I am in my 10th year teaching Language Arts, so I feel pretty confident in what I know is right for my students. Our district adapted the Harcourt Storytown series last year. We were NOT allowed to use anything else but Storytown! Our learning resource center where we can get trade books was even monitored to make sure we weren't checking out books! (wow!) Anyways I used it last year like a good little teacher but this year I am sick of it! I like the nonfiction stories in the series but not much else. I find that my students are bored and tired of doing the same thing over and over again. They are only reading once a week when all read the story together. There are leveled readers but since we are departmentalized I don't have time for these. To me they are a filler. I do not think my students are retaining any standards they are taught because it's only for 2 weeks. Reading standards have always been an ongoing assessment all year round. The tests in Storytown do not get my students prepared for the OAA standards based test. I create my own tests for each lesson so they are ready. I am bored just as much as my students are! In the past I used strictly trade books and created all of my own curriculum basically. It worked, my test scores were passing! So I am having a very hard time ditching all of the hard work I put into those units that are standards based! We used to do comprehension strategies, whole class trade books, guided reading, and then finally literature circles. They read EVERY SINGLE DAY! They learned more and were more excited about reading. My students I feel are not readers anymore. All we are now is robotic teachers that produce robotic students. I just want my students to love reading again and have a fun learning experience and learn tons of information! What's so wrong with trade books? What's so wrong with having fun in reading? Very upset and frustrated!
I don't use the grammar or writing from Storytown either because it stinks! It's also boring and not effective! I did my master's project on my writing and word study programs and I loved what I did with those as well. So I find my own grammar activities and my own writing projects that are so much more interesting!
Just wondering how everyone feels about trade books? Basals? Etc... Thanks.
My district has used Storytown for the last three years. It is difficult to get used to at first. The way I do it is to introduce the skill and the vocabulary for the week on Monday. I use this website http://www.pcboe.net/les/elderweb/harcourtresources.htm because it has great Storytown resources. On Tuesday-Thursday we read the story together as a class. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I read the story aloud to the class and ask the comprehension questions along the side. On Wednesdays I review the skill for the week again using the practice pages. Thursdays students usually get to read the story in pairs or small groups and fill out the reader's guide. On Thursdays I also review the additional skill if there is one (such as context clues). On Fridays I give the quiz. I really try to review the vocabulary on a daily basis. They tell me what the word means and then I ask a question that requires them to apply what they know. As we read the story, I constantly refer back to the focus skills for the week and previous weeks.
It is not a perfect series. There is much left to be desired. I have noticed that the students that have had it for several years do quite well compared to the first year. It does align to our Illinois Assessment Framework, so that is not an issue.
We are on our third year with this series. The first year we were required to do centers for 45 minutes, so we could meet with groups. That was 45 minutes a day mostly wasted. The centers were crap, many students pretended they were doing them. The second year we were allowed to cut down to 30 minutes for centers, and I have created my own and made some accountability for each one. I still feel like I could use the time so much better. Last year our communication arts state scores were down for the first time in 10 years in out builidng. Surprise surprise. I too use to do lit circles. I tell my admin all the time we are robots, and I am not the teacher I use to be. I don't think it will go back in my carreer. My kids could care less about reading, they use to love it by the time they left my class.
Why don't the administrators listen to us? We are in there everyday. We are the ones dealing with the boredom and I feel so sorry for my students. Our school has been in continuous improvement 3 times now. We've sent home school of choice letters twice. And if we don't meet our AYP this year the state is going to take over our building. I am really worried that Storytown is only going to lower our test scores because of the lack of retaining the information.
All we kept hearing the times we complained was it is researched based, it works. Our admin has never taught in regular classroom so has no clue how it is. We didin't even want storytown but "got a good deal" on it. The series itself is not the worst out there, but we need it as a resource, not as a script.
This is our 4th year of Storytown in K-6, and now the admin (We only have one building in our district!) is seeing what we were saying - yuck. So, he has a consultant coming in to "train" 3 of us in actual Guided Reading. Since our school is so small, he chose me (the only 4th grade) and the 2 third grade teachers to be the guinea pigs - probably because we are the lowest grades to be tested officially in NJ. I have been interested in this for years...I really dislike Storytown but try to make it work. Our students have never done well on the Language Arts portion of the NJ test, and Storytown did not help - so I guess he is trying something new! We are just now learning how to administer the Slosson and DRA, and to level our books. Sheesh - a little behind the times...?
As far as surviving Storytown goes - it is really a matter of picking and choosing and supplementing - as I am sure you are seeing. I was happy to find out here on PT about the PCBOE website and shared it at school. It's a great help! Good luck...hope it all works out!
I'm definitely worried about test scores. If our school doesn't meet AYP this year the state is coming in. Scary!
You will really love guided reading! Literature circles are also wonderful too. I started with whole class books, then went into guided reading groups, and then onto literature circles. We used Fontas and Pinnell as our guide for guided reading and leveling books.
I also did the DRA2 which is for intermediate kids. It was very useful! Our primary teachers REALLY miss the DRA.
Good luck let me know if you have any questions.
Isn't it funny how we are switching programs? I'm thinking there really is no true answer in teaching Reading. Think of how many different approaches there have been over the years. I have been teaching in Public School for onky 10 years, and this is our third try! Thinking back to my elementary years (the mid-60s - basal reader, non-flexible groups, SRA), college (Whole Language!)and when I taught preschool/Kdg... really - what is the answer?
Thanks for the input on Guided Reading and the DRA!
Three years ago my admin FORCED me into Storytown as well...I was like you, used literature circles, and has super reading scores on my state assessments. Because of RTI, she had no choice but to make me use it. (The other teachers in our district couldn't give a hoot...they would prefer to have a scripted program..."it's easier". To be honest...our kids ARE passing with flying colors, but as the 6th grade teacher, I am seeing that these kids can't think out of the box. Yes, they can take the test, and pass, but they are shallow thinkers....unlike using the old fashion method.
Anyway, to make my life MORE FUN since I had to use the ST, I created 'casefiles'. THat's what I call them...they are just little packets that have many activities in them that cover our standards based on the weekly story. For example, in each file there are boxes they must shade in to state what genre each story is, or which point of view. These activities are very quick and to the point, but we talk about them and they hold on to the infomration for long term. I also try to make the files so students work together indendently on them...more reading and thinking....not as much guided as the ST does. I find they learn more that way.
If you are interested in seeing a casefile, PM me! Like I said, I have done these for the past three years...the kids LOVE them, and I consistantly have 98% of my kids pass the state assessment. My admin was impressed with them too! Hard thing to do!! AND, it keeps ME from getting bored!!
I think this is my third or fourth year using Storytown. I combine it with a Guided Reading workshop format that seems to work. For the 60 min. reading time slot, I do whole group for the first 20 min. - vocab, focus skill, read the story over two days, test at the end of the week. The second 20 min. is the workshop time. I use some of my own stuff, because as a pp posted, the centers are crap. Plus we aren't even allowed to use the writing stuff during that time! The last 20 min. the kids are in Literature Circles in trade books. I have my own "lit. circle job" materials that I use for that. A good variety, 20 minute cycles that keep 4th graders moving, and I get to sneak in trade books that the kids love to read. For the lit circles, one day they read silently, the next day they do their paperwork. I tried sending it home, but it didn't get done. I also have a principal that lets me do it my way...
I am frustrated with Storytown too! I am so not a anthology/workbook type of teacher. I am frustrated for the same reasons you are. I am lucky that no one is monitoring me too much, because I am totally sneaking in some Reader's Workshop and "Book Clubs" (which are very similar to Lit. Circles).
I hate basal reading programs because the kids are only reading once or twice a week. They need to read EVERY DAY. In my classroom, kids read every day something they have selected. They are held accountable and pass their tests just fine.
I do the main selection as a whole group. We do have some good discussions about the main selections.
We do the Robust Vocab a little bit each day and I do have them write sentences and draw pics as part of their homework.
The kids do the leveled readers independently and answer the questions at the end as a center.
The workbook pages are done independently as well..although we don't do all the pages. We always do the story mapping and summary though.
I skip the grammar and writing because I do Writer's Workshop and I incorporate grammar into mini lessons. I find grammar sheets from other teacher books I have and we also do activities not just sheets. I hate worksheets.
I do the spelling workbook as homework. I also use the tic tac toe sheets fromt he PCBOE website. That site is great.
We always do a bit of Reader's Workshop each day and the kids LOVE it way more than Storytown..they groan when we take out our books. I incorportate the Storytown skills into my mini lessons and then they practice the skills in centers or during independent reading time.
I was wondering about all of your scheduling? I have about an hour and 15 mins. each day. I have 3 classes of reading/writing. So I find it very hard to get everything in.
The admin told us we could do tradebooks after we get the 120 minutes of ST in each day! Seriously???
You are so right Tatum about the students not reading everyday. Don't the big wigs know this is important?
So today I requested a class set of Poppy from our learning resource center. And next week I am starting it. I have created a unit on this book and I cover 20 standards in this book!
So I'm being a rebel because I know what works for my students and what real learning looks like. What are they going to do, fire me for using trade books? I can see the city newspaper now: "Teacher is Fired for Using Trade Books!" !
And the point about the students being shallow thinkers is also true. ST certainly does not prepare them for the state tests or to think outside of the box.
I appreciate all of your responses and ideas, I'm glad to know there are others like me!
(second grade) I use the question of the day as a written bell ringer in journals, then teach the phonics/spelling section...then one round of daily five for 15 minutes (word work with phonics/spelling and same with computer...reading/phonics sites/programs for 1/2 the kids while the other 1/2 do read to self. I have spelling activities and phonics activities based on the spelling list and "sound" of the week and also use the cards that came with the series. I also have some vocab activites from the pcboe site.
Then I teach the focus skill part and vocab. Then second round of daily five. Students who did read to self/read to someone in the first round switch to word work and vice versa.
Then we re read the story...we read the story every day. While reading we work on comprehension, fluency etc.
While the kids are doing daily 5, I do DI with either groups or pull kids by themselves to work with.
I spent about a year making powerpoints of each lesson. We do all the "worksheets" together in groups on the smartboard with the power points (I have 5 groups of 4 kids)..they find the answers as groups so the "worksheets" go fast. I send home the practice book pages for homework so parents can see what we are working on. I send them all home on Monday in a packet with a schedule and they are due on Friday.
We are departmentalized, so I also teach a second class after recess. I teach writing and grammar in the afternoons. They do writing and grammar practice (with games I've made for grammar) during Intervention time and then we do formal lessons in grammar after that.
We are also using Storytown. The site you referenced is great but only for grades 1 - 5. I teach 6th and we are in the elementary school. The book we got for 6th has so many errors in the spelling and grammar part of the set. I wish the Harcourt publisher would create activities such as those on the pcboe site. It certainly would lend a hand to those of us who are already stretched to the limit. I too used chapter books prior to this series. The kids loved reading and so did I. Oh for the good old days!
Hi, I would love to see an example of a case file. I'll be going back to being a reg.ed 5th grade teacher next year. This year was inclusion as I am duel cert. I would really appreciate seeing an example. I will also share any ideas I come up with.