Friday, September 7, 2007

"Star" Books

An earlier post (“Star Vocabulary”) included a list of good read-aloud narrative books that we introduce each month in Kindergarten at Chets Creek. We call these books, “Star" Books. When we first began Readers’ Workshop in Kindergarten seven years ago we had trouble figuring out what we were suppose to be teaching in our mini-lessons and what we should be conferring about during the Work Time – especially early in the year when most kindergartners were not reading! A summer trip to study with Lucy Calkins at Columbia University’s Teachers College clarified the procedure for us. Our “Star" Book program is based on the research of Elizabeth Sulzby and the work of Lucy Calkins and her colleagues. We know that some of our Kindergartners at Chets Creek come into Kindergarten as conventional readers. For the other youngsters a strong oral language and reading readiness program is needed before they are ready for conventional reading. How could we provide that foundation within the framework of the Readers’ Workshop?

This is how our program is structured:

1. We begin by reading the Star Books each day as a good read aloud. This starts on the first day of school. We repeat these readings every day, introducing about 4 new books in a normal month. We read the books with intonation until the students can say much of the book with us. We also retell these stories with props and talk about the beginning, middle and end of each story. Each of these stories was chosen for its strong narrative story elements (characters, setting, problem, events, and solution). In the retelling below you can see the class acting out Caps for Sale as one student pretends to be the peddler with caps on top his head while the others pretend to be the michievous monkeys!

2. Each child selects a Star Book to include in his individual book bin so he can practice “reading” the story during his independent reading time of the Readers’ Workshop (which means that the teacher has multiple copies of each Star book).

3. After the students have heard the story for at least 4 times, they are ready to meet with the teacher during Work Time for an individual conference. During the conference the teacher gives the child a Star Book and asks him to “read” the book. Of course the teacher is expecting the child to orally retell the story as he turns each page.

4. As the child retells the story, the teacher uses the Kindergarten Pre-emergent Reading Scale to decide the level of the retelling. As children hear the stories and practice during Work Time, their retellings begin to have more and more detail and they move from one level up to the next.

5. The teacher gathers children that are reading at the same level into small groups and works with them during the Work Time to lift their retellings to the next level.

6. When children reach Level 7 on the Pre-emergent Reading Scale and have made the letter-sound connection in writing, they are ready for conventional reading and are given the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) or a running record.

Through this series of steps kindergarten teachers know quickly who is ready for conventional reading and who is not. Teachers identify the level of each child’s oral retelling and that drives instruction for the mini-lesson, small group work and individual conferences during the Work Time. This procedure has proven highly successful for our kindergartners.

One of the surprising benefits of this program has been how well our students are able to write retellings later in the year. We believe that the detail and length of the written retellings later in the year is a direct result of the oral language retellings early in the year!

1 comment:

vickiejoan said...

It would be great to get a list of the Star Books that you use. Thanks!