Figuring out how to do something for the first time can be tricky, but having an expert on hand to show you the ropes can make it a lot easier. That’s why HISD has asked the principals of eight elementary schools with effective Guided Reading programs in place to offer tours to other campus leaders.
Guided Reading is a critical piece of the district’s Literacy By 3 initiative, which aims to have all elementary students reading at or above grade level by the end of grade 3. A big part of its successful implementation will depend upon the creation of both individual classroom libraries and a central storage area for Guided Reading materials that all teachers can use as a resource.
Roberts Elementary School Principal Rita Graves, who led a group of about half a dozen administrators around her campus on June 10, offered a key piece of advice to visitors who were just getting started with the Guided Reading program.
“We have two major leveling systems in place here—the DRA (or Developmental Reading Assessment, which classifies books’ difficulty using the alphabet) and Fountas & Pinnell (which assigns them a numeric value),” explained Graves, “but if you have a chance to start fresh, I would strongly encourage you to pick just one and stick with it.”
Graves also offered tips on how to set up classroom libraries and manage them. “Most teachers have in-class libraries organized by genre rather than level, so if kids are looking for historical fiction, they can find a title more easily,” she said. “And having a designated book box for each child solves the problem of what to do when a student starts a book in class but doesn’t finish it. You don’t want kids shoving them in their desks where they’ll get all torn up or forgotten.”
The most popular tip of the day related to technology. Graves suggested schools invest in a handheld scanner that retails for about $100 to manage their inventories, noting that the device her campus used could automatically fill in the title, author, and other details just from reading the book’s ISBN bar code, if connected to the internet.
“We need to get one,” said tour-taker Kimberly Thompson, who serves as the assistant principal at Neff Elementary School. “We did our own version of Guided Reading this year, and we had a lot of growth with it, but this will help us get off on the right foot in the fall. There’s nowhere to go but up.”
“The scanner really simplifies the whole system,” added Juan Duenas, who serves as the principal at De Zavala Elementary School.
Visitors to the Roberts ES campus on June 10 also got to meet and speak with Cindy Puryear, HISD’s new literacy director, who stepped into that role on Monday. She previously served as the instructional coordinator at several campuses, where she worked extensively on literacy initiatives.