Saturday, March 17, 2018

What's Happening at Your Guided Reading Table?

Lately, I've read a lot about reading and the gradual release model. It all began with the book Who's Doing the Work: How to Say Less so Readers Can Say More.
Now I'm reading Preventing Misguided Reading: Next Generation Guided Reading Strategies and it has really gotten me thinking about what happens at the guided reading table.
In the gradual release of responsibility model guided reading comes right after shared reading and right before independent reading - meaning that the direct teaching of reading skills and strategies should occur largely away from the guided reading table, so that this time can be used for actually connecting them while reading text. 

The strategies and reading behaviors that students practice at the guided reading table should not be new to them. They should be those that have already been taught, modeled, and practiced together during read-aloud and shared reading. 

The teacher's primary role in guided reading is not to teach, but to observe in order to determine what they need to revisit with their read aloud (modeled) and shared (interactive) reading lessons.

Remember... guided reading is the point in the release of responsibility right before independence. Scaffolding students toward independence in guided reading is not about the teacher knowing how to hold the reader up, but rather it is about knowing how to let the reader go. 

Guided reading should be viewed as a session rather than a lesson. Well-thought-out text selection facilitates what happens during guided reading, thus making it more like a session than a lesson.
Guided reading sessions should be where students use the bulk of their time practicing what they've already learned. A student's main undertaking should be reading the text mostly by themselves. The teacher may need to occasionally help students focus, problem-solve, connect and/or discover, but these moments should only be "brief detours" in the session. 

There is much more to say and think about in regards to how, we as teachers, turn our guided reading lessons into guided reading sessions. Over the next several weeks we will dig deeper into this idea. 

So... I leave you with this question... What are you doing with students at the guided reading table? Are you using all of the time to teach skills, work on new vocabulary, or introduce the book? or are you giving your students time to practice all of those things you've already modeled for and taught them, so that they are ready for independence?




Friday, March 16, 2018

School's First Day of School

I spent some time in Austin this week visiting my oldest daughter, Madison. She introduced me to the store BookPeople: A Community Bound by Books and I fell in love instantly! Check out their BookKids page here for new and noteworthy kids books, author signing events, and programs by mail. 

BookPeople is full of your-not-so-traditional book displays and handwritten notes and reviews by staff members who've read the book. They also have autographed copies of tons of different books. 



While checking out the kids section I came across this book illustrated by Christian Robinson. 

It is the first day of school and School's a little nervous. 

I love this page! "Now I'm covered in nose milk,"
I like how the book shows how the school feels about the kids and what happens during the course of a day with them. This a great book for teaching perspective. 
I also found it so funny that the school was embarrassed by the fire drill it set off. 
If you are not familiar with other books illustrated by Christian Robinson, then I encourage you to check them out. I love his illustrations! You can learn more about him and see all of the books he's illustrated on his webpage The Art of Fun

Here are a few of my favorites!






Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Teacher Decision Making


Teachers make an extraordinary number of decisions each day. There is research that states teachers makes more minute-by-minute decisions than brain surgeons.


The conservative estimate from the data collected has teachers making approximately 130 decisions per hour during a six-hour school day. This data includes only those decisions made within the classroom. This is oftentimes disheartening and intimidating for new teachers. (from the post Keeping New Teachers from Dropping Out)

So... what can we do to help make all of this in-the-moment decision making easier?

Research on teacher decision making (Griffith & Lacina, 2017) tells us that all of these minute-by-minute decisions can be made easier through intentional planning decisions. The more thought teachers put in the planning of reading instruction, the more effortlessly they can predict what the reader will do, the challenges he will face, and where he will apply the strategies he's been taught.

In basic terms, planning decisions act as a dress rehearsal for what might happen during a guided reading lesson.

During the planning process, teachers make decisions related to the following categories:

(1) grouping
(2) text selection
(3) lesson focus and goals
(4) strategies to teach
(5) supports to provide
(5) comprehension needs
(6) next steps

Some decisions are easier to make than others. For example: Which students are similar in their reading development? Which students are reading the same level of text or have the same reading needs? or How many guided reading groups should I form?

Others require more thought and planning. For example: How can I teach for independence? What strategies would best help this group decode words, understand the text, and/or read with more expression and fluency?

There are three big questions you need to answer when making planning decisions for guided reading. Within those overarching questions are a multitude of smaller ones.  

(1) What do the readers in this group do well? Which reading strategies are they using effectively and efficiently and which ones do they need to learn next or practice more?

(2) What makes the text I chose easy for them to read and what will make it challenging for them? 

(3) What strategy focus and goals do I have for these readers? 


A few helpful resources that I've used are:

The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading offers step by step lesson plan templates that help you plan for all of the decisions you need to make before, during, and after the lesson. The book also gives you access to videos, so that you can see each step in action. The best part of this book is that it is not scripted. It is a template and plan that allow for responsive teaching. 


Teacher as Decision Maker: A Framework to Guide Teaching Decisions in Reading (2017). Robbin Griffith and Jan Lacina. The Reading Teacher, 71(4).  

This article provides an easy-to-follow table with specific decisions that you need to think about, plan for, and make when preparing for guided reading instruction.  

The more time you spend planning for and thinking about the decisions you will have to make during a guided reading lesson, the better you will be at all of the in-the-moment decisions that arise while at the table.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

"Let's Get a Pup!" Said Kate

I came across this book last week when developing a writing PD and fell in love with it. 

That may be because we just got a new puppy in our house! His name is Bo. 
Our family, like Kate's, has a new puppy and an old dog. We love our Lilly dog too!

Kate and her family go to the Rescue Center looking for a dog. This book is a great mentor text for descriptive language. They found fighters and biters, growlers and snarlers... chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out-at-you dogs... 


This book is also a great mentor text for using ellipses. They occur on several pages of the book and by enlarged text, so they are easy to pick out. They also occur in ways that make it easy for young readers and writers to understand their purpose. 


Kate's family finds a new puppy Dave and an old dog Rosy. They can't take them both, so they leave Rosy behind. This page is so sad!
Fortunately, they get home and realize they can't leave without Rosy. In the end all of their puppy wishes come true. This book is a must for dog lovers everywhere. 

I just ordered the sequel!

Click here to learn more about Bob Graham from interview on the Book People blog. 



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don't)

I recently learned about this book from Pernille Ripp's blog. I read it and instantly fell in love... because I am Miss Brooks!


Miss Brooks loves books and she wants her students to love them too. She is always reading books to them and dressing up like book characters. While all of her classmates love books, Missy dismisses it all- they are all too flowery, too furry, too yippity, and too clickety. 

Miss Brooks doesn't give up though. What story finally wins Missy over and makes her a book lover too? William Steig's Shrek - a book about an ogre with warts! 

This is one of my favorite pages! I love the way Miss Brooks is filling up her backpack trying desperately to find a book that she will love. 
It's Book Week! I can feel Miss Brooks' excitement!

This page cracks me up! I love when her mother says there's a librarian in every town. 


Another one of my favorite pages... Missy finally finds a book - warts and all - that she loves. She makes Miss Brooks' day when she shares it with the class. I love how Miss Brooks raises her hand. I can just hear her saying "YES!" 










I just ordered the sequel. I can't wait until it arrives!


Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors

Books have the ability to inspire, entertain, and inform while also confirming the multiple facets of children's identities and revealing to them the values, perspectives, and historical legacies of others. 

Books are at times windows, offering glimpses into worlds real or imagined, familiar or new. These windows can also be sliding glass doors that readers walk through to become a part of unknown worlds authors have created. However, when the circumstances are just right, a window can also act as a mirror reconstructing personal experience and reflecting it back to us, so that we can see our own lives and understandings as part of a larger human experience (Bishop, R.S., 1990). 

In 2014 We Need Diverse Books began a necessary movement to put "more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children." Thanks in part to their campaign there has been a renewed focus on the importance of multicultural literature. 

The definition of multicultural children's literature is always changing to include more cultural experiences. Initially race was the only qualifier to deem a book multicultural, but now there are so many other experiences that need to be shared through the world of children's books. The definition has now been expanded to include "people who have historically, ideologically, and politically been underserved and rendered nearly invisible" (Botelho & Rudman, 2009).

It is important that ALL children are seen and heard in the books they read. This benefits children by legitimizing their lived experiences, helping them understand social differences, and by cultivating their development of empathy, respect, and appreciation of other families and cultures.  

Make space for Critical Literacy through the books you read and share with your students. 
a) Book choice matters
b) Use purposeful prompts to spur meaningful discussion 
c) Let silence prevail so student voices are heard  

When choosing books to share with your students consider the following:
- Authentic depiction of the cultural experience
- Accuracy of cultural details in the text and illustrations
- Positive images of minority characters 
- Balance between historic and contemporary views of groups
- Adequate representation of all groups represented

Check out author and illustrator Grace Lin's poignant Ted Talk on the importance of filling your bookshelves with diverse books. Books that deal with racial diversity, class, community, disability, and non-traditional families to name a few. 


For 22 years I've read books to my students. I read books with almost every lesson I taught - literacy, math, science, and social studies. I've introduced them to great series and favorite characters, but it was not until I began work on my dissertation that I started to think about books as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. I now see the ways some of my students were left out of the books I read and I now understand the great importance of children having familiarity with and empathy for a variety of cultures and people.

When you look at your bookshelves... ask yourself... are all the books windows or all the books mirrors and then make sure there are both. 

"A book can show you the world...It can also show you a reflection of yourself."

Suggestions for teachers on how to develop diverse classroom libraries...
Websites and Blogs

Journal Articles

- Children's Voices: Reactions to a Criminal Justice Issue Picture Book (Oslick, 2013)
- #WeNeedMirrorsAndWindows: Diverse Classroom Libraries for K-6 Students (McNair,
   2016)
- Opening Spaces for Critical Literacy (Labadie, Wetzel, & Rogers, 2012)


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Phonics and the Decodable Text Connection

A direct connection between phonics instruction and what students read is essential. A common instructional pitfall is following up a phonics skills lesson with at text that does not require the reader to apply any of the skills he or she has been working on.
This type of follow-up instruction is like teaching a child how to play chords on a guitar and giving him a piano to practice on. 
In an early research study, Juel & Roper-Scheinder (1985) concluded "These types of words which appear in beginning reading texts may well exert a more powerful influence in shaping children's word identification strategies than the method of reading instruction."

What this means is we can teach an award winning phonics lesson, but if we fail to follow it up with a decodable text that allows students to practice the skills they've learned, then our efforts may be in vain.

In early 2000 Wiley Blevins (2006) conducted a study to examine the effectiveness of decodable text in promoting word identification, phonics, and spelling abilities. The study determined that children who use decodable controlled text in their early reading instruction get off to a stronger start in their reading development.

Many types of books exist for instruction. Each type of book has a purpose and place in reading instruction. The types of text most frequently encountered in early grade classrooms are:

Decodable text - The majority of the words can be sounded out based on the sound-spelling relationships students have learned. The book may contain a few sight words that have been taught. This type of text should be used when following up a phonics skills lesson. This type of book is typically used during guided reading.



Predictable, patterned text - This type of book has a repeated pattern that students quickly pick up while reading. The stories are often about familiar concepts, there is a close match between the pictures and words, and the text might contain elements of rhyme and alliteration. This type of book should be used to practice high frequency words. It is typically used during shared reading.
Trade books -  These books are usually written by well-known authors and illustrated by popular artists. They come in a wide range of genre and formats. These stories have no connection to the phonics or sight word skills students are learning. This type of book is used to build vocabulary, give children a sense of story, and teach comprehension strategies. It is typically used during whole group read aloud.

The government document Becoming a Nation of Readers (1985) set a criteria for controlled, decodable text. The following criteria should be considered when choosing decodable texts:

Comprehensible - The vocabulary must be understandable and the stories should make sense.

Instructive - The majority of the words in the text must be decodable. There must be a strong connection between phonics skill instruction and the text being read.

Engaging - Students should want to read it again and again.

So... why is this important?
Over time, if students aren't given opportunities to use their phonics skills, they will undervalue their knowledge of sound-spelling relationships and over-rely on context and pictures. Research tells us that most poor readers over rely on these types of clues.

If we want to teach our students to use all three cueing systems effectively, then we must ensure they are getting quality practice applying all three while reading connected text.