Some of our students are reading over two years below grade level! This is not only shocking, but can also seem like a daunting task!
So how do we ever get these students to grade level?
We have to create comprehensive guided reading lesson plans.
First, assess your students. Determine their lagging skills.
Students usually fall into two categories for what is holding them back in reading.
The first group are those that struggle with decoding (sounding words out). The second are the students who are unable to summarize, retell, or answer questions about a text. This is the comprehension group.
If your students are struggling with decoding, use a phonics skill lesson plan for short targeted practice. If your students are struggling with comprehension, use a comprehension skill and strategy lesson alongside your guided reading lesson. If students are lagging in both areas, use a daily or weekly integrated plan to target both areas simultaneously.
Students who are typically reading significantly below grade level require an integrated approach to reading, targeting both areas: phonics and comprehension.
Comprehensive guided reading lesson plans should incorporate:
-extensive teacher-student interaction,
-multisensory learning methods,
-all components of reading: decoding (single word accuracy/automaticity), comprehension, vocabulary, sight word, fluency, plus + encoding,
-special emphasis upon mastery of foundational reading skills and...
-independent application of comprehension strategies to help ALL students access the general education curriculum!
Check out some Comprehensive guided reading lesson plans!
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Mentors serve as good examples of skills for our students. Teachers are mentors. Parents are mentors. Books are mentors. No, you did not read that incorrectly!
For centuries, we have been reading aloud to kids. These books serve as mentors for all types of skills.
Mentor texts entered educational lingo as a way to refer to the books that we read aloud to students as models for good writing. Today, we are learning to write non-fiction pieces. First, we will begin by looking at the way good non-fiction writers write by reading one of Gail Gibbons’ science texts! Later, we will practice writing as non-fiction writers. We will share and discuss our trials as we draft!
A few years ago mentor texts reinvigorated as a way to teach students reading skills too. Today, we will be learning about summarizing. We will begin by reading the text Where The Wild Things Are aloud. We will then summarize the story using a graphic organizer. We will do this as a whole group, and then, you will practice the skill using your independent reading books. After that, we will gather together as a group and summarize (no pun intended) what we learned while practicing our skill.
This sounds like an ideal lesson, right?! If I were looking to get observed, this may be the lesson plan I use, right?! Hmmm...but what about Tommy? There is no way he will sit for that long and only have 2 possible movement breaks! And what about Janey? She hates when I read aloud because she can’t sit still and always asks to use the bathroom during read alouds. And now that I think about it, there are always 3 of them that ask for a bathroom break whenever I read. Plus, these days I can only seem to hold their attention for less than five minutes?
Sound like every teacher in the world?
There are always those classes that cause you to let out an audible sigh at the end of every day as you flop your tired body and mind into your chair, only to become quickly overwhelmed by the stacks of to-do’s on your desk!
Today’s learners require a circus act to hold their attention. They have grown up with technology at their fingertips; a world that moves faster than any superhero they have ever known!
Visual mentor texts are a great tool for these learners! They provide a concise context for targeting literacy skills in the form of a visual mentor text which means they hold our students ATTENTION!
Visual Mentor Texts in READING…
You can teach all reading skills from inferencing to theme using Pixar short films.
For example, the Pixar Short Films For the Birds (2000) is a great visual mentor text to teach theme.
A large dopey bird who wants to join in with a group of smaller birds. When he sits on their wire, the smaller birds become angry, pecking the larger bird’s feet. He drops, causing the wire to slingshot. The large bird falls to the ground intact while the smaller birds land minus some feathers! What is the message (Trick: THE MEssage) or theme?
Want to teach the skill of inferencing? One Man Band (2005) is a Pixar Short Films that can be used to teach inferencing AND has the most adorable little girl!
Visual Mentor Texts in WRITING…
Commercials can be another form of visual texts. Watch "Unsung Hero" (Official HD) TVC Thai Life Insurance 2014. The commercial profiles a seemingly poor man who fills his life with good deeds, changing the lives of others and making him rich with happiness! Tell the unsung hero’s story!
AND use visual WORDLESS mentor texts in writing as prompts!
Use visual mentor texts in writing that are lacking a conclusion and write one!
Visual Mentor Texts in SCIENCE…
Use these animations in science! Watch a short and ask: how many simple machines did you notice? What would be impossible in real life?
Watch a portion of the movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) to prompt a discussion about scientists or hypothesis!
Visual Mentor Texts in HISTORY…
Use visual mentor texts in history class. Relate the stories to concepts and people of our past to help make connections.
The Pixar Short Films La Luna (2011) tells the story of a young boy who reaches for the moon. He is unsure of the lead to follow - his father’s or his grandfather’s. The film demonstrates the theme of finding one’s own path and can be related to many great historical leaders (MLK, Amelia Earhart…) and movements (the Underground Railroad, colonization).
Visual Mentor Texts in SEL…
Social Emotional Learning has become a core curriculum for today’s classrooms. As a result, SEL needs to be explicitly taught in isolation AND infused across the curriculum.
Many of the Pixar Short Films examples I have shared have an SEL component.
For the Birds prompts a discussion around bullying, differences, following the crowd, and the list goes on.
One Man Band can incite a discussion around competition.
The perseverance of the main character in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs demonstrates grit!
La Luna is a great example of learning from the past.
Warning! This does NOT mean I want you to throw out your picture books! One of my favorite moments is watching a middle schooler melt into a pile of sweet innocence as a teacher reads aloud one of their childhood favorites!
However, there are those times, when you need a stronger strategy! Because unlike technology, teachers DO have superpowers!
By Miss Rae
There’s at least one student each year who reverses his/her b’s and d’s or just writes uppercase B’s and D’s (well, because that was an easier strategy to learn).
Should teachers be concerned?
Are reversals a sign of dyslexia?
Reversing letters is common until around age 7.
Here are some tricks to reverse reversals…
1. Have students fist pump themselves with their palms facing towards them. Stick their thumbs up and you have a b/d (this is a great indiscreet trick for older students too)
2. Draw a bed with the letters b and d - bd - draw a stick finger person laying down whose head lays down on the b
3. Draw a bat and ball to create a b and a drum with a drum stick for a d
4. Make an uppercase B and then, erase it's top b
5. Practice visual tracking with activities like the one in the image
Practice, practice, practice! But if there is no progress after all of that practice, then, a teacher should be concerned.
If dyslexia is the reason for the letter reversals, teachers may also note that students struggle with letter and number sequencing.
And a word of caution... there is no evidence to suggest letter reversals are more common among dyslexic children, compared to same-aged peers learning how to read and write; however, it is more so that most children grow out of letter reversals, whereas students with dyslexia may be slower to. AND don't forget to rule out a visual processing disorder.
By Miss Rae
The overarching goal of 21st century education is to equip today’s students with the ability to analyze, evaluate, and create; all of which are the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Our states’ standardized testing assesses our students’ capabilities on Bloom’s high-ranking skills of analysis, evaluation, and creation through text-based constructed responses to open ended questions. For example, a student may be asked to explain the relationship between two characters in a text. Directions to this response will include citing evidence from the text to support the student’s answer.
First, a student needs to read and comprehend the text. These are the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Next, the student must analyze the text in relationship to the question and make an evaluation to answer the question. Finally, the student must create a written response that supports his/her claim.
In order to begin building our learners toward mastery of high level educational learning objectives, we must support our students with appropriate and supportive instruction and environments. Think scaffolded supports!
Learners do not just enter our schoolroom doors, equipped with these learning superpowers. Instead, we must teach our students to mastery.
One strategy I keep in my toolkit is teaching students how to explain their reasoning, and here is one way I do that!
First, I prep! I put quotes from our texts on chart paper.
To incorporate some movement for my kinesthetic learners, I hang the quotes around the classroom.
Students are partnered or grouped. They are then given 7 minutes at each quote. They must use this time to...
-read the quote
-discuss its meaning
-narrow the meaning down to one sentence
-write the meaning down, and finally…
-support your answer with textual evidence.
This activity allows my students to master the learning process with the support of their fellow learners, wrestle and engage with the curriculum, learn to work in a cooperative learning group, and own and guide their own learning, AND I get to use my doorbell for transition times!
What are some ways that you teach students how to analyze and explain their learning?
~By Miss Rae
There are a few tools that EVERY Special Education teacher should have on hand… a candy bar for tough days, a few dollars in your drawer for all of those EXTRA donations, some mints to pop before a meeting, a trusted colleague whose on hand for venting without judgment, and the list goes on…
But there are only TWO Must Have Special Education Teacher Tools for Teaching Reading!
ONE: A Drawer Full of Tools!
Every guided reading table needs to have a drawer full of tools on hand!
Fill your drawer with the best supports for your students’ needs.
Special Education teaching tools should allow Special Education students to easily access the general education curriculum!
Here are the TOOLS my DRAWER is stocked with:
-Guided Reading Strips
-Creepy Witch Fingers or any gimmicky tool for tracking
to strengthen visual tracking for fluency and decoding!
-Strategy cards (decoding and comprehension)
to reinforce and support learned strategies!
-Comprehension discussion cards or sticks
to increase oral discussion and promote text comprehension!
Sight Word flashcards
to learn and practice decoding and word reading for fluency!
-Paper graphic organizers
-Pencils, notebooks or paper, and BIG erasers
to support varying instructional activities from practice to assessment!
to support encoding (spelling) through a multisensory activity!
because what isn’t more engaging than writing your sight words in shaving cream?!
I also keep cookie sheets with magnet letters to practice encoding (spelling) on top of my drawer along with any assistive tech devices!
TWO: A Guided Reading Binder
A Guided Reading Tool Binder allows a teacher to easily plan for varied multi-sensory activities without copying, reinventing the wheel, or spending more time creating or buying on learning games.
A Guided Reading Tool Binder can also keep differentiated tools on hand for each learner’s needs.
A Guided Reading Tool Binder should include...
-Lesson plan formats for specialized programs
-Scope and sequence charts for specialized programs
to support a teacher’s own learning - and remembering!
-Checklist of reading behaviors
to notice, teach, and support at each reading level for instructional planning and progress monitoring!
Make 5-6 copies (enough for each student in a small group to have his/her own) and place the following in top loading sheet protectors. Students can write on these with dry erase markers and erase for re-use.
to practice encoding using word chains for spelling...
(at - cat - scat)
or to increase vocabulary!
(write the word at - add one letter to at to spell a word for an animal that purrs - add a letter to cat to create a word that means to run away)
to sort dictated words by spelling patterns to support phonics skills!
-Elkonin sound boxes
to build phonological awareness!
-Word Sort Mats
to increase phonics skills!
-Word detective charts
where students hunt and locate specific words or word patterns in texts to reinforce learned phonics skills! Words are recorded along with the page number of their location.
-Graphic organizers that can be used for all texts
to promote comprehension!
Pull out any of your drawer or binder tools as instructional supports within your lesson plan, to increase engagement, AND as time fillers - if you are ever lucky enough to get through everything you planned AND have extra time!
(Disclaimer: If you are one of the lucky few who is a traveling teacher, carry your tools in a supply caddy or a bag that can be easily organizer.)
~By Miss Rae
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners.