Building a Reading Life

Check out my “Building a Reading Life” prezi here. Feel free to use or share this with your staff!

I had the opportunity to hear Donalyn Miller speak at the Heinemann “Bringing the Standards to Life” Institute in Santa Fe this past January. There are no words for what her talk did for me personally and professionally. I know we’ve all felt a bit mired down by the overwhelming task of incorporating the new Common Core State Standards. I have been optimistic about the opportunity to revitalize our school program with an increased emphasis in rigor, relevance and readiness. Donalyn brought me back to the heart of the matter with her conversation on building lifelong readers. I cannot recommend her work in Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild more fully. Each time a sit down to read them, I spring up after a chapter or two and go off to read a book or write a lesson about book love. She has inspired me to look beyond close reading, evidence and articles and remember what I’ve known all along: books are a refuge that every child deserves a key to.

reading in the wild book whisperer

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ELA Anchor Standards

This past week I have been giving a Common Core 101 tutorial to my K-8 teachers regarding the structure of the CCSS ELA standards and major instructional shifts. I had received a few questions about how to read the abbreviations in the standards ELA.3.RL.2.1a is, admittedly, a lot of numbers and letters. I decided it was best to discuss the overall organization of the standards as opposed to the typical diagram of abbreviated standards.

I termed the 4 areas of the ELA standards “branches” to fit with my tree metaphor. I hope this resource can be helpful to other instructional coaches or administrators helping to familiarize their teachers with the Common Core.

Up next: CCSS Math Domains and Standards for Mathematical Practice

CCSS Anchor Standards blank CCSS Anchor Standards

Guided Reading v. Close Reading

I recently came across this article written by Timothy Shannahan on the use of Guided Reading v. Close Reading in regard to text complexity. Here is an excerpt:


Close Reading or Guided Reading
Recently, I’ve been fielding questions about guided reading (à la Fountas and Pinnell) and the common core; mainly about the differences in how they place students in texts. Before going there, let me point out that there is a lot of common ground between guided reading and common core, including high quality text, the connections between reading and writing, the emphasis on high level questions and discussion, the idea that students learn from reading, and so on. Nary a hint of conflict between the two approaches on any of those issues.
Not so with student-book placements; on that there is a substantial divide. Guided reading says go easy, and common core says challenge them. Easy, according to F&P, means placing kids in books that they can read with better than 90% accuracy and with high reading comprehension (and they make no distinction between beginners and more adept readers in this regard). For common core, making it challenging means placing students, second grade up, in books that would be frustration range according to F&P; books that students would read with markedly lower fluency and comprehension on a first read.

Several months prior to reading this article, I was introduced to the notion that Guided Reading did not offer text complexity because instruction was tailored to the student’s reading level. I disagree, but am realizing that some teachers may organize their guided reading instruction differently. I would like to clarify three points about Guided Reading instruction based on my personal experiences.

1. The purpose of comprehensive reading assessments (such as Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System), is to find a student’s frustrational level of text. The level that they were able to pass independently is their independent reading level. The majority of time students spend reading by themselves should be from selections at this level.

2. The results from this assessment provide the teacher with a clear picture of what the student is struggling with in decoding, fluency and/or comprehension. The teacher then selects texts for Guided Reading that are 1-2 levels above the student’s independent level. These texts are usually the level that the student should be reading independently by the next assessment. Since Guided Reading offers scaffolded instruction, there is no reason why a student should be reading at their independent level at the table. The guided reading table is a safe space for students to experience frustration with text. Instructing at the student’s independent reading level would indeed miss the target for text complexity.

3. Guided Reading is always part of a balanced literacy framework that includes whole group instruction with a on-level or above-level text. It can certainly be true that though Guided Reading instruction is focused above the student’s current independent reading level, that frustrational level may still be several levels below grade level. For this reason, guided reading alone is not a solution for teaching reading, lest students never be exposed to adequately complex texts.

In my own practice, I love bringing close reading to the guided reading table and do not feel that they are mutually exclusive. It keeps my students on their toes and is particularly good for breaking up a longer novel study.

How do you use your students’ reading assessment data to inform your instruction? Do you feel that Guided Reading and close reading can cohabitate?