Tag Archives: literature

How to Create a Weekly Reading Routine

unpacking the standards

Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Reading standards are big and complex, embedded with at least three or four smaller skills that warrant lessons on their own. A weekly reading routine that ‘unpacks’ literature standards into bite-size portions helps students become masterful, independent readers.

by Elizabeth Liberatore

Plan to turn complexity into comprehension

Reading, like any activity, requires plenty of practice to perfect. You cannot expect piano students to master a technically demanding score by Chopin or Beethoven unless it is practiced in bite-size portions. Reading is no different. Only when students are routinely exposed to quality literature with embedded skills that reinforce standards can students raise their literacy and comprehension skills.

“Unpack” Literature Standards in the Classroom

But how do you make a reading lesson equal parts attainable and rigorous for your students? You “unpack it.” Reading standards today are big and complex, embedded with at least three or four smaller skills. Students need to “make inferences” while also “explaining what the text says explicitly” and referring “to details and examples in a text.” Any one of those subskills warrants a lesson unto itself.

Small, bite-size skills help introduce your students to academic vocabulary, high frequency words, and other proficiencies needed to master the larger standard. Once students learn the subskills within a standard—such as reading and rereading, annotating unfamiliar and/or repetitive words, locating literary devices, and so forth—they will approach the larger standard with confidence. Assessments of each subskill within a standard allow you to better gauge students’ trouble spots in mastering the overall standard.

Make It Approachable Without Compromising Rigor

How often should students be practicing their reading? According to Dick Allington, author of What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-based Programs, students ought to read 300 minutes every week. That’s a lot. Constant distractions like entertainment on devices such as computers or iPads and students entering and exiting the classroom can make it difficult to allot that much time to reading without shortchanging other subjects. Even when 15–30 minutes of reading is spent in after-school programs or as homework, the suggested 300 minutes per week will be met only if students practice a daily reading routine in the classroom. That is, students need to read daily and practice mastering the skills they need to unravel today’s complex reading and literature standards.

Planning is teaching—teach a plan! Pack two ingredients into each week: clear, explicit instruction of key reading skills and sufficient reading of engaging, complex texts across all subjects. Take time to unpack the reading literature and informational text standards and work through them methodically. Then challenge students with complex texts on which they can practice the subskills they need to master. As long as your weekly reading routine has a consistent structure that students can easily digest, you can be assured that their comprehension and literacy skills will improve with every lesson they complete.

Today’s Virtual Field Trip Itinerary: the Opera, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Moon!

by Erin Dye

Virtual Field Trips

Take your students on a virtual field trip | Image courtesy of digitalart | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During the recent days of budget cuts, not to mention liability waivers and parents who are too busy to chaperone, you may have seen your field trip opportunities dwindle. You probably already know that some websites can help to fill the void. What you might not know is that there are virtual field trip apps and websites that not only present information to students but also get closer than ever to actually transporting them to those museums, theaters, and historic sites. Even more exciting—students can now visit the bottom of the ocean, explore the Moon, and even follow in the footsteps of the characters in the books they’re reading.

So, it’s time to go—everybody get on the bus Internet!

Science Field Trips

Google Earth

Not to be confused with Google Maps (which is also a fantastic resource), this downloadable desktop or tablet app allows your students to explore the Earth, the Moon, and Mars in stunning detail. You can also set and save your own paths and destinations ahead of time.

Google’s Cultural Institute

Want your students to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef without flying them to the coast of Australia and getting them scuba certified? Simply pull up Google’s street view-style underwater exploration of the reef. There are also tours of hundreds of other sites.

American Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History’s website has a detailed 360° self-guided walk through its museum. You can choose your gallery ahead of time or just amble through the corridors learning about fossils, plants, animals, and big, big diamonds.

Creatures of Light

Also created by the Museum of Natural History, for their special exhibition on bioluminescence, this beautiful, free iPad app explores the glowing creatures of the air, land, and sea.

Arts Field Trips 

The Metropolitan Opera

The Met’s iPad app provides interactive programs of their past three seasons, complete with audio and video of performances and summaries of the stories and productions themselves. The 2013–14 season includes classics such as Tosca, Rigoletto, and The Magic Flute.

Google Art Project

While asking students to perform an image search is great, it denies them the experience of a curated grouping of works. There’s almost no substitute for physically walking the halls of the world’s great museums. The exception to this rule? Google Art Project. Through this portal, dozens of the world’s finest museums offer virtual, street view-style explorations of their galleries.

Literature Field Trips

Google Lit Trips

Google Lit Trips allows your students to visit the real places mentioned in the books they read. All you need is the Google Earth app (desktop or iPad). For example, I recently toured 1940s Denmark on the Number the Stars tour, and then I trudged from Oklahoma to California with the Joads. These tours are organized by chapter so that students can really follow along.

The Secret Annex Online

It’s hard to visualize Anne Frank’s hiding place until you push aside the bookcase and walk through the hidden door. With the context provided by this 3-D model, students can truly relate to Anne’s experience in hiding.

We also love the National Parks app (free) and the Florence and Rome Virtual History apps (not free, but well worth the cost).

This list could go on and on. Look for another blog post coming soon that gives some pointers on creating lessons around these activities. Until then—what have you used for virtual field trips?

Bon voyage!

*Update: See a sample lesson plan for The Secret Annex here.

Erin DyeErin Dye is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development with extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.