Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: Diggin' Into Next Year: Reading Comprehension

Diggin' Into Next Year: Reading Comprehension

Welcome to the 4th week of the link party. If you missed my posts on behavior management, math workshop or organization, click HERE to read them.

...teach reading comprehension.

I took the plunge last year and ditched the text books! And I am so glad that I did! The year before we were required to use the text books. We would read the story whole group on Monday and in small groups during the week. The students were expected to read it to their parents for homework and they were given a paper and pencil assessment on Friday. OMG it was BORING! I believe students will read at a higher level if they love to read. And I believe the way to make a kid love reading is to give them texts that interest them. Making them read the same story over and over is NOT fun! So when my school said that using the basal was no longer mandatory- I ditched it! I seriously stored them in the very back of my cabinet!

But then I had the challenge of figuring out how to meet the standards and what to give students to read during small groups. It was tough at first. I tried a few things that didn't quite meet my class needs. I also found myself working harder since I was constantly searching for materials.

About half way through the year...I finally figured it out! Literature circles! Duh! I had done them before with my enrich reading groups. They loved it. So why not so it with all four of my groups?!

I choose four different books that were the appropriate level for each of my reading groups and that I felt would interest my students. I searched the school library and ordered a few books from Amazon so that I had enough books for each student in the group (usually 6-7).

When students came back to meet with me in guided reading groups, we would read together from their book. Sometimes we choral read and other times they would take turns reading a paragraph at a time. After we read a chapter or two, we would start our discussion. I decided not to give my students the traditional literature circle jobs. When I did use the traditional jobs, I noticed that my students got so focused on their job that they stopped looking at the text as a whole. For example, if they were the Word Wizard- they only focused on finding a few new words. They didn't focus on characters or plot. That wasn't their job! Instead, they rotate being the director. The director will ask the rest of the group a couple of questions to get them talking about what we just read. The directors often choose a couple task cards from my responding to text task cards.

These task cards include simple retelling type questions as well as some higher order thinking questions. These help to get the students to really dig deeper in the text. I generally do not ask them to write anything during literature circles. During their independent center they get to choose anything they want to read and they have some written response work to do after each chapter. So during the guided reading group, I focus on more of a discussion type format. The only exception is that sometimes I give them graphic organizers or foldables to add to their interactive journal. So if our mini lesson that day was about character traits- after the discussion, I might have them add a character trait graphic organizer to their notebooks.

I think that my favorite part is when they get talking and don't even need me. I often get to just sit and listen. They love what they are reading and so they love talking about it. Sometimes I will ask a few questions at the end so that I am sure we are practicing the skill we learned in the mini lesson. Most of the director beats me to the punch!

At the end of the book, I will have students complete a book report. The book report is a more formal assessment. Parents love to see them. (And they love that we complete them in class!) But I really learn the most from just listening to them read and discuss!

I noticed that my students enjoyed reading so much more this year! Since they were enjoying what they were reading, I saw an improvement in their overall comprehension. Kids are willing to work so much harder to understand something that they have a vested interest in.

Here are some of my favorite literature circle books for 3rd graders:
Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Lemonade War
Boxcar Children
Miss Daisy is Crazy
Flat Stanley
Charlotte's Web
Gooney Bird Greene
Who was Walt Disney?
Who was Dr. Seuss?
any of the Magic Treehouse Research Guides

Do you still use a reading text book? Do you use literature circles? How do you run them? What are your favorite chapter books to include in literature circles?

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  1. Great post! I'm frustrated with our reading text, too. We tried Lit Circles at the end of the year, and it was great. Room for improvement though! So many wanted to read ahead and I didn't like that they had to keep on a schedule. Still "Diggin Into" how to handle that one for next year. I totally agree with using more chapter books and having book talks though! They love it and get so much out of it!

  2. I love that you stopped using the reading textbook. I am going to see if I am technically "required" to use it at my school too. I too an doing a giveaway! Come check it out! You could win a free month of The Teacher Kit!

  3. Working on a few reading projects and reorganizing to use more grouping in math and reading.

  4. working on my guided reading and math this summer

  5. I wish I was allowed to ditch the textbook!
    Deb @ Not very fancy

  6. I have moved to second grade! My goal this summer is to work on task cards! I love the ones you have on your TPT store!

  7. I own a tutoring business, and we have several new kids for the summer, so I have been busy gathering material from TPT to use with them. But, I am also gathering material for our students who will be returning when school starts, so I am doing lots of organizing of materials. Thanks for a great Giveaway and great materials.

  8. I'm new to 3rd grade this year so I'm really going to wrap my my head around all the concepts that 3rd Graders need to know. I'd really like to get both reading and math into a manageable system with choices and get the kids to really dive deep into the learning. This summer I'm reading a lot about guided math and guided reading. We do have a reading series we have to use that is "new" to us this year. Houghton Mifflin old 2003 version...ugh! So I'm really looking for ways to bring common core into my program with having to use these themes and stories.

  9. I SO wish that I could ditch my basal. I asked my principal last year if it was required and he told me yes. :( Hmph! I'm hoping that changes soon, because it is B-O-R-I-N-G! I'd love to do lit circles with my kiddos!
    Thriving in 3rd

  10. We are required to use our textbooks...and I am not sure I could pull off lit circles with second graders.

    I am going through every single one of my digital files and deleting the ones that are outdated or I won't ever use. It is an endless task!

  11. We just got new Reading Street textbooks last year, and I felt that I needed to use them. It is so hard to fit in a story and all of the mini lessons with Daily 5. Toward the end of the year I quit using the textbook and used a lot of shorter passages.

  12. My team is working on redoing our pacing guides. We aren't happy with the times and lengths of times that we teach reading and math. I'm excited to make it work for us! :)


  13. We are not required to use Reading programs or basal readers...and I would never choose to, anyway! Lol. This summer, my primary task is write new long range plans as I am moving up with my class from Grade 2 to Grade 3 =). Thank you for considering me =). leafsgirl@rogers.com.

  14. I am working this summer on incorporating some Daily 5. We've had AR for as long as I've taught and now we won't. I want to make sure the kids are engaged during this time.

  15. Is there a book you used to help guide your instruction for literature circles? I'm sure there is a ton on the internet. Thanks for giving my another idea for next year!

  16. Since I am teaching a combo 2nd/3rd next year I am sitting down with the assessments to see if any of the weeks have overlapping skills. I also use Geronimo Stilton, MTH and Daisy Dawson for literature. At the end they study nonfiction and make power points.

  17. I hope to make my first set of task cards this summer!

  18. I am trying to figure out how to do reading. Your blog is a big help!

  19. This post makes me want to sit down and truly figure out (once and for all!) how to make small groups work for the upper grades. Our district has ditched the textbook as well, and I spent so many hours last year trying to find materials. I found some good stuff, but need to find a way to make it all work together. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  20. This summer is the first I have taken off (not paid, anyhow) in many years. I am attending 15 days of training, I am starting a blog and teacher store, and reorganizing. I am so excited to have FINALLY made a teacher toolbox after drooling over the ones everyone keeps posting pictures of. This will definitely help.
    Thanks for all of your great posts - they are inspiring. :)

  21. I am looking for new ideas to change my reading centers as well as an updated theme.

  22. Making new writing folders & INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS! I'm ALL in! Wendy 1stgradefireworks@gmail.com

  23. I just graduated in May with my Elementary Ed degree. I am working this summer on finding a job so I know what I can begin to plan. I am working on putting together my lesson plan book as well as classroom decor and charts. Can't wait to get a job so I can then make plans according to the age group.

  24. Great book titles for lit circles.


  25. I am working with my district ELA committee to gather resources to help us continue to use The Daily 5 effectively! I love your Respond To Reading Task Cards, and am going to put them on my wish list!

  26. We adopted a new reading series (Benchmark) this year. There are components I liked and some not so much. I love literature circles.

    1. I forgot to include that this summer I plan on going through our new series to utilize the aspects that worked well and tweak the parts that didn't.

  27. This summer I am trying to make my classroom somewhat organized by throwing out things I haven't used in the past 2 years.

  28. I am starting to make products to sell on TPT.

  29. This summer I am working on creating a scope and sequence for both ELA and Math for my team.

  30. I would love to be able to ditch the textbooks and just do literature circles! I hate our reading series that we are required to use :(. I think the students learn so much more through literature circles AND they enjoy it way more!!