Instructional Inquiry1st Grade General Education Classroom Janey Barrett
Literacy Instruction Methods “Mrs. Jones” uses both The Daily Five and the CAFÉ Menu in her classroom for literacy instruction, which is used throughout the school community.With the help of the Literacy Coaches within her school, shealso uses a program called “Visualizing and Verbalizing” tohelp her first grade students develop comprehension andhigher order thinking skills.
BooksAt this point in the year, Mrs. Jones is using mainly fiction books forher read alouds and mini lessons. On the back wall of the classroom there are three rows of shelves that serve as the class library. Books are sorted into marked baskets. Some of the baskets are are marked with certain authors, certain types of books (books about animals), or by book series (Clifford the Big Red Dog books). Other baskets are marked with a letter that corresponds with student reading levels. These books are available for students to pick “Good Fit Books” from for their reading boxes and book bags.
Charts and Displays • Anchor charts for Daily 5 • CAFÉ Menu • Word Wall • Class created list of common words for September and October• Posters reminding students of strategies to use when they come to a word they do not know
Other Materials • Writing Folder- Students can get one of these and use as a divider to create their own writing space. Inside there is a list of common words, examples of punctuation and some topic ideas for Work on Writing • Listen to reading- CD’s, players with headpones, computers
Assessments• Student Observation/ Listening to students read• Conversation with students about books and strategies • Parent input from nightly reading• DRA assessments- must be completed three times a year, other times are as teachers sees fit
GroupingRead to Someone - Students are able to pick their own partnersSmall Group Instruction - grouped by reading level (Leveled by Letters)
Goals and Expectations• Mrs. Jones wants everyone in her students to increase their independent and instructional reading level by at least two letters (reading level)• She wants students to increase their reading stamina• Her goal is for students to develop and use more strategies to help them improve their reading.• She expects students to follow Daily 5 procedures
Values• Mrs. Jones strongly values student choice as she believes this leads to students finding more enjoyment in reading• She finds great value in students reading not only in school, but at home with an adult in their life
One way that Mrs. Jones fosters a home-to-school literacyconnection is through the book bags that students take homeevery night. Each day students visit the class library to choosea “Good fit book” to take home that night. Students read thebook with parents or another adult that is at home. The adultthey read with must then fill out a chart with the date, nameof the book read, they must say if they thought the book wastoo easy, too hard or just right for their child. They can alsowrite any other comments they may have about that night’sreading and then sign their name. By asking theparents/guardians to respond to the child’s reading, Mrs.Jones is getting a little more assurance that her students arereading at home and is also getting the adults at homeinvolved in what their child is doing in the classroom.
Another way that Mrs. Jones fosters a home-to-schoolliteracy connection is by having mystery guest readers come into the classroom on Fridays. These guests are parents/grandparents of the students. They provide someclues about themselves for Mrs. Jones to read so the students can guess who the mystery reader is that day. The guestreader brings a book to read to the class at the end of the day on Friday.
Stellaluna• Mrs. Jones read this as a read aloud/mini lesson over the course of the two days I was observing. She was introducing the “Retell Rope” strategy to help students retell a story. First she introduced how use the retell rope and then read the beginning of the story. On the second day Mrs. Jones began by having students tell what had happened so far in the story based on the elements on the retell rope (characters, setting, problem 1, problem 2). She then read the rest of the story and then had students retell the rest of the story.
Stellaluna ContinuedFrom what I observed, this was a good book choice forthis purpose. The book had a few main characters for thestudents to identify and only one main setting. Therewere also 3 main problems throughout the book whichwas a good number because students could get used tousing the Retell Rope by looking at it to remind themwhat needed to be in their retelling and that there couldbe more than one problem, but there were not so manyproblems that they could not remember them at the end.It also served the purpose of fitting into the what wasgoing on around the students since it was close toHalloween and bats are usually associated withHalloween.
This book was read by Mrs. Jones to her students as a read-aloud forenjoyment. She informed me that most of her read-aloud books inOctober have to do with some Halloween theme. The students werevery entertained by the story about Clifford as a puppy going to thepumpkin patch. Afterwards, Mrs. Jones invited some of the studentsto share their own experiences of visiting a pumpkin patch or going ona hayride. This allowed for some nice text-to-self connections so thateven though the read-aloud was for enjoyment, it was stillencouraging some deeper thinking.
This is another book that was done as a read-aloud for students to sit and enjoy. Students were again veryentertained by this book and were laughing out loud at some of the lines in the book as well as some of the pictures. For that reason, this was a good book choice because it served the purpose of entertaining the students.
During the Daily 5 time I tried toobserve some of the books thatstudents were reading, as well asthe books they were choosing fortheir book boxes and their takehome book bags. Although I didnot see what every student wasreading, I did see manybooks, which consisted of anumber of Dr. Suess books andClifford, two students werereading an Arthur book and onestudent was reading a book aboutspace.
Dr. Suess books are great for emergent readers becauseof the text structure. The rhyming and repetitionthroughout the stories are examples of supportive textstructures. Students also seem to enjoy them because ofthe silly stories and illustrations.Arthur and Clifford books are most likely popular withsome of the students because they watch the tv shows ormovies and therefore find the books interesting.I thought it was interesting to see a student, especially afirst grader, choose a non-fiction text to read. This shouldbe encouraged occasionally so that students are gettingused to reading different types of text.
All of the books that I observed students reading during Daily 5 were bookschosen by students. I was curious as to if there were problems with students choosing books that were not really “Good Fit Books”. Mrs. Jones told me that at this point in the year she has a pretty good idea of what is a “good fit”for each student and she also has a good idea of the students who often try to choose easier or harder books. Therefore, she does not check on the books students are reading everyday, but does evaluate their choices when she has individual meetings, or if she notices the choice astudent is reading is not a good one, she will review with them what a “Good Fit Book” is.
Whole GroupMrs. Jones generally has three whole group literacy timesduring the day. The first happens at the end of “Work onWriting” and the class simply comes together and she picksfive student to share the writing they were working on.In the middle of the day between special and lunch there is a20 minute mini-lesson time which is generally used tointroduce or re-teach a strategy to be added to the CAFÉMenu. This mini-lesson is also sometimes for writinginstruction.At the beginning of their Daily 5 time there is another wholegroup mini-lesson which either reinforces the strategy fromthe middle of the day, or teaches a new one. This is also thetime that the Literacy Coach will use to come in and teachsomething, like the Verbalizing and Visualizing.
These whole group instruction times seem to beeffective. They are only about 15-20 minutes long(except the sharing writing which is only about5), helping to keep the focus of the young studentsthroughout the entire lesson. It also helps to makethem effective by having one in the middle of the dayand then another whole group instruction time later inthe day that can be used to reinforce the earlier lessonif needed.
While observing this class, I was alsoable to see one of the readingteachers teach a lesson from theVisualizing and Verbalizing program.The teacher first talked to studentsabout what it is important todescribe, such as what is in thepicture, the colors, the backgroundetc.. She then turned to a randompicture in the book that comes withthe kit and had students describe it toher (through prompting) so that shecould form the picture in her mind.The students seemed to really enjoythis and they did very well with it. Ithelped them to realize that when youare writing or telling a story, you needto include a lot of detail so that thereader can get a picture in their mind.
Small GroupMrs. Jones does have guided reading groupsthat are based on student reading levels. Shemeets with each group twice a week during oneof the Daily 5 rotations. Mrs. Jones works withthe students on reading, comprehending andanswering questions about appropriateinstructional level texts. She uses Fountas andPinnell leveled readers for these instructionalgroups. These small group meetings are only 15minutes long, which helps to keep studentsengaged during them.
Individual• During Daily 5, Mrs. Jones has individual conferences with students when she is not doing guided reading. Currently the conferences are just to talk to students about the books they are reading, but they will become more strategy directed as the year goes on.• During Work on Writing Mrs. Jones tries to talk to a few different students each day about their writing.• Other individual conferences are based on the need Mrs. Jones sees. If she has a student that is struggling with something, or needs to revisit how to pick a good fit book, she will have an individual lesson with them
As is common with individualinstruction, some studentsreceive more in Mrs. Jones’room than other students do.The students who seem to havea greater need have more one-on-one instruction than thosestudents who excel at reading.This seems like a fair practice.There also seems to be a goodamount of individualattention/instruction within theclassroom.
Considerations/Suggestions for Extending Literacy Program
My first suggestion for Mrs. Jones would be toincorporate some more small group instruction into herliteracy program. I think that the students would greatlybenefit from more than just 30 minutes of small groupinstruction a week. However instead of having it beanother guided reading group time, it would be morebeneficial to have strategy groups in which students areall working on a certain strategy. Students could bringtheir own books to read while working on thestrategy, which would also be another time that Mrs.Jones could check the good fit books that her studentsare choosing.
Another suggestion I have for Mrs. Jones is to beginincorporating more non-fiction texts into herlessons and read alouds. It could be about oneevery other week, but it is important that studentsbegin to see those types of texts as well as fiction.This will help to expand the student’s knowledge ofbooks and help them to learn about the topics ofthe texts. She could connect them to sciencelessons they are doing, or to what is happening thatmonth in the world.
I think that it would also be helpful for Mrs.Jones’ students to begin connecting their writingto what they are reading in some way or topractice writing to a prompt. Currently their intheir work on writing they are able to writeabout anything they want, which I do thinkshould be the majority of their writing at thislevel. But I think that it would also be beneficialfor them to occasionally write to prompts.
Overall I think Mrs. Jones has a very strongliteracy program within her classroom. I thinkthat her home to school connection iswonderful, especially the guest reader part. Ialso believe that her workshop method that shehas in her classroom works very well. There arejust a few things that I suggested that I believewould make the literacy program even stronger.