I Started a New Grade Level: Yikes!

By on September 15, 2015

This week, Lauren Garrison--an elementary school teacher, co-author of Discover and Soar Reading and Writing Teacher Guides, and contributor to eCoach--shares her story about planning for a new grade level. Ms. Garrison was motivated to write this post because so many teachers start grade levels they have never taught before and struggle to know where to begin. Her post speaks to all teachers and provides some practical ways to get started and reminds us all that our teaching philosophies should always guide our instructional decisions.

This summer, I learned that I was going to be a third grade teacher. I have been a first grade teacher for the last 8 years and recently was looking for a change. I was so, so excited! Honestly, I was slightly nervous too! Our school is quite small and we have only two teachers at each grade level. My new teaching partner was also new to the grade level.

The question became, where do I start? There were so many curiosities running through my head about management, organization, standards, cursive, College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), math tasks, close reading, peer review, the list can go on and on.  And let’s not forget all the acronyms we have to worry about like MAPs, IEP, SST, blah, blah, blah.

My partner and I spent the summer chatting about what we wanted our classes to look like. We both believe in skill-based instruction where students engage in higher level thinking, deep reading tasks, and various student-centered interactions.

Since this was our first time teaching third grade, we were drawn to any available resources. We had our ideas but we wanted to align them to our district’s materials. We looked over the reading and writing resources (which are limited at this point) and found workbooks and silent, independent activities. Relieved to have something to start, my partner and I poured over the resources with wide eyes and found ourselves thinking about how we could use these materials with our students. That evening, my partner and I reflected separately on the day. We were more confused than ever.  

It didn’t take long before we called each other. We decided the activities that were given to us did not support our philosophy of teaching or the goals we had for our students. We went back to the drawing board and began to look at our day, our standards, and the goals for our students to create a schedule and routine for reading, writing, and math that supports our students. Now the fun begins!

Planning with LiteracyTA

Sequence of Literacy Standards

To best prepare my students for the new state literacy standards, I decided to use LiteracyTA’s Sequence of Literacy Standards. This sequence gave me a place to start. The Sequence of Literacy Standards orders the standards based on what skills need to be taught first before moving on to the next. It helped me keep my focus clear when planning reading, writing, and speaking skill based lessons for my third graders.

I quickly realized that if I planned with skills and standards first, my content could be built around each skill, ensuring I was selecting texts and activities that aligned to the new state standards. For example, when planning my first close reading lesson, I found a text that was about the California Regions (our first social studies focus). I was able to teach reading skills, while teaching about the regions.

More LiteracyTA Fun

LiteracyTA’s website has been an incredible resource for everything I need to plan skill-based lessons. My favorite thing about LiteracyTA’s handouts is they can be used with ANY text! They are not content specific which helps students learn skills and routines for reading, speaking, and writing about all types of texts. Science and social studies, I have a place for you in my reading instruction!

Here are additional resources that I like to use when planning

Sentence Starters: When speaking about texts whole group, in partners, or groups, the sentence starters give students language support. I use the document camera to display these starters during classroom discussions.

Posters: How many anchor charts have you made this year? (I can’t even talk about how many I have made). LiteracyTA has K-5 posters for the Reading and Writing Process, writing types, rubrics, etc. Why not enlarge these already made posters and put them up on your walls? Like magic, you have an anchor chart!

Rubrics: Literacy TA is an incredible resource for kid friendly rubrics. Students can have a copy in their writing journal to easily access and use during writing.

LiteracyTA is consistently adding new and helpful materials to support all teachers (the elementary sections are growing every day). Not everyone has the opportunity to start fresh and completely rethink curriculum. This year, I have had the opportunity to dig deep into the new standards and reflect on what kind of teacher I want to be. LiteracyTA has been my support along the way.

I hope you all have a great beginning of the year!

Want to learn more about skill-based instruction? Register for LiteracyTA University this fall. It’s live and online. Get inspired!

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

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