Reading interventions, "Ready Freddy", and chapter book strategies!

Fourth grade reading is tough.  Many students have "unlocked" the key to reading...they can read most of the words and can track ever-increasing storylines.  As teachers, we can provide countless texts for them, coach them, model for them, and know that they will continue to become more sophisticated as readers. Unfortunately, there are still some students who haven't made this jump. It hasn't happened naturally--and the texts we want and need them to read are simply out of reach.
Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading

What makes reading chapter books challenging?


I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on all the different components of reading--and all the barriers that can interfere with student success (more on THAT another day!), and today I wanted to focus on one that I think really holds back a lot of struggling readers.

It goes without saying that when students begin to become readers, we present them with texts that have only a few characters and settings and tend to have one, clear storyline.  This can be found in "readers" and even in some short chapter books.  Students can usually read these texts in one or two sittings and the story is relatively easy to follow.  I have noticed that there isn't much of a "bridge" between this type of text and chapter books--and that many of my most struggling readers had a hard time making the jump.  I have noticed the following stumbling blocks (among many others, of course!)


  • Longer sentences in different formats
  • More inferential language (figures of speech, and so on)
  • More dialogue where important information is conveyed
  • More characters who are integral to the story
  • Setting changes (both time and place)
  • Often more than one storyline
  • More words per page--and more embedded vocabulary that cannot be deciphered through context
  • More pages which require readers to retain story information over multiple days
  • More descriptive language that makes visualization important
  • Failure to understand "how chapter books work"
Again, there are MANY more stumbling blocks than these, but I have found some success with using this as my bank of lesson ideas for these strugglers.

Reading interventions for struggling readers

This year, I have a small group who really has not been able to make the transition to simple chapters books, and I started digging in and realized that they really and truly do not understand how chapter books work.  I decided to really dig in and tackle that using the "Ready Freddy" series.  I liked that there is a clear format that each follows, that there are lots to choose from, and that there are topics that are appealing to a wide range of readers.

As I started with this group, I wanted to make sure they understood a few key lessons...so I decided to tackle one per chapter. My lesson plans ended up looking a little like this!


Chapter 1:  First chapters often teach us about characters, important settings, and problems.  Read chapter 1 carefully and track what you have learned about these important parts of a book.

 Chapter 2:  “Events” are “happenings” in a book.  Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between “events” and other cool information in a text.  Try to imagine events as if you were watching them happen.  As you read chapter 2, find FOUR events that you think are important to the story.

 Chapter 3:  As you read chapters, you might notice that each one is like a little story within the big story!  It can help you keep track of the events of the story in your mind if you always can retell the beginning, middle, and end of each chapter.  Try it for chapter 3!  You may need to reread it to help—and remember to explain in your own words!

As I moved through the book. I just kept adding one key lesson per chapter that I thought would help my readers not only understand the story--but see how there are things to know about reading chapter books that make them vastly different than shorter texts.

My students had no idea how important chapter 1 is--that it sets the stage for the rest of the book and that we need to know the characters, setting, and other key information before we move on!  We may even need to read it twice!  They didn't "see" that each chapter is a story within a story--with a beginning, middle, and end.  They didn't realize that before picking up the book each day, they should reflect back (and maybe even LOOK back) at what they had read the day before to keep that story flowing smoothly in their minds.  

By giving them these strategies and modeling with them, it was like the book was "unlocked".  Here's essentially what I did for these students for 8 days (8 chapters in a Ready Freddy book!)

1.  I read the book quickly and identified some vocabulary and word patterns I thought they might struggle with.  I jotted these down on post it notes and stuck them in my copy of the book.

Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading

Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading
To start each intervention group meeting, we did a little bit of word work on white boards and I pretaught them any words I thought might trip them up.  The goal here was to learn to read a chapter book, so I wanted to take that decoding part out as much as I could.
Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading
After that, I taught them the "lesson du jour" which I also printed on top of the page we were working on.  I wanted them to SEE the lesson (like a learning target) and we revisited it at the end of our group time as I sent them off to work.

We then read the first part of the chapter together practicing fluency and finding some of those pretaught words and word patterns.  Then, we filled out part of the written response part together so that I could model my thinking for them.  This lesson was about the idea of what an "event" is...we pretended we were there at Freddy's house and were trying to find things that happened that we could have taken video of...that seemed to help my students understand that events are things that HAPPEN.
Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading
 As a part of this, I really wanted to stress that whole "text evidence" piece, so we kept our books handy and looked back to PROVE our ideas.
Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading

Gradual Release of Responsibility

So...we worked ourselves through all 8 chapters of the book following this format, and the students LOVED it.  They learned a lot and felt so much success.  We are set to tackle our next Ready Freddy book using the exact same format--but with me stepping back a little bit and putting more of the workload on them.  I still plan to do the word work and read the first part of each chapter with them (It is helping me to see what other struggles they are having and helping me coach them better), but they are going to have to do more independent thinking and partner work rather than rely on me.  

Now of course--this is a great reading INTERVENTION for my fourth graders...but these lessons are great universal instruction lessons for younger students!  After all, if we can help our second and third graders understand how chapter books "work", we will need less reading intervention in the upper grades!

Anyhoo..I thought you might be interested in some of these strategies and perhaps I have given you something new to think about.  This kind of work can be done with any easier chapter book, of course--but I love the fact that Ready Freddy lends itself perfectly to some of these lessons--and the lessons work for ANY of the books because they all follow the same format.  The books are easy to find and reasonably priced.  If you want to see how I put all the pieces together, you can click the cover image below to see more.
Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading
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Reading chapter books can be a challenge for struggling readers.  Using Ready Freddy books as a reading intervention tool has been so suuccessful for my below grade level readers!  Reading interention lesson plans, reading intervention activities, second grade reading, third grade reading, fourth grade reading




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