I have been experimenting with a new approach to my reading instruction and journals for the past couple of months. Our reading curriculum, while being great for introducing fun, simple fiction stories to my first graders, is seriously lacking in its use of nonfiction.
I have realized in my three short years as a teacher that most reading curriculum has the same problem: cute, fluffy stories used as the basis of instruction, with one or two nonfiction pieces sprinkled throughout.
One of my colleagues and team members was telling me about a website she sometimes used, ReadWorks. This nonprofit focuses on enhancing each child’s comprehension by providing the country’s largest of nonfiction and literary articles, organized by grade and topic. Everything within ReadWorks is based on large amounts of research, and focuses on the following “pillars.”
- The intentional development of background knowledge across subjects to support reading comprehension
- The explicit instruction of academic vocabulary
- The use of gradual release of responsibility methodology
- The use of scaffolds to support comprehension for all learners
- A focus on text structure and syntax
I was instantly sold on using the articles in my classroom, and loved the idea of using the articles hand-in-hand with my daily journal writing.
How I used ReadWorks in my own classroom:
I chose a group of articles each week and added them to my list, which saves them for quick access. I usually chose articles based on our weekly language arts stories, or something we had been talking about in class earlier during the week.
I project the articles on my SmartBoard to the whole class. I read the article out loud once, and we would talk about the vocabulary words embedded within. Then, I read it a second time.
In our journals, we would summarize what we learned from our reading as a class. I would model each day’s writing on the SmartBoard, where my students had the option to add or omit the details of what they learned.
Why is this important?
Students will fail if they can’t read or comprehend what they read.
Studies have shown that spending ten minutes a day with these nonfiction pieces increased words read by students by 49,500 words a year! Test scores have shown a 15% increase over the years with schools that use ReadWorks regularly. Not to mention, student vocabulary dramatically increases!
I was amazed in the months we used ReadWorks that my students remembered very key details about what we read, and they would even discuss with each other certain aspects of what we had learned about. First graders! Imagine the learning that could occur by using ReadWorks throughout their entire school careers!
Take a look at their very impressive journal entries following reading a nonfiction article!