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    reading groups
    By Katy

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    As for reading, I strongly recommend that you read the book Guided Reading by Fountas and Pinnell and that you also get Matching books to readers. (also by them) I used to do a lot of isolated phonics "drills" with rhyming words and did traditional reading groups, but I am very happy with the change I've made into true guided reading. I've taught straight K and straight 1 and this year am teaching a K/1. I started by doing a DRA (reading assessment) on all my students and then listened to them read a regular book or 2 and did a running record. Then I formed my leveled reading groups. While I meet with each group, the others rotate through centers using a workboard. That's where they get word family practice by using magnetic letters at the ABC center to make rhyming words, playing Kid Phonics 1 & 2 and other games on the computer, reading around the room, etc. During that time I also have parent volunteers who come in to call kids over to do Science and Social Studies projects. Within my reading groups, the basic format is:
    1) Do a picture walk of the book they are about to read. I cover the words and just show the pictures. I explain briefly what the book is about, using key words from the story.
    2)I may choose a certain phonics chunk to go over with magnetic letters (if it pops up in the book a lot) or introduce a sightword that is in the book a lot, or I remind them of a couple reading strategies they can use when they get stuck on a tricky word.
    3)They read the book in a whisper voice at their own pace and I walk around the table, listening in on their reading. If they get stuck on a word, I talk them through the process of figuring it out. The key to their success is not to just tell them the word, not telling them to sound it out or just to look at the picture... they basically know those strategies already. I have them look for chunks they know in the word, think about the story and what makes sense, and I have them say only the beginning sound of the word then skip the rest and read on to the end of the sentence.
    *When a student finishes reading the book, s/he can choose a book from the browsing box in the middle of the table. That way, the students read at their own pace and aren't rushed or held back by anyone else.
    4) I stop the group and have students share words that were tricky and what strategy they used to figure it out. Then they go back to the workboard, I do a sweep of the room to check in on other students at centers, encouraging them to do their best work/stay on task, use 1 inch voices, etc. Then I call my next group.
    *The key is to make your lessons tight and look at it as a short burst of good reading practice with guidance from the teacher. The whole lesson for each group should be about 12-15 minutes, depending on the level they are reading at. With my very beginning Kindergarten readers, it might be only 5 minutes and my goal is for them to sit down at the table, listen to the picture walk, "read" the book by pointing to the words with a little wand I give them and looking at the picture. Guided reading levels are great, because it gives you a clear idea of where they are reading at. For example, A,B and C are Kindergarten levels, D through I/J is First Grade, J/K through M is second grade, etc. I am really happy I got my Kindergarten students into reading groups right away. Out of my 10 Kindergarten students, one student came in reading at a G and is now at a level M, 2 students came in at a B and are at a level E/F and 3 students came in at a C and are now at a J.
    As for a job, the systems I've been in have pretty much all had some common components for the K-2 level: Guided reading/Reading workshop, Shared reading with big books, morning message, interactive writing, Writing Workshop (Mary Ellen Giacobbe) that has the mini lesson, writing time and then author share, and math that starts with a mini lesson, followed by playing a math game that can be extended to meet all levels, then sharing as a whole group. I like the TERC math program and Marilyn Burns math activities. Maybe you could find out what is "cutting edge" in the areas you want to teach in and use the rest of this year to try out any new things in your classroom. Then you could take pictures, video clips, samples of work, lesson plans etc. to put into a portfolio to share. Good luck!

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