Helping my Struggling Readers

 I've been glued to Kimberly's posts on Struggling Readers at Funky First Grade Fun. She's uber smart for having this linky party!
I know this is a long post, but hang in there- you might find something that helps you!* I keep coming back and editing this post. I guess I've really written about HOW I was able to find the time to meet with my students instead of what I do with them. Y'all know RTI and the thousands of other things we juggle can make it difficult for us all to meet!

Divide and Conquer: First I need to tell you some background. I work at a large school with over 800 students. Last year we had seven first grade classes! YIKES! We have one interventionist for our entire school and bless her heart she is amazing. However, with a school that large there is no way she can meet with ALL of our struggling readers. We send her our students that we work with daily (usually one-on-one) who we are the most concerned about. In order to meet with the rest of our students who are struggling we made a list of students and what their biggest challenges were- we included math in this as well. We had students listed under fluency, comprehension, decoding strategies, and math. We split the students up and tried to put our own students in another teachers class. (*Sometimes students will hear something from another teacher and it suddenly clicks. --Often it's the same thing you've told them a hundred times, but the way that teacher said it made sense to them.)

Our school day is scheduled out so that each grade level has an RTI/enrichment time. This is the time that we send students to our interventionist. During this forty minute period we met with the students we had separated into groups. We worked with them for twenty minutes before sending them back to their own class. We did sorting activities, games, reader's theater scripts, read books and poems, practice decoding, or we retaught a crucial lesson.

The remaining twenty minutes of enrichment time are spent with another group of my homeroom students. This group changed from day to day. Many days I was meeting with my students who struggled in reading. Sometimes I was working with a group on math skills they hadn't yet mastered. And other days I was meeting with my highest students and trying to challenge them. In order to keep my group activities straight I had colored file boxes from the dollar store. (I didn't have a picture of mine so here's one from Container Store.) This system worked EXTREMELY well for our students. It was great to work together as a team and this ensured that every child that had a need for help was being met with. Take that RTI!

Daily 5: I have a love/hate relationship with Daily 5. With RTI and the minutes required in each subject by the state I simply can't fit in all five stations. I do love that it gives students another chance to read by themselves and with a partner though. Also, I hit so much of Daily 5 in my work stations/centers- but my district wanted Daily 5 separate and not incorporated into our regular stations. (Basically I think Daily 5 is a great tool to help someone who struggles with setting up stations and small groups. But it's not my cup of tea.) So I'll be honest. I usually do Daily 3(read to self, buddy read, word work)---only it's not daily. It's three or four times a week. We have a small chunk of time after lunch to continue our ELAR block and hit social studies. I try to hit social studies first then Daily 3. Last year while students were reading or doing word work I had students read to me. I really didn't have a system for this. Sometimes I asked students to read to me and sometimes students asked me first thing in the morning if they could read to me. This year I will plan to meet with two students each day and draw a name for the third student so that everyone gets a fair turn and I can meet with students that I need to. (It's a work in progress for sure....)

So what do I do in small group? I have all the tools and tricks that you have! I try to make small group fun and exciting. For the life of me I can't find the post, but another teacher blogged about brain feelers. My kids LOOOOOOOVED them. They were reading questions mod podged onto fat popsicle sticks with fluffy balls at the top. I sometimes give them glasses to wear, party hats, or an owl to hold. (I have an owl theme and a few miniature stuffed owls.) There are days when I tell one student in a group to go to the prize box because I saw them use their tracking finger during the whole book and they read with expression. Sometimes I stand up and cheer and scare the pants off the rest of my students with a "WOOOO! Way to go! You're AWESOME!"

What I've found to be helpful: I try to incorporate a lot of reader's theater. Our reading curriculum, Journeys, has very short readers theaters in every unit. They love to practice and perform. And they don't realize that they are reading and using all the skills they have learned all year. A couple of times this year I chose a story that my students really enjoyed and turned it into a reader's theater.

Finally, I try to read a picture book to my students every day. We talk about the book, what we liked, what it reminds us of, etc.

I hope this is helpful!



    i loved this idea & shared it with about 5 other teachers at my school- in case anyone didn't see it when it was posted before

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for linking up! I love the idea of working as a team to help the struggling kids. It must require a ton of planning time to figure out who goes where, right? I might have to pick your brain about that. Loved your post! Full of great information. Aren't you supposed to be getting married soon? :)
    Funky First Grade Fun

  3. Thanks for sharing your ideas and routines!


  4. I am a Special Ed teacher - so always looking for new reading ideas, interventions and innovations. I am thrilled to have found you and look forward to connecting with you in the blogosphere.
    I am now a follower thorugh RSS feeeds.


  5. It's so funny that you said that you have a "Daily 3." My co-workers and I are doing the Daily 5 for the first time this year. Several of them have called me up, concerned, that we'll only have time for a Daily 3. I had a really good handle on literacy stations for the past couple years but I'm excited to start something new. I wanted to try it because I felt like my small group time could use some more excitement and life!

    We have a population pushing 900 and are looking into a 10th 1st grade teacher. It's difficult, like you said, to get extra support for struggling students. I love how you have an RTI time. That differentiated instruction sounds wonderful! I wish we had something like that.

    Really enjoyed reading your post! Thanks for all the information! :)

  6. The K and 1st teachers at my school were lucky enough to be sent to The Sisters Daily 5 and CAFE workshops and were amazed and relieved to hear that they don't do all 5 a day either. They recommended doing read to self and work on writing each day, and then rotating through word work, read to someone and listening as the 3rd choice throughout the week. We've been doing that the last two years and the kids and teachers all love it. Hope this could help you too. Karyn