The strategy lessons housed within this unit provide ideas and resources for lesson planning and managing a classroom. They include resources such as websites I’ve found useful over the years, activities that have improved my classroom environment, and tools that engage students while assisting with planning. It is my hope that you will find them to be just as helpful in your own classroom!
Although I teach third grade, I’m not self-contained. I have two groups of students who see me every day for language arts. Each block lasts approximately 2 hours and ten minutes, but with getting settled, cleaning up, and leaving, I’m left with 2 hours of instructional time each day. Some days I’m overwhelmed by how much I have to get done in those two little hours and for years I’ve struggled to find the right routine to fit everything in. This year, once again, I’m trying something new and so far it’s working incredibly well. Not every day is perfect and there are those days when even the best of plans fail, but overall this rotating schedule allows me to meet with focus-driven groups while keeping the rest of the class engaged in meaningful practice.
My Monday - Thursday AM block schedule:
9:00 - 9:15 Readers’ Workshop strategy lesson
9:15 - 9:45 Independent Practice / Meet with Spelling Groups
9:45 - 10:15 Stations / Meet with Reading Groups
10:20 - 10:35 Writers’ Workshop strategy lesson
10:35 - 11:00 Independent Practice / Meet with Remediation Groups
Spelling. I’ve never been happy with how we’ve done spelling. I’ve always known that it needed to be more individualized and teach rules rather than memorization. But, how is that possible in a two-hour block? I decided this year to make it possible and carve time wherever I could find it. While students are practicing the skill introduced in that day’s Reading Workshop, I pull a spelling group.
At the beginning of the year I give students a spelling screener. I’ve been trained in the Orton Gillingham approach and use the CRST 1 and 2. Other teachers in my grade use the Words Their Way screeners. There are multiple tests out there, but you’re basically looking to see what rules students know and can apply independently. Data from the tests gives you a starting point for grouping students and creating lists. I divided my students into five groups and meet with one each week.
During our first meeting, I introduce the spelling rule and we practice using it. Students receive their spelling list with five tested words and a box for other words that follow the same pattern. I tell them that there will be five surprise words on the test that will follow the pattern learned. This lets me know if they can use the rule or if they are just memorizing words. We then work together to come up with several words we know that follow the same pattern.
In the second meeting, we continue practicing the rule. I don’t give weekly spelling tests, but instead allow students two weeks to learn and practice their rules. I’ve found that application of rules is much more successful this way. It’s during the third meeting that I give students a test and then their new lists.
Also during spelling groups, students receive their weekly homework packets. If they meet with me on Wednesday, then their packets are due the following Wednesday. Distributing and collecting homework this way has freed up an incredible amount of time during the week. I can create and give assignments that are specific to groups of students and immediately know who completed and turned in their packets.
Stations. I don’t believe in busy work. Especially when I only get two hours with kids. Every minute should count and that includes the work they complete during stations. So in my stations you won’t find worksheets, but rather authentic activities and assignments that are specific to what we’ve learned that week.
Here’s an example of one group’s station rotation schedule:
Monday - Spelling and Grammar. Both stations last 15 minutes each and have various activities for students to practice that week’s spelling rule and grammar skill.
Tuesday - Buddy Reading. Students choose one of the paired texts in the book nook to read with a buddy. When finished, they choose an appropriate response card and answer it together in the their station packets. This station lasts the full 30 minutes.
Wednesday - Vocabulary and Writers’ Workshop, which also last 15 minutes each. Students practice important words from this week’s read aloud and then either create a new writing piece or work on an existing one.
Thursday - ScootPad. This 30 minute station allows students to complete CCSS aligned language arts skill practice that are specific for them. This web-based service provides relevant skill based review while keeping students interested and engaged.
Friday - Reading group with me. For 30 minutes, I work with this group on whatever is necessary that week: re-teaching a skill introduced in Readers’ Workshop, extending practice on a skill not quite mastered, or accelerating those students who are high achieving.
Remediation. I’d love to meet with my lowest readers every day. I think this is ideal, but I’ve not been able to make that happen yet. I use this remediation time to pull students who need additional reading help while the rest of the class is writing. Each week, I pull the lowest group twice and the next two lowest groups once. This allows me to meet with the lowest group four times a week and the next two lowest groups three times. Again, this isn’t ideal in my world, but it’s the best I can manage as of now.