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Reading Endorsement – A Fresh Perspective

For over a year now, I’ve been working on my Reading Endorsement certification.

I began last January but took August through October off to get my classroom routines regulated.  The beginning of the school year is very stressful.

For those of you who may not understand the purpose of this certification, it is what allows those of us who do not have a Masters degree in Reading to teach this subject.  We take several very specialized courses on how to diagnose reading problems, how to tailor instruction for specific needs, and how to utilize research-based reading strategies to help our students.

If you ask anyone who’s been through the program how it was, and you’ll hear a big sigh.

I can’t say that I won’t be one of those people after I finish, but if I take an honest look at the process, I have to say that I have learned more in this series of classes than any other education courses I’ve taken in the past.

I am in my fifth and final class…the dreaded practicum.  It’s where I have to put all of the knowledge gained in the previous four classes to use and actually apply what I’ve learned.

Imagine that.  The teacher becoming a student.

The last thing I have to do is teach the lessons that I’ve written and which my instructor has approved.

For me, part of this preparation is creating Smart Notebook files.

I have always embraced technology…even more so in the last year since my school received new equipment and software.

Creating my Smart files helps me unpack the curriculum.  As I design each page, I am forced to mentally walk through my lesson…how I will say things…how the presentation will look to my students…whether I think they will be engaged in the learning process.

I took some screen shots of a few of the pages I created for…get this…ONE lesson plan.  All total, I’ve got eighteen pages, I think.  I’m sharing five or six.

The lesson I’ll be filming next week has to do with fluency and comprehension.  Although some of the instruction may seem elementary, even high school students who are struggling readers need the reminders.  Oftentimes, they pick up tips that do improve their comprehension.

For the fluency part, we’re going to cover the different types of punctuation that writers use and how each affects the way we read the sentences.  I created a table with cells hidden.  The reason why they are shaded is because there will be discussion about each, and I will reveal those cells as the discussion progresses.

Next, I’ll teach my students how to highlight the punctuation as it occurs in text.  Humans, by nature, are visual, so the highlighting will serve as visual reminders of when to pause, when to raise their voices, when to stop, etc.  I listen to these kids read every day, and hearing them run roughshod through punctuation is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  Ugh.

We will do some guided practice, using text from the book The Lightening Thief, which I’d just finished when I wrote this lesson plan for my Reading Endorsement class.  That’s the sheet I’ll pass out to my students to complete.  I’ll also display it on my Smartboard.

The second part of this lesson will involve a during-reading strategy called “Say Something.”  During this strategy, students stop after reading chunks of text, reflect using question starters, and then continue reading.  At the end of a passage, they will summarize…a task that should be easier because they’ve stopped and reflected at various points along the way.

The text I used for this portion of the lesson came from Unwind by Neal Shusterman…one of my newly-discovered and now favorite authors.

I’ll touch the black square to reveal my Think Aloud, which is a scaffolding technique that teachers use to help students understand what’s going through a good reader’s mind as he/she reads.

There’s a lot of metacognition (thinking about the thinking process) that has to go on for a student to be successful.  Asking why we need to do certain things helps us understand…gives each lesson a purpose.

There are pieces to the lesson that I haven’t shared, so if the above sounds hit and miss, don’t misunderstand.  I would have bored you to tears with the nine or ten pages that my lesson encompassed.

You know, teachers often complain about the things they have to do.

I’ve worked my tail off this Spring Break and heard myself saying the same thing a couple of nights ago…a night in which I’d spent almost twelve hours prepping lesson plans for next week.

BUT, I know that classes and programs such as Reading Endorsement are designed to make me a better teacher.

My heart goes out to my students.

FCAT isn’t just stressful for the kids.

It’s stressful for us teachers as well.

If one of the strategies I’ve learned from Reading Endorsement helps even one of my students reach that magic number needed to pass, I will be one happy lady.

Regardless of how many pass, most of my kids are making learning gains.

Some of that has to be attributed to the lessons I’m taking from this program and applying in my classroom.

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