Teaching Tip: Teaching Guided Reading Remotely

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The concept of how to teach children to read remotely was not even on my radar a couple of weeks ago. As the coronavirus spread and schools began closing across the country, I began thinking about how we can best provide guided reading instruction to our students at home.

There are two very big challenges we as teachers need to overcome: giving at-home students access to high-quality reading materials and finding ways to provide literacy instruction that engages and motivates children to read and write. Here are some solutions to these challenges that will help ensure children continue to progress in their reading and writing skills in these unprecedented times.

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Teaching Tip: Independent Reading… with Books Students WANT to and CAN Read!

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There are many research studies that show a strong correlation between the amount a student reads each day and reading achievement. The good news is that teachers understand this and are making sure their students read for a significant amount of time each day. One way they’ve increased time for reading is by giving students less busywork (such as worksheets) and setting aside time for independent reading. Many teachers do this by providing each student with a book box filled with reading material to use during independent reading time. This ensures that students do not need to spend their reading time hunting for books and are ready to read right away.

During one of our recent Office Hours, Jan Richardson said there are two criteria for books to be selected for a student’s book box: first, the books should be ones they want to read, and second, the books should be ones they CAN read.

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Teaching Tip: Guided Writing: Learning about the Main Idea and Key Details

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Guided writing is a powerful part of the guided reading lesson. Evidence shows that high-quality writing instruction can improve students’ reading comprehension, reading fluency, and word-solving skills. Guided writing can help students integrate what they have been taught in word study by giving them the opportunity to utilize what they have learned. It can also improve students’ writing skills, provide them with instruction in the craft of writing, and help them dig deeper into the meaning of the text.

To illustrate this, I am sharing here a video of a Literacy Footprints guided writing lesson that Jan Richardson did with a group of students in Virginia. The day before, they had read a Level K story I had written called Quack the Brave Duck with their classroom teacher. You can read the book online here.

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Free Valentines!

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Every year, Pioneer Valley Books offers valentines as free downloads to teachers and parents. This year our eight adorable designs feature Bella and Rosie, Sally the Cow, Rusty the Robot, and more! Click here to visit the Pioneer Valley Books website and download your free valentines!

Teaching Tip: Learning to Apply What You Have Learned

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Phonics has been in the news a lot lately. It’s very important that we teach phonics. I don’t think any teacher disputes this! But phonics is not a goal in and of itself. We teach students phonics—or how words work—so they will learn how to decode unknown words while reading and how to encode unknown words while writing.

I learned so much about phonics and the importance of teaching students decoding skills when I was a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. I also learned how important it is to be able to teach students how to apply these new decoding skills to authentic reading and writing situations. This intervention program has results unmatched by any other. In a Reading Recovery lesson, students read several books, write a story, and are given a brief, highly targeted “phonics” lesson. Throughout their lesson, students are instructed how to immediately apply the phonics skills they have been taught to real-life situations.

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January Office Hours Webinar

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Please join Jan Richardson and I next Tuesday, January 14, at 4:00pm EST, when we’ll be holding our free Office Hours webinar. Our topic will be Guiding Writers: Teaching with Intention and Intensity.

Including guided writing as part of your guided reading lesson extends comprehension and improves students’ writing skills. We will begin January’s Office Hours by sharing a short presentation on how to enhance students’ understanding of character traits, motivations, and feelings through writing. After the presentation, Jan and I will be available for a Q&A session on guided writing.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Books website for more information on this free webinar series, and click here to register for the January webinar!

Teaching Tip: More about Word Study

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Word study is an important but very brief part of a guided reading lesson.

In November, Jan Richardson and I hosted our first webinar, where we attempted to answer a range of questions about word study. It has been posted here if you haven’t had a chance to watch it!

We had many questions we couldn’t get to, so I’ve picked a few to answer here.

Erin’s question:
I have a kindergartener who speaks Chinese in the home. She has mastered her letter names when tracing but is struggling with picking up sounds. Any recommendations on how to support her in this learning?

Children beginning to learn English as a second language may experience more challenges with the word study part of the lesson. As you know, Chinese is a very different system from our English system. Can your student hear the sound but not identify which letter it is? Doing more lessons with picture sorting will help. Also, students can get confused if in the classroom the teacher uses an ABC chart with one set of pictures and then in an intervention setting uses a chart with a different set of pictures. Pick one and stick to it: A-apple or A-alligator, but not both!

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Michèle and Jan’s Office Hours Webinar

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I’m pleased to announce that Jan Richardson and I will be holding office hours for 30 minutes once a month to talk about how the amazing tools from Pioneer Valley Books help you teach literacy in your classrooms, and to answer your questions about how to improve your own use of these tools. The free series launches next Wednesday, November 20, at 4:00pm, and focuses on Word Study.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Books website for more information on this exciting new webinar series, and click here to register for its debut!

Teaching Tip: What Are the Other Kids Doing?

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One of the biggest things that gets in the way of implementing guided reading is keeping the other students appropriately occupied so guided reading lessons can be taught without interruption.

I had an opportunity recently to listen to Debbie Diller, a guru on this topic, at the International Literacy Association (ILA). She has some great ideas for how to make this work. I suggest reading her book Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers WorkView Debbie Diller’s Simply Stations series.

Debbie says teachers are spending too much time creating activities for centers. We focus too much on the “stuff” and instead need to focus on what we want students to learn. She sets up what she calls SIMPLE literacy stations that run all year and provide students with opportunities to explore and practice what they are learning. Students read, write, listen, speak, or work with words. Materials are changed to reflect students’ new reading levels, strategies being taught, and topics being studied.

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Teaching Tip: Teaching Test-Taking

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Fantasy, mystery, biography, poetry, and informational are some of the genres we use during guided reading. Often forgotten, or maybe not considered, is reading for test-taking. This genre demands different cognitive skills that need to be taught for both reading the passage and answering the questions.

To introduce this genre to your students, first download and print copies of the Test-Taking Strategies cards from Next Step in Guided Reading author Jan Richardson’s website. These cards outline the steps for reading the passage and answering the questions. Print the cards back-to-back so each student has a card to use in the lesson.

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