Teaching Reading with a Penguin Theme – Coordinated, Differentiated, Leveled Instruction and a FREEBIE

Hi teacher friends!
Differentiating reading instruction and practice is so important, isn’t
it?  When you sit down to plan a new
themed unit, don’t you wish someone would suggest a great instructional
readaloud or two, offer some differentiated and leveled passages for guided
reading, some differentiated and leveled reading activities for centers or
partner work, some vocabulary learning activities, and maybe even a FREEBIE….all
about your theme?  Well, we are starting
a new blogpost series this week that and we’ll do just that.  As we write this, it is January, and since
Penguins are a hot theme topic this month, we will start with that shall we?
Do you know Pebble Books?
They are fantastic for non-fiction topics.  They are simple and concise, but pack in a lot
of information and opportunities for teaching during your whole-group,
instructional readaloud time.  This one
is called A Baby Penguin Story by Martha E.H. Rustad.  It is perfect for teaching the following CCSS:
RI and RL 2 – Identify the main topic/main idea and key
RI 3 – Describe the connection between two…ideas or pieces
of information in a text.
RI 4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a grade
level text on a relevant topic or subject.
RI 5 – Know and use various text features to locate  key facts or information
RI 6 – Distiguish between information provided by
pictures…and information provided by words in a text.  Identify the main purpose of a text, including
what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
RI 7 – Use illustrations and details in texts to describe
its key ideas.  Explain how specific
images contribute to and clarify a text.
The book is a great anchor text for your teaching!  It is perfect for introducing the topic,
introducing vocabulary, and developing schema.
It is also great for dipping back into, to 
learn even more information
with subsequent readings.
Now, would you like to find differentiated, leveled passages
to use with your guided reading groups?
And would you like them to include reading response activities, sight
word practice, vocabulary and activities for teaching vocabulary that also
match the readaloud (above) and center or partner activities (below)?  Well you’re in luck because we have that for
you!  Perky Penguins here
has 6 levels of the same passage, levels A –
I (DRA  A – 16), response activities, sight word
activities, AND vocabulary cards and learning activities that match vocabulary
in the readaloud and in the center or partner activities.  You can teach the vocabulary to your whole
class, then they can read the passages with the vocabulary, at their own level.
We use these in guided reading groups and intervention
groups.  In groups that are “on or above
grade level,” we read the passage several times over several days, then send
them home for even more practice.   They
are also perfect for accelerating reading improvement in our struggling reader
groups.  Because they are leveled,
students can start at their own level, and after several re-readings, they can
move up to the next level.  These groups
might read through one, two or even three levels of the same passage over the
course of two weeks.  When they are
ready, we send them home for even more practice.  They feel so successful reading them to their
families because of all of the practice they have had.  And because they have had so much practice
with the vocabulary in the passages, they do very well on the vocabulary
assessments.  Can we say “build that
schema?”  This practice really helps to
accelerate your struggling readers.


How about some activities that you can put into your reading
centers, or that students can do either independently or with a partner?  We have that as well!  Our Quick Read Sets, particularly our All
About Penguins Quick Read Set
, here,
provide short leveled passages at the
same levels as our differentiated leveled passage sets, (like Perky
above).  They also
include reading response pages that can be given out either individually, or
can be assembled into a book for each student.
There are enough passages in the Quick Read Set to last for a week or
more.  Once again, the vocabulary
overlaps with the vocabulary in both the instructional readaloud and in the
leveled passages set.  There is even a picture
vocabulary card that can be placed in the center to help lower level readers to
remember and read the vocabulary words.  
How do we use these?  We make 5 copies of each level’s passages on cardstock, put them on rings, and put them in a center tub.  This way, students can grab a ring with the passages for their “just right” level, and read them.  We also staple the response sheets into a booklet and give one to each student.  The students can complete the response sheets as they read the passages.  The response pages can be used with any passage and any level.  It’s
a great way for students to have even more practice reading “on topic,” and more
practice with responding to texts. 
And didn’t we say something about a FREEBIE?  Well yes, we
certainly did.  You can get this adorable
writing “craftivity”  here, that will also match your
teaching about penguins.  This adorable
penguin accordion book is the perfect way for your students to “show what they
know” about penguins, and it is a great opportunity for assessing at the end of
your unit, if you would like. 
We hope this post gave you some ideas for coordinating
teaching around the theme of penguins for your whole-group instructional readaloud,
small-group guided reading, and for centers and student independent or partner
work.  Watch for our next few posts in
which we will be sharing ideas…and a freebie….about other polar animals.  So if you teach polar animals, stay tuned!
Happy Teaching friends!


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