Friday, January 24, 2014

Getting Your Students Ready to Take their Middle of the Year Assessment {in reading}!

Hi guys!
I am Laura from Where the Magic Happens and The Learning Highway. I teach first grade in a year round school on the beautiful NC coast.  I also have a TpT shop that you can visit by clicking here!

Are your students assessed in reading three times a year?? My students are. My district uses mClass Reading 3D TRC.  If you don't know what TRC {Text Reading Comprehension} is let me tell you about it. TRC is an early reading assessment that helps teachers see their students' growth in different areas such as written comprehension. You can find more info on this assessment HERE!!
Through the years I have developed a range of feelings towards TRC, ranging from fear to trust. Perhaps some of you share these feelings about it as well. After much reflection about the best practices in early literacy instruction, I discovered some new strategies that have changed the way I teach.  Today I would like to share   some of the changes I have made that have helped my students be better readers and writers, while at the same time, preparing them to take the TRC:

1.  Read, read, read!!

It is important to know the bridge between theory and practice. Really, go beyond what you are instructed to do. Are you told you must do workshop model? Daily 5? Literacy stations? Guided reading? Strategy lessons? YOU are a professional and you know your students! Close your door and teach! If someone comes to ask what you are doing, be prepared to answer. Knowledge is power! These are some of the books I have read that have empowered me to create an optimal environment for literacy development. I learned something different from each book. Debbie Diller's book taught me how to organize my small groups, The CAFE Book by The 2 Sisters taught me how to do strategy lessons.  The Reading Teacher's Plan Book has it all ready for me, and Reading with Meaning, in my opinion,  is by far one of the best books on metacognitive strategies ever written.

 But the book that truly changed how I approach my small groups is The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson. This book is well structured and to the point. I love the fact that this book taught me how to approach different reading levels, what to do when you have only one  reader who doesn't fit in other groups, and the most important part: a guided writing slot within your guided reading groups. This book is a must read if you have to show comprehension in writing not only with TRC, but with any other assessment. If you are not happy with how you approach your guided reading groups, this is it. It is just  The Bible a great resource.

Based on Jan Richardson's book, I learned about the architecture of a guided reading lesson. She has fabulous lesson plan templates for different levels, but I made my own to better fit my students' needs. You can get it HERE!! Most importantly, you have to mix it up! If at all possible, use both strategy and guided reading lessons.

2. Use aligned writing prompts and establish small guided writing groups

 The goal of Guided Reading is to provide students with text in which they are about 90% accurate, and the teacher meets them at any point of difficulty such as in word recognition, fluency, comprehension, etc. It all sounds SO pretty until the written part.  Yes the written part the students will face when they take the TRC.  I begin by  focusing on oral comprehension first. I mainly use Bloom taxonomy question stems. I add a bit of fun by using this cool gadget. The kids absolutely LOVE this thing! 

With the Common Core Standards in full mode, I really think that we are looking for  more complete readers AND writers, unlike before, when we focused just on reading. Some of you may remember those days. I have now added a  guided writing component to all guided reading  lessons. I did this by creating TRC prompts that are aligned to Reading A-Z books. This gives me the opportunity to teach my students the language of  the test, the chance to discuss and  learn from each other, as well as just write about books!!! More than anything, I can really provide them with effective strategies to produce text. I have been testing during this past week and have never been happier with my students' results. 

You can find the guided writing prompts aligned to Reading A-Z books arranged by levels in my TpT store!

 3.  Group students based on data

Not long ago, someone asked me how many books a week I go through with each  one of my small groups. My answer was simple {and I had read it from the Fountas & Pinnell fan page}: you are not teaching the books, you are teaching the reader! Each reader is different and needs something different from the teacher.  Analyze your data and organize your groups.  I see each one of my small groups for 20 minutes; I do not see all of  them every day. This is a picture of my little schedule:

As you see my red section shows my lowest performing kids, my orange and yellow groups are my ON grade level kids, and my pink and blue groups are my BEYOND grade level kids.  I promise you, if you make a schedule like this and stick to it, it will happen!!!

4. Get organized

Take your interventions seriously.  I organized my resources  by skill in reading and Math. It makes my life easier to have the materials handy, you can find these labels here!! If your district does not provide you with the paperwork to document your data and interventions you can find wonderful resources at Hello Literacy.

So basically the trick to it all is to be practical, patient, and educated in recent practices. Believe me, adding  a writing component to your guided reading/strategy lessons will make a HUGE difference!  These changes will take time and energy, but it is worth it and your students will greatly benefit from all your hard work. So what instrument do you use to assess your students? How does it work? How many times  a year do you assess your students' reading development?

Until next time!


  1. What a thorough post; you have lots of great ideas! I love those Reading A-Z books! You are so organized, too. I find that to be instrumental to a successful guided reading program. I have a folder for each group with large index cards that flip up for notes on each student, as well as assessment sheets. It's hard to remember who did what at the end of the day, so I take notes as they are reading. Very useful when conferencing with parents. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Hi Brenda,
      Thank you for the tip!
      Laura G:)

  2. First I love your blog and you definitely have a clear plan for helping guide your students and support them in preparation for TRC writing component. I completely agree with you regarding the Jan Richardson book- isn't she fabulous? I would love to see your version of her lesson plan template. I tried clicking on your link to the google doc but it gave me the message that I couldn't access that file. Would you be willing to email it to me? Thanks again for sharing your wonderful ideas and also for the intervention basket labels- they are too cute! Where do you get your resources for your interventions? I too live in NC and our district is really strict about the research-based interventions. I have used FCRR and Free Reading but would love some fresh ideas for research based interventions. Thanks for any ideas you can send my way.

    1. Hi Curriculum gal,
      I will check the link to the template! But you can email me at and I will certainly send you the template. And yes! I love, love, love Jan Richardson's structure!
      Laura :)

  3. Thanks so much for this post! I just ordered Jan Richardson's book and am not so patiently waiting for it to arrive!

    Success in Second Grade
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    1. Yay!! It is a great book! Glad you ordered it!!

  4. Wow! What a great post! I have Jan Richardson's book, but haven't had a chance to read it for a while. You have inspired me to re-read it and gave me some ideas for things to try! I can't wait to get started! Thank you!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

  5. Enjoyed your post. Your thinking seems to reflect my own. I think you might enjoy our writing response blog entry for your guided reading. I have been teaching intervention groups for a long time and agree that daily writing is very powerful

  6. What is the 'gadget'?