Sunday, September 22, 2013

Exploring Question Answer Relationships Using Informational Texts

As we all know, the Common Core emphasizes the use of informational text in the reading classroom. We are moving from mostly fiction based instruction to instruction that equally focuses on both non-fiction and fiction. Students are to read, understand text features, and analyze the information given in the text.

One way I like to help my students understand informational text is by exploring question and answer relationships. I feel that understanding this relationship helps my students comprehend and answer questions effectively. I teach my students to read the questions before they read a passage to help them focus their reading. I spend time at the beginning of each school year going over the four different types of question-answer relationships; right there, think and search, author and me, and on my own questions. I do a mini lesson going over these relationships with my students. As part of the lesson, I create an anchor chart to help them remember the different relationships.

I got the idea for this anchor chart from

After the mini-lesson, I give each student a Question Answer Relationship Mat and an informational text passage, or book. The students use these mats to help guide their reading. One side of the mat is printed on bright green paper. This side has a section for right there questions and think and search questions. I have this side on green paper to remind students that they can go right to their text to look for the answer. I have an example of the mats I used last year with my students below. I made a new owl themed set with matching posters that I plan on using this year. The other side is printed on yellow and red paper. The yellow section is for the author and me questions. I use yellow paper to remind them that they may need to go back and look in the book to help them answer their question. The final side is printed on red paper. This side is for the on my own questions. I use the color red to remind my students to stop and use their heads. These questions are questions they can answer on their own.

This is the front of the question answer relationship mat.

This is the back of the mat.
You can use these mats a couple of different ways. You can give the students a passage with questions, and have the students sort the questions before reading the passage. This is good to do when you first introduce question answer relationships to your students. You can also have the students come up with questions for each section after reading a passage. They are great to use with fiction texts too.  I like to laminate the mats first so you can use them from year to year. You can have the students use sticky notes to write down their questions, or you can have them write with overhead markers. What other uses can you think of for these mats?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Genre Review with Recycled Book Orders

Are you a Scholastic Book Club member? Are you like me, and have a ton of extra book order forms? I have found a great way to recycle those extra forms! I have been a Scholastic Book Club member for eleven years and love it! However, whenever I place a book order I have some extra unused forms. Instead of throwing those forms in the recycle bin, use them as a literacy center or activity in your classroom.

Last week my students were reviewing genre. As a culminating activity, I gave each student an unused book order form. I had each student make a tree diagram on a piece of white construction paper. The diagram started with the word genre and broke into two subcategories non-fiction and fiction. I then had the students look through their book orders and cut out ten non-fiction and ten fiction books.

After they cut out their book samples, they had to classify them into their genre groups (mystery, informational text, realistic fiction, etc.), label, and glue them onto the correct section of their tree chart. I created a sample ahead of time to help guide them.

My sample for the students.

My students loved this activity! They had fun picking out the books that they liked, and it was great review. Their finished projects turned out great and they were proud of their work.

Here is one student's finished project.
Now I need to find some more uses for those extra forms. Maybe a math center to review money, addition, and subtraction? Do you have any ideas?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Guided Reading in the Intermediate Grades

School is back in full swing! My days of relaxation are now limited to weekends and holidays! I had a nice long break with maternity leave before summer break. Now it's back to the swing of things! This year presents more challenges for me with being a first-time mother. Managing motherhood and work has been tough, but I feel like I am finally getting a handle on the whole work/life balance thing. Having an amazing husband helps too! I am one very lucky woman!

This year I plan on beefing up my guided reading groups. I have always done guided reading groups in the past, but this year I plan on making them more in depth to go along with the Common Core. I like using centers during guided reading time. Centers are great tools that help students apply their comprehension skills. Plus, they free up time so I can meet with small groups of students while the rest of my class works.

Each year I level my students and put them into four or five groups based on my needs of my class. These groups are flexible and students can switch groups throughout the year. I like to have four to five small groups of students, so I can meet with each group throughout the week and meet the needs of my diverse learners.

Each week I focus my instruction on one comprehension skill. I find leveled books that go along with each skill for all of my groups. I use books I have gotten with Scholastic points, leveled readers from out textbook, books from our literacy closet, or books from At the beginning of each week, I do a whole class mini-lesson that focuses on that one comprehension skill. I usually make an anchor chart to help them remember how to use that skill during this time. After the whole class instruction, I have my students work on their centers.

The centers I use are more for the intermediate grades. Each week I have my students go through the following centers; meet with the teacher, silent independent reading, written response journal, word work, and  reading comprehension skill menus.
  • Meet with the Teacher- During this time, I meet with my leveled groups. The students read the leveled book I have for them that week, and we review the comprehension skill that we discussed with the whole group. I give each student a Reading Comprehension Bookmark as we finish up our meeting. This bookmark gives a brief summary of the skill we are focusing on and gives them a weekly writing prompt for their Written Response Journal.

  • Silent Independent Reading- This center is so basic but so important in creating lifelong readers! During this time, I let me students choose books out of the classroom library that they want to read. This is time for them to get excited about reading, and read books that interest them. While they read, I have them use the bookmarks I gave them during our small group instruction. While they are reading they are looking for an example of the comprehension skill we have been studying. For example, if we were studying problem and solution they might be looking for a way a character in their book solved a problem. When they have found an example of the skill, I have them place their Reading Comprehension Bookmark on that page to mark their spot, and set them up for their next center, their Written Response Notebook.

  • Written Response Notebook-While I was getting my Masters, I focused my thesis on best practices in reading instruction. Throughout my research, I found that there is a strong connection between reading and writing. When students write about their reading it increases their comprehension. During this center, my students use their Written Response Notebook. My students use the prompt on their Reading Comprehension Bookmark and write a letter to me about that skill in their Written Response Journals.

  • Word Work-
    Every week I like my students to work on their spelling skills for the week. I use a bunch of menu activities in my classroom. I like using menus because it gives the students a choice on how to apply their learning. Every week I give my students a spelling menu to work on in class, and for homework. During this time, they work on their spelling menu activities.

  • Reading Comprehension Menus-
    Like I said before I love menus! Last year, I spent time creating menus to go along with the different comprehension skills. I use the menu that goes along with the skill we are studying that week. The best part about these menus is that they all come with checbrics to hold the students accountable for their work! These menus are great for getting students to apply the skills they learned, plus they are great for daily reading grades!

This is my interpretation of guided reading for the intermediate grades. What practices do you use during guided reading instruction?