. Read and Comment on others’ blogs
5. Conference with a Teacher
Here is the chart I use.
So far, this system is working out reasonably well in our classroom. I am really enjoying seeing the change in the students’ conversations about books; especially the conversations about reading that continue on their blogs after school.
I'm looking forward to seeing how these conversations develop and change over time.
The Daily 5 program I am using in my classroom may not be the way the authors of the book intended it to be but it is a starting point for my students to increase their reading stamina, read what they enjoy, have conversations about books and to practice their writing skills as well. How do you use Daily 5 or teach Language Arts in your classroom?