A few weeks ago, my collaborating teachers asked me if I would be willing to take over a guided reading group. I was able to meet with a group once before and during this past week I worked with not one, but two guided reading groups. The groups are separated by ability level and they are named based on the areas that they need help; for example, the groups that I have been working with are the “Letter Leopards” and the “Sound Seals.” I was a bit nervous working with the groups but I have been doing my best with to help them be successful.
It has been a bit difficult for me to work with the groups because I am working with struggling students who need the most help and interventions so the students are sometimes busy on the computer doing another intervention like Istation. When I met with my groups on Wednesday I only had one student from Letter Leopards. I asked my collaborating teacher whether or not I should work with the student alone and she said it was my choice. I decided to work with this single student so I could provide him extra help and attention.
I worked with this student on a book that we had been working on called “Hats.” In this book, there are a variety of color words so I tried to get the student to recognize the letters in various words. The student, I will refer to him as “Daniel” but please note that this is a pseudonym in order to protect his rights and his identity, was able to figure out all of the letters in “hats” except for the letter “t.” After we spelled out and said the title of the book, we read through the book quickly and I asked Daniel what some of the colors were in the book. Daniel said “pink,” which was a correct answer but when I asked him what letter the word started with, he was unable to tell me. At this point in time, I realized that I needed to take a step backwards to help Daniel learn so I took out dry erase boards and I guided Daniel into figuring out what letters made up the word “pink.” We wrote the word out together and I had him practice it a few times. It was interesting for me to watch him write the word because he wrote “n” backwards and he circled the word every time he wrote it because I had circled “pink” when I asked him to practice writing the word.
I have noticed similar behavior in other situations so I would like to try pulling this student aside and working with him on handwriting and letters. I have already pulled aside another student once to work on handwriting skills. There are a few other students that I think could benefit from extra handwriting lessons. My collaborating teachers already work on handwriting with the students; however, it can be difficult to reach individual students who are struggling in a class of almost 40 students. I have spoken to my collaborating teachers about pulling students to work on handwriting skills and they have agreed that it would be a good idea. They said I can pull students at my leisure and so I would like to start doing this. I unfortunately have not had much time to do this recently since one of my collaborating teachers has been out and will continue to be out for another week but I hope to incorporate this into my day at some point in the near future.
Since my collaborating teacher has been out of the classroom, I have begun to take over some of her duties. For example, my collaborating teacher always leads the “Word Wizard” activity. For this activity, the teachers have four sight words written on index cards that are posted in the front of the room. One student chooses the job of “Word Wizard” for the day and he or she gets to wear a wizard hat and use a wizard wand. This student also gets to choose the way that we spell out the words. As the student makes his or her choice, the rest of the class says the words, spells them, and says them in a sentence. I was able to introduce the new sight words on Tuesday and I have led Word Wizard every day that I was in the classroom for it, which was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
I was always nervous every time I got up for this activity but I had a lot of support from my students. For example, one student volunteered to explain one of the methods for spelling the words to me. I was really thankful for this and I did my best to not get discouraged when I was a bit confused. I video taped myself performing Word Wizard and I will continue to do it while my collaborating teacher is gone. I am not sure if I will completely take over this activity when my collaborating teacher returns but I definitely want to help my teacher during Word Wizard, which I had been doing when she was in the classroom.
I really enjoy the Word Wizard activity and I would love to incorporate this into my future classroom. I think this is a great activity for differentiation because students can see the word and they move around as they say the word and spell it out. Sometimes the students even raise their hands and spell the word out into the air. I can tell that this activity meets the qualifications for being an effective differentiated activity because it is “engaging, relevant, and interesting” (Tomlinson 5). For students who may already know their sight words, this is great practice and students who need extra help receive this attention by learning the words and repeating them, their spellings, and using them in a sentence, which helps to reinforce the words.
It has been a bit of a difficult week without one of my collaborating teachers but I have been working hard with my students and taking over more responsibilities in the classroom. I am excited for this next week because I will continue to do other important activities in the classroom.
– Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. (2nd ed.).