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Teaching Reading K-2: A Library of Classroom Practices

100 Days of Reading

In Shari Frost's multi-grade classroom, literacy activities have a real-world emphasis.

Shari Frost’s First- and Second-Grade Class

“Life in school reflects what happens in the world. When something is going on in the world it creeps into your classroom. I use every event that happens in life to enhance the curriculum…. Everyone in the world is talking about it and they want to participate, they want to be involved.”
Shari Frost

Video Summary

In Shari Frost’s multi-grade classroom, literacy activities have a real-world emphasis. Students read, write, and do math while celebrating Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School. Ms. Frost’s literacy instruction connects what’s going on inside the classroom to what’s going on outside the classroom — at home and in the world — while following the required district curriculum. She challenges each student to advance as a literacy learner, and promotes higher-order thinking, whether in a book comparison group activity or in an individual lesson about the Internet.

Ms. Frost’s literacy lessons demonstrate the following:

  • Authentic reasons for reading and writing
  • Connections between the language arts — reading, writing, speaking, and listening
  • Literacy skills used as a foundation for learning in all content areas, including math
  • Teaching that encourages independence but provides support when needed
  • Validation of and responsiveness to students’ suggestions and interests
  • Multi-level activities that challenge students and meet individual needs

Literacy Teaching Practices
See sections in Lens on Literacy

  • Guided Reading
  • Independent Reading
  • Interactive Writing
  • Independent Writing

The Teacher and the Class

Shari Frost teaches a multi-age class (first and second grade) at the Norwood Park School in Chicago. The school serves students from surrounding neighborhoods as well as those bused from other areas of the city. Dr. Frost’s fully inclusive classroom supports a range of learners, including one special needs student who requires a full-time aide.

Dr. Frost studies early literacy with the same dedication that marks her teaching. Driven by a curiosity about how children learn to read, she has earned a master’s degree and a doctorate. Still, she remains committed to teaching at the primary level. “Lots of people say to me, now that you’ve had this education, what are you going to do? And I always say … this is where I need to be; this is where I want to be. We need really knowledgeable people teaching the primary grades.” In addition to teaching young children, Dr. Frost teaches at the graduate level, and makes it a priority to mentor a student teacher each year.

Believing that the “home-school connection is critical,” Dr. Frost communicates with parents through a monthly newsletter, reporting on important events and student accomplishments. Homework folders, which students bring home every day, carry information to and from parents. “I’ve told parents that the homework folder is our lifeline. This is the way we keep in touch with each other.” Parents also contact Dr. Frost through e-mail.

Before Viewing

The following activities prepare you to observe this classroom video, whether alone or with a group. Taking notes on the Observational Checklist while you watch will help you focus on important aspects of teaching and learning in the classroom. You may also use the KWL chart to record your thoughts before and after watching the video.


1. Prepare To Record Your Observations

Print out copies of the Observational Checklist (PDF) and Key Questions (PDF) to record your observations, reactions, and further questions throughout your viewing.


2. Review Important Terms

Review the definitions of the Literacy Teaching Practices (see section in Lens on Literacy):

  • Read-aloud
  • Shared reading
  • Guided reading
  • Independent reading
  • Interactive writing
  • Independent writing

Review the definitions of the Essential Components of Literacy Development:

  • Oral language
  • Phonological awareness
  • Word study
  • Vocabulary/Concepts
  • Word identification/Phonics
  • Comprehension
  • Composition
  • Fluency/Automaticity

3. Create a Know-Wonder-Learned Chart

Print out a copy of the KWL Chart (PDF) to record what you already know and what you would like to learn about teaching reading and writing in kindergarten. Groups can use the KWL chart to generate discussion and questions to consider while viewing.

First Impressions

1.  Watch the Video

On your first viewing use the Observational Checklist (PDF) to note how Shari Frost implements some of the Literacy Teaching Practices. In particular, observe the ways she fosters literacy development for each first and second grader by integrating language arts into classroom routines and literacy activities throughout the day.

2. Review What You Saw

Review the Observational Checklist and reflect on what you saw. How do the practices you just watched compare to your own? What do you think about the ways these practices apply to the students you teach?

As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

3. Relate the Key Questions to Martha Duran-Contreras’s Classroom

How are reading and writing connected in this classroom?

Dr. Frost’s classroom engages students in authentic, real-world reading and writing tasks. What lessons in the video give students authentic reading and writing tasks? Why are these types of experiences important in a language arts curriculum for young learners?

Looking Closer

Take a second look at Shari Frost’s classroom to deepen your understanding of specific literacy teaching strategies. Use the video images below to locate where to begin viewing.

1. Oral Language and Morning Meeting: Video Segment

Like many primary-grade teachers, Dr. Frost uses the morning meeting as community-building experience. Dr. Frost also emphasizes oral language development in the morning meeting.

Like many primary-grade teachers, Dr. Frost uses the morning meeting as community-building experience. Dr. Frost also emphasizes oral language development in the morning meeting.

  • What is the benefit to sharing news from home?
  • Why does Dr. Frost connect the reading of the poem of the week to the morning meeting?
  • How does Dr. Frost use information shared during the morning meeting to inform other aspects of her literacy program? How does she connect the morning meeting and the theme of the day? How does this connection foster oral language? How can Dr. Frost use informal observations about students to provide assessment data?

2. Interactive Writing: Video Segment

Find this segment 8 minutes and 10 seconds after the beginning of the video. Watch for 2 minutes and 36 seconds.

When she began the year with her multi-age class, Dr. Frost thought interactive writing might be appropriate for the first-grade students in her class but not for her second-grade students. She came to believe, however, that interactive writing is an important shared literacy practice that provides learning opportunities for everyone.

  • How does writing at the front of the group benefit students academically and socially? How does Dr. Frost decide which students to call up to the chart during lessons?
  • How does Dr. Frost use students’ writing attempts to meet the needs of the student as well as to help the entire group? What other word study skills does Dr. Frost reinforce in this particular interactive writing lesson?


3. Author’s Chair: Video Segment

Find this segment 19 minutes and 3 seconds after the beginning of the video. Watch for 4 minutes and 39 seconds.

Dr. Frost plans group activities that bring students at different levels together. In this comprehension activity, she asks students to compare and contrast five different books about “100th day of school” celebrations.

  • How does Dr. Frost’s comparison chart help the students understand the purpose of comparing books? How does it scaffold and encourage higher-level thinking?
  • Dr. Frost uses a student’s comment to highlight the difference between descriptive stories and stories that have a conflict or problem. What do you think about this teaching example? How does this activity develop students’ reading comprehension skills?
  • What other examples in the video demonstrate Dr. Frost’s ability to use a student’s response to enhance a lesson?
  • Why does she ask students to identify their favorite book? What is gained from this exercise?

Summing Up

Reflecting on Your Viewing Experience

Review your Observational Checklist and other notes such as your KWL chart.

  • What surprised or interested you?
  • What did you find that affirmed what you already knew or had been doing?
  • Which segments offered you a new approach or idea?
  • What new questions do you have?
  • After watching the video, do you think differently about your own practices? About the students you teach? About how young students develop literacy?

As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

Making Connections

Here are some opportunities to apply and extend what you’ve seen.

1. Read This Article

Compare this article on connecting math and literature with what you observed in Dr. Frost’s classroom.

Reading in the Math Class: Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 (PDFs)
Thatcher, D.H. “Reading in the Math Class: Selecting and Using Picture Books for Math Investigations.” Young Children 56, no. 4 (2001): 20-26.

Reprinted with permission from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

After reading the article, think about ways you can connect literature and mathematics in your own classroom. Are there books that your students are familiar with that lend themselves to developing mathematical concepts?

2.Watch These Videos

View the first-grade video in the Teaching Reading library, “Assessment-Driven Instruction.” Compare what you see with the use of the computer in Dr. Frost’s classroom. Reflect on how Dr. Frost taught a student to use the computer to do an Internet search to determine the feasibility of his mathematics project. What prerequisite literacy skills do you think a primary-age student should demonstrate in order to do research like the student in the video?

For more information, see Assessment-Driven Instruction

3. Take It Back To The Classroom

Identify one element or strategy from Ms. Duran-Contreras’s lesson that you would like to try in your classroom. List any supports or resources you would need to implement it. Use the Classroom Strategy Planner (PDF). If you are participating in a study group, share what happened when you tried out the new strategy. Or keep a reflective journal of your experience, focusing on the benefits for you and for your students.