Hello again! If you are here today, I can assume you’ve already 1: Asked yourself the three questions to help you plan your ELA block, and 2: Perused the ELA block structures to decide which you will use in your classroom. *If not, see the previous two blog posts in this series: webinar series #1 and webinar series #2. Get ready to cover 10 things you need daily in your ELA block including best practices and organizational tips.
Today we’re talking about those smaller elements that go into an ELA block. We’ll cover learning targets, whole group lessons, small group time, assessments, read alouds, etc. These are all of the things that you have to consider when planning your ELA block.
Don’t forget, if you want to use a workbook study guide to help follow along with these notes, download it here!
Daily Learning Targets
We are going to start by talking about learning targets! These targets should be a 2-3 minute time allotment for your ELA block. It is essential to start each lesson with a learning target or objective. Spending a few minutes discussing what the objective is will be highly beneficial for both the students and you! Students will better understand what the goal of the lesson is. They will know what to focus on and will have a target to refer back to when practicing the skill throughout the block. The learning target creates intention.
Many schools even require learning targets to be displayed in your classroom at all times. The display could be as simple as having a designated space on your whiteboard! Write the learning target (or even have the kiddos write it!) at the beginning of each lesson. Usually, this will be an “I can” statement. For example: “I can identify the main idea of a nonfiction text,” or “I can describe the setting of a story.” Throughout the lesson, you can refer back to the learning target to allow students to check their understanding, and again at the end of a lesson or block.
If you use a PowerPoint or SmartPresentation to guide your ELA block, you can easily include your learning target. Add a slide at the beginning of a presentation that has the “I can” statement displayed. Duplicate the slide and drop it in the middle and end of the presentation. Teach the students that when the Learning Target is posted, they need to stop and think, checking their understanding, resetting their intention.
I had my students say the Learning Target aloud when it was displayed. It became a part of our routine! If our projector was out or technology was down for a day, they came to the rescue. A student would write the learning target in big letters on a piece of chart paper and hold it up high, as we all said the words together! *Insert proud teacher tears here.*
If you intend on using one of the structures mentioned in yesterday‘s blog post, you’re going to use a whole-group mini-lesson at the beginning of your ELA block. The mini-lesson is going to be a 15 to 20-minute whole-group lesson that introduces a new literacy standard (or revisits a standard you’ve previously taught). These lessons may include a read aloud, modeling, direct instruction, turn and talks, etc.
During your mini-lesson, provide students with opportunities to think critically about the literacy skill you are working on. Critical thinking will help kick-start their understanding of the concept. That is why incorporating a read aloud can be beneficial to a mini-lesson. I will talk more about read alouds later in this post. It’s all part of incorporating 10 things you need daily in your ELA block.
Anchor charts are an essential component to your daily ELA block. These can be used during your mini-lesson or even during small group instruction. For an anchor chart, you want to have a large display that shows how to use a specific literacy skill. The display could include an acronym, graphic organizers, highlighted text, or just a clear description of the literacy standard.
Having an anchor chart on display is helpful for students because they can refer back to it at any point during their learning. Many teachers like to keep their anchor charts on display during a unit or while the learning is still ongoing. Other teachers like to have their anchor charts in a central location in their classroom for students to go back and flip through when they need help with a certain topic.
I suggest laminating the anchor chart with hole punches in the top, then clipping them together with binder rings and hanging them on 3M Command Hooks on your wall. I like to keep all of my reading anchor charts together on one set of hooks and math anchor charts on another set of hooks. The same goes with language, writing, and science. It’s just another example 10 things you need daily in your ELA block for success.
In my CCSS ELA units, there are anchor charts to help teach each standard. This anchor chart can be displayed on your projector or printed and displayed in your classroom. Because they are in PDF form, you can even print them to poster size. Then, simply laminate them and keep them for the following year! Having a laminated anchor chart is great because you can add things to the poster with a dry erase marker!
*For tips on how to print your PDF to poster size see this post from Adobe: https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/kb/print-posters-banners-acrobat-reader.html
(Both of these posters turned into anchor charts are part of my ELA units.)
Each of the ELA units comes with 3-5 mini-lessons that explicitly teach the CCSS standards. The lessons follow an “I do, We do, You do” structure that allows the instruction to scaffold for student understanding. These lessons are meant to fit the 15-20 minute time slot and will likely start with teacher introducing a literacy skill, perhaps with an anchor chart or a whole-group activity. These mini-lessons show the students how to use the skill before they are required to try it on their own.
Next, there will be a partner or a group activity that has students working together to apply the skill. At the end of each lesson, there’s an activity that allows the students to try to use the skill they just learned on their own.
The last part of each lesson is a great way to assess their understanding and figure out who needs extra help with the concept! Some of these lessons include cut and paste activities, partner task cards, guided highlights with printed passages, scavenger hunts, and more! Utilizing these 10 things you need daily in your ELA block will help your students succeed and keep you organized.
As I mentioned previously, a read aloud is a great way to show your students how to use a literacy skill! Not only will it be engaging for the students, but it will also help them see how they should be *thinking* as they are reading.
Read alouds don’t always have to involve reading an entire book. You will want to consider the skill and the text when planning your ELA block. Read alouds can be done in small segments, reading just a few pages a day, or reading from only a section of a book for one lesson. The important thing is that you show the students what it looks like to correctly use a literacy skill. And you will find that students will pick those books up again and again to read on their own!
I have curriculum packets for all RL and RI units for Kindergarten through 4th grade. For each of these ELA units, I don’t necessarily require teachers to use specific books. Instead, I suggest book titles for them to use to read aloud that match up with that standard. Check out my literature and informational suggestions.
(Link: Literature Read Aloud Suggestions)
(Link: Informational Read Aloud Suggestions)
After direct instruction, students will need an opportunity to practice the skill hands-on. They will be taking that skill from the mini-lesson and using it within their reading or writing. Students need to apply the skill on their own so that in the future, they know how to use that skill in authentic reading and writing scenarios. This portion of your instruction may be a part of the 15-20 minute mini-lesson or could fall into one of your small group activities or centers.
The graphic organizers, task cards, and interactive notebook elements within my ELA units are made to be used with any text! So, if you’ve just completed a lesson on characters and you want all students to apply the skill from the lesson, but they all don’t read on the same level, you can still do this!
Students will be able to use the same graphic organizer (or task cards or interactive notebook activity), but they may choose their own text. If they have Good Fit Book Bins, the students will have a variety of books to choose from that they know are on their reading level. They can practice the skill on their own and be engaged and motivated from the choice they were able to make. You will be able to asses the students’ mastery of the skill, not their ability to read a specific leveled text. Read on for more about 10 things you need daily in your ELA block!
We will go into more detail about differentiation in a later post in this blog series, but today, we’ll talk about how it affects the planning of your ELA block. Instructional differentiation will be essential to see in your class daily. Differentiation can be done within your small-group time, during centers or literacy work stations and even during one-on-one instruction.
Going back to your ELA structure, you will need to look for opportunities to differentiate instruction without having to add more time to your ELA block. You already know that you will be grouping your students according to need and that groups will likely be fluid, changing throughout the year. So, if you want an easy way to organize differentiated materials, colored folders are a great way to do this! These simple strategies are part of 10 things you need daily in your ELA block.
For example, when students come to your small group, their materials may be in a blue folder, making it easy for you to keep organized and for quick transitions. If you find that your “Blue Group” needs help with long-vowel sounds AND needs to practice identifying the setting in a story, you could provide needs specific materials at a phonic station and a buddy reading station. When they get to the phonics station or the buddy reading center, they know to get their materials from the blue folder.
Writing time is extremely important to include in a balanced literacy block, and it is another thing to consider when planning. Will you be doing a separate “Writing Workshop” following your Reading Workshop? Will you be incorporating writing into your Literacy Work Stations or another subject? These are the questions you need to ask when using my 10 things you need daily in your ELA block strategy.
Writing standards need explicit instruction just as the reading standards do. Many teachers choose to follow their Reading Workshop with a Writing Workshop. They are structured similarly, flow well from one into the other and it’s easy to incorporate. Imagine a reading mini-lesson, followed by groups and centers, and a writing mini-lesson followed by groups and centers. The groups and centers can focus on separate skills and activities, reading skills during reading workshop, and writing skills during writing workshop. OR you can spread your skills and activities across the centers and small groups for the whole ELA block!
(Shown in the picture is a set of resources for a mini-lesson from my Narrative Writing unit.)
Language, RF and Speaking & Listening
As with Writing, you will need to think about when and where you will incorporate lessons and activities for language, reading foundational skills, and speaking and listening. These skills are easy to weave into your small group rounds or rotation activities. I like to use short, focused lessons within my small groups or in between Daily 5 rounds. Then, students will have a partner or independent activities to complete during their rotations that are tied to the skill! This allows me to keep all of the components I wanted within my ELA block without taking extra time from my day and is part of the 10 things you need daily in your ELA block
Sample: 2 HOUR Reading Block
15 minutes- Mini-lesson (Setting)
17 minutes- Round 1 (Teacher works with Small Group A, dedicating 5 minutes to a phonics skill they need. 12 minutes on a Guided Reading lesson. Other groups are in Literacy Work Stations.)
5 minutes– Short, Focused Lesson on Verbs
17 minute – Round 2 (Teacher works with small group that needs help with verbs. 5 minutes on verbs. 12 minutes on a Guided Reading lesson. Other groups are in Literacy Work Stations.)
4 minutes- Short Focused Review of a Speaking & Listening Skill
17 minutes- Round 3 (Teacher works with small group on Guided Reading Instruction. Spends a few minutes on a writing skill. Other groups are in Literacy Work Stations.)
17 minutes– Round 4 (Teacher works with small group on Guided Reading Instruction. Spends a few minutes working on sentence structure. Other groups in Literacy Work Stations.)
10 minutes– Focused Writing Mini-lesson
18 minutes- Another Small Group Round, Workshop for Writing Pieces, Direct Instruction for students who need extra help with the day’s skill, etc.
Informal assessments are essential to understanding which of your student still needs to work on a specific standard. These can be as simple as anecdotal notes. You can do this while your student is working with you one on one or during small group. While a student is reading independently, grab a sticky note, sit beside them, and use questioning strategies to assess their understanding.
Using skill-specific reading passages or graphic organizers is another way to informally assess students’ understanding of the skill. These are great for keeping records, as well. A student may use an “Events” graphic organizer while reading their own text. They may read a passage with questions that are specific to the main idea. Each of these forms of informal assessment can be placed into a portion of your ELA block. Think about where you can put in graphic organizers, when can you take anecdotal notes, and when can students complete a standards-based reading passage? It’s another way to incorporate 10 things you need daily in your ELA block.
Formal assessments are also fundamental, especially when tracking your students’ progress. They will help you see which students have mastery of a standard. This will help you organize your small groups, decide which activities to include for group work stations, and so much more!
So, if you are looking for answers to your assessment problems, the graphic organizers, reading passages and end of unit assessments can all be found in my CCSS ELA Units and Bundles!
There are still three more days left in our webinar blog series! However, if you’re looking for links to any ELA resources, I will link the grade-level collections here for you to browse through each domain. If you click the domains on the right, you can organize the 60+ resources…
- Kindergarten Units
- 1st Grade Units
- 2nd Grade Units
- 3rd Grade Units
- 4th Grade Units
- ELA Webinar Series: Day 4