Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pre-A Reading Level...starts BEFORE the Beginning!

Pre-A Guided Reading Staff Development

I have just recently finished a Pre-A Staff Development for our school system.  My first experience with Pre-A and Jan Richardson was at the VSRA Conference in 2009.  Jan was presenting a session on the Pre-A guided reading level and I was completely in awe of this level.  She hit such a chord with me that day…and I was instantly a convert.  After the 2009 conference I emailed her to ask for an open date on her presentation schedule and when we realized she was booked too far in advance, she sent a DVD.  It was the pre-amble to today's DVD set that is available through Scholastic, but it was amazing.  I have also seen her several times since then...Virginia Beach in 2013, Roanoke in 2014, New Orleans in 2014.
I have shared her Pre-A with a variety of schools and colleagues, but this spring, the need for Pre-A seemed more and more necessary.  Let me explain.  As I have stated before, Virginia is not a Common Core state but only because we have been developing our own common curriculum since the early 2000s, our Standards of Learning.  As the rigor has increased the value in early reading skills and competencies has increased.  Students need a strong foundation in reading to be able to move forward confidently and successfully.

This summer I shared the Pre-A with 20 kindergarten and special education teachers in our school system.  Recently, I shared the workshop again with more teachers.  Here is an abbreviated version of my staff development.

What do you need for a Pre-A Lesson?

A standard guided reading lesson requires not much more than a book and a plan.  The Pre-A requires more than that.
The materials on the list aren't in any particular order.  I suggest a timer...it's a 20 minute lesson with 4 parts.  If you don't puse the time, you can easily get long-winded and take too much time.  Students will need magnetic letters (both upper and lower case letters) to sort, organize, and spell their names.  Having a pencil container with all the materials needed during the lesson, helps you keep the lesson to 20 minutes, as well. I love the dry erase markers from Dollar Tree and I talk about it later.  There needs to be a popsicle stick for pointing or the student can use their finger.  Letter/Sound cards are a necessity.  I love this set from Pioneer Valley Books.  It has sound cards, ehyming cards, and syllable cards ~ perfect for the Pre-A lesson.  You'll need Level A books.  You need a letter/sound linking chart.  The one I made has a writing space at the bottom of the chart.  When it's placed in a plastic sleeve, they can practice writing letters during the lesson.  You'll need standard sentence strips and scissors for the Working on Writing section.  The plastic sleeves mentioned earlier can be found at many different outlets, but I love the ones at EAI Educational.  Finally, you'll need a handwritten name plate for students.

What is a Pre-A Student?

We started our class with a sort:  Pre-A v. Emergent Readers.  It is crucial to determine who will benefit from a Pre-A lesson plan.  Students who are Pre-A are those that:

  • know less than 40 upper and lower case letters combined.

  • know some but few letter sounds.

  • need a model to write their name.

  • have limited concepts of print.

  • need practice with left-to-right directionality.

  • use choral reading

  • work mostly with letters and sounds, not words.
If you would like the sort, Click here.

Letter Identification and the Alphabet Tracing Book

Letter identification is the first step in the Pre-A.  Based on letter ID students can be divided into 3 categories:  Less than 10, 10-40 Known Letters, and More than 40.  The first two groups of children will be in a Pre-A lesson, the latter will be in a Level A with support.  Once the 2 Pre-A groups are determined, the students need the Alphabet Tracing Book and a Pre-A Lesson Plan.
The Alphabet Tracing Book is one of the best tools in the Pre-A plan.  The Alphabet Tracing Book is such a simple concept, but it can give such great results.  The book has 26 pages…one for each letter of the alphabet.  The page contains a capital and lower case letter and a linking picture.  The students are asked to trace the letters with their finger in proper formation.  Students in the Less than 10 Pre-A group will be tracing known letters and letters in their name.  Students in the 10-40 Known Letters will trace the entire book.  As they trace the letters they say the letter name and then point to the picture and say the picture.  If they don’t know the letter or form the letter incorrectly, the “teacher” uses a hand-over-hand method.  It is not recommended the students add a letter/sound association.  In our school, our teaching assistants and parent volunteers were taught to review the Alphabet Tracing Book DAILY!  Yes, DAILY!

If you would like a Sound Chart and Alphabet Tracing Chart Set, Click here.

The Lesson Plan

The Pre-A Lesson Plan is divided into 4 parts:  Working with Letters/Working with Names, Working with Sounds, Working with Books, and Working with Writing.  AND the entire Pre-A lesson takes 20 minutes.  That’s right…20 minutes.  Think of it as the Curves® of reading instruction.  You’ll hit on all four parts of the Pre-A lesson in 20 minutes.
If you would like the Pre-A Lesson Plan template, Click here.

Working with Names


The working with names is only for the students who cannot write their name without a model.  The activities are name puzzles, creating names with magnetic letters, and writing rainbow name writing.  There are three reasons I love the dry erase markers from Dollar Tree.  First, the marker is bullet point…so you don’t have to worry about a chiseled edge.  Second, the top can be snapped on without damaging the bullet point.  Finally, the eraser can be used with the rainbow writing.  The student is given a plastic sleeve and their printed name and a dry erase marker.  The student traces the name with proper formation, then uses the eraser end to erase the name in proper formation.  Set the timer for 1 minute and the student must write, erase, and rewrite the name until the timer goes off.  Once the timer goes off, ask the students to point and tell the names of each letter in their name.

Working with Letters

There are 8 activities for working with letters.  The 8 activities are listed in order of difficulty.  Students who know less than 10 letters are given their known letters and the letters in their name.  As soon as the student knows more than 10 letters, they are given a bag with all 52 letters.

Working with Sounds

Students are led through 3 activities:  clapping syllables, working with rhymes, and picture sorts.  Clapping syllables is self-explanatory.  The teacher says a word and the students clap the syllables.  Once this activity is done without help, the activity is discontinued.  Working with rhymes is a thumbs up, thump down activity.  The teacher says 2 words and the students react with a thumbs up or thumbs down as to if they rhyme.  Students do not produce rhymes, they simply identify them.  The final activity is picture sorts.  The teacher picks 2 letters (typically one known and one unknown) and picture cards for sorting.  The students are given one picture for each of the letters.  After the introduction, the students take turns placing one of the cards on the sorting mat.  They will say the picture and the sound.

Working with Books

Students will be given a Level A book and the predictable text.  They will read chorally the text…while doing a left-to-right sweep of the sentence.  After a Concept of Print lesson on words, students should be asked to read with one-to-one matching.

Working with Writing

          Students will finally be led in a writing lesson.  The sentence should mimic the language of the book.  If it is possible, the sentence should also contain at least one of the beginning sounds from the working with sounds lesson.

The DVD Set

I highly recommend the DVD set as the companion to the text.  Jan is amazing…and her book is a great read for all levels of guided reading.  The DVD set is just what you want.  It has videos so you can watch Jan in action with teachers and students.  She also has a CD with forms and necessities.

If you would like to get your own copy of Jan's DVD set, Click here.

Believe me, the Pre-A reading level is the best chance of getting students up to Level A and beyond in no time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cathy,
    What capital and lowercase letters do you use for your alphabet activities?

    ReplyDelete