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July 16. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Make More Time for Language and Literacy Learning

It's not always easy to find time for literacy instruction in the classroom, so here are some suggestions for making more time for language and literacy learning.

1. With your grade-level colleagues, design a daily schedule that includes two-and-a-half to three hours of language and literacy teaching: 
  • If you encounter problems, think "outside the box:" integrate subjects previously taught separately, rearrange your planning periods, reexamine how you incorporate special areas like music and art. 
  • If you have departmentalization and cannot change it, work on a plan for allocating time for reading, writing, and word study, and for regular communication with other teachers so you can make connections over content areas.
  • Compare the time you have allocated for reading with the time you have set aside for writing. Writing is often shortchanged. 
  • Talk about ways to incorporate more social studies and science into your literacy blocks. 
  • Discuss ways to be more efficient. Could the first fifteen minutes of the day become part of the independent reading block? 
  • Try out the schedule for one month and then revise it based on your experience.
2. Reevaluate the existing organizational structures in your classroom. Can some of these be changed? Can you find ways to incorporate some of them into the language and literacy framework? 

3. With a group of colleagues, discuss changes you plan to make in terms of time, instructional approaches, classroom structure, or content.

From Guiding Readers and Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
July 9. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Provide Opportunities for Processing Texts

Comprehending the fullest meaning of a text is the goal every time we read anything. We do not teach comprehension by applying one strategy to one book during one lesson: we help students learn how to focus on the meaning and interpretation of texts all the time, in every instructional context, each instance contributing in different ways to the same complex processing system. Below are some suggestions for you and your colleagues to provide your students with opportunities for processing texts:

  1. Bring together a cross-grade-level group of colleagues to think about text experiences. You may want to have them work in small grade-level groups and then share as a whole group. 
  2. Use large chart paper divided into columns. As a group, consider (1) processing orally presented written texts; (2) processing written texts; and (3) acting on the meaning of texts after reading. These three actions occur across instructional contexts. 
  3. Have each group use their weekly schedules to discuss a week of instruction in their classroom. Make a list of all the processing opportunities students have in each of the three areas in the three columns on the chart paper. 4. Review the charts. Have the whole group participate in a larger discussion of how these opportunities can be expanded. Emphasize that there are specific ways of teaching for comprehending in each of these settings. 
From Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency: Thinking, Talking, and Writing About Reading by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

July 3. 2018

Teacher Tip: Expand Your Guided Reading Moves with Self-Reflection

Guided reading is not a static concept; the materials, teacher decisions, and interactive framework change over time as students grow in knowledge, skill, and independence, and teachers become more experienced. Fountas and Pinnell believe that teacher expertise and the professional development that supports it is the only way to raise student achievement. High-quality, highly effective implementation of guided reading involves a process of self-reflection.

Each time you work with a small group of students, you can learn a little more and hone your teaching skills. For example, in guided reading lessons, the goal is to teach the reader, not the text.

Self-reflect: Think about how your language interactions with readers support the ability of each student to initiate problem-solving actions. Ask yourself: How does my language support pass control to the reader? What have I taught the readers how to do today that they will be able to do with other texts? Remember, reflective teaching is rewarding because you are learning from teaching.

From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

June 18. 2018

Teacher Tip: Selecting Books for Interactive Read-Aloud

Interactive read-aloud is an important instructional context that allows readers to experience rich, interesting texts that are age-and grade-appropriate, regardless of their independent or instructional reading level. In order to get the most instructional power from interactive read-aloud, it is important to plan for teaching in a precise way. Here are some guidelines to help you select books for interactive read-aloud.

  • Look for texts that you know your students will love (funny, exciting, connected to their experiences, able to extend their thinking.) 
  • Select texts appropriate to the age and interests of your students. 
  • Select texts that are of high quality (award winners, excellent authors, high-quality illustrations). 
  • Plan selections so that you present a variety of cultures; help students see things from different perspectives. 
  • Choose texts that help students understand how people have responded to life's challenges. 
  • Consider books on the significant issues in the age group--peer pressure, friendship, families, honesty, racism, competition. 
  • Especially for younger readers, select texts that help them enjoy language--rhythm, rhyme, repetition. 
  • Select different versions of the same story to help students make comparisons. Evaluate the texts to be sure the ideas and concepts can be understood by your students. 
  • Plan selections that appeal to both boys and girls. 
  • Mix and connect fiction and nonfiction. 
  • Repeat some texts that have been loved by former students. 
  • Vary genres so that students listen to many different kinds of texts--articles, poems, fiction, informational texts. 
  • Select informational texts, even if they are long; you can read some interesting parts aloud and leave the books for students to peruse on their own. 
  • Choose texts that will expand your students' knowledge of others' lives and empathy. 
  • Choose texts that will help students reflect on their own lives. 
  • Select texts that you love and tell students about them. 
  • Select texts that build on one another in various ways (sequels, themes, authors, illustrators, topics, settings, structure). 
  • Link selections in ways that will help students learn something about how texts work. 
  • Select books that provide good foundations for minilessons in reading and writing. 
  • Consider the curriculum demands of your district; for example, link texts with social studies, science, or the core literature program.
  • Select several texts that help listeners learn from an author's style or craft.
  • Select texts that offer artistic appreciation. 
  • Select fiction and nonfiction texts on the same general topics. 
  • Consider "text sets" that are connected in various ways--theme, structure, time period, issues, series, author illustrator, and genre. 
From Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
June 11. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Kindness in the Classroom

One of the hardest things for students to learn is that other people have different perspectives and that they need to understand them. Becoming aware of the feelings of others is especially difficult for young children because, developmentally, they are centered on themselves. School is their opportunity to learn that others have feelings to consider, that kindness is valued, and that they can feel more confident and powerful if they help others.

Some intermediate/middle students have not learned how to feel (or at least express) empathy for or kindness toward other students. You cannot undo the events of their lives or what they have learned or not learned, but you can help them start down the road to becoming positive members of the community. A feeling of collaborative ownership and responsibility in the classroom and school will go a long way toward creating empathetic members of that community. Model and even “act out” the behaviors you want students to use in an automatic way. We caution against moralistic, “preachy” lessons that have no connection to real life. Involving students in the cooperative solving of real classroom problems provides an opportunity to demonstrate empathy and kindness daily.

From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

June 4. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Support English Learners in Book Clubs

English learners benefit greatly from discussion after reading. They have an authentic reason to put their thinking into words and to communicate with others. Prior to the book club, you may wish to meet with individual English learners to give them an opportunity to put their ideas into words and try out new language. If, during the book club, you see signs that a student does not understand the language of the discussion, model restating an idea in natural, simple sentences. When possible, using clear gestures and pictures may support and clarify meaning as well.

From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

May 29. 2018

Teacher Tip: 5 Keys to Thoughtful Talk

Students’ talk about reading reveals and expands their thinking. A set of learned behaviors and talk structures provide rich opportunities for deep thinking about texts. Consider these ways to build a culture of thoughtful talk in your classroom. 
  • Help students understand that reading is thinking and that when they talk, they share their thinking. 
  • Teach students to turn and talk effectively with each other. 
  • Give students wait time and guide them to give others wait time as well. 
  • Demonstrate the use of language that fosters participation, respect for others’ thinking, and promotes building on the ideas of others. 
  • Set the norm that everyone listens attentively and respectfully to each other.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
May 7. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Get Readers to Expand Their Thinking in a Reader's Notebook

A reader's notebook can be a useful tool for readers to collect their thinking and record it in a variety of genres and forms. Consider beginning with one thoughtful letter a week or every other week between you and your students. Here are some suggestions and ideas to help you react to, reinforce, and expand a reader’s thinking:

  • Notice the questions a reader asks and respond to each one. 
  • As you read the letter, think about what the writer is communicating to you and react as you read. Then pick up your pen and share your reactions. 
  • Share the thinking the writer brings out in you. How are you personally connecting with the reader’s thoughts? 
  • Confirm the reader’s good thinking and inquire genuinely about what you don’t understand. 
  • Think about the type of text a student is reading. How can you use your knowledge of genre characteristics to expand the reader’s understanding? Nudge the reader to think about these characteristics. 
  • After reading a student letter, review the Systems of Strategic Actions. Notice what aspects the reader is attending to and what aspects would expand the reader’s thinking about the text. Make comments that will help the reader think in new ways.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
April 30. 2018

Teacher Tip: Effective Practices for Book Talks

Book talks are brief introductions – teasers or commercials" of sorts – to new books. Book talks can remind students of the wide variety of books available to them in your classroom library. Here are a few effective practices for book talks:

  • If books are part of a series, you may want to gather several or all the titles in the series and do one book talk, as the books will be similar in style and/or have the same characters. 
  • Deliver minilessons that teach students to make book talks of their own. 
  • Make your approach to each book talk unique, e.g., begin with a question, read an interesting sentence, read the opening, read the back cover, or share an illustration.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
April 10. 2018

Teacher Tip: 5 Tips for Creating a Prekindergarten Classroom Library

A classroom library is an essential feature of a literacy-rich prekindergarten classroom. You may wish to incorporate these ideas as you design your library.

  • Place the classroom library among quieter work areas, such as the writing center and listening center. 
  • Create a comfortable environment for reading with rugs, pillows, and lamps. 
  • Display a wide assortment of picture books, including simple books with one or two lines of print per page, books from shared reading and interactive read-aloud, alphabet books, counting books, books about colors and shapes, pattern books, pop-up books, and informational books.
  • Label baskets or shelves with both pictures and words. Matching colored dots on books and baskets will help children return books to the correct place.
  • Provide stuffed animals ("listening buddies") that children can read to.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.