A good reading program is absolutely essential for your classroom. Without one, your students will not improve as readers.
Having DEAR – Drop Everything And Read or SSR – Sustained Silent Reading where your students read quietly at their desks, does very little to help them become better readers. What you need is a guided reading program where you work with small groups of students, have them read the texts out loud and respond to what they have read.
So where do you start?
Most schools in Ontario use DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) to assess what reading level our students are at individually.
You need to sit down with each student and have them read to you and answer some comprehension questions. It takes about 20 minutes to do each assessment but by the end of that time, you will have great data about that student.
If you teach Grade 3, you simply cannot teach from a Grade 3 Reader. Some of your students simply won’t be able to read at that level. Others won’t be challenged enough.
Once you have assessed every member of your class, you will find that you will have four or five different levels of readers in your class. Some may be at grade level, some may be a grade behind or even grades behind, and some students will be reading above grade level. Form your readers into groups and have them read texts at their level.
So you’ve got you reading groups, now what?
I’ve been at some schools that have levelled book libraries and those books come with a single card that gives you ideas on how to present the books and teach lessons to small groups. I have found that these guides aren’t that useful. They require you to be familar with the book and do a little bit of pre-reading before hand.
Let’s face it, teachers are busy. We don’t have time to review four or five different books and do the planning for reading groups each and every week.
Find a reading program that lays everything out for you.
Soar to Success is a great reading program. It’s a tad expensive but if you can get your school to buy it, I highly recommend it. It’s a reading intervention program and is meant to help those students who are struggling with their reading.
The best thing about the program is the incredibly detailed Teacher’s Guide. It lays out step by step instructions for teaching every book in the kit. It tells you to read up to a certain paragraph, stop and talk about this word, have the students make a prediction, etc.
It quite simply is the best program I have ever seen and I have used it successfully for two years.
Online Reading Program
Reading A to Z is a more cost effective program and I find the books and exercises to be much more useful than the ones in the levelled library we have at my current school. It requires an annual subscription but is well worth the price.
I know teachers that use this program and print out the books for the students. That is quite time-consuming as well. I use their projectable books and have my small groups come up to the Smartboard to read aloud.
Structure your timetable.
Reading Groups should take about an hour of your daily schedule.
You can read through an entire text with a group of four or five students in about 15 minutes. You can then send this group back to their seats to work on a response activity of some kind. If you have four groups, you should be able to meet with each one every day.
Of course, sometimes you need more time. Your students may need extra help and you may only be able to meet with two groups a day. That is completely fine as well.
What say you?
How do you run your reading groups?
What Reading Program are you using?
Do you have any teaching tips you’d like to share?
Please leave a comment below. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.