Literature Based Reading Program

for Intermediate Multiage Classrooms

Russell Yates


This Literature based reading program I have assembled and implemented for my multiage classroom shows how closely I link instruction and assessment, how assessment guides my instructional decisions. There are a wide variety of assessment tools I use, everything from our text publisher's materials to student performance assessments to a checklist with scoring rubric.

Although I teach in a self-contained multiage classroom, I am able to team plan with two other intermediate multiage teachers. following my lead, 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 categories 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 obtained 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 categories I have my books sorted into are as follows:

Fiction

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 helped create to assess their reading and to help me individualize my reading instruction.

The students are free to choose from any of the genre categories 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 idea 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 (a form of self-assessment). 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 category is YES, then the book is probably:

TOO EASY

JUST RIGHT

TOO HARD

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:

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. I assess these projects and presentations through observations, anecdotally noting evidence of comprehension through their ability to summarize what they have read.

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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. These discussions allow me another opportunity to informally assess student achievement as well as the effectiveness of my instruction. In my class I have three literature circles that meet during the reading hour.

Other than the informal observations mentioned above, assessment for these small literature groups is based almost entirely on the copyrighted reading materials supplied by Kendall-Hunt. Many of these assessments are performance based in that they require students to create various products which are evaluated based on criteria and objectives provided by the publisher.

Another assessment that I use that is helpful to all areas of the reading program, but is especially helpful to reading group placement, is the Analytical Reading Inventory by Mary Lynn Woods and Alden J. Moe (ed. 6, 1998). I use this assessment tool with students at least once each quarter to measure overall growth in reading performance as well as to report progress to parents.

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, 4) participating in an individual reading conference, or 5) working on a reading response project. Monitoring this process of course provides me with further opportunities for formative or observational assessment.

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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. I informally assess the effectiveness of this through observation at various times during the day, whenever there is a chance for a student to read aloud.

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copyright © 2000 by Russell Yates