Basic Skills in Literacy

I’ve been working recently to realign lesson plans and strategies available through the Ohio Resource Center (yes, my place of employment) to help teachers/districts begin implementing the Third Grade Reading Guarantee (3GRG) this year (keeping in mind that although required reading diagnostics begin this year, it doesn’t begin impacting students until 2013-2014 with students entering third grade that year).  Because most of my professional experience has been in grades 6-12, it’s been a slight learning curve, but I’ve actually managed to get a deeper understanding of the K-5 CCSS through the work I’ve been doing.  And in fact, I am seeing connections between early literacy skill building in grades K-3, reading interventions in grades 4-12, and how literacy skills relate to the CCSS.

Literacy Skills in Early Elementary

The ORC has a wealth of information available for building literacy skills in the early grades, and I just want to take a moment to mention some of the resources because, to be honest, before I began working at the ORC, I didn’t know it existed–and what a shame that was!

  • PreK tools–ORC has an entire website devoted to Early Childhood.  There are over 400 lesson plan/activity/experience resources and tons of books and activities for building literacy skills.  As a parent who wants her child to be ready to read by kindergarten, there’s a lot of value to me in this site.
  • Literacy K-5:  This is primarily what I am working on right now with the goal of having all our materials aligned to the CCSS before school starts (whew!).  By digging into the work on this portion of the site, I learned more about teaching reading than I did in obtaining my teaching license.
  • The K-2 and 3-5 bookshelves are cool because they are organized into sets of books that address either a specific literacy skill (fluency, vocabulary, etc.) or a shared theme (Native Americans, People in Ohio).
  • The “Reading” section features the five basic reading skills: comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary.   Each section includes specific lesson plans, professional development tools, videos of teachers putting the reading skills into practice, and assessment items.
  • And the “Reading Strategies” section that provides standards alignment (*I’ll come back to this in a moment), tools, activities, lessons, and instructional guidance on the reading strategies research has shown to be trademarks of strong readers:  comparing and contrasting, connecting to prior knowledge, determining the importance, making inferences, predicting, setting a purpose, summarizing, and visualizing.

Basic Skills Through All Grades

When I wrote the other day about RtI and FA, I discussed not knowing how to teach reading because as a secondary teacher, particularly as a high school teacher, my focus was content not skill building.  The basic tools and guidance on the Literacy K-5 site (especially the Reading and Reading Strategies sections) are applicable to teaching reading skills at any grade level because really, the skills we need to access a text are the same throughout all grades.

So, when we think about providing reading intervention to our high school students, we can look at it the same way an elementary teacher looks at teaching the basic skills, and we can still use grade-level appropriate texts to teach those skills.  What if we refer back to Sarah Brown Wessling’s thoughts on fulcrum, context, and texture texts and use the context text (which I discussed scaffolding to each student’s ability level–allowing them to practice a skill in an “easier” text) to teach and strengthen those same skills that are taught in elementary (the Reading and Reading Strategies listed above).

Even more powerful…what if we use screening/diagnostics to figure out which areas students struggle with and plan units that address the specific skills.

…..My thinking started to run away with me, so I had to step away from writing and try creating a visual.  Check this out:

What you’re seeing:  If I were creating a unit plan for The Great Gatsby, I would start by pulling my learning targets from all my deconstruction templates of standards–note here I used knowledge targets from Reading Informational Texts, Reasoning Targets from Speaking and Listening, and Product Targets from Writing.  I would plan activities throughout the unit that address these targets (UbD–start with end in mind).  Throughout the entire unit, I would continually focus on and formatively assess these targets.

I would then begin finding LOTS of texts, multimedia, etc. that discuss the 1920’s, Prohibition, bootlegging, and New York to build context for the main piece of the unit.  I would also make sure I have context texts at all ability levels so everyone has equal access to the context for the novel.  While completing learning activities that are standards-focused using the context texts, I would plan for and concentrate on certain reading skills that the students need to continue developing their reading abilities.  Here, I highlight two, but any of those strategies I mentioned above will work.    In the context texts, students should be comfortable enough with the reading level of the text that they can focus more on the reading strategy.

The same goes with texture texts.  Lots of texts at all levels so that while students are reading and applying skills to the fulcrum text, they are also continuing to practice them with “easier” texts.

Teaching the fulcrum text either with or before the texture texts, I would focus on scaffolding appropriately so the “red” and “yellow” students can practice the skills they are learning using a grade-level (in some cases, very challenging) text.

I hope that was relatively clear–it’s one of those things that works well in my head and on paper, but in reality may not be as practical as I think.  The idea is that we continue to address those basic skills in conjunction with our standards-based learning targets and incorporate all those ideas about FA and RtI.

But some of those basic skills aren’t IN the standards.

This was what brought me to this post today.  While trying to align the skills “making predictions” and “determining the importance,” I realized there is no standard that discusses, mentions, or even infers some of the literacy skills that we know work for kids.  My first thought was to get rid of the resources from the ORC site–after all, if it isn’t in the standards, it won’t be assessed; if it isn’t assessed, we don’t teach it, right?

Given more thought, though, I came to the realization that those skills and strategies are what give our kids access to the standards.  We don’t have to use every strategy every time (hence the pre-reading debate–we don’t have to pre-read for every text), but we have to teach those skills within the course of our instruction to allow our students to access the curriculum.  Strategies/Skills aren’t in the standards because the standards are the end product, the goal, and strategies/skills are the means by which we get students to reach the goal.  It’s difficult to align a strategy/skill to a standard because they are stable pieces of our “good instruction” toolboxes that never go out of style with each educational trend.  We just need to figure out how to incorporate what we know about good instruction with what we know about the intent of the standards and what we know about the needs of our learners (easy task, no? 🙂 )



9 thoughts on “Basic Skills in Literacy

  1. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy | Common Core State Standards SMUSD |

  2. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy and lesson planning #ccchat #ccss #edchat #commoncore #elemchat #engchat | Common Core Online |

  3. Awesome, awesome, awesome post! I love the line “those skills and strategies are what give our kids access to the standards.” It reminds me a bit of the relationship between our science process skills (now science practices in the new standards) and our content.

    I also love how you build context and extend understanding with the varied texts before and after Gatsby. I was never a struggling reader, but I would have gotten so much more out of any novel if my teachers had used this approach! Gatsby is one of my all-time favorites, by the way!


  4. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy and lesson planning #ccchat #ccss #edchat #commoncore #elemchat #engchat | AdLit |

  5. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy and lesson planning #ccchat #ccss #edchat #commoncore #elemchat #engchat | The Lemon |

  6. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy | Common Core Standards Info for School Leaders |

  7. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy | CCSS ELA Lesson Plans |

  8. Pingback: Basic Skills in Literacy | CCSS for BTHS |

  9. Pingback: MS Language Arts: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going « Turn On Your Brain

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