Reading First

When I came to my new school this fall, I was told that it was a “Reading First” school, going into year 4 or 5 of the grant, which ever year, we are in the final year.  No “Reading First” as such next year,  at least any part of it that involves spending money.  I was a little curious about “RF” knowing nothing about it, and asked some questions, the reading specialist initially got a little huffy and told me, “It’s BEST PRACTICES, if you don’t want to do it, why did you come here?”  Which wasn’t MY point in asking the questions in the first place, I had just come off of the best year of teaching kindergarten and reading that I had ever had, and was on a kind of high about that, I wanted to be able to replicate it.  I wasn’t sure how much “RF” was going to impact that.  Trophies and most other components of my reading program are the same at the new school.

Well, it hasn’t much.  I’ve only had one specialist into my room on two different occasions, for relatively short times and little to no feed back.  Anything they have suggested, I’ve tried to implement.  Today, we had State visits.  I  had just finished the Whole group instruction and was breaking up for seatwork, centers and small group instruction when the five of them came in.  They blew in, and less than 10 minutes later, they blew back out.  I gather they will be back around tomorrow, and one of them will meet with me on my prep to talk about my reading program, but other than that, I’m still pretty much in the dark.

I have a hard time turning 5 year olds loose in centers unsupervised,  Centers should be developmentally appropriate, they should be differentiated, and meaningful.  Not too hard, but not too easy, yet something that they can do on their own with a minimal amount of help.  Well that’s easier said than done.  My high group are beginning readers.  My bottom group know fewer that 10 letters and sounds a piece.  The groups in the middle, are, in the middle.  It’s difficult to make centers that meet all of those needs and criteria.  So many center activities are so time consuming to make, who’s got the time?  I’m already spending 10 to 15 hours a week outside of class on school work.  If I had a life, I couldn’t do that. Those super teachers, that everyone hears about, like “The Essential 55” by Ron Clark, they don’t have a life outside of teaching, and when they get a life, their teaching changes.  You cannot do a 30 year career burning your energy at that level.

I tend to line them up with a number of pages of seat work, the seat work is work based on the worksheets they have in Trophies, only more of it.  The typical Trophies worksheet, for example the one today, had four places on the page, for them to write a letter Nn.  And another page with maybe 20 letters on it, some of which are Nn’s, and they circle the Nn’s. That’s not worth the paper it takes to run it off.  So I do essentially the same activities, but they have to write more and find more letters.  Same skills, but more practice.  So everybody starts out doing the same seat work, it’s grade level appropriate, and as they work on it, some are going to computers, and some are working with me in small group.  As they finish their basic seat work, they then have a few centers that they can rotate into.  But the centers aren’t the main work at this time, they are ancillary to the seat work which everybody does first.  I think that this approach might not be the way they want me to do it.  We’ll see.

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2 thoughts on “Reading First

  1. There are so many similarities in our schools! We, also, are a Reading First school. Our grant was only for 3 years, so this is also our last year. It’s been nothing but a pain in the rear since day one. The best part is that RF and CPS conflict on almost everything!! So, we get the area people coming in telling us to do things one way, then a week later, the state comes in and tells us it’s all wrong and to do it a different way. Both are always pissed at us, and we (the teachers) are always caught in the middle. It’s ridiculous. I just keep doing things MY way, since I figure both groups are pissed anyway, why not do what I know works best? Ah, the joy of being a teacher….

  2. At one of my previous schools the administration considered Reading First and decided against it. I felt it was a smart move. However, later we spent thousands of dollars for a “consulting team and program” that was guaranteed to improve test scores. We trained, spent hours implementing new materials, got very poor results and went back to what we had been doing. It seems that administrators are always looking for some magic formula that works for every teacher, every class, every student. As teachers in the trenches, we know that doesn’t exist. We could sure save them some money if they would listen to us!

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