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Welcome to week 2 of the Freebielicious Summer Book Study! This week we are tackling the second chapter of The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson. This week I we are all linking up with my good friend Mary from Sharing Kindergarten. At the end of this post you will find a link to follow and join up with all of the book study participants.
Don’t Rush It
As I explained last week, teaching half day kindergarten puts me at a serious disadvantage for finding enough time in the classroom to complete any task. I have learned to take deep breaths and realize that I cannot control my time constraints. I have many assessments that I take during the first few months of school. In the first few weeks, I only cover the most basic of assessments (name recognition, counting, colors, shapes… all the easy stuff that takes less than one minute per child to assess).
It takes several weeks for my students to build stamina and really master the Read to Self component of the Daily 5. Once I am confident that they are capable of reading independently for 8 minutes or more, I begin literacy assessments with guided reading in mind. These early assessments are simple as well. I begin with letter recognition and concepts of print. For the students that breeze through these early assessments, I do a quick sight word assessment as well. Most of my kindergarten students have no idea what the words say, but it’s always good to identify the few students that DO already know some sight words.
As the class continues to develop stamina with Read to Self and I conclude my initial assessments, I am ready for the BIG assessments: DRAs. If you are not already familiar, DRA stands for Developmental Reading Assessment. A few years ago my school purchased DRA assessment kits from Pearson for all K-5 classrooms. They are fabulous. The assessments are standardized and include tools to gain understanding many important reading components: reading engagement, running records, fluency, and comprehension tools are all included.
A trade book is provided for each DRA level, along with a teacher recording sheet that corresponds to the specific book for that level. Two different stories (and teacher recording sheets) are included for nearly every level in the kit. I find this particularly helpful since I let students choose the book they want to read… they are much more likely to perform well on the assessment if they get to select the book themselves.
The nice thing about my DRA kit is that it is for Grades K-3. Each year I have a few exceptional readers in the class and it is nice that I have the tools to provide an assessment that meets their high performing needs.
Questions Teachers Ask
Clear directions are provided in each assessment, which answer many of the “questions teachers ask” provided at the end of Chapter 2 in The Next Step in Guided Reading. Here are a few of the answers from my experience:
What assessments should I use?
Letter recognition, concepts of print, and DRAs.
Why should I take a running record?
Because it provides insight about which type of words are challenging for students. Analyzing running records reveals all sorts of helpful information about strategies students use to determine difficult words, as well as the strategies they are NOT using.
Should I introduce the text used for an assessment?
Yes, but don’t worry… the DRA assessments are nice enough to provide an introduction for you to read to students 🙂
Should students read the text silently first?
No, they should do a quick “picture walk” after you introduce the book, then read the text aloud on the first try. You want to see the initial errors they make. This is the best source of data about how students read.
What if the students ask for help?
I remain as silent as possible during the experience. If someone looks at me or asks for help, I often deflect the question by saying “what do you think it is?” or “how can you figure it out?” I do occasionally provide a word for students that are just plain stuck. But it is rare for me to provide more than 1 or 2 words for an entire story and I only do this when the students doesn’t seem capable of figuring a challenging word out for him or herself.
How do I assess comprehension?
Comprehension questions are included in the DRA assessment, as well as a rubric for interpreting student responses.
How do I know when to move a student to a higher guided reading group?
There is no single answer to this question. I typically give assessments 4 times throughout the school year (October, December, February, and May). In a perfect world, I would give assessments monthly. But as I have stated I do not live in a perfect world and my time is LIMITED. So, I assess the entire class four times during the year. Sometimes, however, I will have a hunch that a students seems to be performing at a level higher than the students he or she was originally placed with. Such students will suddenly breeze through a book that is intended to be instructional (and therefor somewhat challenging of text.) If a student reads a text during guided reading without much of a struggle while the people around him/her are challenged by the book, it is probably time to challenge that child further. If that is the case, I will spontaneously reassess that child and bump him/her up to a higher group if necessary.
Using Assessments to Form Groups
Once you successfully assess all students in the class you will probably wonder what to do next. Your assessments are the key to creating effective guided reading groups. In the first month or two of kindergarten, the range of my students reading abilities is usually quite small. Almost every child in the class fall between level A and level 2. Here are a few general rules I follow when creating guided reading groups.
Arrange student assessment results from lowest to highest: My first step is always to arrange the entire class assessments from lowest to highest. Often, striking differences in student abilities occur even among students that are reading at the same level. Arranging all assessment results in a spectrum from low to high helps to ensure that students with similar abilities are placed together. Consider the fact that I may have 8 students reading at a Level 1 in October. Some of those students just barely squeaked into that Level 1, while others are just a hair shy of reading at a Level 2. When I create my guided reading groups, I want my “low Level 1s” to be grouped separate from my “high Level 1s.” This helps my instruction during Guided Reading time be more precisely focused to the needs of the group.
Use your student assessment spectrum to create groups of students. Find logical ways to group students based on your assessment results. Often, it makes the most sense to group all of the Level A readers together, the Level 1 Readers, the Level 2 readers, etc. Often Level A readers have a wide range of concepts of print and letter recognition. For students reading at a Level A or 1, consider creating groups with similar ability levels in these areas as well.
Limit group size to 5 students or less: The more students you have in a group, the more difficult it becomes to manage the group and pay adequate attention to everyone’s needs in the group. If you have six students all reading at the same level, I strongly recommend splitting them into two groups of three (perhaps even a high and low group within the same level.)
Ultimately, no method or system of grouping students is perfect. Once you create your groups for guided reading, be flexible. Some students may have been placed in a group that is just a bit beyond their instructional level, other students may find themselves in a group that is not challenging enough. Monitor your groups as you meet with them. You are not confined or obligated to keep your initial group structure. If you feel that a student’s needs will be better served by placing him/her in a different group, make the change. Guided reading groups are intended to be dynamic and flexible. Experiment and find comfort in the fact that there is no perfect system for grouping students.
Now that you have had a chance to see how I implement reading assessments in my classroom, head over to Sharing Kindergarten and see what works for other teachers (or link up a description of your own assessment system).