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Nuts & Bolts: Literature Based Reading, Intermediate

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Literature Based Reading Program

for Intermediate Multiage Classrooms


Although I teach in a self-contained multiage classroom, I am able to team plan with two other intermediate multiage teachers. We have pooled our knowledge to come up with a successful reading program based on the use of children's literature and reading materials from the Kendall-Hunt Pegasus program. Our program is divided into three components: 1) Self-selected Reading, 2) Small Group Reading, and 3) Read Alouds.

Self-Selected Reading

I have between 1,000 and 2,000 books that I have sorted into catagories based on genre. It took me awhile to gather this many books. I got them from retiring teachers, garage sales, children's book clubs, library discards, donations, etc. I keep them organized by using dish pans that I got free from our local hospital. I label each book using colored stick-on dots and label each dish pan with address labels (I use the address labels on the dish pans because they allow for larger and more readable labels). The genre catagories I have my books sorted into are as follows:

Fiction

  • Fantasy
  • Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Science Fiction

Non-Fiction

  • Animals
  • Biography
  • General Non-Fiction
  • History
  • Science
  • Sports

Poetry and Rhymes

Legends, Myths, Folk Tales, and Fairy Tales

Choose Your Own... (books that allow the reader to make decisions that affect the outcome of the story).

I conference with students individually, letting them read a "just right book" to me that they have chosen. During the conference I listen for fluency, use of punctuation and expression, pronunciation, word attack skills, and vocabulary. I use a checklist and a reading rubric that I have created to assess their reading and to help me individualize my reading instruction (the checklist and rubric are nearly identical to those that I used in my second and third grade multiage classroom).

The students are free to choose from any of the genre catagories they wish (although I occasionally steer them towards certain genres they haven't experienced). Books can be found in each genre from early second grade to eighth or ninth grade reading levels. They are not labeled or sorted by reading level however. To help students read books that are approximately at their individual instructional level, I have taught my students to use "The Goldilocks Strategy" (I got this from a September 1997 posting on the multiage listserv by Diane Darrach). The Goldilocks Strategy is based on the idea that individual students can and should be taught how to self-select appropriate reading materials. I teach students to ask themselves the questions listed below when choosing a book to read. If their answer to the questions in any given catagory is YES, then the book is probably:

TOO EASY

  • Have you read the book lots of times before?
  • Do you understand the story very well?
  • Do you know almost every word?
  • Can you read it smoothly?

JUST RIGHT

  • Is this book new to you?
  • Do you understand almost all of the book?
  • Are there just a few words per page that you aren't sure of?
  • When you read, are some places smooth and some places choppy?

TOO HARD

  • Are there more than 5 words on a page that you don't know?
  • Are you confused about what is happening in most of the book?
  • When you read, does it sound pretty choppy?
  • Is everyone else busy and unable to help you?

It is called the Goldilocks Strategy because everything in the story needs to be "just right!"

After a student has read five "just right" books (which they keep track of with a reading log), they are allowed to do a reading project of their choice. The project is a response to one of the books they listed on their reading log. The children love to do these projects and it is a great "hook" to get them to read more! A few of the projects I have had students do so far include:

  • Create a poster showing a favorite scene, or part of the story.
  • Make a diorama showing a favorite part of the book.
  • Create a mobile depicting the book's characters.
  • Use what you know about the book to design a tee-shirt advertising the book (I have a fabric pen that I loan to students for this).
  • What happens next? Write an extra chapter to the book.
  • Create a timeline showing the main events of the story (especially good with biographies).
  • Make a Hypercard stack showing the main events of the story.

After students have completed their project, they share it with the rest of the class. When they share it they tell a bit about the book and a bit about their project. The rest of the class can then ask the student questions and give the student compliments about their book, project, and/or presentation.

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Small Group Reading

I believe that people learn to read by reading thoughtfully. The Pegasus reading program published by Kendall-Hunt supports this philosophy. My school district adopted this program for all of our intermediate grades, single grade and multiage classrooms. The multiage classrooms use the Pegasus materials in a small group format. The small groups, or "literature circles," that we form are designed to give students thoughtful reading instruction and practice at their approximate skill level, rather than grade-level (we purchased the third, fourth, and fifth grade materials for our program with novel sets of 10 instead of 30) . I meet with each of my literature circles as needed (about three times per week). During this meeting we discuss the story, review any assignments that were due on that day, and discuss the next reading/response assignment. In my class I have three literature circles that meet during the reading hour.

During reading time, all students are engaged in reading by either: 1) meeting with their literature circle, 2) working on a literature circle assignment, 3) reading from the classroom library, or 4) working on a reading response project.

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Read Aloud

At the end of each day I read from a children's book to the entire class. I choose books that either I am passionate about or that are of high interest to the students. Reading aloud to the students gives them another model of good reading and allows them to practice visualizing the scenes from a story.

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