Thursday, July 23, 2015

Teaching with a Basal Text - Take It Up a Notch!



When I googled "Teacher opinions about using basal texts for reading instruction" I not surprisingly got 353,000 results.  Everyone in the education field has an opinion about this subject. Why did I google it? Curiosity. I was planning on writing this post about my experiences with and without basal texts and I wanted to know what the general consensus was.  There isn't one.

For 12 of the 14 years that I have taught, I did not have that type of reading resource to use.  We (meaning my planning partners and I) had to come up with our own resources and methods to teach the standards.  We did a pretty good job I think.  Our students tended to be above grade level readers by the end of the school year and our school grade was an A for 11 years straight based on standardized testing scores (Florida). But, sometimes we were pulling our hair out trying to find the right resources. This was BFTPT - Before Teachers Pay Teachers.

Two years ago, our district implemented the Reading Wonders series and I was forced to learn how to use this "system".  Believe me, it was not easy or welcome on my part! It felt so awkward carrying that teacher manual around and having my students using a basal every single day.  I was sure that this was going to be the downfall of our school.  The first year was not enjoyable for me at all, especially since we were still using our old Sunshine State Standards and Reading Wonders was formatted for Common Core.


Enter the 2nd school year and the implementation of Florida's version of the Common Core - known as LAFS.  That acronym is not lost on us folks! Aligning our instruction with the new standards went much smoother and I felt more comfortable with this system.  BUT, there still was something missing.  I needed to put my own spin on our daily activities.  I had been responsible for creating activities for 12 years and this was ingrained in me.


So, I created reading response questions and working with words questions using the question stems for the Common Core/LAFS standards.  Each day, my students were responsible for answering these questions first - in complete sentences, and second - using text evidence to support their answers.  It turned out to be so convenient for assessing whether they "got it" that day. It would take only 5 minutes of reading through their answers to determine:


1) who is comprehending the text

2) who understands the week's comprehension and vocabulary skill
3) who needs more work writing in complete sentences and using text evidence.

There are LAFS based questions for
comprehension and vocabulary
 for each day of a 5 day instructional period.



This information led to small group instruction opportunities that I might not have had if I didn't use this quick formative assessment/exit ticket.

As far as planning goes it was wonderful!  I prepared the Reading Response questions as I was planning for the week's reading instruction.  I didn't have to come up with an exit question at the end of instruction or scramble to make sure I had student samples for our ELA boards (which are required in our district).



Each question has the Florida
 LAFS standard listed.

I used the Reading Wonders Reading Response and Working with Words questions all year so they are classroom tested, proven resources.  I have recently put Units 1 - 2 for Florida teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers so that you can have access to a resource that will give you quick answers about your student's knowledge and help you plan for small group intervention. 



Snag one of these so you have your Unit One
 ready to go when you get back to school
 and then you can check that off your list.


Unit Two continues the higher order thinking
and now your students will know the routine
and will be giving you some amazing responses!

So, if you are using Reading Wonders for your ELA instruction - this might be for you!  I have previews for both Unit 1 and 2 on Teachers Pay Teachers, so head on over and preview my new reading resource!









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