Our school is using the theme reading theme “Around the World in a Million Words” to encourage students to read a million words this year. Together with teachers, students track their progress and work toward mini goal parties throughout the year and one giant party with a GAME TRUCK (semi filled with video games) at the end of the year. The theme has encouraged me to integrate more world studies into my lessons, and I refer to my giant map (55 x 39 inches) all the time. For those of you without the giant free wall that I had, the poster site also has a smaller version (36 x 24 inches). Just thought I’d share!
It seems to me that text structure questions come up an awful lot on standardized tests. I prepare my students with these bookmarks. Students use them to identify the text structure in their book (or a stack of books that I dump on their group’s table during whole class activities).
Print, cut apart, and give each student or group their own set. Laminate for longer life and reuse again and again!
Make it a game! Students love the challenge of finding one of each type of structure.
I was thinking there might be a few teachers out there with schools that are tight with paper like mine. I originally formatted this weekly homework page format when we were asked to use less paper, but I had no idea how much I’d love it! One page makes my life so much easier!
Each Monday, students are given a single homework page which has been printed on front and back and 3-hole-punched. They pop it into their homework folder (a cheapo card stock folder with 3 brads and 2 pockets) and do 1/4 of the page each evening. Just a heads up, these little pages are packed with info. There isn’t a lot of white space, but my 4th graders have never had a problem with the amount of material on each page. They quickly mastered the familiar weekly format. Mine love routine, and the four standard sections (1. Reading for Information/Paragraph Attack 2. Word Work/Writing 3. Mixed Genre/Paragraph Attack 4. Context Clues/Vocabulary/Spelling) ensure I’m providing additional homework practice equally across my literacy curriculum.
Below is my general template. (The first passage is from an AWESOME site, K12Reader, which has with tons of leveled passages based on content areas–check it out, really, it’s the best I’ve found. The second passage I borrowed from…well, the Internet somewhere a while back. If you recognize it, let me know and I’ll cite the source! The crossword puzzle was made on Tools for Educator’s Puzzle Maker–another a super handy site!)
Download the Weekly Homework Page Format
1 page homework:
1. Get more bang for your buck: Use .25 inch margins. Set your spacing is to single space (not 1.5). It makes a difference!
2. Decide on your weekly sections and label each day’s homework with the day and section title. (Ex. Monday: Reading for Information/Paragraph Attack) Also include easy to follow directions.
3. Have a place for student names at the top of each side of the paper. This way, no matter how it’s laid out on their desk (I do homework checks while they are at specials), you can easily see whose you’re looking at.
4. Tie the homework’s content to your specific curriculum standards each week, and use the same section headings each week. I use a different activity type each day. This helps students get familiar with many different question styles (standardized test prep anyone?). Also, if a student really dislikes a certain type of activity (let’s say Tuesday’s writing activity is a real drag for them), they only see it once that week, and are more likely to just get it done instead of skipping it all together (like they might if I had a whole week of writing activities). Also, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but it has to be said that homework should offer a very specific and tailored practice session outside of the classroom, not be random or busy work. When the students open their homework each night, they should think, “Oh yeah, this is similar to what we did in class today.” Provide hints or reminder sections for material you know could trip up your students. They may not have an adult at home to help them if they get stuck. Give them the tools they’ll need to review or extend what was taught in class.
5. Decide how you will check the homework. I provide a key at the front of the room, and students check their work with a marker when they enter the class each day. During certain times of the year, I may even make a matrix for them to mark their incorrect answers, so I can see at a glance which problems were the most difficult for the class as a whole. (I’ll try to find that matrix and post it here eventually!) However, most times of the year, I do a quick glance over during specials (not to record grades, but to see the problem areas and who did/did not do the homework). Then, I may pull certain students during the day to discuss problem areas.
This homework is specifically for a literacy classroom, so the sections are tied only to literacy. However, if you want to provide homework for all subject areas, just change up your sections (Ex. Monday: Science Read and Respond Passage, Tuesday: Writing about Social Studies, Wednesday: Math Concepts, Thursday: Health Read and Respond Passage).
How do you use and manage meaningful homework in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas!
This post ties in with the Paragraph Attack video I posted a couple days ago. Paragraph Attack is a series of steps I have my students use every time they read a passage that includes comprehension questions. Many of my students are ESOL or EIP and reading below grade level. Using these steps provides them with a strategy for making meaning of reading passages. You can find the original post and the steps HERE.
In order to make the Paragraph Attack strategy a routine and improve confidence with high level reading passages, I feel it’s important to encourage students to use Paragraph Attack with every reading comprehension passage we use.
Sometimes though, our reading passages aren’t in worksheet format–they’re in books, and you get in trouble if you write in books! I give my students modified page protectors and a fine tipped dry erase marker to use in place of their pencils. Cut off one long side of the page protector, slip it over the book page, and mark up the passage with no worries! (You can also use the clear overhead projector sheets, but I found that they slip around much more than the page protectors, and students get frustrated.)
Clicking on the pics will bring you to this article on my other website, which has suggestions for where to find page protectors and fine tipped dry erase markers. Happy reading!
My students use these steps to break down and make meaning from every passage they read. I made this video to help them remember the steps.
Standardized tests can cause anxiety for even the most knowledgeable students. Long reading passages can easily overwhelm a student in a stressful testing situation. However, by learning and consistently using test taking and comprehension strategies, your students are preparing themselves with tools to attack any reading passage they encounter. I noticed that when my students looked at passages using the same method every time, they became more comfortable and confident in analyzing difficult passages and constructing meaning from them.
1. Read and circle the title. Look for clues in the title about the main idea of the passage.
2. Number the paragraphs. Since test questions often ask students to go back to specific paragraphs to look for information, labeling the paragraphs prior to reading can assist with these questions later. In addition, beginning with a simple task boosts confidence and allows a moment to calm nerves.
3. Read the questions. If the main purpose of reading the passage is to answer the questions at the end, why not begin with the end in mind? Read the questions, underline the key words, and take note of what information needs to be found. (No need to read the answer choices at this time. That will come later.)
4. Read the passage. Underline all topic sentences and box in key words. Make notes in the margins about big ideas. Be careful to box in only a few words and phrases per paragraph. Using a pencil to underline and box in important information is better than a highlighter for test preparation, as highlighters are not allowed on most standardized tests. It is best to prepare in conditions most similar the test taking situation.
5. Reread the questions. This time, read the answer choices as well. After reading each answer choice, decide if the answer is not correct or maybe correct. If the answer not correct, cross through the letter. If the answer is possibly correct, mark it with an “M” for maybe. If there is more than one “M” (“maybe correct”) answer choice, reread those answer choices, go back to the passage for more information, and select the best choice.
6. If time allows, reread the questions and check the answers.