Thursday, December 11, 2008


If you are a reader, you probably have a small stack of books put aside that you are looking forward to reading during the holiday break. As readers we do not always have enough time to read, but we always have a book or two waiting to be read.

Not so with our reluctant and struggling readers who not only have trouble finding books they like but making time to read as well. We can teach those students how to choose 'just right' books but if they never sit down to read them, they will not improve as readers.

Franki Sibberson, a teacher and writer, gives her students a few guiding questions to help them find the time to read during vacation.

  1. When will you have time over vacation to read? Will it be short bursts or long periods of time?
  2. Will you be in the car or on a plane for a long time? What kind of books might you take?
  3. What places will you visit that you might like to read about?
  4. What magazines or quick reads would you like to have on hand for short bursts of reading?
  5. Which relatives might you like to read with? What might you read to/with them?
With a little planning and a couple of 'just right' books to take home all of our students can return from winter vacation more practiced readers!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Summarizing: Getting the Gist

Summarizing is an important skill and one effective readers use all the time. When we summarize, we 'get the gist' of the what we are reading. But summarizing can be a very hard skill to learn and to teach.

Summaries differ from retellings. Unlike retellings that include everything that happens in a story, a summary requires the reader to be selective, to include only the most important information.

When summarizing fiction, ask students to tell just the names of the characters, the setting where the story takes place, the problem facing the characters, the important events that happen to the characters and how the problem is eventually resolved.

Summarizing nonfiction is different. We read nonfiction to learn new things. So when summarizing nonfiction, ask students to tell what new things they learned! Who, what, when, where, why and how? What surprised them? What do they still wonder about?

Whether reading for pleasure or to learn new things, summarizing is a key strategy for students to use to comprehend text.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Finding that 'Just Right' Book

If you're like me, you sometimes have trouble finding a 'just right book'. Because it's not just about how hard the words are. I can read all the words in every book in the library, but only some of them are 'just right' for me. I've discovered that a 'just right book' is one I enjoy reading.

I have to really like the characters to spend time with them in a book! Here's a tip. Once I've found a character I love, I know I will enjoy reading other books about them!

Now the Webster Public Library has created a website called The Children's Series Binder that makes it easy to find the all titles of books in a series by author or genre. Once you know the titles, start a Books I Want to Read booklist!

Did you just love reading about the adventures of the four friends in one of Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio books? A quick search on the Series Binder and I discovered that in addition to the 16 books in the Time Warp series, the author has also written 4 Time Warp Trio graphic novels.

Did you read Amber Brown is not a Crayon? Want to read more about Amber? Another search showed me the titles of all 9 Amber Brown books by Paula Danzinger and 6 more easy books about Amber written at a beginning reader level.

Reading books in a series is my number one tip for finding a 'just right' book!

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


In some of my literacy groups this month we have been using text sets to learn more about interesting topics like mummies, the state of New Hampshire and elephants.

A Text Set is a multi-genre collection that can include nonfiction books, poetry, realistic fiction, internet sites, and videos all related by a common element, topic, theme, or type of text (Opitz, 1998). Text sets are a great way to engage students. Using a variety of resources about one topic is an exciting and authentic way to teach students how to make text to text connections when they read, as well as to build background knowledge.

We are using graphic organizers to keep track of our thinking as we read. The organizers help us create a record of our connections, summarize important information, and share what we have learned with each other.

Friday, November 7, 2008


This month 4th graders in my literacy groups are learning how to use Collaborative Strategic Reading to understand nonfiction text.

CSR begins with a guided Preview of the text. We use the title, subtitles, pictures, captions, and glossary to make predictions about what we think the text will be about. We also make connections to the genre and our background knowledge to support our predictions.

Next we 'Click and Clunk' as we begin to read. 'Clicks' mean we are understanding what we read. When we come to a 'clunk' we stop, think and use a 'fix-up' strategy to figure out the hard parts.

Then we 'Get the Gist' of what we have read. We summarize the important parts in our own words by telling 'who or what' is the most important person or idea and why.

Finally, we Wrap Up our reading by asking and answering questions about what we have read.

We can use these strategies whenever we read to help us understand and remember information. They not only help us read better in social studies and science but will help us do better on reading tests, too!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


We have spent time in our literacy groups this month creating community. We have practiced listening to each other and taking turns sharing our thinking because we learn so much from each other.

We have been focusing on monitoring our comprehension and learning a variety of strategies to 'fix-up' our understanding when we have trouble with an unknown word or get confused.

We have practiced rereading to learn how to increase our fluency and read out loud with phrasing and expression.

We have reviewed the difference between fiction and nonfiction and how to choose a 'just right' book for independent reading.

We have learned how to use an organizer to summarize the important elements in the books we are reading.

Next month we will learn some new strategies for reading nonfiction text.