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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