Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Reading Tumble

Back in the day, when I first started teaching, when it came to reading time, the best I knew was do a story with a group of kids, then send them off with a worksheet.  Sometimes I was lucky enough to have a worksheet out of a book that went with the series.  Sometimes I hated that worksheet and made my own.  Sometimes I had to make the worksheet because there was none.  It used to take me hours on a Monday to set up my reading programme for the next week!!  And the programme was boring with kids finishing at different times and not enough to keep them busy that meant any good learning was taking place.

The great thing about teaching is that it is an evolving thing.  We don't just go to training college and come out knowing everything.  In fact, most of us are pretty clueless when we first come out, and we learn from our more experienced colleagues, on the job and from the kids themselves.

So I had been out a while in the real teaching world.  I'd tried changing my approach to reading a few times, but it still wasn't going the way I'd like, especially for the kids in my class that struggled with learning compared to the majority.  Then I had this RTLB who said, "Hey, I'd like you to visit a class at a nearby school that is doing something called the Reading Tumble."  And then that RTLB helped me implement it into my class!!  Awesome.

I think this is suitable up to Year 5, but if I have a Year 5/6 or higher class, I tend to go into a contract type system to give them more responsibility and autonomy over their learning.  The Reading Tumble gives the students a chance to practise their social graces such as sharing, compromise, helping and leadership.  Each time the whole Tumble changes focus we have new groups, new leaders.

Having the Reading Tumble does not mean that I don't necessarily not give out a worksheet or a follow up activity, but it means that if I do or if they have finished that work, they have meaningful literacy work to carry on with.  And often I do not have a follow up activity because we have covered that possible focus together in the modelling book during our guided reading time.

So I'm going to attempt to explain how I run the Reading Tumble in my class in this post.

While I am very busy with my guided reading groups, the rest of the class will be engaged in meaningful activities planned to enhance their literacy learning.  The class is divided into five multi-levelled groups, allowing the students to support each other as they do their activities on the Reading Tumble board. 

Each group has a leader who is responsible for ensuring the group stays on task; that the equipment for the activity is collected, packed up and put away; and to be the liaison for me to alert to any issues.

My guided reading groups are ability grouped, but my Tumble groups comprise of students in a multi ability for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the more capable can help out those who need help.  When someone comes to me for reading I haven't gutted a whole group of everyone, so there should still be someone for them to work with.

Above is a picture of my Reading Tumble board.  The Tumble groups are down the left side with three activities going across from each name.  Each day I change the group position, so the top group will go to the bottom and each group moves up (or you could go the other way ;-) ).  Below I usually have a table showing who is in each group (because my brain can't always remember) and usually a table showing my guided reading groups too.

The names of my groups are usually based on the theme of our unit or class wide reading topic at the time.

So these first three are for three of my favourite science units on New Zealand endangered birds, the life cycle of a butterfly, focusing on monarch butterflies and space.

I also do a focus on Anzac Day each year, so the groups are named after companies that served in WWI.

I have more than five group names for each group, usually eight or more, which means I can lay the cards out and let the groups negotiate which name they prefer.

I try to make the cards inviting and colourful.  They also have to be read from a distance, so they are big, 10 to an A4 sized paper.  They are laminated, cut out, Velcro dot on the back to attach to the fuzzy Velcro dot on the Tumble board, therefore easy to move.

The pictures are for the kids who are more visual in their learning and can't read the label.

I have these for a variety of topics such as sporting events, animal
topics, health, or some generics for when having specific topics doesn't work.  One set I have doesn't have names written on them, so each group can choose their own name and I can wipe them off with meths and change the names.

Many of the activities on the Reading Tumble board will be themed around the inquiry or book focus that the class may have at the time.  I will have some activities that run consistently through, such as handwristing, editing skills, spelling, etc.

I also choose activities that will enhance their reading, writing, oral language and thinking skills.  There has to be some challenge, some fun, some creativity.  I try to keep it fresh.  Some activities may need to change focus weekly, some may come off in favour of others.

The students, well the younger ones at least, get quite excited about seeing what their next actities for the day are. 

I will now explain some of the activities I use on the Reading Tumble.

This is a fairly obvious one, Handwriting.  But at the beginning of the week I hand out all my worksheets and go through them with the students.  So I demonstrate the letters that are on the focus.  I use Start Right Junior and Senior Handwriting books published by ESA because they are aligned with the NZ curriculum and they are so straight forward.

I like these junior ones because the focus is on just two letters per page.  There are also numbers in the book.  I always go through drawing with your finger first on different surfaces (desk, carpet, skin, fabric) to get the kinesthetic going before picking up the pen to trace (I don't do pencil - broken pencils do my head in, and pencils are for maths and drawing).  I am big on kids starting letters in the right place and these books really reinforce that.

The senior book starts with printing, moves on to flicking and then linking.  There is also a focus on signs and addressing envelopes.  It has assessment stops on the way and a page of tips to do your best writing posture.  I also school my lefties on some tips to make things easier, and all of them on how to do slope.

I also have another book for kids who are not ready for the senior book and some cards I have created myself for printing, flicking and linking to carry on with when the sheets are finished for the week but they still have handwriting time.

I also have it so I can use it on a Smartboard or ActivBoard or Mimio.  I usually leave examples of the letter expectations on the board during the week.

Success Sheets is from a book I came across in my first year called Success that in the odd school may be on a dusty shelf in the Teacher Resource Room.  It covers alphabetical order, vowels and consonants, dictionary skills, phonics for long and short vowels, phonics for vowel combination, blends and dipgraphs, prefixes and suffixes, various spelling rules, punctuation rules, editing.....  It has four levels and combines puzzles and colouring activities as well.  It was developed by former principal Murray Meecham (not sure of the correct spelling) and I do not know if it is still in print or available, but I think they are great.  We mark as a group using the interactive board so the kids can come up and write things too and we can discuss the challenges and successes we had together.

Word Families is pretty much doing activities focused on word families in the traditional sense.  It many involve games, brainstorming.... I kind of based it loosely on Chunk, Check, Cheer.

Poet's Patch is a box of poems, usually on the theme, but can be a mixed box, available for independent reading and practising the performance of delivering an oral presentation.  I also introduce other activities such as these on occasion:

Chunks is fairly similar to Word Families.  You can google for endless activities for this.  I do have a magnetic set of word families that are fun.  But I prefer that activity done under teacher aide supervision otherwise the magnets end up everywhere but where they should be when packed up.

You Must Be Joking is where I have jokes. The "question" part of the joke is written on one card, the "answer" part of the joke is on another card. They have to match the two to each other. When they do, they write the joke on a piece of paper, date and sign it and glue it into the "You Must Be Joking" book. Good for middle primary, Years 3-5.  The jokes are usually based on the theme, like I have heaps of space jokes, animal jokes, sports jokes, and lots of school jokes for the beginning of the year.

Punctuation is pretty worksheet based.  There are a lot of books out there that you can use to teach how to use punctuation and do editing.  I have worksheets from various books that I use for this. 

Here is an example of a worksheet I use mostly with younger students and we mark together using the interactive board as with the Success Sheets.

Even though it is a sheet I would use with younger students, it never ceases to amaze me how many times I have to use this with older students to reinforce that all teachers expect them to be using these and correctly.

For Antonyms I have a book with worksheets, but there are also some cool games out there that the kids can play.  I would also use brainstorming and illustrating for this, and matching the antonyms on a wall display or in a game.

Research would give the students the opportunity to take time to research independently for the topic study.

Make It is when I want the students to make something.  When we did Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Make It activities included making a golden ticket using gold paper (that is like gold to get!), the boat from the chocolate river out of pink play dough, and constructing a factory from boxes.  When we do the Rugby World Cup, Olympics or the Commonwealth Games it could mean making medals, flags, national costumes, etc.

You Choose allows the children to choose which piece of work they want to work on.  It may be something they are close to finishing and want done, or it maybe something they are far behind on, or something in between.  The purpose is to instill some personal responsibility.

Sometimes I use You Choose to have a variety of activities in the box to choose from to complete to do with the topic.

Puzzles can mean jigsaw puzzles (great for younger students) or things like crosswords, wordfinds, mazes, brainteasers, wordplay, what is different in these pictures, kims game, matching games etc.  I usually have it topic based.

Life Education Books is for when Harold and the Life Education team is part of our learning programme.

NIE is for Newspapers in Education from Fairfax newspapers like the Waikato Times which I sometimes get to support a topic.  Occasionally we got newspapers focused on road safety, so I worked Road Safety in to the Tumble at that time.

Fluency Boxes is for when I want them to read for practise using books we have already used in guided reading and a reading level or so below.

Fantastic Facts is kind of a fun research thing.  They use the books for the topic and find an interesting fact that stands out for them.  They write it on a piece of paper, date and sign it and glue it into the Fantastic Facts book.  It is hilarious to go through and see what they have written at the end of the topic.

Poster is obviously about making a poster.  If you have an activity that requires them to make a poster for any topic, they can spend some of their Tumble time doing it.

Several of my topic units include a Postcard writing activity.  My space unit has them writing as though they are a tourist on the planet of their choice.  My Anzac unit asks them to write a postcard from Gallipoli explaining to their parents the conditions they are experiencing.

Advertise It! is where I want the students to come up with an advertising campaign for some aspect of our topic.  It may mean a Wanted poster for a character.  It could be a menu for Mr Fox's feast.  It may be an advertisement for tourism to a planet.

Ad-ing Words is about focusing on adjectives and adverbs.  The card is laminated and the chidren use whiteboard markers to brainstorm words that describe what the character looks like and how the character moves in the bubbles.  They then use the brainstormed words to write a sentence or paragraph about the character on a slip of paper which they then date and sign and glue into the Ad-ing Book.

Crafts is for if we were making some craft like activities.  My class made these pom pom birds for our New Zealand endangered native bird study.  We were wrapping that wool around two cardboard discs at every opportunity.  It's great for keeping them still during a read to session too (with guidelines).

Tell Me! is when the kids record orally an explanation or opinion about something they have read or discovered.  There are lots of great apps and programs on iPads, tablets and laptops to do this, or you can use one of those microphones that then connects through a USB cable to download to a computer.  Seesaw would be a great app to apply this to as well.

One of the biggest deficits our students have is vocabulary.  So I do the Vocabulary Expander to give children the opportunity to expand their vocabulary and to learn words specific to our topic.  I type up the words, print, laminate, cut out, stick a velcro dot on the back and stick it on the wall.  The kinesthetic part of taking it off the wall, putting their name on the back to claim it and putting it back on the wall at the end of the session is important.  If there is a name on it already, they have to choose an alternative word.  You can "ring fence" a group of words for less or more able students exclusive use. 

So once they have chosen the word they have to use a real dictionary to find the appropriate meaning for the topic.  They can only go digital to find the meaning of the word if none of the classroom dictionaries contain the word (it does happen).  They have to write out the meaning, preferably in their own words, but also show that they understand how the word can be used by writing it in a sentence of their own.  They then present it on A4 paper (or use the computer to present it and print) with the word as the title and including an illustration.  It then goes into a class book for all to refer to.

Below is one I prepared for the Waitangi Day unit I did in Term 1 2014.

Thesaurus Rex is when they have to find all the synonyms for a set word, then they are recorded for all the class to use.

Similes is where I want to to investigate and write similes.  And the same for Alliteration.  I have used this as an opportunity to decorate our class with examples.  Here are some similes my class didd last year.

Some topics and books lend themselves to maps, so I thought Map It! would be a great way for the children to be creative in a slightly different way.

Draw It! is the same kind of idea.  Sometimes getting the kids to draw for a topic or a book is a great way to get perspective.  I also have some cards with drawing activities and cartoons that I can use for this.

Topic would be used to work on any area of the topic the student chooses.

I could use Read It! for the children to read from the books in the topic section of our library or I could use this for the children to read what they want to read.

Computer - I may have specific websites or programs I want the students to use.  On occasion I will let them choose the activity on the computer (within reason).

Re-mix is where they may take an object from the topic and recreate it.  For example, when we did a Dr Suess unit and read If I Ran the Zoo, we "re-mixed" a whole lot of zoo animals to create new animals altogethre.

Some of us a still lucky enough to have a listening post or some variation of it.  One class I had had lots of laptops and we could use those to listen to stories too.  So that's the idea behind Listening Post.

And Publishing gives kids a chance to do the publishing of their stories during the Tumble time.

I had a class with iPads so I put I-Pad in the tumble.  I may specify particular apps I want them to use.  Or I may not.

Play It! is when they play games like Snakes and Ladders, Connect Four, Guess Who, Jenga, Battleships, Ludo, some card games, some word games.... now you may be thinking some of these things are not really literacy, but it is.  Oral literacy.  Oral language needs practising.  And during Play It! they're doing it without realising.  There is also co-operation, fair play, negotiation, and all those other social skills in play.

Record It gives the children an opportunity to record a poem or a passage of a book.  Some of my struggling readers I would get them to record reading their reader independently as a check on how they were going.  They can record Readers' Theatre.

Film It! is when they video something.  For the Rugby World Cup I had my class research famous parts of rugby games, re-enact it on video and edit it together with commentary.  It was a lot of fun.  We also had a go at the Fair Go Ad Awards one year.

So that's a snapshot of what my taskboard labels are about, but I have done so much more within this format than I can possibly explain, and I've spent long enough on this post today! 

I would love to hear from you in the comments section about some ideas you have from your class.  Thanks for reading to the end and I hope there is some inspiration for you.


  1. Thank you very much for sharing this. Lots of great ideas!

  2. Wow! What fabulous ideas! Thanks for sharing with me! This seems a better option in terms of preparation for Reading lessons. Stations might be easier for the little ones to follow. Will have a go at it!

  3. That's an awesome help! I'm just building up a set of resources to run a tumble next term! Long process to be cut short but it'll be worth it for my kids to have a better variety! Thanks for all the wonderful ideas!

  4. Fabulous ideas, I can certainly adapt this for my year 5's :)
    You have gone into so much detail, Thanks a bunch.

  5. This is very cool thanks for sharing :) can you let me know how you introduce it at the start of the year? Do you go through each task and model it or do you just let them at it! I teach y5 all boys and they will not produce higher quality work unless I have set some really explicit expectations around it. Would love to here your thoughts. Thanks :)

    1. Hi Toni. Thank you for your comment. When I intro the Reading Tumble at the start of the year I do model each task. I will change some tasks during the term and model them as I introduce them.
      For the first week with a new class I do not take proper guided reading lessons as they do the Tumble because I want to be on hand to get the routines in place.
      When it comes to any worksheets they do during the Tumble time, when I hand them out at the beginning of the week we negotiate what needs to be completed on any given day on each worksheet so it can be achieved over the week.
      I definitely agree that I have had to be explicit about the quality of work I expect. I have been known to tell a child they can do better and start again, but often they just need some midway feedback to get going in the right direction.
      It's important they get good routines in being organised with the books and equipment they need to work in another space so they don't interfere with children who may be working at their desk (non MLE/ILE classes). They also need to pack up an activity efficiently and the group leader has to be responsible for collecting and returning the activity - so that requires teaching because someone else always wants to do that too.
      This works really well for independent learners, but is supportive of those who are disorganised and are dependent because they are often working as a group and have the group to support them, hence the groups being mixed ability. And when I pull out my ability grouped reading groups, there should always be a mixed group left working together to support each other.

  6. Thank you for the awesome ideas for the reading tumble. You have obviously puy a lot of time and effort into creating a range of interesting activities that cater to all your kids I especially like how you've linked your work to the topic and focus on those things like punctuation/handwriting etc we don't always focus on enough. Well done you:)

  7. kia ora mo tēnā..thanks for sharing there are some awesome ideas here :) have a good year

  8. kia ora mo tēnā..ngā mihi nunui ki a koe. Thank you for sharing your inspiring ideas, I like the ideas that you have shared. Have a good year

  9. Kia ora....thanks for sharing these ideas....a great selection to choose from...love the Advertise it! and You must be joking!

  10. Awesome. You have such a variety of ideas that will really help me set up my reading tumble this term. Thanks so much for taking the time to share.

  11. Thank you so much. I so need to organise myself and this is going to help me heaps. You are awesome for sharing. xo

  12. Where do I find the book Success?