We have been in school for about 6 weeks and I am just now posting my back to school photos! I am teaching mathematics, science, and RTI and my partner teaches reading, language, social studies, and RTI. This is my first experience with departmentalization and I really enjoy it. I am not sure what took me so long to take the leap! It took about a day to get my classroom ready and since these photos were taken, I have placed my desks in three straight rows and added a rug in one of the corners in the room. The rows allow the students to clearly see during instruction, but provides a shoulder partner for turn and talk. For group work, they choose a different location in the classroom.
The front of the classroom
Tubs for math tools and books
My partner teacher and I display the same work.
She gives my homeroom students' writing to me and I display it here.
I have enjoyed my time these past two years in third grade very much. The students are independent (they can tie their shoes!), our class discussions were filled with details (and fewer "stories"), and the subject content was so interesting. Next year I will be moving to fourth grade, which is departmentalized, and teach two mathematics and science classes. A dream position! I am glad for the summer but already looking forward to next school year!
I have noticed a couple of similarities with third grade students who need extra help with reading.
1. They are still tracking print with their finger when reading. This slows the reading and then affects their comprehension. Decades ago (in first grade) the rule of thumb was to give them a bookmark or an index card to place under the sentences and then move down as they read. I think in an effort to make students appear more "engaged" we have prolonged tracking print with their fingers.
This is especially important to fix as students are reading more passages and articles on the computer, especially for testing. You might see them reaching out to touch the screen or rereading words, phrases, and sentences more often.
2. For vocabulary, using context clues should be used in conjunction with structured vocabulary lessons. Has the common core standard which requires students to use context clues in reading replaced the need for teachers to just teach words? No doubt they need to use context clues when reading. Sometimes context clues are not enough, they need more direct instruction. It is not just science and social studies content words that are difficult, but words like "remember" or "disappointed."
One strategy I have used this year is before reading the passage together (choral or partner), I dedicated the first five minutes for them to read it silently and highlight words that are unfamiliar. As a class we discussed the words and sometimes I would display a visual for the word using my laptop.
My reasoning for this was to allow them to first use the context clues to find meaning and provide support only for those words they had trouble with. I worry with the reading shift away from using books and instead using passages as the primary source for reading instruction, that we are limiting students' vocabulary. If we move away from using books for reading instruction, then maybe we should bring back a scheduled read-aloud time for the intermediate students.
Just wanted to give a shout-out to my mother who is retiring at the end of this school year after spending 36.5 years teaching. Her experience spans all lower elementary grades and Title I reading. We have spend most of my career teaching at the same schools and I will miss seeing her daily. I have no idea what we will talk about now! I can not remember a time when my mother was not either a college student taking education classes or actually in the classroom. It is a bittersweet time, more for me than her. Congratulations mom, I am so proud of you!