Our first graders have been working so hard to grow their reading stamina and we have reached right around 13 minutes of sustained reading. Our goal is 20 minutes, so we are close! Eventually, they will have at least two 20 minute blocks of read-to-self time each day. As we worked this past week to problem solve any distractions that arose, we also were able to focus on some important reading strategies.
We talked about how important it is to warm up as we read. We know to look at the pictures and think about what might happen in the story, but we also focused on thinking about what words would go along with the pictures that we saw in the book. The kids were able to predict words they thought they might see in the book. Then, when they went to read the story, they were able to read words that may have been tricky, but because they had predicted those words might be in the story, their brains were ready to read them. Good readers warm up to a story before reading the words, to help them be the best readers they can be.
This week, we began readers’ workshop. This is such a wonderful time in our classroom. We have enjoyed reading some great stories together and we have started building the foundation of our independent reading time. Readers get better at reading by practicing, so we focused this week on building their independence for reading by themselves (read to self time). We are working together to figure out the best routines that will help us be successful during this time. So far we have the following:
Just like great readers do, the kids have learned how to pick books that interest them and are ‘Just Right’ for them. We used the three strikes approach. The students pick a book and then open to any page. They read one page and every time they come to a word they don’t know, they would put one of their fingers up. If they get to three fingers up, then that’s three strikes and that book is too tricky. If they have fewer than three fingers up, then the book is ‘Just Right!’ It has also been fun to see their confidence and enthusiasm build with their independent reading time as we practice picking out and reading books each day.
This past week in reading, we revisited paying close attention to how our characters were feeling in the beginning, middle, and end of a book. Each day we read a story and stopped three different times to discuss the characters’ feelings. We noticed that almost always our characters’ feelings do change! Often the main character started off happy, in the middle something happened to make them feel scared, sad, or mad, but by the end the problem was resolved. We compared the characters feelings in our books to a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs. We also noticed that when our characters’ feeling change they are learning an important lesson.
In Reader’s Workshop this past week we focused on characters in the books we are reading. We focused on how our characters were acting and tried to find descriptive words for these character traits (bossy, confident, brave, anxious, selfish, demanding, mean, shy, sneaky, etc.).
We practiced with some of our favorite Kevin Henkes books. We will continue working on characters next week!
This past week in reader’s workshop, we looked at words that were important to our topic. We practiced with a non-fiction book about the Sun & Plants. We found the words solar panels, chlorophyll, and photosynthesis to be important words. These words helped us learn and teach others about what we read about. We shared our topic’s important words with the class too!
We remembered how important it is to understand what we are reading and with some of these new topics and tricky vocabulary words, we needed to use some of the tools that nonfiction books provide for us to figure out what the new words mean. We checked out the glossary for definitions, but also looked at the pictures, checked to see if there were any captions on the page, and reread the words in that section to look for clues.
We jumped back into reading workshop this week by helping ourselves get ready to read new books by first asking what we already knew about our topic before reading. When we pulled out a new book, we asked ourselves, “What do I already know?” This helps get our mind ready to make connections to new ideas. We spent time comparing the books in our ‘topic bags’ and really thinking about the facts we were learning. They were able to find examples in multiple books that taught the same information, so they knew that fact must be true. We were able to share with our partners about things we had learned.
In Reader’s Workshop, we started a new unit focused on learning from all types of texts. We filled bags with different topics (dogs, dinosaurs, weather, plants, presidents, etc.)! The students are working with a bag of books that focus on one big idea for a few days. Some of the books from their topic are nonfiction and some are fiction. The first graders spend time each day reading through the books on their topic to see what they can learn and teach others about their topic.
We’ve already learned so much about being a great decoder and how important it is to use strategies to figure out tricky words. This week, we tried to push ourselves even more as readers, by learning a new strategy that taught us how to break apart words into syllables, so we could decode multi-syllable words. This new strategy had a special name: SPOT & DOT!!!
Before we could try SPOT & DOT we had to develop our understanding of a syllable. We learned that words can be split apart into syllables and every syllable has its own vowel sound. (This vowel sound is sometimes made up of a vowel all by itself. Other times it’s made up of a team of vowels working together.) Since our SPOT & DOT strategy works with words that contain two or more syllables, we studied several words and tried to predict if they had only one syllable or many syllables.
Next, we were ready to SPOT & DOT. We followed the steps below:
After Step 3, we swooped our fingers under each syllable to read the word.
We tried reading many 2-syllable and 3-syllable words as a class before the kids tried some on their own. We will continue practicing this strategy next week as we tackle some of the tricky multi-syllable words the kids find in their own books.
We had so much fun practicing with some of our higher level comprehension books that force the kids to figure out tricky vocabulary words and really infer beyond the text to understand the story.
We first read the book The Stranger (Chris Van Allsburg). This story really puts the kids to the test to see if they can be careful to pay attention to all the small details that are on each page and put them all together to figure out who the stranger is. We stopped on each page to check for understanding about the WHO? and WHAT? and by the end, the kids were so proud of all the thinking they were doing to figure out who this stranger really was.
Then, we spent time reading the book The Sweetest Fig, by Chris VanAllsburg. The kids shared so many questions and connections, it was easy to see the thinking they were doing in order to figure out what was happening in this story. We had lots of vocabulary questions to figure out in this book. One of the questions was, ‘What is a fig?‘ I made a stop by the grocery store and found some in the dried fruit section. I brought in some dried figs and the kids were enthralled with them. We had many adventurous first graders who were willing to try one and most of the kids loved them. I am pretty sure they taste like raisins, that’s what they looked like at least. I didn’t try one (not quite as adventurous as they are). In the story, when the characters ate the sweet figs, their dreams came true. So, if your child was adventurous and tried a fig today, don’t forget to…
Ask your first grader if their dreams came true!!!
The kids had such a blast with these books. You should check some out at home!!