Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Texts on Tuesdays: The Reading Strategies Book and More!

It's time for another "Texts on Tuesdays" post!  Today I would like to share with you two books by a leading expert in reading instruction, Jennifer Serravallo.  She has written a new book ALL about reading strategies so I knew I had to have it.  When I saw the description, I knew I also wanted to have her "Literacy Playbook" for grades 3-6, so I read that one first.  

The Literacy Playbook is all about collecting meaningful data to guide reading instruction--and how to do both.  I think what struck me the most was how Serravallo focuses on a whole gamut of reading assessment ideas--and she pays particular attention to reading "habits" and stresses how important it is to be mindful of those along with other assessment tools.  It's hard to teach a child to read when s/he struggles with focus or picking "Just Right" books.  The book addresses the four steps of her process--collect data, analyze data, interpret data/establish a goal, and create an action plan.  Each step is thoroughly explored and should give you plenty to think about.

So after I read "The Literacy Teacher's Playbook", it was time to dig into the next book--the one that is literally FULL of lesson ideas, "The Reading Strategies Book".  Whether you are working with emergent readers or readers working to deepen comprehension, this "toolbox" of reading lessons is so thorough--there really is something for anyone who teaches reading.  From anchor chart ideas (with real pictures!) to "teacher talk"...these 300 (yes, 300) lessons are perfect for whole class, small group, or individual conferences.  Many of the lessons are familiar friends, but the way the book is orgnaized makes it all worth it to have it in one place--especially the way the lessons are organized by "goal".  Each lesson even gives recommended reading levels that are the best fit!  I love that I can get ideas for lessons for my universal instruction AND lessons for my intervention groups in the SAME RESOURCE!  

Here's the next best thing--I contacted the author and asked if she would be willing to answer a few questions for me and for my readers and she agreed!  My interview with her follows below--I hope you enjoy her added tidbits!  Have you read either book?  I'd love you to chime in below with your thoughts and ideas...and if you have any other questions for her I just MAY be able to get some answers!

HERE WE GO--an interview with Jennifer Serravallo

1.  How do you recommend teachers who are in a more traditional, textbook-based literacy instruction setting make sure to address the more "affective" sides of reading--nurturing a love of reading, picking quality "just right" books, and so on?
I think most textbook-based literacy instruction includes some independent reading as well as some reading aloud to children as part of the literacy block. What I'd recommend doing is replacing materials for the independent reading with real literature that either comes from the classroom library (if you're lucky enough to have a well-stocked library), from the school or town library, or with books they've brought from home. Often I find the materials that are included with the textbook series are not authentic literature and are often less engaging than books children would select themselves that match their interests. Also, I'd ask teachers to consider the books they love, and the interests of their students, and to select read alouds that will be highly engaging. They can then involve children in discussing the books and teachers can model their own thinking as they read, perhaps using some of the strategies and prompts I've included in the book. These two ideas (changing independent reading materials and changing the read aloud) are just a start, but I often find they are important first steps, and are often doable from a time and schedule perspective.
2. You include a "hierarchy" when choosing goals for students. When you find a student who struggles in many areas--reading "habits", reading fluency, reading comprehension--how do you make those tough decisions about where to start first with instruction--especially when that student is well below grade level?
I use the hierarchy to guide me and almost always start with whatever goal is closest to the top of the list. I'll work on that for 4-6 weeks, then move on to another one. Once all (or most) of the goals are accomplished, that's usually an indication the child is ready for more challenging texts.
3.  When a student is well below grade level in the upper elementary grades, what suggestions do you have to build confidence and willingness to use "just right" texts when the others in the class are reading Percy Jackson and other challenging texts?
A couple of things. One, it's crucial to get to know your kids well (interests, hobbies, favorite TV shows, etc) and know your children's literature in order to match children to books. If teachers are readers who read children's literature, they can recommend a book that has elements of the desired one that are more readable (eg. Secrets of Droon instead of Harry Potter). Teri Lesesne's book Book Ladders can also be a helpful reference for middle school teachers to find like-books at varying levels of complexity. Also, I think it's important to invest in hi-lo books by publishers such as Stone Arch that will have content that appeals to them but written at a much easier level.
4.  I love your focus on writing about reading.  Do you find that some teachers neglect this and have tendencies toward moving students to more difficult texts when their writing isn't quite up to par yet?  What words of wisdom do you have about this issue?
Thank you! I think kids are often evaluated by their abilities to articulate their ideas in writing. I also think learning to use writing as a tool to develop ideas and as a strategy to hold on to thinking could help a lot of children with their comprehension of texts. I think it deserves a place in our curriculum, and also a place in our goal-setting with individual children.

So there you have it!  Two GREAT books for any intermediate literacy teachers...if you want to see more about them, here are the links so you can take a closer look!

Stop by tomorrow for a new "Math Is Real Life" blog post!


  1. I'm so jealous!!! I LOVE her resources!!! I ordered The Reading Strategies book at the beginning of June and have looked through it, read it, made rubrics, put flags throughout... I'm so stoked for strategy groups this year! So many options and I love how it's organized- truly a gem of a book if I do say so myself. Loved reading her responses to your awesome questions.
    Tales of a Tenacious Teacher

  2. I have been thinking of getting this book. Will definitely get my hands on it now.

  3. The Reading Strategies Book is awesome! If you're interested, there's a FB group going about it and a group using the Voxer app to discuss the chapters. We're on chapter 2 this week. It's a great way to connect and learn and collaborate with other educators. If you're interested, download the Voxer app and send a message to Kathryn (kkht6912) and ask her to add you to the group.
    Are We There Yet?