Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Reading Part 1 - Benchmark Literacy

I did it! I read a boring teacher-y book cover to cover! And in one day no less!

I even managed to do some highlighting.

I started my super boring summer book study with this little gem:

If you remember yesterday I was complaining about not having enough direction with these new materials (aka where-the-heck-do-I-start?).

Who knew "Getting Started: Program Strategies and Skills" would be a road map? OK. I had a hunch.

Basically this was an overview of the different components of the program and how all the materials work together. There were lots of nifty charts in the back that I will probably reference throughout the year but other than that, now that I've read it, this really won't be helpful for planning and implementing instruction. It basically is just a very detailed catalog of the components.

So what are the components? Glad you asked.

1. Phonological & Phonemic Awareness
2. Phonics & Word Study
3. Vocabulary
4. Fluency
5. Comprehension
6. Writing & Grammar

All the whole-group mini-lessons are focused on direct instruction of comprehension and metacognitive strategies. I like that. It kinda reminded me of another text I've used, Comprehension Connections.

There was a lot of talk about "Gradual Release of Responsibility" which is basically the Balanced Literacy approach.

Then it got into how the reading lessons are structured. There are ten 3-week units. Each unit focuses on a different comprehension strategy. The first week of the unit is direct teaching of the strategy. Week 2 is guided practice of the strategy, and week 3 focuses on fluent use of the strategy through the use of Reader's Theater. I like that the program includes time for daily Read Alouds, strategy mini-lessons, word study lessons/practice, small group reading, independent reading AND time to individually confer with each student about their independent reading.

Recently I read about how The Teacher Studio does a daily status of the class with her kids and I decided that I want to do that too.

The only thing though is that they suggest 2 hours on all that stuff, which would be great, but it doesn't even include Writing Workshop time! I don't think I have that kind of time so I'll have to look more closely at how that time is divided up and if I actually need to do ALL the components EVERY day.

The book also came with a suggested rotation schedule for small groups which had to be a JOKE because it only allowed for 3 groups of students. I know you may only meet with 3 groups a day but the average teacher (at least in my school district) has 5-6 reading groups. The "suggested rotation" doesn't show what the other 15 students will be doing for these 2 hours. I assume they will be sharpening pencils, going to the bathroom repeatedly, picking their noses, and taking the caps off my glue sticks and markers so they can all dry out.

If you look closely, one of the captions assures us that you can adjust the rotation schedule to meet with FEWER groups of students if needed. PHEW! That was a close one!!

Something I like about this program is that it puts a big emphasis on genre for both reading and writing. I don't think I've ever been very good at teaching genres. I recently won a giveaway from Megan at I Teach, What's Your Super Power and chose this product as one of my free-choice prizes.

Can't wait to start using them next year.

Then there was a great deal of information about using reading logs and reading response journals. Which is something else I've struggled with in the past. Last year I thought I was doing better when I created this:

The idea was that each day students would keep a log of something they read during Read to Self time and write one sentence about it. I thought my kiddos could use a little bit of accountability.

Then after a month or so of using it, I changed the format a bit to allow more room for the response part.

But what I found was that when my kids were at Read-to-Self they immediately got out their Reading Log and started writing. As in, without actually reading anything! Or they would pick up the easiest book they could find off the shelf and write about that. Umm hellllllllllllllooooooooooooo!?@? There's a reason I left a spot for the I.P.I.C.K. chart on the back of the log people!!!

Then I would have kids who had completed their reading log for the day wondering around the room during Daily 5 causing disruptions. "But I'm done Ms. Moler!" And then I would have a handful of kids that never managed to complete their reading log. Ever. I would have a little conference with these guys and say something like "if you find that you don't have enough time to read and write in the same sitting then write about what you just read with me in reading group instead." Still nothing.


So I will definitely be re-thinking that one. Maybe I need to have one rotation as Read-to-Self and then the very next rotation will be Respond-to-Reading. And I'd better not see your reading log out until you are on the latter missy!

I guess it just takes time and more explicit modeling on these reading behaviors to put it into practice.

I'm thinking that since I am looping with my kids, I will be spending the majority of third grade un-doing the bad habits I created in second grade. How's that for self reflection!?

Anyways, back to the text. After the genre stuff it is basically just different charts and lists of materials and how they correlate to one another, etc.

Next up:


  1. After finishing the Book Whisperer, I don't think I'm going to enjoy this reading series much. Do you think it's going to be something we HAVE to do?

  2. Hi there! My district is also starting Benchmark Literacy this year. I just finished row days of training on it. They suggest that the students that are not currently meeting with you should be in centers, very much like Daily 5. I am not crazy about the idea of buying & laminating a bunch of centers from TPT, so I have really enjoyed reading Debbie Diller's books. Her centers are a little more authentic in my opinion, just in the fact that they don't have to be switched out at the end go the week. You just introduce more basic activities in the center and then the kids can choose which activity they will do in that particular center. It also helps take care of the fast finishers; they just choose another activity in that center. I'm not sure that I'm explaining it too well, so definitely take a look at her books. They are very popular and I found coupes at my local library. Good luck!

  3. Ugh sorry for all the typos, I was trying to type that all out on my iPad ha!