Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Teacher Talk: Epic!

Teacher Talk: Epic!

Time To Share Another Resource!

I’m all about sharing the resources that I use in my classroom. Today I am talking about one of my favorite apps and a serious life saver… Epic! You might have heard of this one as several teachers I know use it. Epic! is totally free to classroom teachers and is a great resource for all readers. 

Epic! is a website & app that has so many books for every kind of reader. It has audiobooks and read to me books. It has fiction and nonfiction. It has popular series like Fluffy! and it has new series to love! Epic! engages my students in reading. I know that there are studies about the benefits of reading paper books and this by no means replaces my classroom library but compliments it so well.

Before we really dive in this post is in no way affiliated with Epic! I just love this resource and want to share! 

Listen

The number 1 way I use Epic! in my classroom is as the listening center. Each week my students take time to listen to stories. Listening helps them hear a fluent model and lets them enjoy stories that are still a bit too challenging to read on their own. The kids LOVE listening center. They can’t wait to go to listening center. Partially because it is pretty fun to wear headphones but I also suspect it has something to do with the selection of Read to Me texts on Epic! There is a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books. All the books are of a high quality and the reading on the audiobook is fluent! What more could you ask for?

We also listen to a story during snack each day. Partially because snack is sandwiched into our day when we can’t add any more time to it and partially to grow our love for books. When the story is on the kids are happily eating and not chit chatting. Chit chat during snack would be fun but we only have 10 minutes before we have to be somewhere else so we have a listening snack. I much prefer that to a silent snack. 

Read

The kids can listen to books but they can also select books to read on their own. Again the selection of texts is quite high and very interesting to the students. I’ve used Epic! for several years now and can honestly say that I have never had a student who couldn’t find anything to read on the app. They always find something they love. When kids first log into their account they click on a few things they like and that helps Epic! recommend interesting books to each and every child. 

Watch

There are also lots of videos on Epic! There are videos of different learning concept and then, then there are lego videos! Lego videos are a sure hit in grade 1. Sometimes during snack we watch a Lego video. In case you’ve never watched one of these they break down how to build different Lego stuff… I am not really a Lego expert. It is a great model for a how-to and they are super engaging. 

No Levels... No Quizzes... Just Reading

One thing I absolutely love about Epic! is that it is simply just books. There are no levels and a child is never told, no they can’t read that book. There are quizzes after some of the books but my kids just think they are fun perks. They don’t automatically assume that we read to take quizzes. When there is a quiz they don’t have to take it but often do- a fun little surprise. This app helps to grow the love for books within my classroom. Often I hear students sharing recommendations with one another and our little community of readers keeps growing and growing.

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Balanced Literacy: Planning for Teaching During Independent Work Time

Balanced Literacy: Planning for Teaching During Independent Work Time

Welcome back to our balanced literacy series! Today the focus is on planning for teaching during independent work time. What happens after you’ve sent the kids off the carpet? You know, when they’re all reading different books and writing different stories?  Let’s talk about different options you have and how to know when to choose what. 

Don’t forget to stop by every Tuesday  to gain a better insight into using a balanced literacy framework within your classroom! 

Off You Go!

You just taught a fabulous 7-12 minute mini-lesson and ended with those three magical and inspiring words. Your readers or writers leap off the carpet ready for action but… you linger in the chair. What now? What is your off you go? There are so many variables that could happen next for you and there is no coach in your classroom everyday to guide your choices. Let’s talk about them and ease your mind a bit so that the next time you say off you go you can go off with just as much confidence as your students! 

Reading: Now What?

First things first before you can work with your readers you need to know where they are. Perhaps your school uses F&P BAS to assess readers throughout the year. Maybe your school uses DRA. Hopefully your school has some sort of system in place to assess readers. If not, it’s your lucky day because now you can become the advocate for your school. Research the systems available and determine which one would work best for your students. I advocated to switch from DRA to BAS at my current school and it took two whole years to do the convincing but now we switched and wouldn’t look back! 

So before you can begin teaching readers you need to assess readers. You need to know exactly where they are. What is your baseline? What do they know and can do independently? What do they partially know but still need teaching on? What do they not yet know at all? You need to be able to answer these three questions for each reader in your class and the class as a whole. Then you need to determine what is the critical next step in teaching that they can work to take on independently and how you’re going to teach them. Let’s go! 

One on One Instruction

Conferring is the primary mode of one on one instruction in reading. There are many different types of conferences you can have with your students. I usually begin my year or my unit with compliment only conferences. This reinforces the skills that students know while I jot down everything they’re going to need to work on within the unit. Then I choose what students I will confer with to meet goals and what students I would prefer to use a small group for.

Some years I have conferred with all readers and done no groups. Some years I have conferred with a limited amount. It all depends on your readers and you. 

Group Instruction

Small group instruction in reading can come in two different forms. Guided reading groups or strategy groups each have their own purposes and structures. It is up to you to decide which is best for your readers. If your readers are grade 2 or above you might also consider book clubs. We won’t talk about book clubs today and instead focus on the other methods. I am going to say this right now so that we’re all clear. Ready to listen? THERE IS NO ROUND ROBIN READING IN ANY OF THESE GROUPS. None. Don’t even think about it. Don’t. Ok, now that you know, let’s talk about each one. 

Guided Reading

During a guided group all students will be at the same level and will all read the same book. Guided reading lessons last for 15-20 minutes. During the lesson the teacher will introduce a new text, students will read the text at their own pace and the teacher will listen in, afterwards the teacher will lead the students in a comprehension conversation. Sometimes a guided reading group also includes word work.

Strategy Group

During a strategy group all students might be at different levels and reading different books. They will be practicing the same strategy or skill. Strategy groups don’t last very long maybe only a week or two, sometimes less. The teacher will teach the skill or strategy and each child will practice in their own text at their own level. Sometimes the teacher will provide the text sometimes students choose what text to bring. Strategy groups will last 10-15 minutes. 

Conferring

Conferring is one-on-one with just a student and the teacher. The teacher typically follows the Research, Decide, Compliment, Teach method. First the teacher will observe and research the skills the reader has and does not have yet. The teacher will decide what teaching is best for this student next. Then the teacher will compliment the reader to reinforce a skill they have. Next the teacher will teach a new skill and practice it a few times with the reader before the reader is left on their own. This lasts about 5-7 minutes. 

Writing: Now What?

One on One Instruction

I would have to say that this is the form of student & teacher work that I engage in most often in writing. I do small group instruction from time to time but have found that writers need more one on one instruction. This is just my personal experience. Take it with a grain of salt because you know your writers better than I do… I don’t even know them at all. Conferring is the name of the game. 

Group Instruction

Sometimes there is a need to pull a strategy group together. When I taught grade 3, I pulled a strategy group on using paragraphs once. Last week I pulled a strategy group on putting spaces between our words when we write. Group instruction should be between 10-15 minutes and should be short term. 

What Now?

Create a document that shows what your readers know and what sort of know and what they don’t yet know. Similar to this one I’ve created below. Please know that these are made up children and are in no way based on actual students in my class currently or in my class previously. I believe it is really important to keep all student data private. The example listed is just for reading. 

 

In looking at this data I might want to do a whole class mini-lesson on 1:1 matching. I realize that we don’t all have a class size of 10… I don’t have a class size of 10! 

Depending on the students I could pull Amari, Ania, Filip, and Oscar into a strategy group on fluency. Since these are just made up children we don’t really know much else about their fluency. As the teacher of your class you would know more details. 

Michael and Rick might get pulled into a guided reading group together. They can work to build high frequency words and work on their 1:1 matching skills. 

Kuba and Piotr might work well in a guided reading group. Kuba might do more of the work during a text introduction while Piotr might do a little more of the work during the conversation that follows reading. Victor could also fall into this group if his needs were similar. Victor could also be a candidate for conferring. 

Randy would be a good candidate for conferring because he needs to work on skills that don’t necessarily match the other readers. 

Knowing your students is the key to responsive teaching. Try to make a chart like this for your class. You might want to add columns to reflect the zone of proximal development. One column could be for known skills, one for skills within the zone of proximal development, and one for unknown skills. This will help you start to look at your class. You might notice that you need to add in a whole class mini-lesson on something. Knowing your readers and writers is essential to teaching. Take the week and get to know your kids! 

What's Next?

Each Tuesday a new post will appear giving you more insight into the life of a balanced literacy teacher! Next week our post will focus on conferring during independent reading or writing time.

Use the comments section to ask any lingering questions or leave any comments with things I can do to better help you on this journey to implementing a balanced literacy framework within your classroom.

How do you look at student data? How do your observations guide your instruction? What questions do you have about planning for instruction? 

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom