I teach 6 4th graders and 21 5th graders. Two of the six fourth graders are below standard in reading. Thirteen of of the 5th graders are significantly below grade level, six students at grade level and two above.
After analysis of student work, MAP Test scores and reading of CCSS related to teaching reading foundational skills, I have designed and implemented a strong focus on tier two words in conjunction with daily word sorts from Bears et al Words Their Way book Syllables and Affixes.
To plan this word work unit- that is nested inside of my informational reading unit, I first read everything I could find on tier two words. See the resources from Beck. I picked words that have many derivations and are words that students will likely come across in a variety of reading situations.
This particular lesson focuses on tier two words I culled from an informational article titled, "Animals in Crisis- Are Humans to Blame?". I also selected words from an easier passage titled " Alaska- State of Extremes" for students reading at the beginning of second grade level. Once I identified the words, I made a trip to a couple of paint stores to gather paint chips. I wrote the root words in the top color of the paint strip and then continue down the range of related colors in the strip writing a related word in each section.
Before bringing students to the rug I asked them to turn and talk with their desk partner about what is a root word. Then I called on students to share their thinking. Some students had a general idea but struggled with being concise. I rephrased by creating a working definition of a root word as a word that does not contain any prefixes or suffixes.
I wanted to cement their understanding of a root word with something concrete! To help them remember the term root word I walked over to a spider plant that is on my bookcase. I said, "You know that most plants have roots, right? Roots are at the bottom of a plant and everything grows from the roots. Here let me show you (luckily the plant's soil was quite dry)." I took hold of the spider plant's leaves and carefully pulled and in one fell swoop was able to remove the entire plant from the pot exposing the root ball. I walked around the room and showed the students the plant's roots. It caused quite a bit of excitement especially when they saw these bulbous tubers within the root system. They were curious about them so I told them to remember back to the Naked Mole Rat video and how we learned that their main source of food is tubers. I told them that what they were seeing is a tuber or a part of the plants roots.
Then I made the comparison between the plants roots and the root of words. "From the roots of a plant stems and leaves grow and from a root word you can "grow other words that are related to the root word."
Next, I told them that today at the rug we would be learning lots of new words that are in the article titled I said, "You will learn new root words and their relatives."
I asked the kids to sit in a circle- something I do for certain kinds of sharing such as feelings circle, classroom meetings, strategy groups. I did this because today's lesson was different from my standard mini-lesson in that students would be doing most of the talking.
I said, "I am going to do a demonstration for you so you will know what you will have to do. Watch and listen carefully, because after I am through you will turn and talk about what you saw me do. Then you will raise your hand to start off our discussion about what you saw me do." I am being quite explicit here because I will be using this routine quite a bit both in whole group and strategy groups. First, I'll take a minute to read all my words on my card. Next I will say the synonym for the root word. The word at the top of your paint chip. Ok, now I am going to read the root word to you. My root word is develop. Develop means to make something. My next word is develops, developer, developing, and my last word is development. Now I will use the word development in a sentence. The iphone was a great development. Ok student turn and talk..what did I do first, second and so on...?" After students shared I processed with them the steps of 1. Read your words silently, 2. Say the synonym for the root word, 3. Read root and share synonym, 4. Read rest of words one at a time, 5. End by using one of the words on the strip in a sentence.
Next, I passed around the paint chips and told each student to take one.
I called on students who do not normally volunteer or raise their hands to share the words on their cards. My purpose for sitting in a circle and calling on the quieter kids was to ensure equity. The filming of my lessons over the last two months has really informed my instruction as far as who gets all the airtime- and who seldomly orally participates. The circle structure held everyone accountable because everyone can see everyone else. The students I called on were students who I assumed would be able to do the task easily- but do not generally like to share whole group. They were very successful in reading their words, generating a synonym and sentence. I continued in this manner until all students had shared. If a student needed help- I had them call on another student for suggestions of a synonym.
After having a few students shared their words- I quickly incorporated the use of the document camera. This allowed for call and response. All students were actively participating and it was very effective in front loading the tier two words for the partner activity that immediately followed.
See video clip of students eagerly working together to locate the tier two words we studied in the mini-lesson in the passage "Animals in Crisis- Are Humans to Blame?"
For the past few years our school has had a RTI model called STAR. Students Tackling Academics Relentlessly! STAR time was focused on both reading and math and we would flip-flip between the two content areas- spending 4-6 weeks focused on each. Prior to each STAR cycle all students were assessed and then placed in a small group of 6-8 students and received differentiated lessons- below, at or above grade level. This year, we decided to just focus on reading for our STAR time. Now only or level 2 students are receiving specialized instruction- either by me or by an interventionist, or by a bilingual IA. This video clip shows one of our school's intervention teacher leading a STAR group. Mr. Hester works with these three students everyday in a pull out situation for 30 minutes. Our lessons are coordinated and we collaborate several times a week to plan instruction and look at student work.