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Let' them talk!! Collaboration in Reading and Writing

Welcome back!  Today I want continue the discussion of Essential Practice 1:

Essential Practice #1:  Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.


The third bullet of this practice states:

The teacher offers regular opportunities for children to collaborate with peers in reading and writing, such as through small-group discussion of texts of interest and opportunities to write within group projects.

Collaboration is a fancy term that means...LET THEM TALK!  As teachers, we love quiet classrooms, don't we?  We think our administrators are judging our classroom management skills based on how quiet our classroom is.  But in fact, it is the always-silent classroom that I really worry about.  Really, really worry.  Teacher - deep down in your heart you know that the most magical things happen when your students are having meaningful dialogue about their learning.  So, let them talk!

1.  Provide time for students to read with partners or in small groups.

Sometimes we call this buddy reading and our students love it!  Students can take turns reading aloud or read together chorally.  Either way, it is a great way to practice reading fluency.  When working together, students will be more likely to stop and process the text and discuss the pictures, which is really great for reading comprehension.

2.  Have students create their own questions about a text and discuss the answers with peers.

Asking and answering questions with a peer is much more engaging that filling out a worksheet...that is for sure!!  So, instead of giving students a list of comprehension questions to answer silently after reading, have students generate a few questions about a text and then work with a partner to talk about the answers.  Of course, you would need a few lessons on "thin vs thick" questions to steer them in the right direction, but I get so excited thinking about the critical thinking involved in having students write their own text questions!!

3.  Allow students to do Team Summaries of texts they are reading.

Summarizing is such a critical reading skill and students need lots and lots of practice with it.  Having students collaborate with partners or teams to write effective summaries not only makes it more fun, but also gives them an opportunity to think critically about a text.   As they discuss the events and/or details in the text they will discuss and debate which ideas are important enough to be included in the summary.  Place students in temporary, heterogeneous groups; both striving and thriving readers will benefit from this type of group work!

4.  Have students do Literature Circles instead of book clubs.

If you have never done literature circles (Smokey Daniels), you are missing out.  Students are placed in small groups to discuss a book.  Each person in the group has a different role to support the discussion.  There are a variety of different roles to choose from including discussion director, literary luminator, connector, word wizard, etc.  The roles help to structure the conversation as the group discusses the book.  Students are highly motivated to read and engaged in a text when they know they have an important role to play in their book club.



5.  Give time for Book Talks

In my previous post about matching books to readers, I discussed the importance of creating structures for students to recommend books to one another on a consistent basis.  Book talks are a great way to do this (and a great way to practice summarizing too)!  The idea is simple.  Allow students to pick a book they would like to "book talk" with their partner, a small group or the class.  They plan out their summary of the book by using a simple outline (for example, a summary of the book, and some reasons why their peers might like it also).  Then schedule a time each week when students can do their book talks!  THEY LOVE THIS....and it will help to create an amazing community of readers in your classroom!

6.  Provide opportunities for students to collaborate around writing

Reading and writing instruction go hand-in-hand and students should be given regular opportunities to collaborate with their peers about their own writing as well as the writing of mentor authors.  I have students meet daily with their writing partners to share what they are working on and to get peer feedback.  Peer editing is so helpful for students as well...they can rely on one another to polish their writing and take this off your plate!  Students also love dissecting a mentor text with their peers.  I love to see them putting their little heads together in front of a great book, and having great conversations about author's craft.  This is perfect to do before starting a writing unit on a new text type.  I have a great post about this if you want to learn more:  Immerse Your Students in Great Writing with Mentor Texts

7.  Use a jigsaw to help students to unpack challenging informational or content-area text.

I love a good jigsaw!!  We do them at professional development sessions often, and I think it is a great way to break down long, and complex texts into smaller components, while also giving a great context for collaborating about the text.  If you have never done a jigsaw, the idea is simple.  You divide a piece of text (an article, short text, or even a whole book) and have each member of the group read one the parts.  Then you give an adequate time to read (which may be minutes or days, depending upon the length of the text).  Then the group comes together and "teaches" about the part they read and gives their own insights.  After everyone has taught about their section, the group can analytically discuss the text as a whole, discussing what they've learned, asking and answering questions.   This techniques really helps students to understand more complex text because they have the opportunity to discuss and analyze one small part at a time, with the added insights of their peers.

These are just a few ways to incorporate student collaboration into your daily reading lessons.  When your principal walks in and HEARS all of the chatter going on.....rest easy.  Because she will SEE some highly engaged students talking about their reading.  And that is exactly what they want to see!  Trust me!

This post is part of a series about the Essential Practices in Early Literacy:



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Thank you for visiting...I love to COLLABORATE with fellow teachers...so please feel free to comment on this post.  You can also follow me {and receive a free gift} by clicking on "Subscribe" to the right of this post. 

Relentless Book Matching


Essential Practice #1:  Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.


Do your students LOVE reading?  Do they beg to keep reading when reading time is over?  No?  If your students are struggling with stamina, they may not have "the right" books in their bins.  This post outlines some strategies to help your students to find books that will tickle their fancy and keep them reading long after the required "20 minutes" is up.

1. KNOW your students and their interests.

If you want to match books to readers....you have to KNOW the readers...as individuals.  It is well worth the time it takes to get to know each of your students on a personal level.  Obviously, this helps to build a rapport and a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.  But, it can also give you the key to finding books that they will love.  Ask questions, show an interest and listen intently to what they tell you, and also to the things they talk about with their peers.  Ken Goodman used to call this "kid-watching", and it is a great way to learn more about your students.  I also like to give my students different reading interest surveys throughout the school year to keep up with their changing likes and dislikes.  Just google "Student Interest Survey" and you will find several good ones.

2.  Encourage peer collaboration around books.

Provide structures for your students to dialogue about books and to recommend books to one another.  Give them lots of opportunities to write book reviews, give book talks and list recommendations to their classmates.  I can really relate to this one as a voracious reader....if my friends are raving about a book, I am on Amazon ordering it that same day.  Powerful.  A teacher I know has a very simple chart posted all year...it is a running list of book recommendations by the kids in her class.   They write their name, and then the name of the book.  Someone is always standing in front of that chart, looking to see what books their besties have read.  Powerful.

3.  Create Text Sets or Reading Ladders

When you have an idea of the types of books your students are interested in, create sets of connected text.  For example, a collection of grade-appropriate fiction and nonfiction texts about dogs or with dog characters.  Students who love dogs will gobble up every book in the set.  Reading ladders are a way of nudging students into more challenging text through highly engaging reads that build upon a student's interest in a text.  You can create these for individual readers, or create generic ones that your students can choose.

4.  Give students access to real-world, relevant and varied text

What is going on the world and what are you studying in your content areas?  Students love books that help them to connect to what they are studying and to real-world issues and events.  I mean, don't you??  It is also nice to have a variety of reading material available, including newspaper articles, magazines, comic books, encyclopedias, and poetry.  Invite students to bring text from home and share it with their peers.  This can make for a great home to school connection while also providing some new text to the classroom.

5.  Allow students to ask questions and explore the answers

Project-based learning is a great way to increase reading engagement and give students an authentic purpose for reading.  Give students the opportunity to identify problems in their community (or school) and then find ways to solve those problems by reading and doing research.  Provide students with books, articles, websites and blogs to guide their inquiry...and then sit back and watch them read, read, read!!

6.  Check-in with students regularly.

Many young readers are not yet experienced at making good reading choices.  They need your help.  Most teachers give students multiple opportunities to "shop" for new books during the week, but then don't take time to talk with them about their selections.  If students haven't put adequate thought into their selections, they are set up to be disengaged during reading time.  Try to meet with each student once each week to confer with them about how things are going.  During this time, talk with them about their book selections and give them guidance as needed.

These are just a few ways to match readers with great books!  Once a student finds the right books and discovers the magic of reading...they will be hooked forever.  A teacher that is skilled at helping them to find the perfect books is a critical piece of lasting reading engagement.

If you enjoyed this post, please check back for most posts in this series...

I AM A READER!! Creating Self-Efficacy in Young Readers


They show up in our classrooms every new school year.  You know the ones....they drag their feet to their reading spot, stopping to chat with four or five friends.  When they finally make it to their spot, they s-l-o-w-l-y start browsing through their selection of books, pausing frequently to look up at the ceiling, at the door, at their shoe.  When they finally choose a book, they randomly flip around, pretending to look at the pictures.  This is what DISENGAGEMENT looks like.  Some students are better at faking it than others.  Some quit faking it a year or two ago, and now just proclaim, "I hate reading!"


Nothing is quite as frustrating, or heartbreaking, as the student who does not yet see themselves as a reader, and has not yet experienced the life-changing magic of reading a really, really, really great book.  Our most important job as teachers (of any subject) is to ignite in our students a passion for reading that begins in our classroom and lasts a lifetime.  Before we can tackle strategy groups, conferring, close-reading, etc., we have to ENGAGE and MOTIVATE our students to read.  They have to WANT to do it, or we face an uphill battle...in a snow storm...in the dark....without a lot of hope for success.

Essential Practice #1:  Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.


Today I will begin digging into Practice #1 by discussing the importance of self-efficacy in reading.  Success breeds success. If we want our students to become successful readers, they need to SEE THEMSELVES as successful readers.  Perceived self-efficacy, or students’ personal beliefs about their capabilities to learn or perform behaviors at designated levels, plays an important role in their motivation and learning (Schunk and Zimmerman, 2007).  In other words, if your students have experienced multiple reading "failures", they will think that reading is not within their capabilities and therefore, will not WANT to read.  That is a no-brainer.  Think about something you have failed at...multiple times (for me...keeping plants alive) and how you feel about doing that particular thing.  You probably are not motivated to continue doing it.  Same with our reluctant readers!

"Teachers create opportunities for children to see themselves as successful readers and writers." (Essential Practices for Early and Elementary Literacy; Practice #1; Bullet #1)

It is really, super important to curate successful reading experiences for your students so that they see themselves as READERS!  Following are some great tips for fostering self-efficacy in your students.

TABLE THE LABELS:  STRIVING NOT STRUGGLING

Stephanie Harvey & Annie Ward, in their book From Striving to Thriving:  How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers suggest to TABLE THE LABELS.  Just stop it!  When we label our readers (strugglers, Level Ls, ELLs, "The Sparrows", etc), we feed into their already-low self-confidence as readers.  They suggest replacing "struggling reader" with "striving reader", which is a great suggestion, I think!

SET SHORT-TERM GOALS THAT FOCUS ON READING BEHAVIORS

Focus on reading behaviors instead of reading levels.  When you confer with your students, provide feedback on the specific reading behaviors they are using consistently, and suggest strategies they can use to move them forward in their reading.  Help students to set goals that they can attain in a short period of time, helping them to see that they are continuing to grow as a reader and that it is a process.

PROVIDE ACCESS TO TONS OF READABLE AND ENGAGING TEXT

Provide students with access to a wide range of engaging and age-appropriate text that is within their independent reading range.  Don't restrict students to text that is at their so-called reading level.  Levels are for teachers, not for labeling students.  Matching students with books is an important part of any reading teacher's role and it involves more than just assigning reading levels.  You really need to know your students as readers and as human beings in order to provide students with books that are going to knock their socks off and lure them into the wonderful world of reading.  Teachers I have known that are truly gifted at doing this always have the most successful readers in their class! (My next post is all about matching books to readers).

It is also critical that your classroom library is bias-free and includes books that represent each culture, race, and gender in your classroom.   Having one or two bins of books labeled "Black History Month" or "Multicultural Books" does not make your classroom library culturally responsive.  We need to think critically about how these books reflect the diversity of our students, their backgrounds, and the communities in which we live while exposing them to new ideas and concepts.  This article offers some great tips on how to ensure that your classroom library is truly anti-bias.

Also, I highly recommend this article On the Level by Donalyn Miller to give you some insight into rethinking how you use levels with your students.

MINDSET IS EVERYTHING

Foster a growth mindset in your classroom.  If you have students coming to your class saying "I'm not a good reader," then you have a student with a fixed mindset.  Reading is no different than math, science or any other skill that needs to be learned.  Teaching students about the benefits of having a growth mindset, and the power of the word "yet" is crucial and impactful.  It is worth spending at least one day each week of the school year, doing a lesson or activity that helps your students to develop their growth mindset.  Also, be mindful of the extrinsic reading rewards that you offer to your students...these can go a long way to turn off your striving readers.  Focus your rewards on effort and make them intrinsic, or at least, reading-related rewards (i.e., extra time in the library, a new book, etc.)

TIME TO READ

Prioritize reading in your classroom by providing students with multiple opportunities to read throughout the day and build in time for students to share their reading successes with their peers.  The more time your students spend reading, the more successful they will be and they will begin to really see themselves as a part of your classroom reading community.

Following are some suggested resources for further reading:




If your classroom library is currently organized by level, you may want to consider re-organizing by topic.  Students LOVE this...it's so much more fun shopping for a book you are actually interested in!!  I have a large collection of classroom library labels, in a variety of designs to help get you started!


You might also be interested in Launching Reader's Workshop, which includes several lessons that will help your students to see themselves as readers and encourage reading engagement!



I hope you enjoyed this post, the first in a series about the Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy (Grades K-3).  My next post will be about matching books to readers:  How to Suck Them In!  Relentlessly Matching Books to Readers.



I'd love for you to share your comments about this post below....collaboration is key!

Love and peace,

Ten Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy - A New Blog Series


MICHIGAN'S (AND MY OWN) HOLY SH**T MOMENT

I have been a teacher in Michigan since 1992.  Over the past several years, to my chagrin, reading achievement in our state (according the NAEP test) has plummeted, making our students some of the worst readers in the nation....and it has been getting worse and worse since 2003!  I absolutely hate admitting this, but it is one of the reasons that I took a position as an early literacy coach last fall.  I can't stand by and just watch this happen...I feel strongly about doing something to make things right here in Michigan!




As part of an initiative to improve reading achievement here, a group of folks (including U of M researcher, Dr. Nell Duke) created a set of Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy.  This document outlines the 10 best research-supported literacy practices for K-3. THEY ARE GOOD!  This document has become sort-of a "bible" for me as I work side-by-side with teachers in planning and implementing high-quality literacy instruction. You can download your own free copy of the K-3 practices by clicking on the image below.  (Keep in mind there is a different practice guide for grades 4-5, that you can download for free HERE).



This school year my blogging goal is to "unpack" these practices by sharing the research behind each one and offering some simple and practical ways that you can apply the research to your classroom.  I also hope to inspire some collaboration and discussion among those of you that read and follow my blog.  So, please do not hesitate to ask questions and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

WHAT ARE THE 10 SUGGESTED PRACTICES?

Let me start by listing the 10 Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy:

  1. Deliberate/Research-supported Efforts to Foster Literacy Engagement and Motivation
  2. Read Alouds of Age-appropriate Text
  3. Small Group & Individual Instruction
  4. Phonological Awareness Activities
  5. Explicit Phonics Instruction
  6. Research-Supported and Standards-aligned Writing Instruction
  7. Intentional Efforts to Build Vocabulary and Content Knowledge
  8. Abundant Reading Materials and Opportunities
  9. Ongoing Observation and Assessment that Informs Instruction
  10. Collaboration with Families in Promoting Literacy

Don't be fooled friends, there is A LOT packed into that list of 10 practices!!  Holy Shamoley!  I want to break each one down into much smaller, more actionable components so that you can begin to slowly integrate these practices into your current classroom practices.


I want to begin by digging into ESSENTIAL PRACTICE #1, which is all about reading engagement and motivation.  If your students aren't engaged in reading....really, truly engaged, then the remaining 9 practices aren't going to do you much good.


Some of the things I hope to tackle in this first part of the series include:


In the meantime, I hope you find some time to browse the Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy (K-3), and jot down some of your thoughts and questions.

If you are interested in learning more about how these practices were developed, and access some additional resources, please visit The Literacy Essentials website.

Thank you for joining the conversation.
Love and peace,

Author's Craft: Leads, Endings and Details...OH MY!


Do you sometimes tell your students that they need a better start to their story or opinion letter, or that they need an ending with more pizzazz?  Do you tell them to add more details when they hand you their sparse informational piece?   Of course you do!!  Then why do your students have such a difficult time following through on this seemingly simple directive?  It is likely that they need a little more modeling and instruction on the SPECIFIC WAYS to write leads, endings and details.

Just as a woodworker uses many tools and techniques to CRAFT a piece of furniture, a skilled author uses tools and techniques of language and storytelling to CRAFT a piece of writing.  We, as teachers of writing, need to directly teach our students some of these tools and techniques.  Since we may not consider ourselves to be expert writers, this seems like an overwhelming task...but it need not be.  If we give our students some direct instruction on only a few different types of leads, endings and details, they will have the tools to drastically improve their writing in all three text types:  narrative, informational and opinion writing!

In this post I have created a quick and dirty reference for the different types of LEADS, ENDINGS AND DETAILS (listed by text type) that you can and SHOULD teach your students to use in their writing!

LET'S TALK LEADS

Narrative Leads:

  • Setting - A very simple lead that introduces the character and describes the setting in the story.  The setting description can be quick and dirty or very descriptive.
  • Action - The story starts with character actions!
  • Dialogue - The story starts with dialogue between the characters.
  • Character Description - Starts with a detailed description of the main character in the story.

Informational Leads

  • Name the topic and hook the reader - all informational leads should start with some type of hook.
  • Fact - Start with some interesting or surprising facts about the topic.
  • Question - Ask a thought-provoking question to intrigue the reader to continue reading.
  • Tour Guide - Give the reader a brief overview of what they will learn from the book, article, etc.

Opinion Leads:

  • Name the topic and the opinion - all opinion pieces should start by stating the writer's opinion (claim) and hooking the reader.
  • Quote - Start with an interesting quote by an expert or famous person.
  • Question - Ask a thought-provoking question to get the reader interested in their opinion.
  • Writer credibility - start with the credentials of the writer and why their opinion matters.
  • Feeling - start by sharing a feeling or getting the reader to feel a certain way (angry, sad, etc.)
  • Shocking Fact - share a surprising/shocking fact that will lead into the writer's opinion.
  • Plea for help - Share a plea to the reader to help persuade them to agree with your opinion.
  • Why it's important - state the opinion and why it is important.

WHAT ABOUT ENDINGS?

Narrative Endings:

  • Thoughts or Feelings - Wrap the story up by sharing character thoughts or feelings connected to the heart of the story (author's message).
  • Hope or Wish - End with a hope or a wish of a character or the narrator of the story.
  • Action - End with action by the character(s).
  • Make a connection to the beginning or middle of the story - tie the beginning and ending together by connecting what happened at the beginning to the ending.
  • Character change - end the story by writing about something the character has learned.
  • Dialogue - End with the characters talking.
  • Repeat a line - connect to the heart of the story by repeating an important line or quote.

Informational Endings:

  • Why its important - end by telling the reader why their topic is important or why they should care.
  • Question - end with a question for the reader to think about.
  • Summary - summarize what the report, article, book was about.
  • Persuade the reader to take action or make them think about the topic in a different or deeper way.

Opinion Endings:

  • Repeat the opinion of the writer - all opinion pieces should end by restating the opinion.
  • Rating - if the piece is a review...give a rating (5/10, 3 stars, etc.)
  • Talk directly to the reader - Now that YOU....YOU should....Now YOU know...
  • Ask the reader to take action - end by stating what you want the reader to do now.

DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS

Narrative Details:

  • Descriptions - describe the setting or the characters with vivid details.
  • Talk - add dialogue (what are the characters saying?).
  • Action - use specific verbs describe in specific detail action from the story
  • Thoughts and feelings - add details about what the characters are doing AND what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Show don't tell - instead of naming feelings, describe what a character is doing that SHOWS how they are feeling.
  • Add more to the heart of the story - add more details and more descriptive details to the place in the story that illustrates the author's message.   

Informational Details

  • Facts - All informational pieces should include lots of facts about the topic.
  • Definitions - the writer should give definitions of key words and include them in a glossary.
  • Details and Descriptions - include descriptive nouns, verbs and adjectives to help the reader to understand and visualize the information about the topic.
  • Steps - write directions in steps.
  • Tips - Give special tips when sharing how to do something.
  • Numbers - add number-related facts such as statistics, sizes, speeds, ages, years, etc.
  • Names - give specific and proper names for things (animal breeds, countries, states, etc.)
  • Examples - support the facts and ideas with examples. 
  • Text Features (charts, photos, headings, etc.)
  • Text Structures (Compare/contrast, cause/effect, pro/con, etc.)

Opinion Details

  • Reasons - all opinion pieces should state reasons that support the opinion.
  • Examples - share examples that support the reasons.
  • Quotes - quotes from experts that support the opinion and reasons.
  • Micro-story - a short story that is slanted to illustrate the opinion of the writer.
  • Survey Results - share survey results that support the opinion.
  • Interview - share information from an interview of an expert that supports the opinion.
  • Facts - Share facts that support the opinion of the writer.


WHAT NOW?


Print this post so that you can reference the different types of leads, endings and details for each text type as you are ready to teach them.  Make sure you have examples to show students.  You can use mentor texts, student exemplars or teacher-created examples.  I collect these year after year, and file them away so they are ready to pull out when I need them!  Create anchor charts and keep them up all year so that students can refer to them as they are drafting and revising their writing.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT AUTHOR'S CRAFT


If you want to learn a whole lot more about author's craft, I strongly recommend the following books:


     

You might also like the following from my TPT store:

       


           

I hope you have found this post helpful!  What reading or writing topics are you interested in reading more about?  I'd love your feedback on ideas for future blog posts!

Thanks for visiting!
Love and peace,

Guided Reading or Strategy Groups? - What to Know!


There is a lot of discussion in my school district around small group instruction.  We keep hearing that best practice includes "a variety of grouping strategies".   As a teacher, I would sometimes get confused about the different types of "reading groups" and when to use each type, so I thought I'd post about it today, and hopefully clear up some of the confusion!

DIFFERENT TYPES OF GROUPS


So, what types of small groups would one expect to see in an elementary classroom?  Here are some great ways to group students:


  • Guided Reading Groups
  • Reading Strategy Groups
  • Writing Strategy Groups
  • Interest-based Groups
  • Book Clubs
  • Partnerships
You have probably used all of these types of groups in your classroom and they each have their own benefit.  Interest-based groups, book clubs and partnerships are fairly self-explanatory and should be used regularly in your classroom to inspire great conversations around books and other classroom learning.

GUIDED READING OR STRATEGY GROUPS?


So what about guided reading....and what the heck are strategy groups??  Aren't they the SAME THING?  Well...not really.  Let me explain.

Guided reading is just that...reading that is done with a small group of students under the watchful eye of the teacher.  Students in the group are at roughly the same reading level, and will be reading the SAME leveled book, that was carefully chosen by the teacher based upon her planned teaching points.  The teacher often prompts students as they read, helping them to use the three cuing systems (meaning, syntax & visual cues).  But over the years guided reading has grown in to a very strategic way to teach a variety of skills to emergent and early readers, and is not only a way of guiding readers but also a way to differentiate reading instruction so all students can be successful.  Guided reading often includes reading with prompting AND direct teaching of reading skills including decoding, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.  Most teachers find that guided reading lessons usually take about 20 minutes.  Jan Richardson wrote a whole book about how to rock out guided reading with your students:


I highly recommend this book if you want to get really, really good at guided reading!  If you have the book and would like some reference cards to simplify your life, I created these:


You can get the whole set at my TPT store!  

So what about strategy groups?  Why do I need strategy groups if I am already doing guided reading with my students every day?

The first time I heard about strategy groups, it was from the Two Sisters (you know Gail Boushey and Joan Moser).  I read their book The Cafe Book:  Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment & Instruction, and was blown away by the idea of reading strategy groups.



A strategy group is basically a reading conference...but with a small group of students instead of just one.  Mind-blowing, I know!!  It is different from guided reading because your students will all have a different book (one of the just-right books from their book box), and you will be teaching them one very specific strategy.  You teach and model, then students practice the strategy with you in their own book, one at a time.  A good strategy group lesson should only take about 5-10 minutes.  You can see the amazing Jennifer Serravallo teach a strategy group here:


She's got some great books to help you get started:

      



       

WHICH ONE SHOULD I USE WITH MY STUDENTS?


So the conversation we have been having in our district is when to use guided reading and when to use strategy groups!  The answer is not really simple, but let's take a stab at it!

Guided reading is an way of packing the direct instruction of many skills into one compact, 20 minute lesson.  Emergent (Levels A-C, and Early Readers (Levels D-I) HAVE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT READING!!  They especially need to learn decoding skills.....phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling patterns, etc.  Guided reading is THE BEST way to differentiate this learning for these readers.

Transitional readers (Level J-P) are much better at decoding and need a strong focus on comprehension strategy instruction.  But.....they are still learning to decode longer unfamiliar words.  So, they may still need guided reading, but the lessons will be much more focused on comprehension than decoding.  Strategy groups could also be a great way to address the needs of transitional readers, because they will focus on one, very specific, strategy that the students need at that moment to move forward with their independent reading.  It might be a decoding strategy, a fluency strategy or a comprehension strategy.  Since strategy groups are shorter, you can do them more often, which is AWESOME!  So, they are at a tricky level, where you might have to decide which type of group is best for them based upon what they need most.

If you have fluent readers (Levels Q and beyond), you should really be using strategy groups and not guided reading.  They are really beginning to spread their reading wings and need comprehension and vocabulary strategies to help them to comprehend the much more complex texts they are reading.  This is best addressed through short, very focused, strategy groups.

Here is a quick chart to see the difference between Guided Reading and Strategy Groups:


I wrote a whole blog post about guided reading:  Guided Reading Made Simple.  


Also, here are some resources I created to help you with guided reading.  I hope you find them helpful:




Hope you found this post helpful...thanks for stopping by.  Please feel free to start a conversation in the comments below!

Love and peace,