Elementary reading FAQ

http://www.ncte.org/positions/readingGreenville and Seely Place Elementary Schools

Since the 2015-2016 school year, our elementary teachers have been working to learn about and implement new strategies in literacy instruction based on recent research and agreed-upon best practices in the field. Each year, additional grade levels are being added and we expect this approach to be fully implemented by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. This document identifies Edgemont's direction in evolving the literacy instruction our students receive and explains some of the key vocabulary and elements surrounding this approach.

What does current reading research support?

While a student’s reading will improve simply by spending time reading, readers learn best when they are a part of clear, explicit reading instruction that targets grade level reading expectations. This reading instructional lesson is called a mini lesson. This teaching is then followed by Independent Reading time where the students read their just right books with the focus that was just taught during the mini lesson. Put simply, readers read independently each day with a task in mind. During this time, the teacher’s role is distinct and clear. The teacher is conducting 1-1 reading conferences with students about their just right book or working with a small group for a specific reading purpose.

What is reading?

The National Council of Teachers of English’s Commission on Reading has produced a statement, On Reading, Learning to Read, and Effective Reading Instruction, that synthesizes current research on reading. “Reading is defined as a complex, purposeful, social and cognitive process in which readers simultaneously use their knowledge of spoken and written language, their knowledge of the topic of the text, and their knowledge of their culture to construct meaning. Reading is not a technical skill acquired once and for all in the primary grades, but rather a developmental process. A reader's competence continues to grow through engagement with various types of texts and wide reading for various purposes over a lifetime.”

What is a reading mini lesson?

A reading mini lesson is a whole-class lesson with a specific grade-level focus. During this lesson, the teacher provides instruction in a specific reading strategy or skill across a variety of areas (comprehension, fluency, vocabulary). Students will have an opportunity to practice the strategy/skill with the teacher in a large group, and then students will practice and integrate this newly learned strategy/skill in his/her just right book.

What is Independent Reading?

Independent Reading or Intentional Reading is the time during reading class that is designated for practice. This differentiated time is the time when the reader uses his/her just right book to read with a purpose. This is not recreational reading, but rather intentional reading. Readers read each day with an intention/focus which has been stated and taught during the reading mini lesson. It is important that the student reads a just right book during this time so that he/she can practice the skill/strategy that was taught during the mini lesson, without the challenge of a text that may be too complex.

What is a “just right” book?

A “just right” book is a book that a student can read and chooses to read. It is essential that readers can both decode (read the words) and comprehend (understand the meaning). A just right book sits at a child’s independent level and is a book that stretches the child just a bit — not so much as to make him frustrated, but enough to continue his growth as a reader.

How do you help your child to choose a “just right” book?

The Five Finger Rule:

  1. When your child finds a book he wants to read, have him flip to a page in the middle of the book (one with the same amount of text as the other pages).
  2. Ask your child to read the page — out loud so you can help.
  3. From a closed fist, hold up a finger each time your child misses a word.She can do this on her own eventually.
  4. No fingers means that the book is possibly too easy — it’s easy for him/her to read and perfectly fine for part of his/her reading diet. One to four fingers means the book is at an independent level — BINGO! — just right for her to grow as a reader. Five or more fingers means the book is at a challenge or frustration level and not recommended because the child won’t be able to comprehend the text.

What other reading goes on during the school day?

Students will experience a wide variety of reading throughout their school day. They will listen to a Read Aloud, participate in small group work and Guided Reading, as well as read in the content areas. All of these reading experiences will span many different genres, texts and levels, thus offering each student a very rich reading experience across a day and a week in school.

How will your child’s reading be assessed?

Your child’s teacher will be assessing each student’s reading level using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. This one-on-one tool assesses your child’s accuracy, fluency, oral reading rate, comprehension, and reading behaviors using an authentic book. The information gathered from the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System allows teachers to plan targeted instruction and guide students towards appropriate book selection.

What is a reading level?

A reader and a book can both be assigned a reading level. A book’s reading level (Levels A - Z) is determined by specific characteristics: Genre/Form, Text Structure, Content, Themes and Ideas, Language and Literary Features, Sentence Complexity, Vocabulary, Words, Illustrations, Book and Print Features.

Like a book’s reading level, a student’s reading level is also characterized by specific criteria. Understanding a student’s reading level, guides the teachers in the direction of what the reader needs to be taught to grow and progress as a reader. While a student’s reading level may land at one specific level (e.g., Level M), it is important that he/she chooses books across a range for independent reading (e.g. Levels L, M, and N) and not feel constrained by that one level.

As a student’s’ reading develops, his/her reading level changes. Changes can happen over the course of weeks, days, or years, therefore students are monitored throughout the school year.

What is Guided Reading?

Guided Reading is small group work done with the guidance of the teacher. During Guided Reading, the teacher works with a selected group of students who are reading on a similar level and share similar needs. Typically, the level of text that is read is above the students’ independent reading levels and is known as their instructional level. Together, the teacher and students read and interact with the same text resulting in a stronger acquisition of skills and strategies.

What is Read Aloud?

Read Aloud is a designated time during the school day when the teacher reads aloud to the students. The book that the teacher chooses to read is a book that the teacher likes, knows that the students will sit still for and enjoy, is an above grade level book and is a worthy piece of literature. During this time, the teacher pauses at certain points during the reading and thinks aloud for the students. This makes his/her thinking visible for the readers and allows them to deepen their comprehension of the text. The teacher also pauses throughout to hear what the students are thinking and helps grow a conversation about the text. The read aloud time is a wonderfully productive time for the entire class to participate in a rich conversation about a worthwhile text.

What does Read Aloud look like at home?

Read Aloud at home is when the parent and child share a book that they both enjoy hearing/reading aloud. This practice encourages reading as a pleasurable experience. It could include books that the child may or may not be able to read or understand independently. Read Alouds may range from picture books to lengthy texts.

Resources to further your reading: