How to Use Detailed Rubrics to Guide Your Writing Instruction

A detailed writing rubric is worth its weight in gold!

(Actually…maybe it’s worth a lot more than that, because a sheet of paper doesn’t weigh very much.¬†ūüėĚ)

But anyway…you get what I’m saying! Detailed writing rubrics are very valuable, because they a) help us get a clear picture of how students are doing (much more helpful than a simple “A” or “B” grade!) AND b) they help us adapt and shape our instruction.

In last week’s post, I shared my assessment plan for each writing workshop unit that I teach.

But in that post, I didn’t explain how I use rubrics to guide my writing instruction!

So in today’s post, I explain how I use detailed genre rubrics to make decisions about my whole group, small group, and individual writing instruction. I’ve also included a quick video to help walk you through my thinking!

Rubric scores help me SO much in planning my writing instruction. In this post, I use a video to walk you through my thinking about how I use a first grade narrative writing rubric to plan instruction!

How I Use Rubrics to Guide My Writing Instruction

As I mentioned in last week’s post on assessment (definitely check it out if you haven’t yet ‚ÄĒ click HERE), I use a genre rubric, like the one you’ll see in the video below, 3 times a year with 1st grade and up.

This thought process can be applied to any rubric, however. Watch the video below to hear how I analyze data from a 1st grade narrative writing rubric!

The Bullet Points

Here’s some of what I shared in the video:

  • Rubrics can be used as formal assessment, but it also makes sense to use them BEFORE instruction to guide your teaching during a unit.
  • Rubrics that have a wide range (i.e. 1-5) are the most helpful. A score of 4 is the goal, but as you can see, the rubric goes beyond that so that you can accurately assess more advanced students and understand how to move them beyond simply meeting expectations. (Same goes for lower students.)
  • Look among students’ rubric scores to find patterns. If there is an area of weakness for 50% or more of your students, address it in whole group. If a handful of students need to work on something, plan small group lessons. If just one or two students need to work on something, address it individually.
  • Although it’s tempting to constantly look ahead on the rubric to see what to teach next, remember that students may still need to spend time solidifying skills that fall under their current score on the rubric.
  • Know your limits. I’m a specialist and work with kids one-on-one or in small groups, so I can spend time analyzing each child’s needs as a writer/reader. If you have an entire classroom, however, it’s not feasible to try to work on every single aspect of the rubric with each student individually. Set one individual goal per student, and try to address as many things as you can in whole or small group.

Questions about any of this? Leave me a comment! And if you’re wondering how to get rubrics like these, you can check out my kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade writing units:

Kindergarten Writing Workshop Curriculum Learning At The Primary Pond

First Grade Writing Workshop Curriculum Learning At The Primary Pond

Second Grade Writing Workshop Curriculum by Learning At The Primary Pond

I also have the genre rubrics available separately:

Happy teaching!

How to Assess K-2 Students’ Writing in a Writing Workshop Model

In the writing workshop model, assessing or grading students’ writing can be a challenge.

Students are typically choosing different topics, selecting which strategies they want to apply, finishing their writing at different times…it can feel a little ‚Äúall over the place.‚ÄĚ So how do you assess their work in a consistent, easy-to-manage way?

My personal preference is to use a 2-part assessment system:

  1. Benchmark assessments throughout the year
  2. Writing assessments during each unit

In this post, I’ll explain both of these systems AND share how you can convert rubric scores to grades!

Not sure how to grade your Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade students' writing? In this post, I explain my assessment system and how to convert rubric scores to grades.

Photo Credits:  wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock

Benchmark Assessments Throughout the Year

First, let’s think about the year as a whole. During the year, I will teach informational, opinion, and narrative writing. I teach 2 units in each genre (they spiral).

I want to find out what my students can do in each genre at the beginning of the year, after I’ve taught one unit in the genre, and again at the end of the year.

To track their progress in each genre, I use a 6-step approach:

Step 1: I find or create a genre rubric for informational, opinion, and narrative writing.

You may have a school/district rubric for each genre, you might use my writing units, or you might have other rubrics that you use. Here’s an example of what a genre rubric might look like (this is a 1st grade informational writing rubric):

This is an example of an informational or nonfiction writing rubric for first grade.

This is an example of an informational or nonfiction writing rubric for first grade.

Your genre rubric should be detailed enough so that it can inform your instruction and guide you in choosing specific skills to teach. It should also include enough of a range so that you can accurately evaluate students who are on the high or low end of the skill spectrum.

Print a copy of each genre rubric for each student in your class. SAVE these rubrics and use them throughout the year to track students’ progress.

Step 2: A couple of weeks into the school year (or before I teach each genre), I give students a prompt for each type of writing.

After I’ve taught some writing workshop procedures and routines and the kids have done a little bit of writing, I give the first prompt. You can choose any genre, but I like to start with narrative.

I make sure that I give this prompt BEFORE I have taught students skills in the genre. I really need to see where they are starting from so that I can adapt my instruction accordingly AND get a true sense of their progress during the year.

I give a very general prompt, like‚ÄúDraw and write to tell me a story of something that happened to you. It might be something that made you happy, sad, excited, or scared…it‚Äôs up to you!‚ÄĚ

While students are writing, I don‚Äôt provide support. If a student isn‚Äôt producing any writing, I might say, ‚ÄúWhat are you going to draw/write about?‚ÄĚ Other than that, it‚Äôs up to them!

So that it’s a low-anxiety activity for them, I just explain that I want to be the best teacher I can be, so I need to learn about them as writers at the beginning of the school year.

You can give all 3 prompts toward the beginning of the school year to get them out of the way.

OR you can just give the prompt for the genre you’re going to teach first. Then, before you teach the other 2 genres, give the corresponding prompts that you didn’t give at the beginning of the year.

(By the way, I don‚Äôt usually do this in kindergarten at the beginning of the year‚ÄĒbut you can definitely give it a try if you‚Äôre so inclined!)

Step 3: I score those ‚Äúbaseline‚ÄĚ writing samples with the genre rubric.

Once students have produced a writing sample for a prompt, I use the genre rubric (from Step 2) to evaluate the writing.

I mark all students’ rubrics with the same colored colored pen or pencil. Then, I can come back to the same copy of the rubric later on in the year and score it again (with a different color).

I use the same genre rubrics throughout the year and write on them with different colors.

This first time, I don‚Äôt use students‚Äô scores as grades‚ÄĒagain, this is formative assessment, done prior to instruction.

Step 4: After teaching at least one unit in a genre, I score students’ writing samples with the same genre rubric.

Later on in the year, once I’ve finished teaching at least one unit in a genre, I again come back to those genre rubrics. I take a piece of writing that students have produced during the unit, and I score it, using a different colored pen or pencil to mark on the original rubrics.

The writing samples that I choose have been revised and edited by the students, but I don’t provide students with adult help before I score the samples.

Step 5: At the end of the year, I give prompts similar to those I gave at the beginning of the year.

Rinse and repeat! Toward the end of the school year, after teaching one more additional unit in each genre, I repeat Step 2, using the same or very similar prompts.

Step 6: I score the end-of-year writing samples with the same genre rubric and (hopefully!) celebrate all the progress we made!

Once again, I score the writing samples using the same genre rubrics. Because I now have circled parts of the rubric in three different colors, I can easily see how students have progressed throughout the year.

Assessments During Each Unit

The process I described above provides me with a ‚Äúbig picture‚ÄĚ look at students‚Äô writing in each genre, 3 times per year.

In addition to the benchmarking process, I also do some informal and formal assessment during each of the 7-8 writing units that I teach. Here’s what I do:

Step 1: I list out the most important goals for the unit.

When I teach a unit, there are a number of different skills that I teach. BUT I don’t necessarily expect all students to completely master them.

However, I make sure I‚Äôm clear on the ‚Äúessentials‚ÄĚ of the unit‚ÄĒwhat I absolutely want all students to be able to do after I teach the unit. I list out these goals before I start the unit.

Step 2: I get my class checklist ready.

I take that list of goals and turn it into a class checklist, like this:

This is an example of a class checklist for a first grade informational writing unit.

This checklist provides me with a place to make notes throughout the unit.

Step 3: I make notes on the class checklist throughout the unit.

As I meet with students individually or in small groups, or when I pull students’ writing folders, I can use the class checklist to write notes about how students are doing with each essential goal.

Because I have notes about all of my kids on 1-2 sheets, I can easily see where multiple students are struggling. Then, I can then make adjustments to my whole group instruction or plan small group activities for specific students.

This checklist is for my own use. I don’t share it with students or parents. Again, this is formative assessment.

Step 4: Using a unit-specific rubric, I evaluate a writing sample that students have revised and edited on their own.

At the end of the unit, right before I help students revise and edit, I evaluate a piece of writing that they’ve produced during the unit. I choose one that I know they’ve revised and edited on their own (not a first draft).

The rubric has the same criteria that the class checklist does.

This is an example of a unit-specific writing rubric for first grade informational writing.

You CAN sometimes skip this step if you’re using the genre rubric approach, because technically you can end up evaluating one piece of writing with two different rubrics. But I’m fine with doing it twice, because I like to get a picture of how each student did on the unit-specific goals AND the overall genre goals for the year.

Sometimes, I use this unit-specific rubric twice during a longer unit: once in the middle, and once at the end.

Converting Rubric Scores to Grades

The assessments I‚Äôve discussed in this post are designed to provide information for you‚ÄĒabout how students are doing and what you need to teach.

But we also have to share information with other people‚ÄĒlike parents and administrators.

If you use my writing units, the unit-specific rubrics are great to share with parents.

Sometimes, however, you might also need to produce letter or number grades. If this is the case, here’s what I recommend doing:

  1. Meet with your team. Bring the scored rubric(s) you want to use to generate grades for students.
  2. With your team, decide what constitutes an A, B, C, etc. You can do this with number grades too. For instance, you might say that scoring 31-33 points on the unit-specific rubric above is an A, 28-30 points is a B, etc. Is it a little bit subjective? Yes, but grading writing always is, to some degree!

As long as you and your team (or just you, if you’re on your own) have created specific number ranges for each grade, you will be able to easily justify your grades to parents or administrators. Make sure to keep the rubric(s) that you used to generate the grades so that you can provide in-depth explanations if necessary. Honestly, rubrics provide so much more useful information to parents than grades do!

Rubrics Done For You

Want these rubrics (and writing lessons) done for you? Check out my kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade writing bundles. All of the rubrics in this post come from these resources!

Kindergarten Writing Workshop Curriculum Learning At The Primary Pond

First Grade Writing Workshop Curriculum Learning At The Primary Pond

Second Grade Writing Workshop Curriculum by Learning At The Primary Pond

If you don’t need lessons but are interested in JUST the genre rubrics, you can grab those here (note – these are already included in the above bundles, so no need to purchase if you already have a bundle!):

Happy teaching!!

How To Analyze Running Records (And Get a Ton of Valuable Information About Your Beginning Readers!)

This might sound strange, but I love it when my little¬†readers make mistakes. And it’s definitely not because I want to see them fail!

Rather, seeing¬†those¬†mistakes gives me¬†incredible information about what my students¬†can¬†do, as well as what they’re¬†not yet doing. It helps me figure out what decoding strategies to teach, what phonics patterns they need to work on, and what kind of coaching I can use to best support them.

In today’s post, I’m going to share exactly how I analyze primary students’ decoding errors in order to gain information about them as readers. I also have some freebies¬†that will help you better understand exactly what your students need!

This post is part of a 6-post series on reading interventions that I began last week. If you missed the first post in the series, you can check it out here.

Running records don't have to be a chore - find out how to use them to get tons of helpful information about your students as readers! Post also links to free running record form options.
Photo Credit: Serhiy Kobyakov

How to Gather Information About Students’ Decoding Errors

There are many different literacy assessments out there that can give us data about¬†our students’ reading. And although it’s one of the simplest assessments out there, the running record¬†is my favorite.

When you take a running record, you not only record when students make mistakes, but you also write down their miscues (the word(s) they say instead of the correct word) and self-corrections (when they fix up their mistakes). Students’¬†miscues and self-corrections give you information about what they¬†are doing while they read, as well as what they are¬†not yet doing. Knowing this is incredibly valuable because it helps you figure out what to teach your kiddos¬†next!

Here’s an example:

A student is reading the sentence, “We looked at the bridge” on a page where the photo shows two children looking at a bridge.

If the child reads, “We looked at the book” and does not correct the error, this tells me a couple of things. First, the child¬†can¬†use¬†the first letter of a word¬†when attempting to decode an unfamiliar word. Second, the child is¬†paying attention¬†to sentence structure (the sentence still sounds right despite the mistake).

However, the child is¬†not reading all the way through the word, and the child is¬†not consistently attending to meaning (she should have¬†used the picture to figure out that the word was “bridge”). In this case, the student was also not self-monitoring using meaning, because she did not correct the error. She didn’t notice that what she read did not match the story or the picture.

That one tiny mistakes gives us a lot of potential information about that reader. If the reader continues to make similar errors throughout the rest of the book, this provides further support for our inferences about what the reader is and is not doing.

Getting Ready to Take a Running Record

So how do you prepare for a running record? Well, the nice thing is that getting ready is pretty simple.

First, choose a text that will be at the student’s instructional level. Read the book (if you haven’t already), grab a blank running record form, and prepare a couple of comprehension prompts.

If you need free running record forms, sign up to receive them by putting your info in the box below – but be sure to read the rest of this post so you’ll know how to use all the different options! (Sidenote: If you signed up last week to receive the intervention freebies, you will already have these in your inbox.)

Then, carve out time to give the running record to the student. Since it’s a one-on-one assessment, this can get tricky – so¬†I like to build running records into my guided reading time.

When my students sit down at the table to begin a¬†guided reading lesson, they reread familiar texts from the group’s book box.¬†Meanwhile, I grab the book that we read during the previous lesson and have one student read it to me. I take a running record of the child’s reading and ask a few comprehension questions afterward.

As a classroom teacher, I took one running record per group per day. This way, I got through my entire class about once a month. I do take running records on some students¬†more frequently, because their group is “lower” and is meeting with me more often than the other groups. This is a good thing, because it allows me to keep a close eye on my struggling readers’ progress.

Taking the Running Record

When you take a running record, you have to move fast! The more you can write down about a child’s miscues and reading behaviors, the better. If you’re just starting out with running records, you may find it tricky to keep up with a child’s reading. The more you practice, the easier it’ll be (although I still don’t catch everything if a child is reading quickly).

Sometimes, you’ll have a running record that contains the words of the text. Reading A to Z¬†has some books that come with running records, as does the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.

However, you can just as easily take a running record on a blank form or even a blank sheet of paper if you’re in a pinch! Let’s take a look at how you¬†would take a running record using a blank form.

First, let’s imagine that a student is reading this text (from my take-home books bundle). Here is a layout of the complete text:

The Rainy Day Page 1 for Running Record Demonstration
The Rainy Day page 2 for Running Record Demonstration

Watch this video to see how I take a basic running record (I don’t actually have a student with me during the video, so you’ll have to use your imagination!). You can follow along with the actual text using the images above.

There are different ways to mark down reading behaviors and errors. Always stick with the system agreed upon by your team or school, for purposes of consistency. I try to use the scoring recommended for the F&P Benchmark Assessment (I say “try” because I was trained to do it a bit¬†differently and sometimes make mistakes!).

You can take a look at the Reading A to Z running record scoring suggestions, as well as Heinemann’s version. If your team or school doesn’t have an agreed-upon system, perhaps you can initiate that conversation. Consistency in this area can be helpful when a team is examining student assessment data.

Reviewing the Running Record

Once you’ve taken the running record, take a few minutes to look it over. Although I don’t always have time to look over my running records the same day that I take them, I always sit down with a pile of them at least once a week. I use the information I gather in order to plan next week’s instruction.

This post shows you how to take and analyze a running record and even includes a demonstration video!

First, count up the number of errors. Take the number of words read correctly (WC), divide that by the total number of words in the book (TW), and then multiply that number by 100 (WC / TW x 100). That will give you the percent of total words read accurately.

In the running record in the video, the “reader” made 5 errors (we don’t count the ones he self-corrected). There were 74 total words (TW), so he read 69 of them correctly (WC).

69 / 74 x 100 = 93. The child read this book with 93% accuracy.

The percent of words read correctly gives us some information about whether this book and the child were a good match. When a¬†beginning reader¬†can read a text¬†with 95% accuracy or higher, that book is at the child’s independent level. She can read it without support, on her own.

When a beginning reader reads a text with 90%-94% accuracy, we consider the text to be at her instructional level. The imaginary child in my running record read this text with 93% accuracy, indicating that this text is probably at his instructional level.

Reading a text with lower than 90% accuracy generally means that the text is too difficult for the reader.

By itself, however, the accuracy percentage¬†doesn’t tell the whole story.

We also have to take a look at comprehension and fluency. I’m not going to dive deep into either of these areas, because decoding is the focus of this blog post series. However, it’s important to look at comprehension¬†when considering instructional level.¬†Even if a child reads a text with a high level of accuracy, it’s not at his instructional level if his comprehension of the text is poor.¬†We shouldn’t¬†choose books for our students that they cannot comprehend at all, because even supportive teaching¬†will not be enough to help the child “bridge the gap” and understand the text.

It’s also important to consider fluency when determining an instructional level. A child may read a book with good accuracy and comprehension – but if it takes the student¬†half an hour to finish the book, then it’s not a good choice for guided reading time! To quickly rate a child’s fluency on a running record, I like to jot down a number between 1 and 3 (1 = disfluent, 2 = somewhat fluent, and 3 = fluent). It’s very simple, and I can elaborate with notes, but it’s a quick and easy way to address fluency on a running record.

In the free intervention toolkit, I’ve included several different running record forms to help you calculate reading accuracy, rate comprehension, and score fluency.¬†Again, you can sign up to receive those intervention materials here:

How to Analyze Running Records for Use of Cueing Systems (M-S-V)

After you’ve calculated reading accuracy and taken a look at comprehension and fluency, it’s time to analyze the child’s¬†miscues and¬†self-corrections¬†in more depth!

You might have noticed the M-S-V columns on running record forms. These columns can be used to analyze the cueing systems that children are using as they read. When we talk about¬†cueing systems, we are asking ourselves, “What types of information is this reader using, sometimes using, and not using as she reads?”

The “M” in¬†MSV¬†stands for “meaning.”¬†This is sometimes also referred to as “semantics.” When a child makes a mistake, we can ask ourselves, “Was the child paying attention to what makes sense? Did the reader look at any pictures¬†and think about the meaning of the text?”

When, on p. 4, my imaginary reader read, “It is rainy” instead of “It is raining,” he was paying attention to meaning. We can clearly see, from the picture, that it is rainy outside. Although the reader did not pay attention to all of the letters in the word (we’ll get to that later), that miscue does preserve meaning. The sentence still makes sense. In the M-S-V Error columns in the same row that we marked the error, I would write “M.:

This post shows you how to take and analyze a running record and even includes a demonstration video!

We can also ask ourselves whether a reader¬†self-corrects using meaning. On p. 7, my imaginary reader initially read, “You were ready!” instead of “You were right!” He then went back and self-corrected that error, because “You were right” makes much more sense in the story. We would write the letter “M” in the Self-Correction column next to it.

The “S” in MSV¬†stands for “syntax.” When a child reads a word incorrectly, we can ask, “Was the child paying attention to syntax? Did they substitute a word that still sounds right in the sentence? Is the sentence still grammatically correct?”

On p. 1, the “rainy” instead of “raining” error still sounds right in the sentence. In this case, the reader was paying attention to syntax, because he substituted a word that keeps the sentence grammatically accurate.

However, on p. 2, when the reader said “You can put on a rain clothes” instead of “You can put on a rain coat,” he was probably not paying attention to what sounded right. The sentence no longer works grammatically. Similarly, when the child read “rain boot” instead of “rain boots,” and “dressing” instead of “dressed,” he was not paying attention to syntax.

We can also learn about a child’s use of syntactical cues¬†through his self-corrections. On p. 3, my imaginary reader went back and read “You can get an umbrella” after initially reading “You can get a umbrella.” He probably noticed that “a umbrella” didn’t sound right, and he self-corrected accordingly.

This post shows you how to take and analyze a running record and even includes a demonstration video!

The “V”¬†in MSV stands for “visual.” (When I first learned about this cueing system, we called it¬†“graphophonics,” but it’s the same thing.) When a child makes a mistake, we can ask, “Did the child pay attention to the print on the page? Does the word he read match the letters? What word parts or patterns is the child missing?”

In my example running record, we see our imaginary reader pay attention to certain visual cues¬†and¬†ignore others. On p. 2, he substituted “clothes” for “coat.” He got the first sound correct, but did not read the rest of the word. The same is true of the “boot” for “boots” error, as well as “dressing” for “dressed.” In all of these cases, the reader IS using visual cues for the first part of the word – but not for the rest of the word. There are no errors where the reader completely ignored visual cues.

We can also observe whether or not the reader is using visual cues to self-correct. On p. 4, the reader originally read “hat” instead of “rain.” He noticed that the word he said didn’t match the letters on the page, so he self-corrected. Or, he may have read ahead and seen that the following word said “hat,” and then realized the first word was “rain.” In either case, he was paying attention to visual clues when he self-corrected the error.

To make things a bit more complicated…readers often use more than one cueing system when decoding and self-correcting!! This is actually a good thing, because we want readers to cross-check, but it does make scoring for M-S-V a bit more complicated.

Let’s look at the sentence where the reader read “They went out” instead of “They went outside.” In this example, the reader DID pay attention to meaning – the sentence still makes sense. He also paid attention to syntax clues – the sentence is grammatically correct. And he did use visual information as well, because “out” is part of the word “outside” – he just didn’t use all visual cues available. For this error, I would make marks for M, S, and V, because the reader did use all of these cueing systems in his attempt at the word.

This post shows you how to take and analyze a running record and even includes a demonstration video!

Whew Рthat was a lot of information! Using running records probably sounds like a whole lot of work. However, the more you practice scoring them for MSV, the easier it is to do it.

I have been taking running records for about ten years now, and I still do not score every single running record for¬†M-S-V. Because I’m a reading specialist and take multiple running records each day, I’d probably have to live at school in order to score all running records this way!

I do enjoy going home at a reasonable hour, so I am selective about which running records I score using M-S-V. I see my students daily, so each week I score 1 or 2 running records (per child) using the M-S-V columns.

If you’re in the classroom and have a whole heap of running records, try scoring¬†3-5 per week using M-S-V. If your time is limited, focus on those students who are struggling or “stuck.”¬†Or, if you’re not sure what strategies to teach to move a child forward,¬†analyze a couple of their running records to figure out what you should teach them next.

How to Get Valuable Information by Searching for Error (and Success) Patterns

But wait…there’s more!! Even after I’ve scored the running record for accuracy and M-S-V, I’m not really done looking at it. Now it’s time to use all this information to make inferences about the reader.

Clear patterns can emerge from your M-S-V scoring. On one hand, you can tell what a child is doing well. If you’ve placed marks in the “M” column for most of the child’s errors and self-corrections, you can tell that the child is definitely attending to meaning. This child thinks about the content of the text and uses that knowledge to decode words. This is great, and something that you can compliment the child on and encourage him to continue doing.

On the other hand, you may be able to see gaps in the child’s use of the cueing systems. If a child’s errors often cause the sentence to no longer sound right (as in the example running record I presented), then that child is not using syntactical cues frequently enough.

Or, if a child is using only¬†one cueing system at a time (you’ve placed just one mark in either M, S, or V for most errors and self-corrections), the child needs to learn to cross-check and use more than one source of information when decoding.

Other patterns can emerge from the words a child reads correctly, as well as his miscues and self-corrections. I like to look over all the errors a child makes and see if any patterns stand out to me. Here is a list of some of the things I look for with beginning readers (this list is also included in the free intervention toolkit):

  • Use of word parts –¬†Does the child use¬†word beginnings (first letter or letters)? Attend to the middle of words? Read the ends of words correctly? What about inflected endings (-ing, -ed, -s, -es)?
  • Use of phonics and word¬†patterns –¬†Does the child stumble on digraphs, blends, or consonant clusters? Notice and read chunks in words? Apply spelling pattern knowledge to his reading?
  • Use of vowel sound knowledge –¬†Does the child read short/long vowel sounds correctly? Which vowels does the child read correctly/incorrectly? How does the reader do with vowel spelling patterns that consist of more than one letter? Does the student¬†try different vowel sounds when one doesn’t sound right?
  • Use of sight words – Does the child apply sight word knowledge to his reading? Is he recognizing and reading high frequency words quickly? Is there a difference between the child’s ability to read sight words out of context and his ability to read sight words in connected text?

In addition to considering a child’s word reading habits, I also look for information about his general reading behaviors. I search to find out if the child is:

  • Using a variety of¬†strategies to decode tricky words
  • Making multiple attempts at a tricky word
  • Appealing for help
  • Rerunning¬†(going back and rereading during tricky parts, when he is confused, or to gain more meaning from a sentence)
  • Self correcting at a rate of 1:5 or better¬†(to find the self-correction ratio,¬†add the number of self corrections to the number of errors, then divide that by the¬†number of self-corrections – see my free running record sheets for more details)

I also look at fluency (attention to punctuation, smooth reading, expression, etc.), but I won’t go into that here since our focus is decoding.

When you download the free intervention toolkit (sign up below the photos), you will¬†find¬†several¬†different types of running record forms. These¬†“at a glance” forms¬†will help you quickly find and summarize information about students’ error patterns and reading behaviors!

Get a variety of running record forms and checklists for beginning readers for FREE!

Get a variety of running record forms and checklists for beginning readers for FREE!

Get a variety of running record forms and checklists for beginning readers for FREE!

Get a variety of running record forms and checklists for beginning readers for FREE!

What Should We Do With All This Information?

Running records can truly serve as a gold mine for information about students’ reading. However, all the data we get is only valuable when we use it to take action!

During the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing posts about how to teach reading strategies, as well as phonemic awareness and phonics skills, based upon your running records (and other assessment results). Stay tuned, because I have many more freebies, including hands-on activities for your struggling decoders!

Update: The series is now complete! You can find the rest of the posts here:

What Causes Decoding Difficulties in Beginning Readers, and What Can Teachers Do About It?

How to Teach Decoding Strategies to Struggling Readers

Phonological Awareness Interventions for Struggling Readers

Phonics Interventions for Struggling Readers in K-2

How To Give Struggling Readers More Practice Time Through Volume Reading


Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (2009). When readers struggle: Teaching that works. Heinemann.

*The¬†authors of this text are in no way affiliated with this blog ‚Äď I am referencing their work as a means of explaining and supporting the ideas I set forth in this post.*

Communication Logs: A Tool for Teacher Collaboration

Teacher collaboration¬†is key to students’ success, especially when a child works with multiple teachers throughout the day. ¬†Honestly, though, it’s hard to find the time to collaborate with our colleagues.

Even when we are lucky enough to have common plan periods or a regular meeting schedule, talking about how to help individual kids doesn’t always happen. The school day is SO busy, and¬†other things just seem to get in the way.

As a reading specialist, I work with 2 program assistants who deliver reading interventions to our bilingual K-2 students. The three of us service about 30-40 kids in a given year. And even though I only personally see about 10 of those kids, I still need to be aware of how they are doing. I help make decisions about their interventions and sit in on problem-solving meetings about those students.

Even though my two assistants and I work in the same room together, it’s been difficult to find time to collaborate. I want to stay up-to-date on how students are doing, and they often have questions for me. We do touch base in person whenever possible, but our schedules are definitely packed.

So this year I’m trying something new. I’ve created communication¬†logs for us to use, and I’m asking the assistants to create an entry for each child at least every other week.

Use these communication logs to collaborate with other teachers and help struggling students succeed!

Here’s what each log sheet looks like:

Use this sheet to communicate with aides and other teachers who see your primary students for reading!

Each time one of the program assistants makes an entry, she dates it, checks off something the child is doing well, and checks off 1-2 things that the child is struggling with. In the fourth column over, she elaborates on her notes and writes down any questions she has for me. She leaves the fifth column blank, so that I can write my response to her with any suggestions and ideas.

This certainly doesn’t replace face-to-face communication (especially for more serious issues). But I hope that it will be a step in the right direction for improving our communication about specific students. I also like that it will provide me with a written record that I can easily grab when heading to a meeting about one of the children.

If your students work with aides, volunteers, ESL teachers, or other support teachers, you can try out one of these communication logs, too. I’m giving one binder to each program assistant, and then she will have a different sheet for each child (and will add more as time goes on). To download the binder covers I used, click on the photo below (they do not have the little initials in the bottom right-hand corners – those are just for my program assistants):


If you’d like to use the same log sheet that I do (geared toward primary-grades readers and writers), click on the image below. There is also a blank form that does not have the little checklist of literacy behaviors, in case you have older students or are using it for math or another subject:


If you try these out, let me know how it goes! To stay updated on how I’m using the logs and our other intervention activities, follow me here on Instagram.

Happy teaching!

How To Form Guided Reading Groups By Using Multiple Data Points (K-2)

Throughout the school year, changing your guided reading groups to meet your students’ needs is (usually) relatively simple. If one student is struggling in a group, you bump her down to a lower group. Conversely, if a student is doing exceptionally well, you bump her up to a higher group.

But what about the beginning of the school year? In my opinion, forming groups for the first time is significantly more difficult than making changes later on.

If you’re like me, you may find yourself wondering things like, “Should I pay more attention to decoding or comprehension when I make my groups?” and “Can I put students with different reading levels in the same group?” Some years, my groups have come together nicely, but other years I’ve struggled with grouping a bit more.

I wish that I had some magical tip or strategy¬†to share¬†that would make setting up your groups a cinch. I certainly don’t! I can only share what has worked for me in previous years, as well as the things that I’ve struggled with along the way.

In¬†today’s post, I’ll walk you through how I made my guided reading groups by considering¬†multiple data points. Since Kindergarten at the beginning of the year is such unique situation, I’ve divided this post into two sections: one for¬†Kindergarten and primary (1st/2nd).

I hope¬†that hearing my thinking¬†will help you think through your own grouping. I also hope that you’ll share your own tips and ideas in the comments!

How to Form Guided Reading Groups By Using Multiple Data Points

Photo attribution:  Christo/Shutterstock


I usually started guided reading at the end of September or very beginning of October in my Kindergarten classroom (after about 4-6 weeks of school). I think that Kindergarten is the hardest grade level to make guided reading groups for, at least at the beginning! Here’s what I did to come up with my groups:

1. I administered a formal assessment. ¬†First, the bilingual resource teacher gave my students the ISEL. This is an Illinois assessment (ISEL = Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy) that tests beginning Kindergarteners’ knowledge of letter sounds, letter names, basic phonemic awareness, ability to match 1:1 when tracking print, and listening comprehension. If you don’t have access to the ISEL or another “emergent reader” assessment at your school, you can still administer¬†letter names¬†and sounds tests, as well as a phonemic awareness assessment (if you have a membership to Reading A to Z, find helpful assessments here). I know that it’s difficult to give one-on-one assessments at the beginning of the year in Kinder, but perhaps¬†your reading specialist or other support teacher can assist you.

2. I had students practice reading patterned books like we would be doing during guided reading. I found or printed copies of a simple patterned book for all of my students, and I modeled how to read the book. Then, I gave them all their own copies and had them practice reading them during independent reading time. I made notes about who was able to imitate my reading, track print left to right, point 1 to 1, etc. I wanted to see, more or less, how far along each child was in mastering print concepts for emergent readers. I did this with a couple of books before making my groups.

3. I used the ISEL¬†results and my notes about students’ reading¬†to make my best guess about grouping.¬†Using just a letter sound or letter naming test, in my opinion, would not have been sufficient. Students may know their letter names and some sounds, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be able to read patterned books. Yes, we do some letter sound work during guided reading, but the kids also have to, well, read. Students need to grasp¬†some print concepts¬†in order to be successful with those little books.

I also prioritized letter sound knowledge over letter name knowledge, because students need letter sound knowledge in order to begin decoding. I made my groups (more or less) like this:

Group 1 (highest group):  Strong letter sound knowledge + strong understanding of print concepts

Group 2:  Some letter sound knowledge + strong understanding of print concepts

Group 3:  Some letter sound knowledge + some grasp of print concepts

Group 4:  Low letter sound knowledge + some grasp of print concepts

Group 5 (lowest group):  Low letter sound knowledge + little grasp of print concepts

I know that the words I’ve used here, like “low,” and “some,” are vague. But my main point is that I looked at¬†both letter sound knowledge and grasp of print concepts. In isolation, neither data point would be very helpful in determining my groups, but they were useful¬†when I used them together.

To simplify all of this for you, I’ve created an EDITABLE Excel spreadsheet that you can download here. ¬†You first input the number of letter sounds known by each student (column B), and it will generate a value for you (1-3) in column C. ¬†A 1 indicates that the student knows few or no letter sounds (between 0 and 5), a 2 indicates that the student knows some letter sounds (6-17), and a 3 indicates that the student knows many letter sounds (18-26).

Next, I’ve included 3 print concepts that you can observe in your students. Does the child point to the words when reading or pretend reading? Does the child point to just one word as she says one word aloud (matching 1:1)? Does the child turn pages left-to-right and track print left-to-right? Give each child a 0 for “no” or a 1 for “yes” in these three columns. Then, column G will automatically generate a score from 1-3.

When you’re¬†done, you’ll have two scores for each child – a letter sounds score and a print concepts score (each on a scale from 1-3). You can sort your students by scores within the spreadsheet, and then use these scores in conjunction to help you make your guided reading groups.

Believe me¬†when I say that there’s nothing magic¬†about this little formula I’ve created – it’s just something basic that has helped me simplify the murky process of making groups for the first time.

I also want to mention that I don’t ignore phonemic awareness or comprehension skills when making groups. I definitely looked at students’ scores in these areas, and this data further helped me make grouping decisions. The spreadsheet I’ve linked to above is just a starting point.

Even after looking at multiple data points to come up with my groups, they don’t¬†work out perfectly. I almost always make a few changes¬†after the first week or two. But using this strategy certainly gives me a good place to start!

Primary (1st/2nd)

I used multiple data points to make my guided reading groups in 1st/2nd, just as I did in Kindergarten. However, the data points I used were different, since most students in 1st/2nd are beginning to read traditionally.

Here’s the data¬†that I considered when making my guided reading groups:

1. Decoding and comprehension:¬†I know that these two areas are often considered to be separate, but I’ve grouped them together here. Decoding and comprehension jointly make up a student’s reading level, which is the most important factor I consider when making my groups.

I love using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System to find my students’ guided reading levels. In this assessment system, you give running records and comprehension checks to find your students’ instructional reading levels (the level that each student should be reading at during guided reading – whenever possible). This assessment ensures that you take into account both¬†decoding skills and comprehension abilities.

If you don’t have access to this wonderful assessment, you can still take running records of your students’ reading and then ask questions/have them do a retelling to check their comprehension. Reading A to Z has benchmark assessments that you can use (and a correlation chart to help you match the Reading A to Z levels to Guided Reading levels, DRA, and Lexile levels).

Although I’ve lumped decoding and comprehension together for purposes of determining a reading level, I still¬†do pay attention to each component separately. Two students at the same reading level may have very different needs! For example, one student may be “stuck” at a Level G due to decoding reasons, although her comprehension at higher levels may be very good. Another student may be at a Level G because although she could decode¬†more difficult text, her comprehension declines at higher reading levels.

Depending upon the makeup of my class, I may have to put those two students in the same group. However, I would definitely want to devote additional time to addressing those students’ needs. The student who has decoding issues, for example, would benefit from small group word study instruction.

2. Fluency:¬†Fluency is another important factor that I consider when¬†making¬†groups. If a child can¬†decode and comprehend text at Level H, for example, but it takes¬†him 20 minutes to read that text…well, he probably doesn’t belong in a group with other students who read Level H books in 5 minutes, even if he is technically at¬†the same instructional level.

There are many different ways to rate students’ fluency. I typically use¬†the fluency rating component¬†from the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment system I described above. You can also use timed reading assessments like Aimsweb¬†or DIBELS¬†to evaluate students’ accuracy¬†and rate. But if you use one of those timed assessments, don’t forget to think about things¬†like phrasing and attention to punctuation – those are part of fluency, too! Reading A to Z also has some fluency passage assessments¬†that you can try out, if you have a subscription.

Note: ¬†I never, ever make a decision solely based upon students’ fluency or reading rate. Assessments like Aimsweb or DIBELS can be useful, but they (in my opinion) should not be used to determine grouping for guided reading. I typically use fluency¬†to help determine if a student can¬†go up or down one group – after looking¬†at their decoding and comprehension abilities.

3. Sight word knowledge: This data point is particularly relevant for first grade, in my opinion, and is closely related to fluency. The more words that a students can read instantly, the more quickly she will finish a text (usually). Additionally, when a student spends less time decoding high-frequency words, this means that she can (usually) devote more brain-power to comprehending a text.

Just like with fluency measures, I would never use a sight word test as the sole determiner for setting up my guided reading groups. However, if you find yourself uncertain about which of two groups a child belongs in, looking at sight word knowledge can be helpful in determining if the student should go “up” or “down.”

You can download a simple, EDITABLE Excel spreadsheet to track all of the above data points by clicking here.

In a nutshell, to determine guided reading groups in primary, I look first at decoding and comprehension to find an instructional reading level, and I then look at fluency/sight word knowledge. As much as possible, I group students by reading level. But you know as well as I do that it’s hard to get the groups to fall perfectly. I like to keep 4-6 students in each group, so sometimes that requires moving students “up” a group or “down” a group.

Here’s a list of situations in which I would move a student up or down:

If necessary, I bump a student “up” when…

  • She missed the next level up due to a minor decoding error or two (but still had strong comprehension of the text)


  • She reads with strong comprehension and strong fluency / a rapid reading rate at her instructional level

If necessary, I bump a student “down” when…

  • She read the text at her instructional level with low fluency and a slow reading rate (and she may also struggle with sight words)


  • Her comprehension at her instructional reading level was passable, but not very strong


  • Her¬†oral language skills are not particularly strong, and she needs a lot of prompting to answer comprehension questions about texts at¬†her instructional reading level

Something I would never do is use the results of a single assessment to form my groups. At my school, for example, the kiddos take the NWEA-MAP test. Although the results can give me some insight into my students’ abilities (and it provides Lexile ranges), I do not consider it a tool for grouping students. I prefer to rely on tests where I can observe students’ reading behaviors firsthand, so that I can¬†find out more about¬†why they are struggling or excelling in certain areas.


Whew! This has been a long post, so thanks for sticking with me. I hope it’s given you some ideas about how to set up your guided reading groups at the beginning of the year.

The good news is that once you form your groups, they aren’t set in stone! I like to take one running record (of one child’s reading)¬†each time I meet with a group. That way, I can use that data to inform my instruction and re-group my students as needed.

Do you need guided reading lessons and a strategy for keeping everything organized? Check out my guided reading bundles below (single-level packs and other bundle options are available HERE):

Kindergarten guided reading bundle from Learning At The Primary Pond

Happy teaching!

This Week in Intervention: Kindergarten Literacy Assessment

First of all, holy cow!  It has been about 5 weeks since I was able to do my weekly “This Week in Intervention” post.  Thanks to Christmas break, some snow days, and lots and lots of assessing/data crunching, I haven’t seen kids for intervention for a full week since the second week in December.  Yikes!

But this week I finally started getting back into somewhat of a routine…sort of.  For the first part of the school year, I had been seeing bilingual K-2nd graders for interventions, but due to the number of students in K who qualified based upon our January assessments, I am now working with 100% Kindergarteners!  I am definitely excited to work with the grade level that I am most comfortable with.  I love Kinders and their enthusiasm for learning!  I’m a little sad to have to “leave” my 1st and 2nd graders – but they will be in good hands and will still get extra help from bilingual reading assistants. 

I’m now going to be implementing a district-developed program for Kindergarten intervention…and I have a lot of learning to do.  The program is only 15 mins per kiddo, which is great for their little attention spans, but there’s a lot I have to cram into those 15 minutes.  On Thursday I met with my Kinders for the first time.  We started off nice and easy, by reading an alphabet book together, and I also had each child create a cover sheet for their folder, just for a little personalization and fun:

This week I also created a little checklist to help me with record keeping.  I do have “official” paperwork to fill out for the program, but my schedule in the afternoon is crazy (seeing 10 total Kinders in a span of a little over 2 hours – with no time in between).  So I needed something that I could use to very, very quickly mark how the kids are doing.  I came up with this little half sheet checklist:

I created it around the activities included in our program, but it’s probably general enough to use with a Kinder or 1st grade guided reading group.  To download, just click on the image.

This week I’ve also been hard at work on my presentation for the SDE Conference for Illinois First Grade Teachers.  If you live in Illinois and teach 1st grade, come see me (and many other much more distinguished presenters) in Oak Lawn, February 23-24th.

Have a great weekend!!

Meaningful End-Of-Unit Projects

Hey there!  Today I’m blogging about something related to one of my very favorite teaching topics – integrated/thematic units!  When I was in the classroom, creating integrated units was one of my very favorite things to do.  I love tying science and social studies learning into literacy instruction (and math-, when possible).  When my kids are reading, writing, and learning about a topic or theme throughout the school day, they learn so much more vocabulary and gain so much more knowledge than if we are reading random texts during the literacy block and studying a topic only during science and social studies time.  

But moving on from my love affair with integrated units…one of the most important parts (in my opinion) of an integrated unit is the final project!  In a good final project, kids show what they’ve learned.  But in a great final project, kids share what they’ve learned with a real audience and for a real purpose!

Some of the end-of-unit projects I’ve done include:
– Making posters with healthy eating tips and placing them in the school hallways (from my food and farm unit)
– Making books about a topic of study and reading them to younger students or their parents
– Creating a class book about a topic and placing it in the classroom or school library
– Writing letters to the principal or someone in the community to share information and suggestions about how to solve a problem
– Having students participate in a community service project (from my giving project unit
– Helping students create a class video about a topic, for sharing with parents or other students in the school

Sometimes I’ve found that these projects don’t always make a great assessment for the unit – because they don’t thoroughly assess students’ understanding of the topics covered in the unit.  In these cases, I have students complete a quiz or other small project in addition to the more “meaningful” final project for a real audience and a real purpose.  This allows me to get an accurate picture of students’ learning while still providing a meaningful end-of-unit activity.

One of the best parts of developing a meaningful end-of-unit activity is that you can talk about it throughout the entire unit!  When I introduce a unit, I mention what we will be doing at the end in a way that gets the kids excited and looking forward to the project.  This also helps with motivation during the unit (“Why are we learning ____?” “So that we can _____ when we do our final project!” 

Do you create projects or assessments for your students that have a real audience and a real purpose?  Share your ideas below!

Happy teaching!

Children’s Oral Language & Literacy Development

Oral language often takes a backseat to other subjects in the curriculum. ¬†We do curriculum mapping to make sure we cover all of the reading, writing, and math standards for our students, but how often do we map out a plan for addressing oral language skills? ¬†In my state, Illinois, we use the Common Core Standards, and I have to admit¬†that I almost always look¬†at the other literacy standards and only infrequently glance at the “Speaking and Listening” standards. ¬†

But guess what? ¬†THIS IS NOT GOOD!! ¬†Recently, I’ve had the¬†opportunity to participate in some professional development and learn more about students’ oral language and literacy development. I want to share what I’ve learned so far with you, because oral language development is definitely something worth paying attention to – whether you teach ELLs or students whose¬†first language is English. ¬†Read on for some of the facts that I’ve learned about how students’ oral language affects their literacy development, as well as some tips to help develop your students’ oral language.


1. ¬†Oral language is one of the most powerful tools young children have to help them learn about the world.¬† As babies and toddlers learn to understand and produce language, their knowledge about the world around them grows¬†exponentially. ¬†For example, they may first call all small pets “dogs,” only later learning about the categories of “dog” and “cat.” ¬†When students begin school at the age of 5, their oral language development is far from finished. ¬†If we don’t allow our students opportunities to grow their oral language, we are impeding their learning. ¬†Which leads me to…
2. ¬†Oral language develops through use.¬† We can talk all day until we are blue in the face, but students’ oral language will only develop when they have opportunities to use it. ¬†That means we gotta let ’em talk!
3. ¬†There are ways we can assess students’ oral language¬†development. ¬†One 3-minute assessment I was recently introduced to is an Oral Language Assessment by Mondo. ¬†Click {here} to download the assessment for free (scroll down to where it says “Let’s Talk About It! Oral Language Assessment”). ¬†In this assessment, you say aloud sentences of varying lengths, and students have to repeat back the sentences to you (one at a time). ¬†Students are supposed to be able to correctly repeat back at least 14 of the 15 sentences by the middle of first grade. ¬†But…
4. ¬†Many struggling readers also struggle with oral language. ¬†If you give the assessment that I linked to above to struggling readers (even those in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade), they will likely not achieve the score that a 1st grader is¬†supposed to have achieved. ¬†Eek!¬† If you transcribe what a child has repeated back to you during the assessment, you can look for patterns. ¬†Is the child missing verb phrases? ¬†Subjects? ¬†Pronouns? ¬†Prepositions? ¬†These gaps will also show up in the child’s reading and writing. ¬†
5. ¬†Listening comprehension precedes reading comprehension.¬† If a student can’t repeat back what you said during the assessment, then they will likely not comprehend the same sentence in text, EVEN if they can decode it. ¬†Let’s take a look at this sentence from the assessment:

The car and the truck were carrying some large boxes.

This sentence might seem pretty simple at first glance.  But it contains all of the following ideas:

РThere was a car
– There was also a truck
–¬†The car and the truck were carrying some¬†boxes
–¬†The boxes that they were carrying were large

If a child cannot repeat back the sentence exactly as it is spoken, he/she likely does not grasp all of those individual ideas that make up the sentence.  Missing many small details like this adds up to poor reading comprehension and inferential thinking. 

6. ¬†Oral language ability impacts students’ writing.¬† Do you have any students whose writing consists of one big run-on sentence, a bunch of thoughts connected by “and,” “and,” “and?” ¬†They likely sound the same way when they talk.

I feel like I’m sharing lots of bad news here!! ¬†And, honestly, poor oral language development can be really¬†bad news for students when it comes to their literacy development. ¬†However, there ARE things that we can do to support students’ oral language development. ¬†Here are a few ideas:

– Simplify directions given orally. ¬†Students who struggle with listening comprehension / oral language likely will not be able to understand or follow directions that are include lots of clauses, prepositional phrases, etc. ¬†You can’t stop giving multi-step directions just¬†because you have students who struggle with their oral language. ¬†You can, however, give those directions in simple language, one step at a time, with pauses in between. ¬†

– Have students engage in “turn and talks” (think-pair-shares) every 4-5 minutes.¬† This sounded like a lot to me, but again, oral language develops through use – kids need to talk about what they are learning!

– Provide low-risk opportunities for kids to practice talking.¬†¬†Kids need to feel comfortable talking about non-academic topics before they will take risks when talking about their learning. ¬†Low-risk activities can take the form of having students share about their activities over the weekend or asking them to talk to each other about what they see in a funny/strange picture. ¬†During these “practice sessions,” act¬†as a participant or observer in the conversation, rather than bombarding kids with questions. ¬†Encourage kids to use specific vocabulary words during the discussion.

– Help students extend their oral language with prompting. ¬†Here’s a sample conversation between a child (C) and teacher (T):

T:  Where did you go this weekend?
C:  The park.
T:  Oh, you went to the park?  What did you do there?
C:  Played on the swings.
T:  Ah, you played on the swings.  Who did you play with?
C:  My brother!
T:  Great!  You could say, I went to the park and played on the swings with my brother.  Can you say that with me?
C & T:  I went to the park and played on the swings with my brother.
T: ¬†Let’s say that again.
C & T:  I went to the park and played on the swings with my brother.
T:  One more time, what was that sentence?
C:  I went to the park and played on the swings with my brother.
T:  Great job!

Of course, you’re not always going to have time to have these conversations one-on-one with all of your students – but when you do have the opportunity, you can work to help your kids come up with more complex sentences.

– Have students talk before they write.¬† Not only does this develop students’ oral language, but it also helps improve students’ writing. ¬†Have students tell a partner a story before writing it, or the first few sentences they plan to put down on paper when responding to a story. ¬†Young kids need to repeat each sentence¬†a few times before they write it. ¬†If they can’t say the sentence they want to write a few times (without errors), then work on having them come up with a¬†sentence that they can¬†“hold onto” before they write anything down.

РPut kids who struggle with oral language and comprehension into simpler texts.  Even if a child can decode at, say, a level M, if they struggle with oral language and comprehension, try them at a level K.  Help them understand what it feels like to be successful with comprehending text and making inferences.  Then, you can gradually work up to texts with more complex language. 

One of my “teacher resolutions” for the new year is to give my students more opportunities to develop their oral language. ¬†My time with them is short, since I teach intervention groups, but as our presenter put it, we don’t have time not¬†to address oral language. ¬†

Do you plan on trying out any of these ideas? ¬†Or do you have a fun¬†activity to develop students’ oral language? ¬†Comment below!

Happy teaching!



Mullins, C. (Presenter) (2014, December 15). Oral Language Development.

This Week in Intervention: A Summarizing Sheet and Writing Scaffold

Happy weekend!!  This week felt super long after Thanksgiving break.  I was glad to get back on track with my intervention kiddos, though.  Honestly, I was a little worried they’d backtrack during their week off, but it seems like they all read the books I’d given them to take home, and a few of my kids are doing even better than they were before break!  

This week I started something new with my first grade group – post-reading summarizing slips.  We worked on orally summarizing for almost all of November, but it was always hard to get all 3 of my students to participate equally to come up with the oral summary.  I really wanted to know how each child would do individually with summarizing.  Plus, moving forward, I wanted to have them write more often during our group.  So I decided to create summary slips.  After a child reads a text (actually – it is a reread from the previous day), he/she fills out the summary slip and also circles whether the text is fiction or nonfiction.  Not only does this help with the dilemma of kids finishing the reread at different times, but it will also give me some quick, collectable data about their progress.  You can click on either of the pictures below to download for free (both English & Spanish are included).  They are half sheets, but you could also staple multiple copies together to make a little booklet for each of your students.


If you’ve read my previous weekly posts, you might remember that I work with a group of 2nd graders who are very low – they began the year as nonreaders.  They are still very low, and so our group time is actually a series of individual reading conferences in which I work with each student one-on-one.  On Monday, our first day back after Thanksgiving, I asked the boys to write about what they did over break.  I modeled what I expected and wasn’t really asking for anything difficult or out of the ordinary.  But when one of my boys sat down to write, he could not come up with anything.  He did write down two letters, but I don’t think he planned a sentence or really knew what he was trying to say.  I was pretty surprised that he has gotten to 2nd grade without being able to independently write one sentence.  Anyway, when it was his turn to read with me, I scrapped my plans for introducing a new book and instead worked with him on how to plan and write a sentence.  One strategy that he was familiar with (and that he likes) is to write a line for each word.  So I included that in my instruction, and with a little prompting, he was able to plan and write a 3-word sentence.  

Since I want to incorporate more writing into intervention time, I really need him to be able to plan and write sentences independently.  So, I made this visual guide for him to use (both in intervention and in the classroom) and am helping him practice.

If you want to download the visual guide, just click on one of the images below.  Again, I have it in both English and Spanish for you.  It’s very basic, so it’s probably best for average Kinders and 1st graders, or struggling 2nd graders/above.  If you decide to use it, let me know how it goes!


That’s all for now!  Have a wonderful weekend!!