Saturday, February 1, 2014

Literacy Take-Home Bags!

Getting Started:

One thing that I have been thinking about a lot this school year is how to get my students reading at home and applying the strategies that we are working on at school. Last year, I sent home our guided reading texts after we read them in reading groups. Rookie mistake... I had several books not come back to school and now my sets are missing a book.

What texts do I send home?

This year, I decided to utilize the website, Reading A-Z. My school has a subscription to the website and it has hundreds of printable books at every reading level. We use the F&P leveling system and Reading A-Z provides correlation charts to many leveling systems. Not sure how much the membership costs our district, but it is definitely worth inquiring into!!

In the fall, I began printing out books at different reading levels to send home with my students each week. When they would return the books, I would rotate the books through different students at that level. The great thing about paper books was that I wasn't worried about them getting lost. However, after a few families used a book, it often became mangled and ripped and I found myself reprinting the same book again and again.

Well, not any more! I decided to put more time and energy into creating a more permanent set of books, with the hopes of saving the books for several years before having to replace them! I started by printing about 7-8 books at each level. I printed the front and back covers on cardstock and had them laminated.


One of my co-workers has an old school binding machine in her classroom so I commandeered it for a few weeks, lugged it home, and began binding the books. I used my Fiskers scrapbook paper cutter to cut the pages straight and even. Talk about tedious, but so satisfying to have a great, colorful, durable set of take-home books.

The thing that I love about Reading A-Z is that there is a great selection of fiction and nonfiction texts. Take a peak at what the books look like below!

Over the past year and a half, I have been debating the philosophical dilemma of whether my students/parents should know their reading levels or not. Many teachers that I know feel very strongly against parents knowing their child's reading level because they feel that parents put too much focus into achieving a certain level vs. teaching the reading strategies and behaviors. The Reading A-Z texts have the reading levels at the bottom of the pages and on the back cover. I blacked out the levels on the pages and the correlation chat on the back cover. However, for my own sanity, I need to be able to see the levels of the books so that I make sure I am filing them correctly and sending appropriate books with each student. Below you will see how I blacked out the levels in the chart, but I left the level in the copyright information. I figure that if parents are REALLY looking, they could find the levels, but oh well... The jury is still out on this one!

I currently am sending the books home in a gallon-size Ziploc bag with that child's name on it. However, next year, I'd like to purchase some "reading themed" book bags, like these ones that I found at Lakeshore Learning! Cute!

Communication with Parents:

Okay, so I've said my piece about the actual texts that I am sending home with the students, but I also want the literacy bags to be used effectively at home. One of the things that we talk about ALL THE TIME at school is the importance of re-reading texts to BUILD FLUENCY! When I sent texts home last year, many students were bring the books back the next day. I wanted them to read the texts several times to build fluency and work on their "nice reading voice." This year, I sent home a "suggested use" document with the literacy bags, which helps parents to use the texts effectively with their child to build FLUENCY and COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES. The document also gives accuracy strategies for students to try if they stumble upon a "puzzling word." Here is a link to my LITERACY BAG GUIDE.

Within the bag, I also send a reading log for parents to record and comment on their child's reading. Great communication tool! Very simple, but here's a link to the RECORDING LOG as well.

Make It Fun & Other Practice Activities:

My next project is to add more comprehension/journaling activities to the take-home bags.

For students who struggle with fluency, I often send one of the following activities in their bags as well.

Fluency Triangles: fun/silly sentences to read back and forth with a family member. You can pick these up from my TPT store. They are correlated to the Pre-Primer and Primer Dolch word lists.

Fluency Phrases: Short phrases to practice reading fluently on flashcards. Click the link for the freebie! The cards are off-center because I printed them on cardstock and put them on a binder ring!

Hope that this post is useful to you! I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about how to create a solid connection between literacy at home and literacy at school.

Too funny!

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