Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part two)
I mentioned last week I’m working with an after school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary. We call it the Reading Club. My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist. There is also a 4th grade teacher who lets me meet in her room and who also helps with the students sometime. In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Why those choices?
Tim came to St. Louis last spring and presented to our local ILA group. He has done that a number of times over the years (thanks Tim). I wrote a blog about his presentation last spring.
During that presentation he did a wonderful job of giving his ideas about the teaching of reading. He made a strong case that the teaching of reading is BOTH art and science and told us about his newest book (co-authored with Melissa Chessman Smith) the Megabook of Fluency. He told one story that really caught my attention. It was that of a teacher who made the practicing poems/songs a daily part of her classroom routine. Fridays were “performance” days, children to perform the things they’d been reading all week. The teacher was getting major push back about this use of time, but she persevered. Turns out that by the end of the year her class’s reading achievement performance dramatically improved. She became teacher of the year for her state. She seemed to be on to something.
When I asked Tim if he would write a piece for our Winter 2019 issue of Missouri Reader, which will be a special issue devoted entirely to the use of poetry and song, I mentioned that I would love if he included something about that story. He agreed to write the piece for us. I just got a copy of that piece and he did include a relevant detail about the efficacy of this particular teacher’s practices. Here is a preview of what he had to say:
“In a recently completed study, Mackenzie Eikenberry employed the regular use of poetry in her third and fourth grade dual language classroom. Each day students were asked to practice and then perform for classmates a new poem (or other short text) using the Fluency Development Lesson format (Rasinski, 2010). Each poem performance was followed with brief exploration of and instruction in words from the poem. In approximately a four month implementation (less than half a school year) of poetry reading and performance Ms. Mackenzie found that her 3rd graders made over a year’s growth in reading achievement while her fourth grade students made more than three quarters of a year’s growth.
The world is indeed full of poetry. Yet, poetry (and song) may be some of the most underutilized texts in our reading classrooms today. Perhaps it’s time for reading educators to rethink the value and importance of these wonderful texts. “
Want to read more about this- I’ll be blogging out the Winter 2019 issue when we go live and give readers a link to that issue. Please note that the gains made were accomplished in a 4 month period. Impressive!
So, that is what I’m going to be up to with my after school students. We’ll be practicing poems and song. I’m adding the caveat of think alouds with direction instruction. More about the “why” on that next time.
My newest ideas on how to help readers, especially younger readers, get off to a good start in reading seem to be crystalizing. Allow me to think aloud with you for a moment.
- BRING BACK NURSERY RHYMES, we don’t do that much anymore and by not doing it we rob our children of some valuable literacy foundation and background.
- Practice nursery rhymes and other songs during the week leading to a Friday performance. Different kids different Fridays. Lots of fun reasons to reread text during the week. It makes the needed drill FUN!!!!
- During the practice of nursery rhymes and songs, include think alouds about how words work. Include direct instruction on the sounds that letters make as part of those think a alouds
- Provide a print rich environment in both the classroom and home. Let the kids see the grownups reading. Let the grownups also read to the kids.
- Provide choice based on interest for the kid’s independent reading selections (or what’s being read to them). A child is not a level. Levels are a teacher’s tool for selected instruction. Fountas and Pinnell, Burkins and Yaris, Calkins among others call for classroom libraries organized by interests not by level. GIVE THE CHILDREN CHOICE- choice is the foundation for creating lifelong readers.
- Talk to the kids about the books, songs and poems. Who was your favorite character (storybooks)? What new thing did you learn? (non-fiction). What did you like best about the book/song/poem?
- Find out the child’s favorite author/series and if they don’t have one scaffold them into finding one.
- And above all, READ READ READ READ READ (you get the idea!)
So I will pick up next time and report on how it is going with the after school students and including the practice of nursery rhymes and songs. I’ll address the issue of how to make sure the sounds can be learned in a reasonable sequence. Since this is a supplement to a main program, I’ll talk about how I am attempting to support the main program of phonics the children are using. I think you can already guess that between the poems and songs in the Megabook of Fluency, and the books/songs of Eric Litwin I anticipate having no trouble finding the materials I need to support the children in teaching specific sounds and sound symbol relations.
So until next time
Happy Reading and Writing.
Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the “sound man from St. Louis, advocate of both the explicit and implicit teaching of how words work.
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Rasinski, T. V. (2010). The Fluent Reader: Oral and silent reading strategies for building word recognition, fluency, and comprehension (2nd edition). New York: Scholastic.
Rasinski, T. V. & Smith, M. C. (2018). The Megabook of Fluency. New York: Scholastic.
Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for it’s content