Beginning My Teaching with Balanced Literacy

I began my teaching career over 20 years ago and have watched as the "Reading Wars" led educators through the various trends in how best to teach reading. When I began teaching, I was trained in administering running records and how to teach my students to use the reading strategies to read…. 

You know the ones: Lips the Fish, Stretchy Snake, and Chunky Monkey.  I even had several of the Beanie Babies to go along with these strategies! Funny thing is that, while some of my students learned to read using these strategies, many did not.

Each year I had to send several of my 1st graders off to second grade unable to read. Knowing how vital learning to read is for my students, I had a very difficult time sending these kids off without this important skill.

So, I decided to return to school and earned a master’s degree in reading instruction. This program taught me to surround my students with literature and create a print rich environment. I remember spending a lot of time teaching my students to memorize words by looking at their shapes and creating pictures with the letters to help them recognize the words by sight. 

None of these strategies increased my ability to help my students learn to read. 

In fact, I created fewer readers than I did before! I tried combining all the different techniques I had been taught and continued to search for something better. I floundered and my kids continued to struggle for several more years. 

Discovering Just One Reading Simplified Activity, Switch It

Then, in March of 2017, a Facebook friend shared a link to Dr. Ginsberg’s Five-Day Level Up Challenge, and I decided that I would check it out. I was amazed at the growth her star student made in such a brief time and her Switch It activity seemed so simple. 

Level Up invitiation_teacher working with small group using Switch It game

I began my own education in the late 60’s-early 70’s so I was taught how to read and spell by using letters and sounds…phonics. I have always considered myself to be an accomplished reader and speller. I won a few spelling bees in my early days, and I attribute this to being taught phonics and sound-based decoding when I began learning to read. Consequently, the strategies that Marnie shared made a lot of sense to me, so I decided to accept her challenge and tried it out with a small group of my lowest students. 

All the students in my group had been receiving intervention services daily from our intervention teacher all year. And, while our resource and intervention teachers were fabulous, this group of kids just wasn’t getting it!

None of them could segment or blend VC words much less CVC words and they each knew only a handful of letter sounds.

I began using Switch It with them on Monday and by the end of the week they were at last able to hear the sounds in words and they understood that each of those sounds was represented by a letter or group of letters. 

Whole class Switch It in Jennifer Glueck's room

Switch It Unlocks Reading for My Struggling Readers

The breakthrough had happened! 

They finally realized what they were supposed to do with letters and how they were combined to make words. After only one week and using only one activity, these kids had cracked the alphabetic code!

They finally understood what it was that they were supposed to do with all those funny squiggles and lines that everyone had been trying to teach them. Helping these students become readers after only 5 days was all it took for me to be totally hooked on Reading Simplified

Learning the Full Reading Simplified System

I became a member of the Reading Simplified Academy and learned how to successfully implement the other Reading Simplified activities like Read It, Sort It, and Write It

Graphic organizer for the Sort It activity

I used the 3-Part Reading Simplified lesson plan with my first grade ELL students for the next 3 years with amazing success and then moved to a Kindergarten classroom. 

Accelerating Kinders During a Virtual Year of Instruction

Thanks to Reading Simplified, my little kinders began segmenting and blending words in the first two weeks of school using first Build It and then Switch It!

Did I mention that we started our year virtually?

I had 27 Kindergarten students learning to read on MS TEAMS using Reading Simplified strategies! Within the first month of school, they knew all the letter sounds and were reading decodable passages independently. 

My principal was shocked as were many of my colleagues. I have continued to use Reading Simplified with my students and have been incredibly pleased with the results. Check out the data from my last class of Kindergartners:

As you can see, many of them started the year with little to no knowledge of letter sounds or how blend them to read words. By the end of the year, they were all reading both basic and advanced code words and passages!

Their parents were thrilled, my principal was impressed, the students were proud and confident. I was ecstatic that I had been able to give all of them the skills they needed to become successful readers.

I am so thankful that I finally found Reading Simplified and the tools I need to help all my students become confident and fluent readers--a skill that will be vital to their success now and into the future. Reading will unlock the doors for them to become whatever it is they dream of becoming. 

My only regret is that I didn’t discover Reading Simplified 20 years ago! 😊

Now it's your turn!

Do you have a question for Jennifer or for us here at Reading Simplified? Please comment below...