Saturday, February 7, 2015

RTI Reading

"Congratulations! You will be teaching EIP next year," my school's literacy coach announced to me one random day in April three years ago. I had requested the position when I found out that our EIP teacher was moving to the elementary school. I was both overjoyed and terrified! In Georgia, EIP stands for Early Intervention Program. EIP is our main intervention for RTI. If you are interested in how our school does RTI/EIP, I recently did a grade level presentation on RTI/EIP. You are welcome to download the presentation I used. You can take a peek at it {HERE}. You can also view more of my RTI resources {HERE}.

So, once I had the job, my teacher empowering administration pretty much gave me free reign for how I wanted to run my classroom. It was both awesome and scary! I won't lie to you. It has been a series of trials and errors, but that is partially how RTI works. We try interventions, document success or failure, and change them accordingly. 

I was asked to make phonics my main focus, but I did not have many resources to choose from. The ones I had access to, I had issues with. BIG ISSUES! Take a look at these! 
I felt a little bit like Goldilocks trying to find the right decodable book.
 This one goes in the "too short" category!
This image is from a title called...."The Efficient Persian". Yes, you read that right! Doesn't that sound like the perfect book for RTI kids? I had three big issues with this text.
1. Look at the readability here. Most of the words in these two sentences are very basic sight words and then BAM you get hit with technician and Persian! 
2. The context clues are poor or just wrong. Take a look at the word controversial. The next sentence says, "Not everyone likes it." You, as a young reader, would assume that controversial = not everyone likes it. However, not everyone likes pineapples, but pineapples are not controversial, are they? 
3. Take a quick moment and peruse the purple highlighted text. Now, tell me, what phonics skill is being practiced on this page? I am a reading teacher, and it isn't obvious to me. Why would they expect it to be obvious to 7 year olds? 

I tried some scripted curriculums. I wish I had that year of my life back! I still use them for my tier 3 kids because I am required to use a research-based program with them. I needed something different, engaging, and challenging for my tier 2 kids. I finally decided to write my own decodable readers. I now have more empathy for the authors above. It is NOT easy to write an engaging text while pulling from a list of words that share a phonetic sound. 

This last week, my students began reading "Polar Bears Past Bedtime" in their classrooms. Next, they will do a non-fiction unit on polar bears. I wanted to prepare them for vocabulary that they might see. Give them some background information so that they could contribute more in class, and I needed to work on r-controlled vowels. So, I whipped up this text called "The Arctic Circle". 

I love it because..
1. While the text has some challenging words, most of it is at a similar readability level.
2. The context clues are spot on! 
3. The phonics skill is obvious. If a student reads just these two pages, he/she has decoded 38             r-controlled vowel words!

It takes us a while to get through the text. We usually read about half of the book on Tuesday. The other half on Wednesday. On Thursday, we practice fluency and expression as we reread. Then, on Friday, they take a test on what we read. I let them have the text while they take the test so that they can use their text proof strategies. They often struggle with grammar and written expression. So, I require them to answer 10 questions in a complete sentence. 
If you would like a copy of the book and this text, click {HERE} to download your freebie. (When you make copies, just copy pages 1/2, 3/4, and 5/6 front to back. Then, stack them in order, fold, and staple.)

We also play some games. This one is called Working the Farm. Students had to decode the word to keep the card. If they missed it, the next student gets a chance at it. There are also some fun cards to make it interesting. They BEG for these games every day! We usually play it on Monday after introducing the week's skill and on Friday when they finish their comprehension test. 
On Wednesdays, we do a segmenting/blending/spelling activity practicing the week's skill. We name the picture. We segment out each sound. As we segment, they spell the sound on their answer sheet. Then, we blend it when we have it spelled correctly. 

I have posted most of these units to my store, and I am writing more all of the time. Feel free to stop by and check them out. How do you teach with decodable readers?