Teaching reading has always been a struggle for me. The curriculum I was using needed something more. I needed something more hands-on, more engaging so that my students made better progress. I also wanted to provide the main instruction instead of my paras or peer tutors. Throughout the time I was teaching, I continually added and changed how language arts and reading instruction in my classroom looked, and it's been a successful change!
I use Language Arts rotations to teach reading, writing, and spelling in my classroom. To do rotations like this, you will need a large chunk of time. I teach middle school and our class periods are 55 minutes. I do 2 class periods of language arts to fit in all of my rotations, six rotations at about 20 minutes each.
There have been years where I've had less time, and if that's the situation you're in, I would recommend alternating days for rotations so that your students are not doing all six rotations on a day instead of cutting the time of your rotations. Here's what my rotations look like.
1. Reading Instruction- teacher led
2. Spelling Instruction- para led
3. Writing Instruction- teacher led
4. Word Work- independent/peer tutor support
5. Writing Center- independent/para/peer tutor support
6. Silent Reading- independent
Here's an idea of what our schedule looks like. You can see that Student 5 & 6 are one-on-one throughout the whole language arts block. I run the reading and writing instruction rotations and my paras run spelling instruction and support during work work and writing centers. Some trimesters, I've split up the Silent Reading block so I could fit in more reading groups, but I prefer to have all students doing Silent Reading at the same time, if possible. Obviously, the more students you have, the more complicated scheduling gets. I like to use sticky notes to move everyone around when I'm trying to figure it out!
Let me go into detail about what each rotation looks like
My reading instruction rotation varies depending on the student's level and IEP goals. I group students whenever possible for reading instruction. For curriculum, I use a combination of Reading A to Z, Corrective Reading, Horizons, and novel studies/reading passages. Again, the program I'm using depends on the student's needs and their IEP goals.
During reading instruction rotations, I also take data on reading goals. For example, if a student has a reading comprehension goal, like determining the main idea or answering wh- questions, I'll set aside 1-2 days a week to take a quick probe on their current objective. I use the reading rotation to teach the skill needed for the goal. So if I'm using Reading A to Z with a student who has a wh- question IEP goal, part of my instruction will include a review on how to answer each type of wh- question and I will also teach text comprehension strategies during this time.
For my emerging readers, I use lots of adapted books. For students who are using AAC, I also like to use this time to model language on their system. Sometimes I have students who are working on reading sight words, so I use the reading instruction block for sight word instruction. I love using Reading in Real Life for this! Check it out here.
My spelling instruction rotation is almost always run by my paraprofessionals. This is another rotation where I will group students whenever possible. For spelling instruction, I use the program Signs for Sounds. I love this program and highly recommend it! It teaches spelling patterns and rules and doesn't make students memorize a list each week. In addition, it includes a sight word for each week, and students take a dictation test for each lesson where they write the words that fit the spelling pattern in sentences. I love this because the generalization is already built in. Signs for Sounds has a great assessment that I give at the beginning of the year. For my students who may not be learning to spell or aren't ready for phonics-based instruction, I use a functional spelling program from School Bells n Whistles.
Writing instruction is one of the only times I do whole-class instruction in my classroom. We do writing in a week-long format. It usually starts with a mini-lesson & group brainstorming on Day 1, modeling on Day 2, students actually writing on Day 3, editing and expanding on Day 4, and sharing our writing on Day 5.
Working independently is one of my main goals for all of my students. A word work rotation is a great time to practice independent work skills. I have a shoe box bin for each student, which is their designated word work bin. They are responsible for going and getting it off the shelf and completing the activities inside of it. Each student's bin has enough work for the whole week, and every Friday, one of my paras reset the boxes and put in new work for the next week. In each word work bin, I include activities that align with the student's previously mastered skills. Over the years, I have collected tons of center & work task activities, so it's super easy to pull different things and throw them in. I like to include a phonics task, a sight words task, and a reading comprehension task.
Here are some of my favorite word work resources:
The writing center rotation is another time that students work on independent task completion. Each has a writing folder, and during the writing center rotation, they complete a writing activity or prompt. This is a time to practice writing, not teach new skills.
I use these activities for Writing Centers:
This is one of the best things I've ever implemented in my classroom, no joke. I wish I had started it my first year. During this rotation, students just read. They can read whatever they want, where ever they want, and they have no assignment or expectation afterward. They just read. And guess what, reading for leisure is a life skill!
Many of my students prefer audiobooks, so they will listen to a book during this time. Some students read chapter books, some students read picture books, and sometimes students grab adapted books. I don't care what or how they read as long as they read something. My paraprofessionals support my students who are non-readers during this time. We also love to use Epic, which is a free app that has tons of books. I've also paid for Amazon Free Time before, which is a very inexpensive option that has tons of books & audiobooks.
For 20 minutes each day, students are engaged in reading something interesting to them. Another important part of this rotation is that the teachers are also reading. It's important to model to students, so whatever adults in the room that are not supporting students are reading their own book.
Language Arts Rotation Tips
Starting up a system like this can seem overwhelming, and it definitely can be at first. It takes time to teach students how to rotate and what to do during each rotation. I've done two back-to-back class periods for this before, but I've also made it work by using one class period in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Another important thing to remember is that each student doesn't have to go to the rotations in the same order or at the same time. Arrange the schedule so that it works for you. Change it if you need to. Use visual schedules for your students to help them understand where to be and what to do.
Questions? I'd love to help! Leave a comment or shoot me an email!