Struggling Readers in Intermediate Grades

WARNING-Long post. Possible depressing post. 🙂

Eye opener today. I mean an EYE OPENER. But first let me give you some background information.

This was my first year teaching history. 4 classes. 5/6 grades. 1 hour each.

I have attempted to implement strategic teaching for the first time:

TWIRL- talking, writing, investigating, reading, listening
Daily outcomes
Chunking the text
Explicit instruction
Formative assessments

It’s been a roller coaster. Some weeks I’ve done good with it. Some weeks not so much. 🙂

AND I’ve tried to reflect on what has worked and what has not.

BUT, I’ve missed the boat with one student. OR have I missed it with more???

Today we were studying the California Gold Rush. Easy and simple topic. 2 short pages of text. Maybe 6 paragraphs. Short paragraphs.

Even when we cover 2 pages like this I chunk the test. I usually give them the purpose for reading a certain paragraph as well.

In this instance I told them to read and find out what Boomtowns were. Then turn and talk about it with their partner.

I was mingling with students. Asked this one student to tell me what Boomtowns were. He couldn’t. Told him to reread and tell me. He still couldn’t. I asked him if he understood what he had read. He said no. At least he was honest.

So I proceeded to “show” him how I read informational text. Reread sometimes. Talk to myself while reading. Read in small chunks. He got tears in his eyes.

He can’t comprehend. Even 7 SHORT lines of information. In an easy history textbook. How is he in the 5th grade? How has he not received intervention? Oh, that’s right. We don’t provide intervention in upper grades for comprehension. Sigh.

I don’t teach him reading, but how have I missed this ALL year?

Have I been so caught up in “implementing” strategic teaching that I have been blind to my students?

So I end this post with this. Today was an eye opener that I have let down two people. Myself and this student. OR how many other students have I let down? And where do we go from here?

How do we keep students from falling through the cracks?

Yes, this student is failing the 5th grade this year. Because of math and reading.

Will he make progress next year as a reader with reading the story each week and taking a test on Friday? I think not. Otherwise he would have made progress THIS year.

Added some new blog pages

I just added some new pages to my blog. These are from my old blog when I taught Reading to 6th graders.

They are titled:

Reading Tools

Grammar Practice

Comprehension Skills

Comprehension Strategies

Linky Link Parties

CAFE/Daily 5

Maybe you can find something beneficial. 🙂

Read and Write 180-Day 55

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I have an announcement! I would like to ERASE all possessive nouns and apostrophes from our English language!!! Who will sign my petition to get this done????? 🙂

It is looking like we might study these for another few weeks! Need I say more???

We took our english test today on subject and object pronouns. Part of their test was where they had to draw a t-chart and list the subject and object pronouns. I had told them on Monday that would probably be part of their test and they looked at me like I had sprouted wings today when I told them to study them before the test! 🙂 We’ll see if they start listening to me now!

I’m really trying to expand their vocabulary this year so I showed them a website that acts as a visual thesaurus.

We caught up on our emails from our truckerbuddy. He and his wife are a team and drive ALL over the US. The kids are loving this! We track his trips on a US Map (each student keeps one in their binder). He also asks us questions and we talk about them and respond with our answers. He and his wife are going to bring their truck to our school later on (we are going to surprise the kids with this and not tell them when they are coming!!!).

We read 2 more pages of our story “When Crowbar Came”. I showed them how to listen to their “inner voice”. This is just their thinking that is going on when they read. I read a couple of paragraphs aloud and then told them what my inner voice was saying to me-predictions, wondering, etc. Just my thoughts about what I had read. On the 2nd page (after I had modeled a lot) I had them share with a partner what their inner voice was saying. I walked around and listened to them (heard some good thinking). I heard 2 girls telling each other, “Hey, you stole my inner voice”-LOL! 🙂

I had some individual conferences with some student-during my 2nd class I had just dismissed them to do read to self and work on writing and had sat down at my reading table. I looked to my left and Tyler was sitting there beside me smiling. I asked him if he was trying to make an appointment with me, and he said he already had one and wanted to make sure that I remembered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Too funny!!! They really like meeting with me individually! I just have to figure out how to work in some small group instruction now!!!

Here are some pictures of the kids that entered our “Drug Awareness” poster contest this week.

Tomorrow is Senior Day at the pep rally-I guess I need to take a whole box of kleenex!!!! 🙂

Comprehension Thinking Sheet

I have updated my comprehension thinking sheet so that it will have the comprehension strategies that the kids are to be using while reading AND the literary elements/devices that we are studying and writing about this year. All of this information is now at the bottom of the comprehension thinking sheet. For a better explanation of how we use these in our classroom read this post:

To print the comprehension thinking sheet click here:

Comprehension Thinking Sheet

Hopefully, this will be a friendly reminder to them when they are completing the sheet as they read AND embed these strategies/elements into their little brains. 🙂


Reading is thinking (hopefully)

I believe we should teach this from day 1. READING IS THINKING. Reading comprehension at the 6th grade level is supposed to be so much higher level than the previous years. It’s not just about retelling the story or remembering what  the story was about. It’s thinking while you read. It’s predicting before you read and while you read. It’s making connections between what you are reading and yourself, or the world, or another text. It’s being able to visualize what’s going on in the text so that you feel like you are a part of it! It’s wondering about things as you read, asking questions of your character’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. It’s inferring what the author meant even though the author didn’t SAY it. It’s using your schema before you read and while you read to understand the literal meanings of the text as well as the underlying meanings. It’s synthesizing while you read-understanding when you need to change your thinking about the text. It’s ALL those things and more. Can I just say that these are hard things to accomplish? 🙂

SO-the only homework that I assign my kids each night is to read for at least 15 minutes (the book of their choice) and to complete 1 box of our comprehension thinking sheet. Here is the actual sheet that they will have totally completed(in a perfect world-sigh) by Friday each week.

Comprehension Thinking Sheet

They get to choose which box they want to complete each night. For the past several weeks I had them all use and write about the same comprehension strategy-so 1 week they had to write about making connections in both comprehension boxes, the next week they had to write about visualizing, and so forth. Beginning this week, they can write about any comprehension strategy that they actually used while reading.

This past Friday I gave them a blank comprehension thinking sheet, and they had to complete it for a reading assessment grade. I took last week to go over it AGAIN with them to make sure that they understood what I was expecting of them-lots of deep thinking, reflecting, and writing.

Here is a picture of one of my student’s sheets from Friday about the book Love, Aubrey.

 There are 2 boxes to write about comprehension strategies they used while reading, 1 box to write their thoughts and reflections about their book, and 1 box to write about a literary element(plot, setting, character, etc).

 Here is a closeup of a strategy box.

I’m hoping that the more we read and the more we write about what we read and the more we read….. the better thinkers we will become! 🙂

So, just in case you can’t read what this one student wrote I am going to type it below for you! PLEASE let me know what you think about this overall process/assignment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Book-Love, Aubrey

Box 1-Comprehension Strategy

“In this book, Love, Aubure, Aubrey is a main character and the part that I am reading is where Bridgette jumps on top of Aubrey and Aubrey yelling “Stop”. I can see Bridgette looking with a weird expression on her face and then start laughing with Aubrey laughing with her.”

Box 2-Comprehension Strategy

“In this book, Bridgette, Aubrey, and Grams are the main characters who live close by each other and are very good friends. Bridgette moved by Grams during the winter and Aubrey moved in with Grams not too long ago. When Aubrey moved in it was almost time to go to school. The question that I am asking myself is does she like school?”

Box 3-Reflections/Thoughts

“I love this book  Love, Aubrey because it is very exciting but sad. It is exciting because you never know what’s going to happen next. This book is sad because Aubrey lost her sister and father in a car wreck and her mother has just abandoned her.”

Box 4-Literary Elements/Devices

” My main character is Aubrey. Aubrey has a lot going on in her life and school makes it harder. But three things that keeps her going is Grams, Bridgette, and Sammy her pet fish. Gram keeps her safe with a house and food. Bridgette makes her feel like she can do anything. And Sammy gave her company.”

What do you think? Are we on our way to becoming critical readers and thinkers? My 6th graders are NOT used to writing about their reading before they get to 6th grade (according to them).

Yummy real reading sundae

I have been trying to figure out how to anchor the reading comprehension strategies for my 6th graders-I want to make it more visual and concrete for them. So I have searched and searched and searched and oh, did I say I have searched? 🙂 I finally found 2 resources to help me with this vision of mine (cause I don’t have too many original ideas!).

The 1st resource is this book: Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor

  It is one of the BEST books I have ever read regarding reading comprehension! Tanny does an amazing job of providing concrete ideas/lessons to teach the reading comprehension strategies. I downloaded it onto my kindle while I was in Chicago and read it in one day! She uses mostly easy to find items to anchor the kids’ learning-things like a rock, a purse, etc. This is how I will introduce ALL of the strategies at the beginning of school. I am not going to start my “official” reading program until I have introduced and taught all of the reading strategies: visualizing-asking questions-connections-determining importance-fix up/self monitoring-synthesizing-inferring

The 2nd resource that I found is on another teacher’s website-Mrs. Cervone (who teaches 4th grade) at McDonald Elementary School

Here is the link to her website:

Now, on to the GOOD FOOD part!!! After I introduce and teach all of the comprehension strategies, I am going to culminate it by creating a “Real Reading Sundae”. We will create an anchor chart of the comprehension strategies in the form of an ice cream sundae. Then we will physically manipulate construction paper pieces to form the ice cream sundae while thinking and discussing what we are doing. Then comes the FUN part-we will actually create an ice cream sundae! Learn. Eat. Enjoy.

See below for the pdf document to guide you in this lesson. This was created by Mrs. Cervone and this link will take you to her document that is part of her website under her reading workshop section. THANKS MRS. CERVONE!!! 🙂





Reading skills and strategies

I decided to count up the reading skills and strategies that are taught through our Scott Foresman Reading Street reading program since I am REALLY wanting to implement the CAFE literacy structure and Daily 5 in my classroom.

Strategies in Scott Foresman Reading Street                            





Monitoring and Fixing Up-3                                                               

Using Prior Knowledge-3                                                                    

Using Graphic Organizers-3                                                               

Using Text Structure-3                                                                          




Skills in Scott Foresman Reading Street




 Author’s Purpose-3

Cause and Effect-3


Main Idea/Details-3



Draw Conclusions-3


Graphic Sources-3

Wouldn’t it be interesting to talk to the authors of this reading program (or any reading program for that matter) to find out what their thoughts were when creating the program???? They pretty much evenly distributed the teaching of the strategies/skills with the exception of questioning (it is taught 6 times) and then plot, character, and setting only get taught 1 time. I believe they decided that plot, setting, and character had probably already been taught in previous years enough that the kids should have internalized them by now. However, plot in the 3rd grade is very different from plot in the 6th grade-problem, rising action, climax, resolution, etc. is pretty complicated! 🙂

I have only taught this Scott Foresman for 6th grade 1 year so far so I am still learning LOTS of things about it, but their setup/structure is not too appealing to me. Soooo…. I am going to TWEAK it for next year. 🙂 I will definitely still teach ALL of these strategies/skills, but in a different format. For example, prior knowledge can be a focus for all that we read-not just 3 times during the year! 🙂

Also, even if I decide to have a focus strategy/skill like the reading program is setup to do-we will still use more than that one each week with our texts.

Reading goals anyone?

This was my 1st year teaching 6th grade so I wasn’t really sure at the beginning what I wanted to do with independent reading. I read The Book Whisper by Donna Miller and decided to set a goal of 40 books for the year. Well, of course I didn’t provide them with the time in class to read indpendently because we focused so much on Scott Foresman so I only had 4 students out of 38 that met or exceeded their goal. They were 4 girls that loved to read anyway! 🙂 Here are pictures of 3 of them holding their U.S. map with 40 or more states colored in to represent total books read.

Next year I am going to set the goal at 50 or more books. However, I am going to implement The Daily 5 (or Daily 2, maybe) and CAFE in my classroom which means they are going to have A LOT more time in class to read independently. I can’t wait!! 🙂

I am also going to change some of the genre requirements for what they read independently from what I had them do this year. AND-their entire reading notebook is going to be restructured!!!

For the love of reading

I am involved in an interactive online book club right now with the Michigan Reading Association(yes, I live in Alabama!) on facebook. The book that we are reading and discussing is Readicide by Kelly Gallagher. It is a GREAT READ!!!!! You should buy this book and read it-it hits the nail on the head with reading inside our schools!

Here is a link to an interview/article with Kelly himself from Education Week. Check it out!

Books to teach reading strategies

One of my goals this summer is to organize a plan that will allow me to use picture books/novels to teach the 7 comprehension strategies in mini lessons to my 6th graders. I was surfing proteacher and came across someone’s post that had this resource. It is an extensive list of books and they are categorized under each comprehension strategy! How wonderful is that???? I’m sure I probably have several books under each strategy already sitting on a shelf/in a cabinet in my classroom! 🙂 I love it when someone else has already done the work!!!!! 🙂