Differentiating Reading Instruction and the Walk to Read Model – Hit or Miss??

Differentiating Reading Instruction and the Walk to Read Model – Hit or Miss??

Walking to read is the process of grouping kids in skill-alike groups for a small portion of the day. 

Typically teachers in a grade level will "specialize" in a particular skill level grouping during Walk to Read and the students will "walk" to that group for targeted instruction.

In its best form, walking to read allows for more targeted, more efficient, more streamlined planning, instruction and assessment monitoring.  It’s a GREAT option for a highly functional staff.

Notice that I said "Highly functional"…more to come on this…

For those who know me and hear me speak, you know that I am neither a supporter of the Walk to Read (WTR) model nor am I a naysayer. 

And here’s why:

Walking to read IN THEORY is a great way to streamline the planning AND the delivery of targeted small group instruction students at all levels.  If there are problems with WTR, it’s usually in the execution of the model, not in the theory of the model. 

So it’s important to be HONEST, be FORTHRIGHT, and DEMAND COLLABORATION when you’re launching into or re-establishing a walk to read model in any grade level and school.

Here are a few examples of why walking to read can fail:

  • There are trust issues within the grade level and teachers don’t want to "give up" their kids to "that teacher" – these are essentially trust issues amongst professionals
  • There is an illusion of high differentiated instruction during small groups just because we have kids of like skill level grouped together
  • There is an in-the-dark feeling about kids because there are not functions for collaboration and close monitoring between homeroom and WTR teachers
  • There is lost time for instruction because traveling from one spot to another is poorly executed
  • There are increased behavior problems because teachers have varied behavioral expectations



Here’s how it CAN work:

SOLUTION 1: Discuss trust issues head-on – get real about concerns!  If there is a worry that your teaching partner might not put in enough time for prepping killer lessons, then set up a time to plan together.  If your teaching partners are too "lax" on their management of the kids, then suggest that you come up with common expectations across groups that you jointly teach the kids!

SOLUTION 2: Share weekly plans for kids – in other words: POST YOUR PLANS, PERUSE YOUR PLANS AND DISCUSS YOUR PLANS!  If they look too much alike (and are not, therefore, differentiating instruction), then work together to suggest ways that you can change-up lessons and challenge kids more than they are currently challenged.  Create a check-list together for each lesson so that you ensure that true differentiated instruction is really happening.

SOLUTION 3: Set bi-monthly data meetings where you get together FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF TALKING THROUGH THE WALK TO READ DATA and nothing else!  Go student-by-student and discuss what’s going well, what’s a struggle, what growth the data is showing and then set targets for each group.  This builds in camaraderie AND trust!

The cool thing is, the more you talk, the more you collaborate.

And the more you collaborate, the more you trust. 

And the more you trust your teaching comrades, the more you focus on the kids. 

And the more you focus on the kids, the more they learn. 

And the more they learn…

Need I go on?


Differentiating Instruction for ALL Kids in the Core

A really common question I get is, “What is the easiest way to differentiate in reading?”

My typical answer is, “Well, we’re not going for ‘easy’ as much as ‘simple and effective'” – somehow the wording makes me feel better!  (Probably because if “easy” is what we’re going for, we can oftentimes compromise powerful instructional moves)

So, when I saw this cool pic of the red jelly bean in a sea of yellow ones I got to thinking… (BTW, I’m much more partial to a red jelly bean, whether it be cherry or cinnamon…I mean, yellow?  Ugh!)

Who are the kids in your classroom that are screaming out for help…because they’re different?

Different in that they are struggling with the grade level content. 

Different because the content is just right and they need more “just rightness” of the grade level content. 

Different in that they are bored stiff because they need a bigger challenge.  Not more work. Bigger challenge, I said!

My starting point with our clients is typically START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE AND COMMIT TO USING IT LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER BEFORE.  I’m not a big fan of buying a bunch of stuff that will “solve” the problem – just like when I cook from what I have in my fridge, I just might have everything I need right before me!

So here’s what you do, look at your core reading program or intervention and try some of these techniques to enhance your differentiation techniques WITHIN the core so that you can be more focused OUTSIDE of the core!

For your Advanced/Always Benchmark Kids who are always on benchmark

  • Look at standards from grade level above and incorporate the language and skills into current grade level work
  • Focus on extended responses both verbally and in written form
  • Choose alternative text
  • Move swiftly through the lesson
  • Pre-teach vocabulary and pair students with struggling students during lesson
  • Use “Above Level” links during instruction and in targeted small group teaching
  • Build in more independence during block

For your mostly Benchmark Kids who sometimes slip below benchmark on vocabulary and comprehension tasks

  • Pre-teach the important comp-related parts of the lesson the day prior
  • Pre-read text for next week rehearse vocabulary
  • Follow “On Level” links
  • Scaffold text when teaching strategies
  • Increase written responses
  • Encourage re-reading of text

For your Strategic/Intensive Kids who struggling with grade-level tasks

  • Pre-read text for next week
  • Practice passages with high comprehension points
  • Re-release key strategy-related comprehension questions to students and rehearse thinking and responding
  • Pull to small group during core to manage text
  • Use anthology passages for fluency
  • Preview high-impact vocabulary words

So your job?  Look at your instruction right now and see where you can incorporate TWO of these strategies into your planning…and report back on how they worked!  www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting