Video: What is Literacy Footprints?

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Created by teachers for teachers, Literacy Footprints is a complete guided reading system cocreated by myself and fellow literacy expert, Jan Richardson. Hear directly from Jan and I as we detail the program’s components and successes. If you are interested in getting a sample of Literacy Footprints, please visit the Literacy Footprints website.

Video Teaching Tip: Using Sound Boxes During Guided Writing

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Sound boxes can be powerful tools for helping students learn how to hear and record sounds in words. Using them can lead to greater independence in writing and improve students’ ability to use phonics and decoding strategies when reading. In this Teaching Tip Video, I discuss using sound boxes during guided writing. You can also download this handout with sample word study lessons to use in your own guided writing activities.

You can find the Sound Box Card, Plastic Write-On Sleeve, and Literacy Footprints Kindergarten Journal used in the video at the Pioneer Valley Books website. To watch my last Teaching Tip Video about using sound boxes during word study, click here! Follow Pioneer Valley Books on Facebook to be the first to see my next Teaching Tip Video!

Video Teaching Tip: Helping Students Who Have Trouble Tracking

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Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed my last video tip about when to encourage students to use their reading finger and when to have them stop. In this next Video Teaching Tip, I’m sharing my thoughts about students who have difficulty tracking and the best ways to support them.

Eagle-eyed viewers may wish to follow along with my video in The Ugly Duckling; you can view the book for free via the “Read Online” tab. You can also find the Reader Windows on Pioneer Valley Books’ website.

Video Teaching Tip: Improving Reading Through One-to-One Matching

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This month, I’m sharing tips via video! How can you get students to use one-to-one matching? Check out the video below for concrete advice about helping readers at levels A, B, C, and beyond. I also discuss when students should use their reading finger and when they should put it away.

Interested in getting a closer look at the books in the video? You can preview I Can Do It (level A/1), Vehicles (B/2), Come Here, Puppy (C/3), or The Three Little Pigs (C/4) online for free. Just click on the “Read Online” tab on each book’s page.

Best wishes to you and your students on your reading journey!

Teaching Tip: Guided Reading with Deliberate Practice

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Do you have students in your classroom who are not easily discouraged and pick themselves up and try again even when something is hard? It’s great working with these students. But what about the other kind of students, the ones that can’t seem to stick with anything and are easily discouraged? I recently finished reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. It made me think that it’s possible to help these easily discouraged students gain what Angela terms grit. How do we teach kids that their own efforts can improve their future?

I found many takeaways in Angela’s book, but one is how guided reading is a perfect opportunity to provide what the author calls deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is something that successful people use to improve performance in all aspects of life.

Here are the basic requirements:

1. A clearly defined stretch goal

In guided reading, each part of the lesson should be planned to provide a stretch goal. The book choice needs to be not too easy or too hard. That means that students will need some help from you to read it but not a ton of assistance. Yes, this is tricky, something that’s easier done in a Reading Recovery lesson when you are matching a book to one reader instead of a group. But you can do this! Start by carefully assessing the book you plan to use. Look for all the places it might be too hard and consider your book introduction as a way to reduce confusion and prepare students for these challenges.

2. Full concentration and effort

Students need to be fully engaged in and concentrate on their reading. Note that this does not happen during round-robin reading when a student may only pay attention to the page they are going to read. In guided reading, everyone reads the book. All of it!

3. Immediate and informative feedback

You play a critical role. As students read, you will provide that immediate and informative feedback to individuals. Prompt students to notice things they overlook and praise them for good processing. This is crucial—the guided part of guided reading! Take a look at this video from a guided reading lesson with The Gingerbread Boy, a Level C book. Notice the level of scaffolding I provided to this group of emergent readers, especially the first boy. I gave more and more support as he needed it.

4. Repetition with reflection and refinement

As you listen to and support each student while they read, take notes on what further instruction is necessary. Provide opportunities for students to read the book, gain fluency, and practice what they learned now that it is easier. Use the information you gathered to so some teaching after the reading and plan future guided reading lessons.

You can help your students gain grit and tenacity that is so important for success in life. Angela’s research found that we can help students understand that if you try, you can learn to embrace challenges rather than fear them. We can increase our students’ grit!

New Springtime BookBuilder Stories

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Students love seeing their own names in print, and that’s one reason that I love creating stories for BookBuilder Online. It’s simple to add names, print out the book, and assemble the story for classroom or home use. To celebrate the beginning of spring (even if it’s still winter where you are), here are two great FREE seasonal tales:

The Lost Chick (E/7)

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Is It Spring? (G/11)

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You can find these stories and many more at bookbuilderonline.com. If you’re interested in even more BookBuilder options, check out these 12-month subscriptions, which offer unlimited access to more than 80 stories featuring Pioneer Valley Books’ fan favorites Bella and Rosie, Little Elf, Spaceboy, and Little Dinosaur.

 

Happy reading!

Analyzing Relationships: Learning to Compare and Contrast

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Learning to compare and contrast different ideas deepens students’ understanding of what they read. How should you begin? Have students think of a question that compares and contrasts concepts, characters, or story elements. This can work for both fiction and nonfiction books. You can introduce this during a whole-class read aloud. You might ask students to compare two characters in a story. How are Frog and Toad alike? How are they different? They can also compare two different stories they have heard. How are the story elements in Cinderella like the elements in Sleeping Beauty? Comparing and contrasting key ideas in nonfiction may present some challenges. However, learning this strategy will help students better understand increasingly complex text they read as they advance through grade levels. How are frogs and toad similar? How are they different? You can have students practice asking a question to a partner and having the partner answer it after they finish reading.

In the video below, literacy expert Jan Richardson begins by making a chart with second graders. The chart compares and contrasts two different kinds of deer in All About Deer, a nonfiction Explore the World book they read. Students then pick two deer and write about how they are the same and how they are different. Note how Jan first models how to do the task and then supports students as they make their charts and then begin writing. She provides extra support with the Yellow Questions card from our Comprehension Box Set.

For more information and other ways to practice this comprehension strategy, see page 275 in Jan’s book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. I hope you’ll find it to be a useful tool for your developing readers!

Early Emergent Readers: Learning to Self-Monitor

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One of the most important things for an emergent reader to learn is to check that what they read makes sense, looks right, and sounds right. This is called self-monitoring. Often the teacher does the monitoring for the student, but it is critical that students learn to check themselves.

One of the first ways that students begin to self-monitor is matching a finger up to words. When they don’t find enough words or they see too many, you may notice them going back and rereading to match the book’s words to their own. That is self-monitoring, and it’s important to praise this behavior. Try saying I like the way you went back to make that match! or something similar.

To be able to self-monitor, a student needs some footholds in the text. They don’t need to know every word, but it is very important that they begin to learn some. Children often learn to recognize their name early in their reading. That’s why I like to use level A and B BookBuilder Online stories, which can be personalized to include familiar names. A student’s name can provide that necessary foothold in print.

Students also need to use the first letter of a word. They can cross-check the letter sound with the image on the page. Is that picture a pony or a horse? It starts with a p-p-p sound, so the word must be pony!

I have lots of fun spending time with my four-and-a-half-year-old grandson Jaxson, who is in the very earliest stages of learning to read. His mother asked me, “Isn’t he just memorizing the stories?” Yes, a lot of Jaxson’s reading is memorized, but along the way he’s beginning to learn things about print. By arranging opportunities, he learns more each time we read together. Take a look at this video where he reads one of Pioneer Valley Books’ titles, Dad Is at Work.

Jaxson has read quite a few stories with the word dad and I have encouraged him to make dad (using a model) with magnetic letters several times. After reading the book, we wrote a short story about his dad on a sentence strip. Jaxson wrote most of the first letters in each word. His story is My dad is a dad. (A bit of behind-the-scenes trivia: Jaxson’s dad is my son Nick, who appears in many of classic Pioneer Valley Books stories such as The Pie and The Little Cousins Visit. Nick created the BookBuilder program and currently acts as the company’s IT Manager in addition to his all-important role as Dad!)

After writing the story on the sentence strip, I cut it up and had Jaxson put it back together. In the video, watch Jaxson read the book to Papa and then put the cut-up sentence together again. See how Jaxson uses the word dad to self-monitor.

As you work with emergent readers, consider how you might create opportunities for students to learn to self-monitor. Here are a few ideas:

1. Teach students a few very useful sight words they can use as footholds in the print. Make sure to use books where they will see those words again and again.

2. Encourage students to cross-check the initial sound with the picture. How did you know it says pony and not horse?

3. Praise students for noticing when something isn’t right, not just for getting it right!

Thanks for reading another one of my teaching tips!

Teaching Tip: Collecting and Using Data to Inform Teaching, Part Two!

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In my last post, I shared a video of educator, Amy Ferris, sharing about the data-driven teaching methods she is implementing at her kindergarten-only school in Richmond, Kentucky. My next data story comes from Julie Allsworth. Julie is a former literacy coach in Pinellas County, Florida, and also a Pioneer Valley Books consultant. She is currently working on her doctorate and regularly consults with school districts nationwide. Here, Julie shares her findings in her own words:

Julie Allsworth
Julie Allsworth in the classroom

“In my work with districts and schools in various states, I have found that the most successful students receive guided reading on a daily basis, and their teachers methodically utilize Literacy Footprints lessons. Students are instructed in reading strategies and behaviors, the appropriate level of word study, sight words tracked on the high-frequency chart, and scaffolded guided writing.

In addition, it is very important that students who read below grade level receive two daily doses of Tier 2 instruction; that is the only way to close their learning gaps. In addition to any other intervention the student receives, the classroom teacher also needs to provide daily guided reading for the struggling reader. Two doses of Literacy Footprintsper day will do the trick and close struggling readers’ learning gaps.

Data from the schools I have worked with shows the effectiveness of the Literacy Footprints program. In one rural Tennessee school, 75% of students came into kindergarten labeled ‘at-risk’; those students received two Beginner Steps lessons per day and completed the alphabet tracing routine daily. After one year of guided reading instruction, all of those ‘at-risk’ kindergartners entered first grade reading on grade level. At a Wisconsin school I advised, struggling readers received guided reading twice a day. After one year of using Literacy Footprints, the school reduced special education referral rates in kindergarten through second grade from 7–8% to just 1.37%.

My data also directed me to solutions for students who cannot be seen by an interventionist, Reading Recovery teacher, or a Title teacher for a second daily dose of reading instruction. In those cases, teachers should utilize the 10-minute one-on-one lesson plan. Data from that same Wisconsin school showed that many students eligible for Reading Recovery services who received the 10-minute lesson in place of Reading Recovery (due to limited resources) were able to reach grade-level reading proficiency by the end of first grade. These students received a second dose of guided reading daily from classroom teachers who utilized the 10-minute plan in a one-on-one lesson. Lo and behold, their learning gaps had closed at the end of first grade! Following Literacy Footprints and giving students two daily doses of guided reading lessons can undoubtedly help students to reach grade-level proficiency in reading and close their learning gaps!”

I hope these stories inspire you and your team to look at your data and think about what you can learn from it. What changes might you make to improve your students’ access to and knowledge of literacy? I want to know! Leave me a comment or connect with me on social media.