Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reading Programs in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Today is Wednesday...and that would usually mean that I'd link up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday.  However, my school (and most of NYC it seems) is adopting a new reading program (Pearson's ReadyGen) for September.  And when I say "new" I mean NEW.  As in, books are not in schools yet-new.  Teacher's guides are only available online-new.

In my school, we've use a balanced literacy approach for the last 10 years, so this change feels uncertain to me.  For the last 10 years, I've known which supplies I wanted for the kids and how I want their notebooks organized.  I understand how guided reading works and I know what centers look like in a fifth grade classroom (FINALLY!)  But all of this is going to change with ReadyGen.

On Monday, my partner and I went to a workshop to get a handle on this new program.  I learned a lot about how the curriculum will shift under Common Core (although we taught CCSS last year, so I'm already familiar with the standards and what CC aligned questioning looks like on a state test).  I also got a feel for how a literacy block might flow in this new program...but there's one catch: no guided reading.

Yes.  You read that right.  There is no guided reading component in this program.  The woman delivering the PD actually mentioned the way I contorted my face when she said there was no guided reading component.  And I am *certain* I made a face.  Not to be rude, but because I am a big proponent of guided reading.  Or more accurately, I am a big proponent of small group instruction, particularly for struggling students.  I think small group time is the most valuable part of the day for many students.  In this program, all of the materials are at the students' grade level, not their instructional level.  So whether your student reads at a level V or level L, he or she will be reading grade level text.  Through scaffolding during the reading instruction, students are supposed to gain access to the text. 

She went on to explain that there is small group time, but it is more like strategy groups than guided reading groups.  And groups are created immediately following the whole group reading instruction based on teacher observations.  Whereas with guided reading you would plan to meet with a John, Emma and Anthony on Mondays, with this program these decisions are made in response to the work students do during their independent practice.  A fellow participant gave the suggestion that teachers can observe students and then give each student a card with a color or letter to let them know which group they should join for small group work.

I'm sure this post is a jumbled mess and for that I apologize...the workshop left me with a better understanding of the rationale of the program and how a morning will flow, but also with many lingering questions about how I will personalize the instruction and deliver it in my classroom.  Unfortunately, some of these questions won't have answers until our in-service begins on September 3rd.

So can anyone assuage my fears?  Does anyone follow a scripted literacy program for older kids?  Does anyone not do guided reading with their students?

And any fellow NYC teachers out there: are you implementing ReadyGen in September?  What did you think of the workshop?


  1. I teach math, but my grad degree is in reading. I have used and now see my team teachers use small group instruction. Our school doesn't have a set reading curriculum (we're 3-5th grade). The language arts teachers in my grade use nothing but authentic texts. They have a read together text (mainly read aloud), and then they all have independent reading books at their level... They are so successful. I would be very hesitant to move to a 1, scripted program that 2. has no independent reading level. Kids just aren't at the same levels. What about your kids that just can't read the words? Or the kids that are 2 and 3 years beyond your text and bored? I'm sure with PD and your own personalization, you'll be OK, but maybe you could still have your leveled small groups after using this program for whole group? I'll be interested to see how it goes!

    1. The program does use authentic texts, so that is a plus. On the downside, I'm not choosing my own literature and that makes me sad. And I'm not in love having the questions written out for me. The basic structure is multiple shared readings to give students access to text. I read aloud first and model fluency while students follow along in their books. Then we re-read the same piece and stop to discuss. I like that the program includes books for all of the kids because that was a big challenge last year: asking students to refer to text that they did not have in their hands.

      There is independent reading every day, and that will be on their reading level. I have a feeling that my school will do some "tweaking" in September, but I'm not sure. I wish I knew now so I could do some planning and some thinking about the structure of my literacy time!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. It sounds a little like Four Blocks-which has every student reading at grade level. They called it 'Guided Reading' but there were no small groups anywhere. (I HATED it...drove me nuts! Especially since I have a Master's in Reading, and Four Blocks was contrary to everything I was learning...I had a real conflict with it-thank goodness I'm not at that district anymore!)

    We currently use Literacy By Design (CC edition-although I've noticed some things are not in there...) which does have real Guided Reading groups. One of the suggestions was that we could do strategy groups as well-regardless of level. LBD is fairly scripted-but I sometimes find that a little easier to help me focus the kids. Plus, you can always add things-I find that it gives me a good starting point.

    I do teach to the program-but I use it as a resource. I teach the program 'directly' 4 days a week. If there is something in there that I think is not covered well enough, I take the time to teach it on the 5th day (but not everyone does this) If I need to pull additional stories/practice during the 4 days- I do. I also make a lot of graphic organizers to go along (I'm not a fan of the ones that came with it-no place to explain their thinking!)

    Unfortunately, this is a wait and see...I'm currently doing the same with Math! We are all piloting new programs for the year, and I can't wait to get my materials and see how it works-I don't know if I'll be able to do small group math like I did last year-I have to wait and see!

    I hope this helps!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

  3. Hi Sarah,
    I also teach in NYC and to be honest I'm not thrilled with this program. The fact that it's not even ready yet and we have to implement it is absurd! (I heard it's not going to be ready until May 2014!!) I love using balanced literacy, especially the guided reading component. It is so important to meet with the strugglers on texts that are a little difficult for them--let's face it--those are the texts they'll see on the test. Not to mention, my school aligns its reading with social studies. A lot of the texts for 3rd grade Ready Gen would work perfectly with the social studies topics that I teach.

    In my school, we don't do balanced literacy as it should be done. There is a minilesson, active engagement, but instead of all students going off to independently read--they go into stations instead. There is one station for independent reading, but the other stations are usually on texts that are more difficult. I also have finally figured out how to manage stations well in my room and really don't want to give that up! From what I was told in June, we are keeping our curriculum maps (we've written our own) and using ReadyGen as a resource. That will probably change in September, but I'm hoping it holds true! Fingers crossed :)

    Good luck with it and if you want to bounce any ideas off of someone in a different borough, please feel free to email me :)

    ps: do you have the link where you can access the teacher's editions online?

  4. In New Zealand it is kind of expected that you take guided reading groups. However I have NOT taken a guided reading group in my past 3 years teaching. I do take small group instruction based on needs, but I get the students to "choose" what workshop they want to be a part of. I know the needs and teach workshops based on those needs (this week has been purely inference at various levels). With the exception of students who are more than two years below expectation, I give everyone a text that is at grade level. I am of the opinion that if we only give students texts that are just above their level, that is as high as they will move. I give a lot more support to those who need it. This is a really long comment, so I'd be really happy to talk you through how I teach literacy if you want. Just email me and I'll show you how. Over the past three years I have had classes that start at between 6 mon and 3 years below expectation and have had accelerated (more than 1 year) progress out of 80% of my students.

    The E-Z Class Follow on Bloglovin

  5. Former NYC teacher here. I was trained by TC staff developers and work in a TC affiliate district these days, so I've never taught with a reading program--authentic, leveled text only, with both guided reading and strategy groups, depending upon student needs. I'm curious about how it goes once you get started, as I do wonder if the notion of text complexity in the CCSS is going to cause a lot of districts to go in this direction.

  6. Hi Sarah,

    My kids are currently into a reading program from and it works perfectly fine. I am still on a research phase so that I would be able to know which reading program should I'll be using just in case my kids won't do good with the previous one. Good thing I've read this blog from you and it's quite interesting. I am open and willing to have a reading program like yours. Please keep on posting .


    Eureka Gomez

  7. Now that we have been using ReadyGen since October, I can honestly say that I do not like it all. I take the parts I want to teach and I kind of turn it into a TC (Teacher's College) lesson.
    Now that you've been working with the program, what are your thoughts on ReadyGen?

  8. I know this post is a couple of years old, but I just wanted to share that things haven't changed with ReadyGEN! My district just adopted it this school year, and I've only heard complaints. My classroom has a wacky schedule (dual language where students have me for half the day and then switch to my Spanish-speaking partner for the other half of the day), so I have even LESS time to get through a lesson. I absolutely hate the writing component, and do not appreciate all of the creativity and *gasp* FUN taken out of it for both me and students. Every day is the same thing, and it's already boring in our first year. Not to mention that the texts are WAY above an appropriate level. Yes, yes...scaffolding. But no amount of scaffolding will help a student understand a text that is 2-3 grade levels above what they are able to understand. I miss being able to choose my own books to teach with, and I miss being able to use my own knowledge and experience to teach. It really doesn't matter if you're a certified teacher with ReadyGEN since it's all scripted for you. :(