Category: Reader’s Workshop

Informal Interventions for Struggling Readers

Developing Reading Skills During Each Instructional Moment

I’m working my way through an interesting article in this quarter’s Reading Research Quarterly called Effects of a Response-Based, Tiered Framework for Intervening With Struggling Readers in Middle School by Greg Roberts, Sharon Vaughn, Jack Fletcher, Karla Stuebing, and Amy Barth.  The article refers to research suggesting that targeted and data driven interventions at the middle school level can be effective in helping struggling readers develop their skills.  I am particularly energized by the assertion that, “adolescents with reading difficulties benefit from explicit and systematic interventions organized around their instructional needs,” the mention of oral reading fluency as an indicator of student automaticity but not comprehension, and the listing of strategy instruction models including monitoring, summarizing, and question generation.  There are formal ways of examining and working to effect student’s development at the middle school level including the Response to Intervention (RTI) process and Adolescent Accelerated Reading Initiative (AARI) implementation.  These processes and programs are effective, important, and even essential to student achievement.  However, as I read this article I continue to think about what’s happening in the classroom on a moment-to-moment basis.  If we remove the statistics, the databases, and the acronyms we’re left with the people.  Thinking critically about why it’s important to put energy into these larger and more formal efforts gives me cause to think about some small and informal things that might be done to keep students reading fluency and comprehension moving in the right direction between interventions and across content areas.  Again, I appreciate and support formal interventions, but I think we can complement them by working to understand student needs as they evolve during each lesson we teach.  Here are some thoughts:

Keep a conferring journal.  Make time for daily, weekly, biweekly, or even monthly individual conferences with each student.  For the purpose of intervention, teachers would have to decide on frequency based on need.  In doing so they would also have to manage the process, being sensitive to the academic, social, and emotional needs of each learner.  Notes would have to be simple and straightforward so that they could be effective in information ongoing instruction.

Collaborate across content areas.  Grade level teachers looking to effect enhanced development in struggling readers might consider teaming up.  Given the shift toward increased exposure to informational text with the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, language arts teachers are equipped to be great partners to their colleagues in math, science, social studies, and the unified arts.

Promote engagement by allowing interest driven self-selection.  By using an inquiry/differentiated model of Project Based Learning (PBL) teachers can give thier students ownership over the text they choose.  In doing so, they can make sure that students are invested in the reading and able to make real meaning from it.

Explicit and systematic does not have to mean complicated and formal.  What are you doing to understand and address the needs of struggling readers in your classroom?

So Cool: Mixing in the Audio for Effect

Something Cool I saw Today

[Examples of 21st Century Teaching & Learning I See Every Day]

Today I worked with a group of students who had just finished reading The Danger Box by author Blue Balliett.  After reading the book they had an opportunity to meet the author who spoke at the local library.  They had a great evening hearing about how she thinks about writing, what inspires her, and how she works.  They decided to take some pictures and videos so that they could share their experience with other students.  In the editing process they used audio from a reflective discussion to enhance the video component.  They used altered timing and creative transitions to enhance the production – So Cool!

Super Cool Video Editing

Making Authentic Connections: A Culture of Comprehension

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

Planning and implementing great project based instruction in your classroom can be easy and fun.  Projects can be short or long, simple or complex, and they can address any content area or set of skills by using all or some of the elements of effective project based learning design.  Check out the following Teacher Feature video illustrating parts of  a short project that Candi Gorski (Harlan 2nd grade) used to perpetuate her instruction in reading comprehension.

Teacher Feature Link:

In the span of a week she…

…read a great book about Native American culture to her students.

  • Played traditional Native American music softly while reading
  • Set the stage by making some connections to Native American culture and generating a thoughtful mood in her classroom
  • Transported the group through space and time with her voice and energy

…followed up with a collaborative workshop in which her second grade students created Dream Catchers with their fifth grade learning buddies.

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Authentic purpose and connections to content

…Incorporated Native American cultural artifacts in classroom communication across the curriculum.

  • More music
  • Other literature
  • Photographs

…facilitated ongoing comprehension conversations, revisiting content, skills, and strategies repeatedly.

Again, the critical content driving this project was reading comprehension; specifically making connections for enhance comprehension.

Thanks for your great work Candi…and thanks for sharing!

Stayed tuned and/or contact your Ignite Facilitator, Media Specialist, or other interested colleagues for more information about planning for project based learning in your classroom.

Have a great week and let me know how I can support your exploration!


Reader’s Workshop: Accountable Talk #1

The following clip comes from Quarton Elementary School and the wonderful Jen Wind.  Jen teaches second grade.  She is a master of Reader’s Workshop and is working with her students using ‘Accountable Talk.’  Jen models strategy and facilitates discussions that promote critical thinking.  This clip is part one of a series that will give you a peek into some of the structures that Jen uses in her workshop, how she communicates with her students, and how they respond to her incredible instruction.  Some of the key features that excite me about Jen’s implementation of Reader’s Workshop are:

–       The students’ level of engagement.

  • It’s clear that Jen has spent time setting up structures, articulating and modeling her expectations, and giving her students feedback and opportunities for practice.

–       The authenticity with which Jen delivers her instruction.

  • You can see that she is passionate about reading and it translates to enthusiasm on the part of her students.

–       Her attention to detail.

  • Think about the purposeful nature of Jen’s words and actions while you watch the clip.  Notice the pencil behind her ear, the sticky notes in her book, and the way she participates in practice with her students.  This lesson is front-loaded with thoughtfulness and preparation.

Check out the Teacher Feature, comment below if you’re so moved, and stay tuned for more in this Accountable Talk series from Jen Wind.

Teacher Feature Clip:


Have a great week!

Let me know how I can help,