Differentiating Notes for Struggling Readers

Differentiating Notes for Struggling Readres.001

I have always struggled with making notes for my inclusion class. The challenge is a lot of these students need notes to be taken for them or provided copies, but in my personal philosophy, you do not benefit from taking notes if you aren’t taking them. It’s taken me 2 years and a 6-weeks to finally figure out the solution to this problem and help students become better readers a long the way. Enter: Story Notes.

With the help of Ed Helper, I have started adapting my notes for my inclusion to be reading assignments. My inclusion class model is the same everyday. They come in and reading leveled provided material at the start of class (8:17). When they are done with this, they are allowed to read their independent reading books until 8:35. Providing them material ensures they are reading at their level. I try to filter the Just Right Books, but it’s not always possible to catch every book that comes in. At 8:35, I have them put their books down. We usually re-read the selected material out loud as a class. The resource teacher that aids me during this class always makes a fun game out of this and calls on kids by random labels–their clothes, their first initial, their seat proximity to the door, etc. Once the book is completed, we do a small activity or mini-lesson relating that book to the content we are discussing that week. I try to find material that is focused on that skill in the first place so it makes it easier to discuss all around.

With my notes, I type these into a story. I usually download Ed Helper’s version then adapt them as I need. Sometimes they are written on a 6th grade level and the students need a 4th, so I find places where I can cut down words or make the vocabulary easier. If I can’t simplify the vocabulary, I type in my own sentences that help to explain the word. Example:

Original Sentence: A catalyst often occurs that sets the conflict into motion.
What do I see wrong with this sentence? Catalyst is a hard word. Students will see that and immediately check out during their reading. “Sets into motion” is nothing a phrase that low readers often see or use.
Adapted Sentence: A catalyst (CAT-UH-LIST) happens in a story to help us learn about the conflict. A catalyst is an event that gets the conflict started or “sets it in motion” (think of someone pushing a ball down a hill. Their push is the catalyst).

Once we have read the notes, depending on their length, I have another reading out and ready to go. I read this to the students because by the time they are done with their notes they are usually mentally exhausted. Once I’ve read the read (usually a short 1-3 paragraphs), we discuss what I read in relation to their notes.

Today, we didn’t have time to read another story. Instead, I left blank space in the bottom of their notes and had students draw a plot diagram with the help of me on the overhead and my 2 instructional aides floating around. We labeled all of the relevant vocabulary on the plot diagram as well.

That’s all for today!

-Miss Wyoming


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