Saturday, July 9, 2011


Summer is finally here in northern Utah.  It has been very slow in coming this year.  We had record amounts of snowfall in the mountains throughout the winter and into the spring.  We had the wettest spring on record with lots of rain and lots of snow.  When the snowpack should have been melting, it continued to build.  When we finally did start to see some warm temperatures, there was flooding in many areas.  However, we were really blessed because the spring was so cool and long-lasting that the snow melted much slower than was expected.  The flooding came, the rivers were high and fast, but it was not nearly as bad as it could have been.

I always feel like as long as it is June, I have forever.  June is wonderful with warm days, cool nights, and time to recover, renew, and rejuvenate.  But, June seems to end quickly, and once we get into July, it's time to start thinking about school again.  ( Really, I never stop thinking and planning, but July means GET SERIOUS!)  So, I've been working on curriculum materials.  I started, years ago, creating most of my own materials.  I've always been rather dissatisfied with textbook programs.  Whenever I look at a textbook lesson, my first thought is, "Where's the practice?"  It's hard to believe that experts who write these books don't understand how much practice and repetition third graders need to become proficient.  So, I typically re-write or at least supplement every new program my district buys.

Last year, we were given Reading Street 2011.  There are many things I like about the program, and some that I dislike.  I've been busy for the last year writing activities to fill in the gaps in the program and provide extra time-on-task.  I love the way every week's lesson focuses on either a science or social studies concept.  I like having a specifice skill to focus on for spelling, comprehension, and study skills.  However, with my colleagues, we have made some changes to the yearly schedule.  We chose to focus on one study skill per unit, rather than one per week.  We chose the skills that align with our current core curriculum, and focus on them, one at a time.  We then test that skill at the end of the unit.  We also rearranged the schedule for teaching comprehension skills.  Rather than one per week, we teach two per unit, and again, we test comprehension at the end of the unit, not the end of the week.  We found that the weekly tests for Reading Street are way too hard for our kids.  We give a spelling test and a vocabulary test every week, but test compehension, study skills, and grammar skills only at the end of the unit.

The practice materials that accompany the textbooks are okay, but not great.  I personally like practice activites that pack a lot more punch!  I want lots more practice than what is provided on a page in the program.  I have written additional spelling and vocabulary units for every selection in the textbook.  I have also made a curriculum map for the year that provides for the changes I've discussed.  I've been working on activities for the study skills and the comprehension skills.  Watch for these things to be posted on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts and experiences with using Reading Street.