Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Integrating Content into Reading: The Moon and Cycles

This is the name of my game!  I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that we are only 8 DAYS until this sweet moment.  We have been working so hard but there is still so much to teach in this nine weeks.  I've been talking to many of my Virginia teacher friends and it seems we are all in the same boat.  LOTS of curriculum to teach in a short time especially if you factor in the varying abilities and readiness levels of some of our third graders. 

One way I've been trying to get it all in has been to do a great deal of integration across the curriulum.  The state has suggested we increase the percentage of nonfiction we are using to teach reading and so we are reading tons of science and social studies texts during our reading block.  This helps especially since the state of Virginia has also reminded us that our pass rates for our social studies and science tests go up this year. YIKES!

Along with our reading we are creating our make and take study guides to give students some hands on materials to review key information with.  Here are the materials we used to teach our Cycles Unit  information with. 

We store it all in a file folder with a ziplock bag stapled to the back.  Along with these manipulatives, students have vocabulary cards that they can use to review the key terms.  

Students enjoyed making and using these moon viewers.  They took them home and used them to identify and record the moon phases for the month.


Along with the nonfiction reading, we read some tales from different cultures.  Tales like this one: Why The Sun and Moon Are in the Sky  were told as a means of explaining why the sun and moon exist. 
We added a poem/song to our poetry anthologies during our study of the moon.  This song was sung to the tune of "The Ants Go Marching One By One" and helped students review the phases of the moon by singing a silly, catchy song.  There is strong research backing up the use of songs, rhythm and music to help with memory. Kids love it when their homework is to go sing their learning songs to a grownup.  Not so sure what the grownups think about it..oh well, whatever it takes, right?

I've also started giving my students weekly nonfiction passages to practice their fluency with.  They read it with their reading partner each day and time the readings.  Students love to see their graphs go up over the week's time. They are very motivated by the graphing of their own data.  I love the fact that they end up reading important content information five times!  I make sure that key vocabulary is included in each passage.  I can check off five exposures right there. They illustrate the text with a meaningful diagram or drawing.  After the week is through we practice our test taking skills by answering some comprehension questions modeled after the BIG TEST questions. I make sure they are text dependent questions and students must highlight where they find the proof for each answer they mark.

Training the students of the correct way to be a fluency reading partner was important. They have done such a great job.  I teach them to give positive praise and friendly feedback after their partner reads. They are so encouraging of each other.  Awesome!
We are also writing across the curriculum.  I've loved the connections that result from an integrated approach. Will post about writing next time.
How about you?  Would love to hear how you are managing to "get it all in"!!!
Comment or Email me at youngdor8@gmail.com


  1. Hi! I just found your blog and was so excited to see that you teach in Virginia too! I definitely try to integrate content in my language arts time also but we sometimes run into the issue of finding leveled articles or passages that relate to the content. Where do you get your passages or nonfiction books for your students?

  2. Hi Courtney! Where do you teach? I love networking with other VA teachers. We have a great science text book from Five Ponds Press. It is very kid friendly and covers our SOLs. We also have a text book for social studies from Harcourt. Also geared to the SOLs. I write my own fluency passages and use lexile.com to level it. That way I can make sure it includes the vocabulary I need it to. Hope this helps!

  3. It does help! Thank you! I teach in Virginia Beach. I'm so glad I found your blog; I love seeing other 3rd grade teachers ideas especially when they teach in Virginia too! :)

  4. Hi Doris, I love your blog! I come here for inspiration all the time and am once again inspired! I have a question about the graphs the students fill out for fluency. Do they graph the number of words they read? Is it in a certain amount of time? That's how I've always done it but would love to hear your procedure on the fluency graph. Thank you!

  5. Hi Doris,

    I am a first year teacher in VA. I teach third grade as well in Fairfax county and really like how you integrate reading into across the curriuculum. We are a new team, and the team I work with were all upper grades, 5/6 so teaching that way is not what they are used to.
    I tried purchasing your simple machines activity as I thought it was a great supplement to our notebook, but with so many unexpected snow days and the SOL's here, we pushed it off.
    I would love any suggestions you have on where to find ideas for integrating reading so I can start planning now for next year!