Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

By Amy Brennan


On July 28, 2016, #G2Great welcomed Jan Richardson as a guest host to chat about her book, Next Step Forward in Guided Reading.  This book brings Jan’s latest thinking to teachers and helps them to identify and target instruction that supports each and every reader.  Jan’s framework, Assess-Decide-Guide gives teachers a roadmap to work with students from PreA to Fluent readers.  In reflecting on the chat there are 4 ideas about guided reading that are worth lingering with for a bit.

Guiding Readers Forward to Independence

Independence is the ultimate goal of guided reading, this is where students can practice alongside their peers while the teacher leans back and observes.  The teacher can lean in only if needed and provide just enough coaching to prompt students to do the thinking work, access their reading toolbox and navigate the text using strategies they have learned.

Guiding Readers Forward Through Assessment

Jan’s framework begins with Assessment.  Assessment, a word derived from the Latin word assidere, means to sit beside.  As we sit beside the learners in guided reading we are watching and listening to understand the strategies that students are using. The assessment is what makes our teaching in a balanced literacy framework intentional.  Planning with intention allows us to be very clear in our teaching goals or objectives.  Jan’s message is supported by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie in their book Visible Learning for Literacy.  The following quote from the book really validates the relationship and importance of assessment informing instruction. “Literacy learning can be enhanced when teachers communicate specific, relevant, and appropriate expectations for students.”  In order to identify learning intentions or objectives we need to know exactly what our students are doing as learners. Teachers can only communicate these expectations when they have used assessment to inform their instructional planning.

Guiding Readers Forward by Opening Space for Thinking Time

During guided reading we are often tempted to lean in too much by talking too much or jumping in too quickly.  The term wait time has traditionally been passed around in conversation especially with administrators and usually in a pre or post observation conference.  Leaving enough wait time for students to process is a crucial part of the learning process.  All learners need time to think.  The connotation of the word wait makes it feel like even longer when we are allowing time for a student to think.  Reframing wait time to thinking time opens up space for students to read, think and take action whether that action is employing a reading strategy or responding to a question or comment from the teacher or a peer or even generating their own questions.  During guided reading we need to remember to keep the focus student centered. We need to allow sufficient thinking time so that students have the space to think and then access strategies from their reading toolbox.  

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Guiding Readers Forward by Advancing our own Professional Growth

Professional growth and learning is critical to improving student achievement.  According to John Hattie’s (2012) research, professional development itself has a large enough effect size to ensure that students will gain a full year’s growth in a year of school.  This is evidence enough to validate educators investing in their own professional growth.  Additionally some other influences include providing formative evaluation, teacher clarity, feedback, self-reported grades, metacognitive strategies, teaching strategies, student-centered teaching, peer tutoring, and quality of teaching.  There are about 60 more influences that are cited by John Hattie as having an effect size great enough to ensure a full year growth.  With this evidence available and knowing how much students’ learning is within a teacher’s control, it is essential that we engage in opportunities for our own professional growth.  Jan and Cindy offered some great suggestions for professional growth in planning and implementing guided reading.  Here are some ideas that may help to expand your professional growth.  

  • Create opportunities to read Jan’s new book and share with others.  Join a professional book club that extends this quick chat to talk deeper about Jan’s book.   
  • Start a Voxer book club where teachers can read and reflect where everyone will grow ideas about guided reading.  
  • Establishing a professional learning network to enhance your professional growth.  
  • In a digital or face to face connection, remember to be open to feedback from colleagues as well as students.  There is much we can learn about our practices from others who watch or more importantly from the learner.  
  • Work with a coach or a colleague this can provide you with an opportunity to videotape your teaching and reflect on the experience together.  

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At #G2Great we are grateful that Jan joined us to share her new book, Next Step Forward in Guided Reading and to share her insight into guided reading.  She also provided some examples of resources that are included in her book such as stage-specific lesson plan templates.  Take a look below to see some of the resources Jan has created for her latest book on Guided Reading.  Lesson plan templates for different levels in guided reading

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More resources Prompts Guided Reading Flip Chart

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#G2Great With Guest Hosts Kristi Mraz and Christine Hertz A Mindset for Learning

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Opening Quote for Blog

On 7/21/16 #G2Great celebrated the amazing book, A Mindset for Learning by Kristi Mraz and Christine Hertz. With Kristi and Christine at the helm, we spent the hour thinking about the stories we tell ourselves about growth and learning, and how to attempt to see the world through the eyes of our students. Promoting a growth mindset for students begins with us.

This post is dedicated to many the many voices who embrace the search for knowledge over the safety of what is already known.

Christine, Chris, and Mary…

It’s a funny thing that risk has everything to do with loss and yet it’s synonymous with growth. How do we build environments for risk taking? Well it’s a lot more than a collection of rules – it’s a frame of mind. Start the school year with fresh eyes and be ready to create a world for new students. Build spaces that support independent work. Look at classroom design and think, how am I supporting growth and learning? The choices we make are ours alone, and we are obligated to make smart decisions for our students:

Kristi, Jen, and Pam…

Learning is an experience. Our work is not done in isolation because every lesson is connected to a larger process. If we want to make a positive impact on how students perceive themselves then we have to hold them in the highest esteem. We need to read our students as thoughtfully as we read our professional texts:

Christine, Briana, Justin, Bryan, Eric, and Kristi…

Having a growth mindset is a lovely idea. If I believe I can do it, I can achieve it. How do our actions really support that kind of thinking? Growth mindset is rooted in the learning process itself. It isn’t accomplished by the end of the day, or week, or even the year. It’s the work of a lifetime. A growth mindset is a way of life that begins as an extension of our beliefs about ourselves and our students:

Akilah, Kristi, Kristin, Christine, Dana, Sonja, and Kate…

Our students are living in the narratives we write for them. The kinds of stories we tell them and ourselves impacts the kinds of teachers we become. Akilah’s tweet inspires me to write some professional development work around storytelling and growth mindset. Kisti shared a collection of articles about the power of stories, and Kristin shared a Prezi as a resource for growth mindset. Thank you so much! Our #G2Great PLN is a community, one that supports, connects, and encourages us to dream:


Mary, Christine, and Kristi…

We are teachers and joy is our job. Our message of joyful learning that embraces play is an important one to send out the to world.  We live in serious times and students will inherit a world that requires flexible thinking that stems from creative play. Our kids will need to be resilient in the face of adversity.  Empathy will deconstruct walls to progress, and persistence will help to unlock inner strength and stamina. We are not just teaching reading, writing, and math we are teaching students how to read the world. Above all else let’s be a part of building strong optimistic hearts and minds. Thank you Kristi and Christine for writing such an important book for teachers everywhere:

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Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts with Stacey Shubitz

by Mary Howard


Stacey Shubitz joined #G2Great on 7/14/16 to reflect on her incredible new book, Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts (Stenhouse, 2016) In the foreword, Lester Laminack illustrates why Stacey’s voice is needed to illuminate the powerful role of mentor texts, “Stacey is a thinker, a reflective practitioner who works with ideas and refines practice until it blossoms.” And blossom we did as Stacey planted new #G2Great seeds of mentor text joy.

In Craft Moves, Stacey celebrates the use of authentic texts in the form of picture books to “help writers notice things about an author’s work that is not like anything they might have done before, and empower them to try something new.” Stacey brings that goal to life on page after page of Craft Moves in a step-by-step journey further deepened as our #G2Great guest host.

As I perused each tweet, seven points emerged to translate Stacey’s Craft Moves message from enthusiastic dialogue to where our conversations matter most – in classrooms where we strive to bring books and kids together:


One of the most powerful aspects of mentor texts is that it provides a purposeful structure where we can initiate a thoughtful merger of reading and writing. Since beautifully written picture books are the heart of mentor texts, we are able to use this instructional union to honor the reciprocal nature of reading and writing and simultaneously inspire and enrich the literacy lives of students from both sides. With texts at the center and knowledgeable teachers selecting those texts in the name of students, mentor texts offer a rich approach to share picture books that will beckon our readers and then use those same texts as a model for student writers. In other words, mentor texts create a circle of understanding where wonderful pictures books are the very seeds we use to grow readers and writers. Quite honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!


Picture books as mentor texts offer a glimpse into the instructional possibilities that abound between two covers. By inviting authors to become teachers in our classrooms, we can spotlight the very craft moves we want our students to use in their own writing as we zoom in closer as reader and writer. Within this mutually supportive process, we build deeper ‘transformative’ understanding that will strengthen writing. Picture books offer a treasure trove of craft moves in authentic ‘bite size bits’ (thank you Cathy Mere) as we engage students in productive dialogue that will serve as a springboard to their own writing. This wonderful joining of forces brings teachers, authors, children and texts to a joyfully engaging learning party.


The use of picture books as mentor texts raised a rich conversation about their role beyond the elementary grades. For too long, the impact of brief visual texts at every age has been ignored so it was exciting when Tricia and Mindi inspired us with their dedication to secondary learners. Conversations that rose from this dialogue encouraged teachers to adopt a broader perspective to view picture books as a resource that can be used across grades. With unlimited access to varied resources including highly sophisticated texts surrounding us, we would do our more mature students a great disservice by closing our minds to their tremendous potential across grades and instructional contexts. In fact, I was not the only one taking note of this thoughtful dialogue as it inspired Stacey to write a new blog post on the subject (watch for this post at Two Writing Teachers later this summer)


Stacey shows deep respect for the role of teachers in her discussion of mentor texts. Teachers select and mine these texts for craft moves and then use them in meaningful ways with children so Stacey acknowledges that the real impact resides in teacher decision-making. This is a much welcome shift from a current emphasis on teaching from a lens of compliance over professional responsibility. Through a personal exploration, teachers are invited to choose texts that will support craft moves according to their students’ needs and instructional goals as teachers maintain their critical role as responsible to their own teaching. Having a clear plan in mind serves as an instructional GPS but we also leave ample room for thoughtful meanderings that rise from in-the-moment teaching. After all, isn’t that what good teaching is all about?


Every excellent teacher knows that teaching is a process of discovery that begins with students. In order to effectively use mentor texts in our classrooms, we must know three things intimately: the book, the literacy process, and the children we are lucky enough to have sitting in front of us. We certainly acknowledge that our teaching begins with a deep knowledge of literacy and books, but we also maintain a steadfast commitment to our knowledge of students. We recognize that it is this knowledge of the learners in front of us that makes mentor text instruction responsive. Keeping students at the center acknowledges that the most effective mentor text lessons do not come from a scripted lesson design but from our close observations of learning in the trenches and our ability to translate those observations into flexible instructional practices.


Picture books offer a masterful blend of visuals and print for layered support that invites every child to the learning table. This combination of print and picture virtually opens supportive learning doors that may otherwise be closed to some readers and writers. Pictures books are the ticket that enthusiastically invites each learner into the experience. The role of mentor texts that merge reading and writing also allows us to use each stage of the gradual release of responsibility model as we blend whole class, small group, side by side and independent opportunities based on the needs of children. This flexible decision-making grounded in the needs of students empowers us to use the texts that will then empower our readers and writers in a glorious domino effect of benefits.


I place this final point at the end because it reflects the very spirit of all we do. While we entwine, expand, envision, embrace, elevate, and empower our efforts to use mentor texts, we do all of these things to entice our students into the experience of reading and writing. We know that we give our students a precious gift when we use beautiful texts that beckon readers and make them ‘hungry’ for more. By immersing students in texts that speak to their heart, we then strengthen that gift so that they can write from their heart. We also recognize that there is a cautious balance between mining a text for craft moves and teaching points and the risk that comes from sucking the very life from the texts we chose to inspire readers and writers in the first place. I can’t think of anything more important than achieving this balance as we celebrate mentor texts in our classrooms.

Like all of our #G2Great friends, I feel fortunate that Stacey is working diligently in her book, her blog and her work across the country to ‘refine practice until it blossoms.’ Stacey gives us a plethora of possibilities through twenty beautifully chosen text recommendations and text suggestions still rising from our #G2Great chat conversations so Stacey’s words of encouragement seem like a fitting close as she offers us a question and promise for next step mentor text efforts:

“Are you ready to build a classroom culture where students learn to grow as writers using the skills of published authors? I anticipate the authors whose picture books are featured in this book will become like rock stars in your students’ eyes. Be prepared to let authors inspire and energize your classroom.”

Ah yes Stacey, we are ready and prepared for that joyful venture indeed!

Independent Reading: Learning to Love to Read

by Guest Blogger Fran McVeigh

The final #G2Great chat with Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris in a four part series about their book, Who’s Doing the Work?  How to Say Less so Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse, 2016) was July 7th. This chat was also the opening prelude to #ILA16 for many conference attendees as well as an all day institute about Who’s Doing the Work.  I invite you to peruse the storify here and like or retweet specific comments from the chat.


What’s so special about independent reading?

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Hmmm . . .  so a pot of gold? But what’s that power of books?

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If we begin with the end in mind, then independent reading is where, as this chapter title suggests, our students will learn to love to read and actually find that pot of gold.


What are three conditions that will help students learn to love to read?


  1. Time in school to read.


Independent reading provides students with an opportunity to use and practice everything they know about reading.  In sports, it’s similar to the basketball scrimmage where the coach takes notes of drills to work on later.  He/she doesn’t interrupt the scrimmage to coach now but carefully collects data to inform his conversations with his players and to consider specific plays to offer during the next timeout.  Similarly during class, it’s an opportunity for the reading teacher to take notes on students’ successes and areas for more observation, instruction, or practice.


Sam’s tweet says it clearly and Sam, as a student, would know!

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While reading at home alone is essential, it is not enough. If it’s important, some class time must be allocated so the teacher can observe the readers in action and support them accordingly! Jan and Kim explain in their book that each instructional context is equally important and warrants as much instructional time as the others (p. 143). We know there are huge benefits for our students who read at home, but let’s face it – our student lives are busy. We can control the time in our classrooms. Let’s use it wisely! Let’s provide time “in class” for students to read.


There may be naysayers who suggest that “research” doesn’t support independent reading during school time.  But the formative data alone that can be gathered from students’ next generation independent reading is well worth its time in terms of cultivating a love of reading and ensuring that students have transferred their reading skills and strategies.


  1.      Books
    A second condition for quality independent reading involves books.  What books are present in the classroom?  How are they organized?  Who makes the decisions about the books that are read in a classroom?  Who should make those decisions?  How does a teacher determine a “quality book”?  What’s the role of a classroom library?  Each of these questions could be its own blog post but we do need to explore some major concepts.


What books do students want to read?

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Sam’s views support those who talk about finding books that are mirrors that allow us to see the lives of others or windows into their own lives. . . books where they can connect and see themselves.  The field of literacy is discussing #weneeddiversebooks and teachers are much more aware of this even if classroom libraries are not as diverse as they would wish.


How do teachers make choices about books?

Jan and Kim discuss books in this chapter and tell us that book choice is less about the “just right” books than the specific “levels” that are often considered during instruction.

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Teacher knowledge is a critical factor as Jan and Kim further explain in this quote.

“As you select texts, keep in mind that texts, students, and tasks are idiosyncratic.  Your knowledge of your students trumps any guidelines. . . When selecting a text, ask yourself:  Is this text engaging enough, difficult enough and manageable enough for students to experience optimum productive effort?”  (p. 138-139)


How are books organized in the classroom library?

Student input on organization is extremely valuable.  Students can help organize and define labels on groups of books by topic or authors.  This may mean that  book tubs on a shelf  in the classroom library will be labeled “Blood and Guts” instead of Level U.  Or a tub label might say “If you loved Hatchet, you may love these” so that the labeling resembles GoodReads or Amazon recommendations.  Any label that will encourage or tempt a reader beats a label that just lists a level!


  1. Choice

Choice is an overlapping condition because students need choice in so many aspects of reading including: what they read, where they read, and how they respond to independent reading texts.  It’s NOT independent reading if the students are assigned pages or chapters to read as a class assignment.  It’s NOT independent reading if students can only read “after work is completed”. It’s NOT independent reading if there is a PACKET to be completed.  That need for accountability has to be given up in favor of trusting the students to read and to learn to love to read.  


Next generation independent reading allows student to choose their own text – not lexiles or leveled text.  Next generation independent reading allows students to deeply engage in texts and content of their own choice.  Next generation independent reading allows students to correct their own choices if or when they get off track.  Isn’t that a characteristic of life-long learners?


So we have the three conditions in place.  Are we done?


How do you, the teacher, sharpen the focus on what students need in order to fully implement the “Next Generation of Independent Reading”?


As you’ve read the last three posts and participated in the chats, you have probably realized that you don’t have to make radical changes.  In fact, huge shifts from one end of the reading continuum to another make both students and teachers crazy. Balance is always the key! It’s wonderful if the next generation of independent reading looks like your current class reading.  But is there some room for growth to ensure that students are doing the work?  Are there some minor tweaks that you need to consider to give students more ownership, engagement and empowerment? Reflect on your learning from this chat (or the whole series) and consider the following questions as you plan for next year.

  • Did you begin with the end in mind?  
  • Is every instructional context, Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading, designed to build students’ love of reading?
  • Is every instructional context balanced across a week?  
  • Do students see the alignment in the work (and of course the Gradual Release of Instruction) to build independence in reading as well as a joy in reading?
  • Are students learning to love reading?
  • Have your students found that pot of gold?  How do you know?


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For additional resources by Burkins and Yaris about Independent Reading see this digest post.

Links to access earlier Literacy Lenses posts about:  Read Alouds, Shared Reading, and Guided Reading


Saying Less So Student Can Do More in Guided Reading

By Amy Brennan

Quote OPEN-8

On June 30th #G2Great continued our journey with Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris in the third of a four-part series inspired by their book, Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse 2016).  As I reflect on the series and re-read my own marked up and treasured copy of their book I feel compelled to stand once again on our #G2Great metaphorical mountain and shout out to all educators to get a copy of this book, read this book and take on the charge to lead students to independence in reading.  

Jan and Kim introduced us to next generation guided reading in chapter 4 of their book.  The quote above from Jan and Kim resonates with me because over the years as I have worked with students and teachers around guided reading this was the thing that got me stuck each time.  I did not see the transfer happening and it seemed like the adults (including myself) were doing much of the work while students took on a role that seemed more compliant than cognitive when it came to engagement and strategic work in the reading process.  In fact, if I am honest, I generally opted for strategy groups or some hybrid type of small group rather than guided reading for this very reason.

As I read the book and reflect on the chat I am making connections between the importance of teaching towards independence for our students in school and raising my teenagers to be independent in life.  In my mind I believe one thing, but when I look back and reflect over my own words and actions I realize that in literacy and in life I am guilty of providing too much support so that my students and my own teenagers are still dependent on me when what I believe is that I want them to be independent. My actions and words have not been aligned to the end result I was seeking.  I want independence for these learners, however I am so worried about the mistakes that happen along the way in the learning process that I jump in and sabotage their journey to independence.

Picture this, you are teaching your child to ride a bicycle, you hold onto the back of the seat.  You run along behind, still holding the seat.  Back probably aching, but you are not worried or scared because you are holding on.  Your child is excited, perhaps slightly scared but more excited about the potential of riding on their own like a big kid.  You want to let go of the seat, but you can’t.  You are worried about what will happen if you let go.  Then as your brother watches, he steps in because he knows you will never let go of the seat and his nephew will never learn to ride that bike if his mother continues to hold that seat.

This was me and unfortunately, I am still trying so hard to let go of that seat.  This book has helped me professionally and personally to realize that I have to let go of the seat. To do that I need to ensure that I provide an environment where there is safety while also letting students (or my teenagers) make the more specific decisions.  I can still provide support by setting up metacognitive prompts or questions to support their thinking, not mine.  I can provide prompts that are both general and reflective with lean coaching in with agentive questions such as, “What can you try?” “What do you know?” and “What else can you try?”  In other words, I can adjust my teaching to afford students the benefits that come with next generation guided reading.

Next Generation Guided Reading Encourages Problem Solving

A1 Elisa

In reflecting on the June 30th chat, Elisa’s tweet above reminds me why it is critical to support independence in our learners.  Guided reading is the step just before independent reading when we consider its relation to the gradual release of responsibility.  When we provide too much support or do all the work, students are not prepared to do that work on their own. They do not have enough practice in problem-solving in order to know when they are stuck and what to do when reading breaks down.  Students can practice using their problem-solving skills when our questions or prompts allow students to figure it out themselves.  Questions such as “What can you try?” “What do you know already?” and “How can you check?” provide just enough support that it encourages students to think and problem solve so that when they are on their own reading independently they can apply these strategies alone.  These reflective or metacognitive questions promote thinking promote thinking that will enhance awareness into their own processes as well as the flexibility to use these in other texts independently.  

A2 Kim Yaris

Next Generation Guided Reading is Student Led

Teachers use next generation guided reading as an opportunity to learn about students’ reading processes.  Rather than providing a heavy book introduction, teachers of next generation guided reading approach the book introduction as a facilitator of the work that leads to independence.  Teachers may ask “How will you figure out what this book is about? Or “What should we do first to get started in this book?” This provides an opportunity to observe and learn from students so that instruction can be more intentional and specific to support independence in reading.  Additionally, as Lisa’s tweet below points out that too often a lengthy book introduction takes away precious reading time for students.  If we want independent readers we need to provide the time for students to engage in just that, with our careful observing eyes and ears as we take note of what students are doing and only jumping in when necessary.  Teacher talk is minimal in next generation guided reading, allowing students to talk, think and process the text.  Often teachers lament on not allowing for enough wait time, but if we reframe the term wait time to processing time perhaps we can trick ourselves into waiting longer as students are processing or thinking about a text.    

A1 Lisa

A1 Kitty

A1 Christina

A1 Mindi


I have come to the realization that indeed it is scary to let go of the seat of the bicycle and let them ride off into the sunset.  Perhaps that is why my brother and sister in law had to teach my children how to ride a bike.  However if I watch this “video” play through in my mind again I can see different ways I could have improved my teaching by letting go of the bicycle.  
Picture this new scenario, you are teaching your child to ride a bicycle, you hold onto the back of the seat.  You run along behind, still holding the seat.  Back probably aching, but you are not worried or scared because you are holding on.  Your child is excited, perhaps slightly scared but more excited about the potential of riding on their own like a big kid.  You want to let go of the seat, but before you do you watch your child’s pedaling, you watch your child’s balance and you watch your child keep their eyes on the road and their hands steady on the handlebars.  You observe and assess when they are ready for you to let go of the seat.  You prompt your child with lean coaching as you are still holding on, but lighter than before.  You are not worried about what will happen if you let go because you have worked through possibilities with your child and planned for get up again and try it strategies.  You know that when you let go they might lose balance that first time and fall, but you will problem solve and talk through how to fall and how to get up again.  Then as your brother watches, you let go, your child loses balance and falls.  Your child gets up, shrugs off the fall and says, “Next time I will go longer without you holding on!”  Your brother runs over and gives your child a high five and flashes a knowing smile in your direction.  Before you know it…your child is off and riding.  That’s what doing the work looks like in next generation guided reading — our students are off and reading.


A2: Mindi

A5 Melanie

A5: Kym


A5 Kim Yaris


margaret video

video paulina

kitty video