Tricia Bennett's picture

My Year with the Making Meaning Program

As a fifth-grade teacher, I strive to provide the strongest instructional supports for my students! This includes providing instruction on reading and understanding texts of various genres. As you likely know, it is a daunting task to plan and pull together materials/resources and implement comprehension instruction that is rigorous. This led me on a search—was there something that would support my teaching and align with my ideas about reading and understanding text?

As a self-confessed nerd, I spend time engaged in conversation about teaching with my friends. These conversations led me to the Making Meaning program. I read the teachers manuals over the summer and had a hunch that this material could be what I was searching for…a year long program, with high teacher support, all the needed materials, student scaffolding towards independence and a focus on using genres to support strategy and skill development.

I started teaching the Making Meaning program week one of the school year. The results were obvious. By October, I was amazed! I was seeing improvements in reading comprehension in all of my students, from the highest- to the lowest-level readers. They were talking about, writing about, and engaging in texts in a deeper and more efficient manner than previous years. My high-level readers were engaged in critical thinking and able to extend themselves because they were pushed to use what they were being taught in texts that met their needs. My low-level readers were using complex strategies in an efficient way with text that was right for them.

Now, as we round the end of the school year, early, amazing results have only amplified. I find that my students…

  • are using strategies as they think deeply about text
  • know what strategies to use when reading independently
  • have the structures to express their thinking verbally and in writing
  • can look at texts in complex ways
  • can independently apply what we have worked on beyond the Making Meaning lesson and the reading block
  • have the social structures to support working well with others throughout the school day.

One of the biggest and most impressive surprises is the way students have learned to use the text, the context, and their schema to make smart inferences. The design of the Making Meaning lessons makes it both easy and natural for students to experience and learn how to infer in various texts.

My one wish is that I had started IDR as intended in the Teacher’s Manual at the beginning of the school year rather than waiting until January. I see now how this independent practice would extend the students engagement in text and would provide a venue for me to coach, confer, and observe what the students are able to do independently (which is our goal after all☺).

My advice to others would be to…

  • spend the time reading the manual and the lessons to build a solid understanding of the intent of the work in the Making Meaning lessons.
  • teach the lessons as written and pay attention to the scaffolds provided for teachers in the notes, facilitation tips, etc.
  • refrain from adding into the lessons. Allow the lessons to build on the text reading of the genres using the strategies and skills.

With thoughtful planning and reflection based on careful observations of students, I think you will also be amazed.

Tricia Bennett has been teaching fifth grade for the last 10 years in Sanford, FL. She uses Making Meaning during her literacy block daily to support students deeper understanding of complex texts.

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Comments (2)

Thank you, Tricia!   I

Thank you, Tricia!   I appreciate you sharing your reflections.  I specifically am thinking about what you said about the IDR.  That reading time is valuable for so many reasons but particularly to extend the work of the strategies.  I often wonder about how to make the transition from having your students have independent reading time to allowing the reading time to be a strategice part of the MM lesson. Thank you for sharing your advice - I just had a great experience this week that reminded me of the importance of  the instructional build - not only unit to unit but specifically day to day and how that is smartly planned in the MM manual to extend and scaffold student learning! Cannot wait to hear more!

Tricia, I agree with you

Tricia, I agree with you 100%!! Your advice to read carefully through the manual and be as true to the program as possible is key!! Some of my coworkers piloted the Making Meaning program last year in their 4th grade classrooms. They never once raved about how awesome the program really is. At first I was hesitant about it because I tend to get a great deal of high flyers. I was dubious as to whether or not it would be challenging enough for them. I used it this year, and I could be a salesperson for the program. We had an awesome time, and the kids were able to articulate how surprised they were with the depth of picture books. I did something very similar in the past, using well written picture books to teach different literary devices. Now I incorporate the two. Our district also instituted the Vocabulary as well as the Being a Writer programs at the same time. The vocabulary is awesome, and it is a perfect marriage with the Making Meaning. If you don't have it, I would strongly suggest you getting it. I've always been a vocab crazy person. I did something similar for years, but the fact that it matches perfectly with the Making Meaning books is like icing on the cake. If anyone would like to hear how to incorporate the vocabulary in a meaningful, yet unobtrusive way, feel free to contact me. I've shared my method (and Vocab. Book) with many teachers across my district from grades 3 to 5 and they love it too. Keep up the great work!!!

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