About Lee-Ann Meredith

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu Lee-Ann Meredith is a second grade teacher, author, Department Chairperson and education advocate who has spent the duration of her time in public education at John B. Murphy Elementary School in inner city Chicago. Often characterized as funny, dynamic, and an independent innovator, Lee-Ann cites her idol as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Fluent in a wide range in instructional strategies for the elementary level, Lee-Ann is dedicated to being an advocate for children everywhere by implementing 'cutting edge' strategies to increase student achievement. Some of the issues that she spearhead included: promoting literacy throughout the building, leading community meetings to advocate for full day kindergarten for all students and helping implement the Responsive Classroom strategies throughout the school. In addition to working closely with the curriculum, she also had the honor to supervise (and mentor into teaching positions) numerous student teachers and practicum students from various post-secondary institutions around the Chicago area such as: Erikson Institute, National Louis, DePaul. Northeaster Illinois, Roosevelt, and North Park Universities.

HumbleI am always amazed that Round Robin reading still exists. The empirical evidence has shown that it is an ineffective teaching method. Just being an observant teacher would make you realize the kids are bored and off task. Worst of all, it brings humiliation to students who struggle with reading or English.

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So how do we engage children in material that is new? How can we share text with a group? How do we build structures that encourages participation in the reading process?

There are two areas that seem to fall into the Round Robin trap. This is not just a primary reading instruction problem. Any  other subject which is text driven suffers from the Round Robin disease.

All of the techniques here will work in Grades 2 through 12. Each of these methods requires practice with your class. Take the time to teach the strategy you want to tackle slowly and methodically. It pays off in a class that can jump in and do what needs to be done the next time you use the technique. I can’t stress this enough. It will save you tons of frustration. Even better, when an administrator shows up on a surprise visit, you can whip out the technique and the class won’t bat an eye.

Choral reading: Choral reading is when a group reads together. They start together and end together like a song. Mix it up. Don’t have Row One read, and then Row Two. Instead have Row One read, then people wearing black shoes, and then those who have birthdays in the summer. Know your class; if the only two kids in black shoes have reading difficulties don’t call that group. Most children will understand this technique, although there is sometimes a smarty pants who wants to show how he can read faster than everyone. Remind everyone that it like singing then later discuss it quietly with your speed reader.
You can enhance choral reading by focusing on a select idea for the whole class to respond to while reading or listening. You can have them create a hand motion for vocabulary words that the whole class uses when they are read aloud. For example, if you are focusing on plant life, the class can all buzz like bees when the word “pollinator” is said, or use their hands to imitate falling leaves for the word “deciduous.”

Theatrical volunteers: Let students volunteer to read in a theatrical voice. You can even assign a voice, such as greedy or sneaky. At first, there will only be a few volunteers but the class will like the challenge. This works best if the class has a chance to at least scan the material first. Again, allowing hand movement during the reading helps hold interest. For kinesthetic learners, the motion reinforces the material and helps with retention.

Readers Theater: Divide the class into small groups with a portion of the material you want to cover. Allow each group to develop a “script” from the material. Each group then reads their script to the class. This will take some practice and modeling. Give them options as to the way to present their material. They might choose to do it as news broadcasters or scientists having a discussion. You may discover they have chosen to be the founding fathers while reading a passage about the American Revolution.

Crazy Professor: Follow this link to see how this activity is done. (It is the last video on the page.) It is engaging and the entire class in involved in learning. My only caveat is to make sure you provide support for your struggling readers and your ELL kids. You can do this by pairing them with someone who can help them with words they don’t know. If they have an IEP, be sure to discuss this activity with their SPED teacher.

Quotes of interest: Ask your students to select their favorite quote from the text. It can be something the piques their interest, a new way to look at something, or even, something that makes them chuckle. Let them read it to a partner or small group. You can then call on volunteers to read their quotes. You can question them as to why they chose that line. This technique provides ownership of the material and allows for practice before reading to the whole class.

Graffiti Carousel :This activity puts groups to create quick answers to questions about reading. There is a group for each question. After a brief time the questions move to a different group. After each group answers all the questions, the class discusses the results. Here is a link with more information.

Interactive Reading: As students read or listen to others reading, encourage them to use sticky notes to keep track of questions, interesting ideas, quotes they like, words they don’t know. They can use the following symbols or you can select your own that relate to what you are teaching. After reading, allow the students to share their “notes” in either small groups or with the whole class. It helps the child connect with the text.

?    Question
“    Favorite Quote
!     Interesting
V     An unknown or unrecognized word

Are any of these methods as simple as Round Robin? Of course not! With practice, however, they can become as routine but with actual learning taking place.

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