“The magic for these kids was finding a series that they could decode, that could keep their interest, that motivated hard work, and that made them sound and feel like successful readers.”
Last year I was serving as an instructional coach, intern mentor, and also ran some intervention groups. Our intern, Amelia Fontein and I taught a small group of 6 third grade students, 45 minutes per day. They started the year struggling to decode CVC words, and they were also starting to realize their challenge with reading when compared to their grade level peers. When you are in third grade, it’s very clear when someone next to you is reading a chapter book, and you’re struggling to read “Hop on Pop”, that something is amiss.
We were using Kilpatrick PA instruction and Wilson Reading System with this group of students. While they were hard workers and were digesting the knowledge, they did not really have a chance to apply their learning in a way that was really meaningful to them until we found the Magic Belt Series. We read The Man in the Mist and these students were hooked! We read the books, re-read, re-read in partners, dove into vocabulary and comprehension, acted out the books as we read aloud, and discussed the characters.
Kids begged to keep reading the series. They were truly excited whenever we would introduce a new book. Kids felt that they were reading chapter books, because they were! They were getting to know characters, motivations, suspense, plot, and they could actually read the words on the page. It was exciting.
Using the kids’ excitement for the Magic Belt Series also pushed Amelia and I to amp up our instruction to dip our toes into phonics patterns beyond what was taught in the current Wilson substep to mastery. This served these third graders! For example, when -ed endings came up in the Magic Belt Series, but not yet in Wilson, we led some mini-lessons about the sounds of -ed and how to decode. This was outside of the Wilson scope and sequence, but the kids totally ate it up and immediately (and appropriately) applied this to their reading, because they were motivated. In this way, the Magic Belt Series pushed us to expose our students more fully and authentically to patterns that come up in text, and they had great success with this.
In June, as school was winding down, Amelia and I put together a scavenger hunt for our students. Starting in the classroom, we shared a box with a clue and a little bag inside. Students had to decode the clue and then go to the next spot, to find the next envelope. Hidden in each envelope on their path was a “magic gem” (gemstones we had purchased from our local bead shop, colors all corresponding to the gems Zak and Finn found on their adventures). The students could not contain their excitement! They were frantic to read the clues, and raced around the school to add to their bag of “magic rocks”.
At the conclusion of our scavenger hunt, back in the classroom, we told them that they now had magic reading gems. Their job was to read aloud to the bag of gems over the summer to infuse them with power. In return, the gems would have a magic effect on continuing to improve their reading. One student said, “That’s a trick…we’ll get better because we’re practicing reading.” Maybe he was right…but I think the magic for these kids was finding a series that they could decode, that could keep their interest, that motivated hard work, and that made them sound and feel like successful readers.
Thank you for sharing this engaging series with the world, and especially with our readers. We feel very lucky to have found, purchased, and used your materials.
This is a guest blog written by Brin Tucker, M.Ed. Brin has worked in education since 2003 as a classroom teacher, academic interventionist, data coach, instructional coach, and curriculum coordinator. Though so many passions alight through in her work with students, nothing compares with the magic of watching children grow their skills to see themselves as capable readers and writers. Brin lives in Vermont with her family, 2 cats and a naughty bunny.