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
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:
- Historical Fiction
- Science Fiction
- General Non-Fiction
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:
- 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?
- 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
- When you read, are some places smooth and some places choppy?
- 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
- 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
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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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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