You are on page 1of 6

Literacy Program 1

A Comprehensive Literacy Program for Third Grade

An ideal literacy program that I would implement in a third grade classroom is based on
my fundamental belief that it is my responsibility to help students become independent readers
and writers. I believe the way to achieve this independence is by creating a classroom
environment where children feel safe and accepted so that they can take the risks necessary to
grow. I encourage exploration and discovery.

Being a role model for my students is vital for teaching them that reading and writing are
worthwhile and valuable activities. As suggested by Regie Routman in her book, Conversations
(2000), children need to see their teacher as a reader and as a writer if they are expected to take
on those roles themselves. To this end, I intend to spend at least part of independent reading
time engaged in my own book. I also plan on modeling and sharing examples of my own writing.

Aside from the importance of being a role model, I believe that a literacy program begins
with a classroom that invites students to immerse themselves in words. Upon entering my
classroom, a visitor would discover a prominently placed word wall, a bulletin board celebrating
student work, an inviting classroom library, a writing center and a rug area where the class can
gather for morning meeting, read aloud time and other group activities. Classroom rules, the
daily schedule, helpful information and current vocabulary words would also adorn the walls. I
envision my classroom as an invitation to read anything and everything; whether the reader is
seeking answers or is simply interested in what the walls have to offer.

While not directly connected with a literacy program, I believe that the ritual of Morning
Meeting is nevertheless an important building block in fostering strong readers and writers. This
time provides children with an opportunity to come together for community building exercises
and aids in the development of oral communication skills as well. As asserted by Routman,
“Children’s oral language is the basis for beginning instruction” (p.17). Each day I would have
the children take turns leading the meeting. Among other things, they would be responsible for
guiding their classmates in activities such as reading the day’s schedule and the daily message.
Not only would this meeting time serve to establish a sense of belonging and trust among the
students, I believe it would also help set the tone for the day’s learning.

Two of the items on that daily schedule would be reading and writing blocks. Ideally I
would like to allot two to two and half hours of each day solely to literacy with the first sixty to
Literacy Program 2

ninety minutes devoted to reading. I would divide this reading time block into three portions.
The first twenty to thirty minutes would be used for whole class instruction. Within this block
would be time for activities surrounding the current book or story being read by the entire class.
These activities could include the introduction of the book or new vocabulary or I might lead the
students in a retelling of the story. I would also incorporate shared reading where students can
follow along in their own book as I or other students take turns reading. Another way I might run
shared reading time would be to pair students of different abilities together to reread a story
which we had already read as a class. Through this pairing, the stronger reader can help his or
her classmate with the difficult parts while practicing their own fluency.

Another activity I would include in this first portion of my literacy block would be word
wall work. As described by Patricia Cuningham in Phonics They Use (2009), a word wall is an
ever-evolving, useful tool to help children learn high frequency words. Weekly I would
introduce approximately five new words that are common stumbling blocks in my students’
writing and reading. The goal for my students would be to create ownership of these words
through frequent use, quick games and accountability. My students would be expected to spell
word wall words correctly, all the time, once they have been introduced.

This first chunk of literacy time could also be used for whole class introduction of new
spelling patterns through a Making Words lesson (Cunningham, 1994) followed by a word sort
as outlined in Words Their Way (Bear et al., 2008). By using word sorts, children can discover
and explore patterns in spelling that can lead to greater success in future encounters with
unknown words following similar patterns. An example of a word sort would be to distinguish
words that end in ch from words that end in tch. Students would eventually discover that short
vowel sounds precede tch, while ch is preceded by long vowel sounds. I believe that when
students discover this pattern on their own, it will be more meaningful for them and they will be
more likely to recall that discovered pattern when decoding an unfamiliar word.

Monday through Thursday I would divide the remainder of the literacy time into two
blocks for Literacy Centers. Children would be divided into four heterogeneous ability groups.
These groups would be fluid, most likely changing every few weeks. Half of the groups would
have independent work time and half would have a specific center to visit. After twenty or thirty
minutes, the groups would switch. By the end of the fourth day, all students would have had an
opportunity to visit all the centers. I would have used some of the first portion of the literacy
Literacy Program 3

time to introduce any new center activities. Some of the activities that could be accomplished
during center time would be vocabulary work, poetry, listening center, computer time, word
study, or a comprehension activity. Those groups working independently should use the time to
read, write in a reader’s response notebook, perform word hunts based on the patterns introduced
during group time, or catch up on unfinished work.

I think that a reader’s response notebook is an invaluable tool for aiding in


comprehension and promoting a reader’s thoughtful engagement with a book. Students would
use these notebooks to record their reactions, predictions and questions about the book they are
reading. I would collect each student’s notebook once a week in order to respond to their
thinking, guide comprehension if necessary, and create an ongoing dialog with the student. In
addition to helping the student to develop a better relationship with the books they are reading,
this exercise offers students personal, purposeful practice in writing.

While students are working independently I would call some of them for small guided
reading groups. It is during this time that I would be able to address specific learning needs of
children at their instructional level. The needs of each group would determine the focus of the
day’s lesson. We might work on fluency, comprehension strategies, or a phonics skill that is
causing them confusion. We might also read a book that is at their level which relates to the book
the whole class is reading. By providing books at their instructional level, I can help the
struggling readers gain some familiarity with the themes in the story, thereby helping them build
schema to bring to the next whole group lesson. The more advanced readers can dig a little
deeper into a topic and the on level readers can also enrich their knowledge of the topic and add
to their comprehension and fluency. Again, these groups would be fluid, depending on the needs
of the children as determined by daily and periodic assessment of their reading and writing
abilities.

On Fridays, in place of centers, I would like to hold Literature Circle meetings for at least
a portion of our literacy time block. I would display a number of different titles at various levels
and of different genres and then provide the students time to look at the books before selecting a
first and second choice book. Based on their selections, I would create book groups. They could
use independent reading time or homework time to read and also to jot down ideas for
discussion. I would not require students tochoose books based on their level but rather on their
interests. I believe that if a struggling reader wants to attempt a book that is a little difficult for
Literacy Program 4

them it will help them grow as a reader. Conversely, if a strong reader would like to read
something a little easier that is also acceptable. The goal is to create a community of students
who enjoy reading and who can share ideas and learn from one another. Initially, at least, I
would provide the students with a sheet to help guide their thinking as they read. The sheet
would prompt them to make predictions, connections or conclusions about what they are reading
and then serve as talking points for group discussions.

Any time we have left in our literacy block I would use to engage students time in other
literary activities such as reader’s theater, a study of poetry, and group discussions about our
reading. In the style of Sharon Taberski, I would like to close literature time with the students
coming together as a group to reflect on what they have learned about themselves as readers. I
believe that this exercise helps students become more thoughtful about the process of reading
and, again, works on oral communication and community building skills.

In addition to the reading blocks, I plan on including time in every day for reading aloud
to the children. I believe that read aloud time is invaluable for a number of reasons. Reading
aloud offers children a chance to relax and enjoy hearing a story read. This practice helps make
difficult books accessible to all students, increases students’ exposure to vocabulary and
grammar, and improves listening skills.

Writing would also be a key component of our day in third grade. In my classroom there
will be a writing center filled with many materials a writer needs. There will be various types of
paper, pens, markers, dictionaries, a thesaurus, a stapler and folders filled with excellent
examples of different writing styles. Each child will have a writing folder where they can keep
all of their writing as well as a notebook divided into two sections. One section will be for jotting
down ideas of things they can write about for future reference. The other side will be where I can
make notes during a writer’s conference. These notes are to help both me and the student. The
student can refer back to these notes to remind him or herself about any suggestions I made
about their writing. It is also helpful to me as a reminder of what we discussed the last time we
met.

Writing time would be divided between whole class instruction, small group work, and
individual conference time. I would use whole class time to introducing a style of writing, to
work on mechanics or for shared writing where we would work on a piece together. We might
Literacy Program 5

focus on developing interesting beginnings, including descriptive language, developing a voice


or on how to write an expository piece. We might also work on poetry, how-to pieces, personal
narratives or answering writing prompts. Writing time would be an opportunity for me to see
whether or not students are applying the spelling and vocabulary lessons that were taught during
the reading block. I would like to use art and music as inspiration for writing. For a lesson on
poetry I might take the students on a haiku hike or a use a recent field trip to an art museum as
inspiration. Music can help set the mood for student writing as well as provide another way to
appreciate poetry through a study of lyrics.

Because I believe that students need to write for a purpose, I would like to have a
classroom newsletter with the students as the columnists and editors. If they know that their
writing is to be published with the intent to share it with others, I believe that they will work to
produce quality pieces. In addition, this project will create a connection between home and
school.

Although these time blocks are devoted to the development of students as successful and
independent readers and writers, I intend to carry these lessons across all content areas of our
day. Good reading and writing habits can and should be practiced during the entire day.
Providing nonfiction reading material at all ability levels can help add to the comprehension of
topics being investigated in Social Studies and Science. Children would receive practice and
instruction in expository writing during a research project. I expect that my students will be held
accountable for all spelling and vocabulary learned in literacy time throughout their school day.

It is my goal to help all of my students grow as readers and writers during their year with
me. It is my hope that I will inspire in them an appreciation of literacy that they can carry
throughout their lives.

References

Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2008). Words Their Way (4th ed.).
Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.
Literacy Program 6

Cunningham, P. (1994). Making Words. Columbus: Frank Schaffer Publications.

Cunningham, P. (2009). Phonics They Use (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Routman, R. (2000). Conversations. Portsmouth: Heinemann.