Monday, March 31, 2014

Schedule and Reading Stations

When reading blogs, one thing I really look for is how the reading block is broken up.  There's no perfect solution, in my opinion, and I've worked REALLLLLLY hard to figure out the best plan for this year's reading block.  In my school, we have 2 5th grade classes.  I teach all of 5th grade reading and writing, while my co-teacher teaches all math and science.  We also mix up our students so that all Read 180 kids are together, all special ed kids are together (with a push-in teacher), and all System 44 kids are together.  This makes scheduling a billion times easier, and we're thankful that our principal allows us to do this!

Here's a look at our day:

7:35-7:50      Morning routine (planners, lunch cards, attendance, etc)
7:50-8:40      Specials (Art, PE, Music, and Library/Computers)
8:40-10:00    Reading 1/Math 1 (all Read 180 kids are in Reading 1, and leave for Read 180 at 9:30, when we start stations)
10:00-10:50  Writing 1/Science 1
10:50-11:40  Writing 2 (all Read 180 kids)/Science 2
11:40-12:00  Lunch
12:00-12:20  Recess
12:20-1:45    Reading 2/Math 2 (all Read 180 kids are in Math 2)
1:45-2:00      Recess
2:00-2:30      RtI
2:30               ESL bus packs up
2:40               Bus riders pack up
2:45               Walkers/Car Riders pack up

Now, breaking down that 85-90 minute reading block even further:

40 minutes- Instruction and work time
30 minutes- Stations (2 stations at 15 minute each)
15-20 minutes- Read Aloud

Now, I wish that we stuck to this schedule every day, but sadly, my favorite part of the day, Read Aloud, gets bumped 90% of the time.  This is something that I have always LOVED, and the last two years, we've gotten through 5-8 novels during the year.  I hate gypping this year's group of kids, and I feel like their reading skills are lagging because they haven't been encouraged to read by the read aloud.  That's what happens when you're too focused on "raising test scores," and not on actually educating children...ouch...that's a sore subject...(on a side note, my previous students have scored very well on their tests, and were not exceptional readers...I honestly think it's because they were exposed to tough literature for NINE WHOLE MONTHS, and were able to decipher the meaning of it. But, being the obedient person I am, I have ***reluctantly*** agreed to the whole "stations is best" mindset that my building has adopted...)

Reading stations is something that I've always dreaded.  I hated doing them in school, in college, and in my classroom.  I've always seen it as busy work and play time.  I still don't really care for them, but after a year of HAVING to do them, I've tweaked mine to be a bit more bearable.

Most of the year, I have 5 stations that pretty much stay the same.  They are Word Work, Fluency, Teacher, Writing, and Library.  I worked all year long to find things that would work in these stations.  I'm still not completely happy with them, but the kids enjoy them, and they're making progress.

 Word Work:
This is when my students work on their Words Their Way activities.  My students complained about the sorts being boring, so I took those out.  I can't say that I disagree with them about that...Most of my 5th grade students tested at the Within Word level, and a pretty big group tested at the Derivational level.  There wasn't too much in between.  I guess this happens when your school district removes spelling instruction for two years and then brings in WTW! I found some great "homework" packets for Words Their Way on TPT, and I've been using these for Word Work station.  Students basically sort the words by writing them, then put them in alphabetical order, or unscramble them.  I also have a packet of fun spelling activities also from TPT, that includes things like writing the words in Morse Code (a favorite!), using Scrabble tiles and finding the point value, making crosswords, building word pyramids, etc.  Students do the sorting page first, then the fun page.  I've seen huge improvement in their spelling this year!

We have to do a bi-weekly running record on students, so I use Fluency station for them to practice reading passages out loud.  Students work with a partner and take turns timing each other for 1 minute.  They time each other 5 times total, marking each ending word with a different color (red for the 1st read, orange for the 2nd read, yellow for the third read, green for the 4th read, and blue for the 5th read).  They then count up the total number of words and record it.
I started the year with using fluency activities from

This is a station I dread...I hate doing structured guided reading.  We were supposed to use the "trade books" that came with our new reading program, but these were DULL.  I hate having predetermined conversations, questions, and vocabulary.  I hate having to follow along with a card that tells me what to do and when.  Reading instruction/discussions should happen naturally, and should be about interesting topics/books.

I finally ditched the reading series on this, and brought in some of my favorite novels.  Right now, we are reading Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  This is one of my absolute favorite books to read with students!   It's full of places to make inferences and discuss this skill, make predictions, history lessons, lots of vocabulary, and it's just a wonderful story.  It's about a girl named Jessie who lives in Clifton, Indiana, who is selected to leave the town to retrieve medical help for the diphtheria epidemic.  I can barely hold in my excitement when my students are about to learn the "secret" of Clifton!  I LOVE THIS BOOK!

During "teacher station," my students and I take turns reading aloud, paragraph by paragraph.  We discuss how the paragraphs are set up, the difference between dialogue and regular paragraphs, reading with expression, etc.  We have these conversations regularly, and as problems arise. 

I also pause to quickly explain a difficult concept or word, or to have students recap what has happened, make predictions, make inferences, describe a character, or ask questions.  I also mention things that happened earlier in the book and talk about if they were clues or not to what would happen later.  I don't have students record anything on paper, as that takes away from the enjoyment of reading, plus we get through a lot more of the story in 15 minutes than if they had to write, too.  My students don't need to write everything down, because we review people and ideas frequently with our mini-discussions. Ask any one of them, and they'll be able to rattle off the entire plot of the story with plenty of details.

As we finish books in "teacher station," I have students complete a reading response activity.  With Running Out of Time, I have them make postcards about the book.  They choose 3 of the following: a character, problem/solution, setting, theme, important event, compare/contrast. I give them many more details with this, but I don't want to give any of the story away! (I will probably post their postcards in a later blog post!)

In writing station, I post a prompt of Edmodo, which the students then transfer to paper and respond to.  These prompts vary from things like answering questions about themselves, finishing a fictional story, researching a topic, writing a poem, etc.  On the back of their paper, there is an activity for fast finishers. Some of their favorite fast finisher activities have been making a list of as many "M" words as they could without using a dictionary, finding rhyming words, writing concrete poems, and writing letters.

I would like to say that I am organized enough to collect all of their writing station papers and keep them together in a journal of sorts, but I am not.  It's something I'd like to do next year, though!  I tried having students write in a notebook, but I found that students wouldn't do the work unless the pages were turned in and graded, so loose papers is the best solution I've found.

Students read a book of their choice during this station.  This group has been really great about actually reading during this time!  Again, I require no paperwork from students here, because it takes away from the enjoyment of reading.  I do conference with my students as time allows (sadly, not scheduled conference times...), which keeps them honest and on track with their reading.

Now, as test-taking time nears, I've changed my stations up a bit.  Instead of Word Work, they're working on skill based task cards, instead of Library, they're working on MobyMax, and instead of Writing they're working on a Jeopardy review game. 

So there you have it (I'll try to post pictures of stations soon) schedule and reading stations. I may not be in love with stations, but I've nearly completed a whole year with them in my classroom.  Does that mean I'm going to use them again next year??? I guess I'll just wait and see.


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