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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.

March 27. 2018

Teacher Tip: Support English Language Learners Through Multiple Modes of Communication

To support English language learners, you will not want to depend solely on oral language, especially with children who have newly arrived from another country and have very limited understanding of English. Think what it is like to listen to a string of directions and remember them; then think what it would be like to listen to it in a language that you are only beginning to learn. Use other means of communication:

  • Act it out.
  • Demonstrate explicitly what you want students to do.
  • If it's complicated, have them "walk through it," acting out what they will do (or have a few students demonstrate while others watch).
  • Seek the support of another student who also speaks the student's primary language (if possible).
  • Use pictures and symbols.
  • Provide it in simple writing accompanied by illustrations if necessary.
  • If at all possible, learn some key words in the child's language.

From When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2009 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

March 13. 2018

Teacher Tip: Expanding Students' Vocabulary in Specific Instructional Contexts

How to expand students' vocabulary in specific instructional contexts:

  1. Interactive read-aloud and literature discussion. Here you have the opportunity to use intentional conversation to bring students' attention to words and invite them to discuss words. The texts that you use for interactive read-aloud can extend vocabulary minilessons in which you have taught word-solving strategies. You can demonstrate how to derive meaning from context or look at word parts.
  2. Small-group reading instruction. Here students have the opportunity to read for themselves with your support. In each instructional segment––introduction, reading, discussion, teaching points, and writing about reading––words can be examined, taken apart to identify meaningful parts, and discussed. Students are presented with examples in context and have the opportunity to apply word-solving strategies independently.
  3. Extending meaning through writing. Here students have a chance to examine words more closely. You can extend understanding of the meaning of texts––and the words in them––by supporting students as they write about their reading. They can summarize their understanding using organizational tools like graphic organizers to analyze the text, respond to specific language and the meaning they take from it, or write from the point of view of a character. As they write, they are considering and using the vocabulary from the text. In addition, they can focus on vocabulary directly using word webs, grids, or charts.

From When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2009 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

March 6. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Introduce Independent Work Areas

When introducing independent work areas:

  1. Talk about and demonstrate the routine yourself.
  2. Have children practice the routine.
  3. Observe children in the center until you are comfortable that they are consistently using the area independently and are being respectful of others and of the materials.
  4. Help children learn how to clean up and organize the materials at the center before transitioning or moving on to the next center.
  5. Teach children how to transition from one area to another.

From Fountas & Pinnell Classroom System Guide by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.