Moving Away From a Basal


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It can be scary if you are being asked to stop using a basal program with fidelity. However, here are some things to think about: If there was any one program out there which was really that wonderful, we would all be using it and every one of our students would be reaching standard. Another thought to ponder: Does that basal program really know your students and all the diverse needs they come with? Keeping these thoughts in mind can help dispel some of the anxiety when leaving that resource behind.

So, what do we replace the basal activities, stories, lessons and, gulp, workbooks with? When we think about the very best way to have our children make standard, the first thing we do is provide an exorbitant amount of time each day to read. Not assigned stories, which may or may not be of interest and an appropriate level, but books which are highly engaging and self-selected. After all, the very best way to get to be a better reader is to practice. It only makes sense. If you are trying to become a painter, piano player, cook (insert any of your "I wish I was good at..." activities) it won't help to have someone just talk about how to get better, we have to have tons of time to practice. The best golf coach in the world can give me strategies that I can talk about, repeat, and even tell others about, but until I have the opportunity to put those strategies into practice I will never become a better golfer.

For us, this structure for allowing ample time for kids to read is Daily 5. When using a basal program, teachers often open the book, start at the beginning and just teach their way through to the end. Yet that program doesn't really know each of our student's needs. So the second thing we put into place in the classroom is an excellent assessment. As students work to build stamina during Daily 5, we get to know them as readers. We insist on a diagnostic assessment that reveals if they need support   regarding Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and/or Vocabulary (CAFE). We never rely on computerized tests, because we miss out on the valuable opportunity to hear students interact with text and articulate their thinking. Utilizing the results of the assessment, we then plan instruction using the Conferring Notebook (Pensieve) as our organizational method to keep us on track. When students are engaged in highly successful reading and we are immersed in just right instruction, we truly wonder how we ever had time for a basal. Once you let go, we think the same will be true for you. The growth of your students will confirm it.


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