Saturday, July 12, 2014

rainy day thoughts about school starting

Good rainy morning to you! Sorry this post is late going cousin is visiting from the suburbs so we were busy riding bikes around the city last night:

Is it raining where you are? One of the things I love about my apartment is that it is on the second floor, so I get to sleep with my windows open. I love waking up to the sunshine streaming through, or in this case, the gentle music of the rain falling. Fortunately, I don't have any outside plans that the rain could impose on, so I welcome it this morning!

I was thinking a little yesterday about going back to school, and the fact that I don't have my own class again. And then I was thinking about if I were going back to a middle school class, what I would do differently knowing what I know after coaching for a year in elementary school. So here are just a few things that you might consider to enhance your middle school literacy instruction if that is where you'll be next year!

First, as I happened on the test data from the last standardized test, I would make a list of the kids who didn't meet the standards. I would keep this list in a planner somewhere, and then after getting to know the kids I would adjust it based on what my "kidwatching" skills told me. I would basically be trying to figure out who are my most vulnerable readers, and then I would give each of them an assessment like the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment to determine more. 

This assessment is going to give you information about words read per minute, accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Within comprehension, you'll be able to see how they do with retell, questions about the text (craft and structure) and questions about the text (inferential). It really gives a lot of information, so this is where I'd start with my readers I was most concerned with.

You might be wondering how you'd have time for all that assessment when you've got a room full of kids. Well, I'd also be teaching them how to do independent reading for the first month of school. So, my lessons would be about management and I'd keep them brief, so the kids could get to the heart of the work - the reading! If you have the Lucy Calkins Curriculum, these lessons are in the first unit - Building the Reading Life. If you do not have this curriculum, I highly suggest buying this book:

Couple of things: I know it says it's for guiding readers and writers grades 3-6, but it will totally work for middle school. Anyways, this book is awesome, and full of great ideas, but chapter 9 is the chapter you'll want to follow along with. It will lay out lesson plans for the first 20 days of independent reading. I always started my middle school class with these lessons, and I highly recommend them!

So, when can you assess those kids? Well, get your kiddos reading, and then you'll have time while they're busy working to test a kiddo here and there. I would also find more time throughout the day - during homeroom, maybe during a plan period - to get them all done. Like I said, the information you'll get from the assessment will be fab!

The last thing I'd do in the beginning of the year is talk to my admin about getting guided reading books - short, leveled texts - that I could use to give specific guided reading instruction to my kids who need that extra support. The middle school I was in didn't have much in the way of leveled books, so I'd figure out a way to get what I needed - donor's choose, borrowing from an elementary school, maybe getting money from the school budget, I'm not sure. All I know is that I'd need books to give them more tailored instruction!

Anyways those are just a few things I was thinking as I was deciding what to write about today. I'm sure when more come to me, I will share, especially because I want to share about guided reading lessons, too....since my work bestie taught me so much about it!

For now though, that is all since I have a date at hot yoga and then for High Tea at the Drake! Hopefully the rain will stop long enough for us to get to the bus stop!

Have a great day!


  1. Great back-to-school thoughts!! I am excited to get a hold of the end of year tests and see where my firsties are, then make some plans and see where that takes us. :) Thanks for getting me excited, again.

    Mrs. Bartel’s School Family

  2. OK, I skimmed the part about back to school because I just can't go there yet. :) Good ideas! Tea at the Drake sounds fabulous!!! :)

  3. Thank you for such great advice! Since this fall will be my first year of teaching, I can use all of the advice I can get. :) I'm so happy to be following you!

  4. I would love to hear about how you would structure a language arts block with your knowledge as a reading specialist. Would you do a reading workshop and then a writing workshop? Would you focus on the reading and have them write about their reading? I feel like I'm always looking for the perfect way to balance everything in a literacy block, and I don't have the answer yet!

  5. I LOVE the Fountas and Pinnell "Literacy Bible" as we call it at my school. We always start with the first 20 days and it sets up your reading workshop soooo well!

  6. It's really interesting to talk about how you would start the beginning of the year because while there are major differences (of course), there are also many similarities to how we do it in kindergarten. We have so many assessments to do but before we can do it we have to teach them how to be independent. I know you are thinking about the beginning of the year, but I hope you have some time!

    Camp Kindergarten

  7. Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place..Yoga for High BP


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