Mrs. Niederstadt's Parent Letter

October 12, 2006

Dear Parents,


Tomorrow we are walking to the Onekama Public Library.  Students will return their two books and checked out three new books.  If your schedule permits, then please join us.  We will leave at 11:45 until 1:30 p.m.  These books will be due on Friday, November 3rd


This week I will start reading assessment.  I’ve completed sight words, but now I need to conduct running records.  A running record is a record of your child’s reading, retelling and fluency.  It will take about two to three weeks to finish the testing.  Once I’m finished, students will choose their own reading books on Thursdays.  All the books in my room have a colored sticker on them.  Each student has a similar sticker on his/her desk.  The sticker represents their independent reading level, which means your child can read the book with little difficulty.  It should be easy; it is a confidence builder.  The levels are star, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  Most students have a star or red sticker.  During guided reading groups your child will work at a level above, instructional level. During guided reading I challenge students to become better readers by using their reading strategies, discussing comprehension and fluency, and investigating other reading skills.


Our school believes that children who are good readers and writers will be better, happier students and citizens.  I have made a commitment to do all that I can to ensure that all of my students will be good readers and writers.  All children learn differently, it is important to find ways to reach children no matter what their strengths and weakness might be.  I use a method of instruction called the Four-Blocks Model: Guided Reading, Self-Selected Reading, Writing, and Working with Words.  The first block is called guided reading.  We focus on reading strategies-those strategies help students decode unknown words.  It also focuses on reading comprehension that helps make sense out of the print on the page.  We will work on reading fluency-smoothness of reading text.  Guided reading is conducted in small groups.  Students have been placed in a group with students of the same reading abilities.  While students are waiting to participate in their guided reading groups, they are working on literacy centers such as squiggle, math stamps, ABC stamps, and listening center.  Others will be introduced as the year progresses.

Self-selected reading (or D.E.A.R.) is the second block.  It gives students an opportunity to see themselves as readers and will build their fluency, the ability to read smoothly.  This block begins with me reading aloud an enjoyable story or text to the students.  Next two students share their favorite books.  This exposes students to other good reading materials.  Then each student will select a book to read independently for approximately 10-15 minutes.  During this time, I will have individual conferences with two students daily.  Together, we will discuss the book; I will be able to evaluate the student’s growth in reading. 

The third block is writing.  Students will learn to think about and use their knowledge of phonics to write compositions.  Along with applying phonics, they will have an opportunity to practice penmanship, to learn about the writing process, grammar, and the mechanics of good writing.  Each day, I will write my own composition for the students and will use it to teach a lesson about writing.  Then, all students will write their own story or composition, using inventive spelling (their best guess) about spelling.  On certain days, the students will work individually with me to learn to correct their errors and they will publish their work as a book to be enjoyed by other classmates.  At the end of the writing time each day, a few students will share their work with the class.  Currently we have been composing writing with the “All about Me” student.  Each week we ask him/her questions, and then I model writing four sentences about the special student.  The student’s chart is displayed for three weeks and then taken down to make room for new ones.  That way, there are only three charts in the room at any one time.


It is important to note that inventive spelling is acceptable for students to phonetically sound out an unknown word.  Later in the school year we will work on unknown or misspelled words, they will be on their individualized spelling list.  Words don’t have to be spelled correctly yet, but students are able to utilize the word wall and picture dictionaries to assist them in their writing.


Working with Words block is the fourth block.  It allows students to explore words, word families (patterns), spelling, and phonics, and to see how they can use what they learn about words in their reading and writing.  This block begins by studying words from the word wall.  These words will be displayed on our wall all year for students to use as a resource.  They are high-frequency words-grade-level words used frequently in reading and writing that students should spell correctly in their writing.  We use movements, such as clapping, snapping, and cheering, to learn to spell the words.  Five words are introduced per week.  Currently students are writing word wall words on a half sheet of white paper.  You should see two come home every week in the Thursday Folder.  This is word wall practice.  On Wednesday students have making words homework.  This hands-on activity helps reinforce phonics within the working with words block. 


If you have any questions about the above information, please feel free to contact me at 889-9674 ext. 436 before or after school.