In recent years I have found that many of my students are not entering fourth grade on grade level.  Some are slightly below grade while others are significantly below grade level.  It seems like each year I get more and more students that are performing more than one year below grade level expectations.  While I do not have a magic "cure" or solutions, here are a few interventions I have tried in addition to small guided reading group instruction.  Some of these ideas are brand new to me this year and I will be curious to see if they work!

Individual Book Baggies

Reading/ Decoding Games

Readers Theater

Making Words

Differentiated Reading Activities during Guided Reading

Finding High Interest/ Low Readability Books

Making the Home School Connection

Getting Hooked on Reading

Individual Book Baggies

This is something I have done in the past with success. I got the idea from the Reading Specialist at my school. This year, I will try this with all my below grade level readers.  I gave each student a clasp envelope (book baggy).  On the clasp envelope is a letter to parents describing times to read  and how to read with your child.  This letter was created by the Reading Specialist and I do not have a copy!  On the back I wrote the students name in permanent marker.  To keep the envelopes in good condition, I  laminated each envelope.

At our school I am very lucky to have a LARGE leveled reading library.  This year, I am putting this resource to good use.  On Thursdays I select 7-8 leveled readers at each child's independent reading level (one to two level below their instructional level).  To make this easier, I have boxes of books for each reading group.  On the box I have labeled the students names.

On Friday mornings, students bring their "book baggies" to  our reading table during morning work time.  They trade in their old books and are able to select four NEW books to read.  Since I selected 7-8 titles, this gives them choice in what they what to read.  Also, after students finish a book in guided reading, this book is sent home in their book baggies to practice fluency.

To keep students accountable for this reading I also send home a reading log. Students are expected to fill out this log each night after reading WITH their parents.

Printable copy of reading log in PDF

Printable copy of reading log in Word

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Reading/ Decoding Games

This year I am trying something new.  Adrian Bruce has these amazing games to supporting phonics and decoding.  I printed out ten of the games on colored card stock and then laminated them. I cut out all the cards with a paper cutter (this took a long while).

I put all the cards for each game in a clasp envelope.  On the outside of the envelope are game directions printed from the site ( back) and a letter to families (front).

Every week I will send home a new game with my struggling readers.  I will send home games on Mondays and ask that they be returned the next Monday.  To keep pieces from getting lost, I am asking that parents count the pieces before returning the game to check for missing cards.  I have the total number of cards/ pieces listed on the envelope.

I will keep a list tracking who has each game and then we will exchange games the next Monday,

I have never tried this and I will be curious to see how it will work!


Example photo of game


Printable Families Game Letter in Word

Printable Reading Games Checklist in Word

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Making Words

My school district uses the Rebecca Sitton Spelling program.  In order to support reading AND spelling I have promised myself that I will try to do a Making Words activity for every other spelling unit, if not EVERY spelling unit.

Since I have only finished my second unit, I have done one Making Words activity and the students LOVED it. The problem with this, is that since I am trying to match the spelling skills test on the bottom of the spelling test, I will be making ALL of these Making Words activities on my own!  YIKES!

Now this is NOT the exact way Cunningham suggest to do Making Words.  This is Making Words with MY spin on it !

So far this is how I have created and conducted this activity:

Preparing the activity in advance:

  1. Our first unit was identify short and long vowel words.  I created a list of short and long vowel words that I wanted students to be able to spell independently.

  2. Then I created a sequence of what letters could lead into a new word.  I tried to focus on how adding an e could make a short vowel word a long vowel word. (tap, add an e at the end and it becomes tape).

  3. After I created a list of about 8 to 10 words I figured out what letters were needed.  Then I printed out the letters on my computer using a form like the one below.  Before making copies of the activity, I cut out the letters and actually conducted the activity to make sure I was not missing any letters.

  4. After I checked myself I printed two copies of the page and then made a class set.  To save on paper, I made two copies to a page.

Conducting Whole Class Making Words:

  1. I gave each students a copy of the making words letters.  Students cut the letters out and then were given a baggy to store the letter.  Students wrote their name on the baggies using crayons.  I would suggest having students cut the letters out ahead of time if possible (perhaps morning work).  I also gave students a time limit (letters had to be cut out, names on bags and trash and scissors put away in 7 minutes.  Yes, this is plenty of time).

  2. For management purposes, I told students that whenever I said, "One, two, three touch your head," that I wanted all hands off letters and on top of their heads.

  3. I would tell students the word I wanted them to spell. While creating the word, I would walk around and observe and help students.

  4. I called on one students to orally spell the word.  While the student spelled it, their peers touched each letter and I wrote the letter on the board.  When it was completely spelled we ALL ran out fingers under the word and said it aloud.

  5. Sometimes I would ask students questions like what letters make the /k/ sound or /ch/ sound.

  6. After we spelling the word I asked students to show me if the word was short or long (since this was the focus of their skills test).  Stomp if it as short and clap if it were long.  Easy way to check who gets it.

  7. I would ask students to create a new word (Ex. "add one letter to create this new word: chopped")

  8. At the end I asked students to create the mystery word ache.  I was trying to figure out who knew that ch could also make the /k/ sound (next weeks skill test).

  9. Students put all the letters in their baggy and took them home to practice for their homework.

Making Words Activity Printable in a Word Template

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Differentiated Reading Activities during Guided Reading



Finding High Interest/ Low Readability Books

This is always a challenge: matching good books to readers.  One thing I have also recent learned is that series are not always written at the SAME grade level.  Often the author wants the reader to grow wit the series so the levels can greatly range.

I have become a member of Titlewave.  It is actually for library and media specialists to order books.  However, it has a HUGE collection of books with levels in AR and also reading levels.  It is free to become a member, you just have to have a login with a school.

I think the best way to match books and readers, is to simply be knowledgeable.  However, I am always looking for good books for readers so here is a cheat sheet!

Printable Copy of this List in Word



Books and Levels

Horrible Harry Series


Suzy Kline

Horrible Harry Moves Up to Third Grade 1.8

Horrible Harry and the Drop of Doom 2.2

Horrible Harry and the Green Slime  3.3

Horrible Harry and the Purple People 3.3

Horrible Harry and the Dungeon 3.5

Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise 3.5


Arthur Chapter books

Stephen Krensky

Arthur Makes the Team 2.8


Secrets of Droon

Tony Abbott

City in the Clouds 3.0

The Great Ice Battle 3.1

The Isle of Mists 3.2

Journey to the Volcano Palace 3.0

The Mysterious Island


Katie Kazoo

Nancy Krulik

A Katie Kazoo Christmas  3.2

No Messiní With My Lesson 2.9

On Your Mark, Bet Set, Laugh! 3.3

A Whirlwind Vacation 2.9

Girls Donít have Cooties 3.2

I Hate Rules! 3.1


Marvin Redpost

Louis Sachar

Marvin Redpost: Is he a Girl? 2.2

Marvin Redpost: Class President 2.8


Boxcar Children

Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Boxcar Children 2.1

The Schoolhouse Mystery 2.2

The Soccer Mystery 2.8

Mystery Behind the Wall 2.8

The Growling Bear Mystery 3.5

The Magic Show Mystery 3.2

A Present for Grandfather 3.2

The Secret Under the Tree 2.2

The Windy City Mystery 2.8


Jigsaw Jones

James Preller

The Case of the Runaway Dog 3.5


A to Z Mysteries

Ron Roy

The Absent Author 2.8

The Deadly Dungeon 2.8

The Gooseís Gold 2.8

The Invisible Island 3.2

The Jaguarís Jewel 3.1

The Ninth Nugget  2.8


Bailey School Kids

Dadey and Thornton

Angels Donít Know Karate 2.6

Bogeymen Donít Play Football 3.2

The Bride of Frankenstein Doesnít Bake Cookies 3.0

Dragons Donít Cook Pizza 2.8

Zombies Donít Play Soccer 3.2



Matt Christopher

Johnny Longlegs 3.0

No Arm in Left Field 3.2

The Year Mom Won the Pennant 3.5

Touchdown for Tommy 3.5

The Spy on Third Base 3.5

Snowboard Maverick 3.5


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