Academics

Reading Skills

Readingis the foundation of all that your child will learn in school, not justthis year, but in all the grades to come. Because reading is soimportant, I try to instill a love for reading by making reading fun andexciting. Students will read a variety of high interest readingmaterials that tie in with the reading textbook as well as materialsthat relate to what we are studying in Science and Social Studies.

Mygoals are to expose your child to a wide variety of literature, todevelop comprehension strategies, and to teach children how to readmaterial that becomes increasingly harder.

Studentsneed strong reading skills in order to learn in all other schoolsubjects, such as science, history, writing, and even math. The thirdgrade reading Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) requiresstudents to read stories that are about 350 words long and correctlyanswer questions about what they have read. It also requires them to beable to use charts, graphs, maps, and other materials to gatherinformation to correctly answer questions.

Guided Reading

We are using the MacMillan/McGraw Hill Readingtextbook. Teacher-directed Guided Reading lessons focus oncomprehension. Your child will learn about characters, setting, andplot. Your child will also learn how to organize and compare informationlearned from informational text.

During Guided Reading, comprehension strategies areexplicitly taught in teacher-directed lessons, and are applied asstudents read the selections in the reading textbook. During the readingof every selection, strategic reading is modeled by the teacher andapplied by the students.

Accelerated Reader

Everystudent participates in the Accelerated Reader program. Through thisprogram, children read a variety of books on their reading level, whichis established by taking the STAR Reading test during the first twoweeks of school. Look for a copy of the test results to come home inyour child's folder.

After reading the bookcarefully, the student takes a comprehension quiz on the computer. Thequiz is scored and immediate feedback is given to your child. Points areaccumulated for each correct answer and prizes are awarded fordifferent levels of points. Of course, the greatest prize for your childis improved comprehension!

Reading Homework

Researchhas shown the importance of reading at home daily. Each studentis expected to read at home for at least 20 minutes a night during theweek. Your child can read independently, with you, or you may choose toread parts of the book to your child. The important part is to justREAD!

Fluency

Fluencyis the ability to read quickly, smoothly, and accurately. Fluentreading has been shown to increase comprehension. Fluent reading freesstudents to focus their mental energy on comprehension. The less mentalenergy used in trying to sound out the words, the more mental energyavailable to understand what is being read. Fluency is important tocomprehension because the meaning of a written passage comes fromunderstanding phrases, not individual words. Fluent reading is alsoexpressive reading. Because reading with expression requirescomprehension, children who try to read expressively must also try tocomprehend.

Each week, students will be given a shortpassage of about 100 words to practice reading. On Monday, they will betimed to determine the number of words they can read correctly in oneminute. The same passage will be practiced repeatedly during the week.On Friday, students will be timed for one minute on the same passage tomeasure improvement. Emphasis is placed on reading with correct phrasingand expression--not flying through the passage like an auctioneer! Inthird grade, students should read about 80 to 100 correct words perminute on a third grade passage.

This year, we are using the spelling words that correlate with the stories in the MacMillan Treasures reading series.

Spelling Units

Every Monday a new spelling unit will be introduced in class. Each spelling unit consists of 20 words. Each unit presents a spelling pattern as well as themed vocabulary words. These words are practiced in class, but students are expected to practice them at home as well.  

Word Wall

Many students score well on the the weekly spelling tests but do not spell well in their writing. It is very important for your child to apply spelling strategies consistently and not merely memorize for weekly spelling tests. To develop every day spelling abilities, we will be using a Word Wall. The Word Wall has words that students are expected to spell correctly in all of their writing. Words are added to the Word Wall monthly.

Be A Mind Reader is an activity we do with the words on the Word Wall as well as Read the Room. During guided reading, students will also practice Making Words as one of their stations. Classword and What Looks Right are other activities we do to practice spelling and phonics patterns.

Reading Comprehension Strategies

When you read, you do two things simultaneously--you say the words, and you think about what you are reading. Understanding the meaning the words convey is the comprehension part of reading. Word identification is necessary for comprehension, but word identification does not guarantee comprehension. Comprehension is accomplished in your brain as it processes the word meaning and language structures of the text.

There are seven specific strategies that I am teaching to help students comprehend what they are reading. Imagine that we are reading an article about Lance Armstrong, a professional cyclist.

Connecting

Connecting is probably the most pervasive thinking strategy that everyone uses while reading. You connect what you are reading to your own life, to what you know about the world, and to other things you have read.While reading about Lance Armstrong, we may think:

  • "My friend's name is Lance."
  • "I rode in a bicycle race once."
  • "I've never ridden my bicycle as far as Lance has."

When you read the text does it remind you of anything you know about, experiences you had, other books, or world events?

Questioning and Monitoring

As you read, your brain monitors comprehension. When something does not make sense, you ask yourself questions. Reading about Lance Armstrong, you might ask:

  • "What does the yellow jersey mean?"
  • "What does that word mean?"
  • "How can that happen?"
  • "What are they talking about here?"

    The more complex the topic, the more monitoring and questioning your brain has to do. Even in familiar text, you may sometimes misread a word, and then have to go back and reread when you realize that something is not right. As long as the reading seems to make sense, you are not aware of this monitoring function. But when something--an unknown word, a misread word, an apparent contradiction--disrupts the meaning-making, your brain sends up a read flag with a big question mark on it. Once you realize something is not working, you try some fix-up strategies--rereading, continuing to read while looking for clarification, or asking someone. The brain's self-monitoring function works best when you encounter some--but not too many--comprehension red flags. This is one of the major reasons why children need to spend some time reading materials at just the right instructional level.

    What did you wonder about while you were reading? What questions did you have? Were you able to find the answers?

    When reading, if you are not understanding or it is not making sense then:

    • Reread the sentence or passage
    • Read ahead for clarification
    • Adjust your reading rate, slow down
    • Read out loud
    • Check the illustrations

      Imaging

      When you read, you use all your senses. You see things in your mind's eye. If you get lost in a book, you can sometimes almost taste, smell, and feel the physical sensations you would actually have if you were in that situation. As you read, you imagine the situation about which you are reading. Reading about Lance Armstrong, you may think:

      • "The wind must be cold as they ride over the top of the mountain."
      • You can hear the crowd roar as the cyclists come toward the finish line.

      When you are reading, what pictures or movies are in your mind?

      Inferring

      When you make an inference, you read between the lines. You infer things the author has told you in the text. You infer why things happen, why characters act the way they do, and how characters are feeling. Reading about Lance Armstrong, you may infer:

      • "I'll bet Lance is proud to win the yellow jersey again."

      Can you predict what is about to happen? Can you identify something in the book that helped you make that prediction? What were the clues.

      Predicting/Anticipating

      As you read, your mind thinks of where the text is going and what may happen. Sometimes you have a specific guess or prediction about what is going to happen. Sometimes you don't have a specific prediction about what will happen, but you anticipate the direction the text will take. Often, anticipating includes a little voice in your brain starting sentences with "I wonder."

      • "I wonder if Lance will win the race."
      • "I think that Lance will win this time."
      • "I wonder if Lance will go back to racing after having cancer."

      Summarizing/Concluding

      As you read, you accumulate information, and you keep this information in mind by turning smaller facts into larger generalizations. You put together information from the text and from your own knowledge to draw conclusions. You read about Lance Armstrong practicing for hours every day, and you conclude, "Lance is hardworking, focused, and determined." The text did not say this, but you used the information to generalize. Think of all the parts and put them together.

      If you were to tell another person about the story and you could only use a few sentences, what would you say?

      Evaluating/Applying

      As you read, you form opinions based on what you read. As you read about Lance Armstrong, you may think, "That's the kind of man I hope my son will grow up to be." That kind of thought is a conclusion, but it is also your personal opinion.

      Are there some parts of the story that are more important than others? Which ones? Why do you think they are important?