Friday, January 28, 2011

One Month Under Our Belt

I meant to post every week. But I have been so engrossed with my class that I haven't taken time to reflect carefully on what we're doing.

I started an intervention class at our middle school for readers who are 'well below average' in their skills. I have 3 classes-6th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade with 25 students total.

The Daily 5 format is working very well. Most students enter the classroom quietly and retrieve their book tub and begin reading. They have built their stamina up to 15 minutes although my 8th graders today read for 30 minutes because a school schedule change gave us extra time. They had no problem sustaining their focus for that time and really seemed to enjoy the extra time.

We are one month into the class. I've learned much about the Daily 5 and the Cafe Menu and it really does work at the middle school level.

We have two teachers in the classroom on Monday, Wednesday and Friday which means we conference with each student at least once a week and sometimes twice weekly.

Today, I introduced the Strategic Instruction Model Word Identification Strategy. This strategy is from the University of Kansas-Center for Research on Learning. I had not planned to use it for the entire class but rather in a strategy group. But my preliminary testing with the Qualitative Reading Inventory showed me that all 25 students are below grade level in decoding. So the Word Identification Strategy is meant for them.

Today I shared with each student exactly what their decoding level is. I wasn't sure I should do that. But at this point in their schooling, I wanted to build a sense of urgency in their work in my class. After they saw their decoding level-which ranged from 2nd to 6th grade, each student set a goal for where they wanted to be at the end of our strategy instruction. Most students wanted to be at their appropriate grade level but one student put, "I want to read a good-fit book." So I guess my good-fit book lesson on Wednesday worked.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Read to Self begins with Great Success

I started Read to Self from the first day of Reading Essentials Class. However yesterday we developed an I chart and practiced building our stamina. I wondered how this lesson would go for middle school students. So I followed the format demonstrated by the Sisters in the book, Daily 5. I also viewed the video on

As I taught the lesson, I felt like I was just copying what I had read and watched. And I guess I was. But it worked with my middle school students. I even had students model good and bad Read to Self behavior. In each grade, 6th, 7th and 8th, I picked a student to model bad behavior in my mind. When I asked for a volunteer, in each class the volunteer was the student that I thought would do the best job modeling inappropriate behavior. The models reveled in showing us what NOT to do. All three of them looked disappointed when I asked them to show us good behavior but they followed through doing a nice job.

Doing the students had built their stamina up to 12 minutes. They wanted more time but I held to 12 minutes which is 4 times more than the 3 minutes we started with just 2 days ago. At the end of today's Read to Self, one student said to me, "This class goes so fast. Read to Self feels like one minute." Just enough encouragement to keep me going in this class. More reports to follow!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Day Live

Today was my first day teaching my Daily Five class. Yesterday was a whirl wind as the principal and I met with a potential candidate to work alongside me in the class and teach the class when I'm not in the building. Chris came on board immediately and she and I worked together. I started by sharing my philosophy of reading teaching and the Daily 5 approach. We then worked on our classroom while getting to know each other. She must have been overwhelmed with every thing we did.

But she was here this morning when I arrived and we hit the ground running. For our first day, we had to go to existing classes and pick up our students, bring them to our new classroom and begin our Daily 5 life together.

Our classes are called Reading Essentials-6, Reading Essentials-7 and Reading Essentials -8. You can read about the class at our website at

The students were willing to listen to my beliefs that we could take a journey together to improve their reading. They listened somewhat skeptically as they shared their outside interests. With each student, I asked if they had to practice to get better at what they liked to do. "Do you have to practice horseback riding to get better?" Of course the answer is "Yes!"
It is the same with reading. You must read to get better.

Tomorrow is the introduction of Read to Self. We'll see how long middle schoolers can sustain their stamina. We will probably start with 3 minutes just like the Sisters recommend.