About 3 years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Debbie Miller, author of “Reading with Meaning” and “Teaching with Intention”, speak. It couldn’t have come at a better time. A little while later, my principal sent me “The Daily 5” in the mail before school started. I quickly read the book and let the concepts swirl around in my mind. Everything made sense. I liked knowing what was essential in reading instruction so that I could filter what I was having my students do. The Two Sisters and Debbie Miller both emphasize designing lessons and activities with purpose in mind. During my journey into reader’s workshop and the Daily 5, I explored a lot about word work specifically. In the beginning, I couldn’t say what the essential elements of word work were. I didn’t even know that word work was synonymous for spelling. After obsessively reading, I learned from Fountas & Pinnell and Donald Bear that word sorts, high frequency words, and vocabulary instruction are the key components of an effective word study program. This knowledge completely transformed my teaching. My cupboards were overflowing with commercial reading games, which can be fun and motivating, but I set them aside and took an entire school year developing word sorts for each guided reading level. Fountas and Pinnell’s “Continuum of Literacy Learning” was my road map. It is such an amazing resource! It has a section on word work at each guided reading level which helps any teacher differentiate and meet the diverse learning needs in their classroom. Now, when teachers ask me about what I have my students and why, I don’t skip a beat in my response. I know the purpose behind what I am doing and that my word work activities meet the standards I am responsible for teaching (and that the main reason my class is doing it isn’t because it looked good in a catalog).

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