When I began to transition to CCS, the lexile of material that I used in class with my students increased. We are supposed to be bridging the gap between the old lexile band and the new lexile band, but that is so difficult with so many different levels in one room. I have a few students that are completely lost and overwhelmed with the difficulty of the texts we read in class.
I decided that it was important to support these readers and all of my other readers as well with a daily dose of sixth grade comprehension and practice. I provide them with a paragraph that contains a short passage and three multiple choice questions. These questions target specific reading skills like vocabulary, author's purpose, or character motivation. This year I am using a book called Daily Warm Ups by Teacher Created Resources. I like it because it provides texts of all genres from information to myths. Unfortunately, this company doesn't make a grade 7 book, but I am looking for something similar to give to my advanced students, and hopefully all students, by the of the year.
I know this sounds silly, but my goal as an ELA teacher is that my students read something and write something everyday. It seems obvious, but I came up with this mantra when I realized that some days go by where my students are not really reading or not really writing much.
One way I can guarantee that they practice reading skills everyday is through this daily comprehension check.
As soon as my students come in, they get out their daily reading packet. I copy 5 stories in each packet, so that they have one for each day. I'll collect them on Fridays, and sometimes give them a grade for it. (Confession: these occasionally find their way into the recycle bin. I'm okay with that because the point is to practice!)
I give students about 5-10 minutes to read the passage. Early on in the year, I teach them active reading skills. They know how to highlight key words and annotate the passages too. They do all that, and they answer the questions quietly when they are finished.
I use various methods to check student work, but my stand by is sign language answers. I teach students the signs for "a", "b", "c", and "d" in sign language, and ask them to show me their answer. I love this method because I get a quick feel for how the students did, but it isn't super obvious if someone missed a problem. I do sometimes see kids change their signs once they see the class, but that just shows me that they didn't have it right in the first place.
Some days, I'll have students raise their hands when they are finished, and I will quickly check them. I also like to do silly things if it is an easier question. For example, I'll assign a different animal noise or exercise to each letter. If you got "a", squawk like a chicken, and if you got "b" moo like a cow. Or, if you got "a", do jumping jacks. You get the picture!
My students know that this isn't usually graded, and I also allow them to change their answers if they miss anything. The whole point of this is to practice and become better. I make sure my students know that in order to get better they are going to make a few mistakes!
Every so often I have that student who doesn't do their daily reading because it is not always graded. In this case, I'll pull the student's work from him or her, and go over it personally at recess. This usually stops the behavior.
Since I have started doing a daily comprehension, I've noticed the test scores of my lower students have increased. Since implementing this warm up, fewer students are approaching or falling below the standard. In fact last year, we had 100% of our students meet or exceed the standard on our state reading test. I know that there are many other influencing factors, but I really feel like this daily dose of reading skill, helps my struggling readers to improve.