Editor's Note: This blog was previously published, we're re-sharing it as part of our 'Best of' series, a look back at some of our most popular blogs.
By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger
Striving readers in the upper elementary grades face the challenge of growing as readers and writers, while content areas become more difficult. If you're looking for ways to combine language arts and content area reading practice, keep reading. Today's blog post will help you foster student ownership and a love of reading among your striving readers.
Personal Experience with Sparking a Love of Reading
For a year and a half, I helped a fifth-grader in hourly sessions, but before the tutoring began, I studied the child's writing samples, assessed reading aloud, and studied the analysis of her state test scores based on the Common Core State Standards. I selected biographies (Hameray's Inspire! collection has a fantastic selection of individuals), and used books she was reading at school, as well as other reading materials that supported content area learning. We started reading practice at a grade four reading level. Some sessions were based on homework assignments that required writing. The student had a journal that allowed her to practice writing to improve vocabulary, use graphic organizers, and write about inferences and follow-up thinking. A lot of work was done with determining the main idea and summarizing, Multiple syllabled words were analyzed and affixes were addressed. A year later, her sixth-grade reading test score showed she had made significant progress and showed she was ready for the next year's grade level.
Ideas for Students to Take Ownership in Their Learning
Students need to have opportunities to brainstorm what they already know and need to know before they read. When they discuss their prior knowledge about a text in small groups and large groups, encourage them to also explore how it applies to the learning they need to do.
Vocabulary introduction and verbal use of it is essential. The glossary and table of contents are very useful nonfiction text features to engage striving readers in upper elementary grades. They can benefit from multiple uses of these features to help them use the information to answer questions as they review the text. Vocabulary study can include context clues and multi-meaning of words. Writing the main ideas of paragraphs can help kids summarize and can be engaging when they use graphic organizers. You can use the students’ journals to monitor writing growth and do a follow-up with individual or small group proofing.
Your students need to have daily opportunities to read at their independent levels. They will also benefit from teachers who read a narrative text in a dramatic way as a means of modeling and encouraging reading with expressions during guided reading. Fluency is essential to good comprehension as the text gets more difficult.
Reflections on Supporting Literacy Development of Older Elementary Students
After teaching fourth grade for twelve years, I found it helpful for the students to see charts containing the social studies and science vocabulary that can be used as a sponge activity when there is a small bit of time. I also found some of the narrative and informational big books extremely useful for content-area shared reading. These books introduce vocabulary and are designed to invite questioning and discussion.
I also recommend improving family engagement by consistently sharing strengths and areas of improvement of their children. The need for a lot of reading on the independent levels of their students can be emphasized as well. If you'd like to read some ideas to encourage family literacy, you may want to read the following blog posts:
As always, visit our blog soon for more ideas to use with your students.
Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.