Guided Practice for Reading Growth:  Texts and Lessons to Improve Fluency, Comprehension and Vocabulary

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet LINK

Laura Robb is no stranger to #G2Great. She frequently participates in our weekly chats and has been a guest host with principal son and coauthor, Evan Robb, for Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches and Leaders to Support Students. This link gives you access to the blog post and wakelet for that book. Laura and Evan Robb coauthored this blog post in 2020, “Breaking the Cycle of Professional Compliance: Teachers as Decision-Makers.” (Link) It was truly a pleasure to welcome Laura and her coauthor David Harrison to his first chat this week.

Routines. Habits. As I drove, I hit my turn signal. It was automatic. I had driven this route for years. More years than I can count (or remember). But I had to reach down and turn that signal off because that’s not the route anymore. Change. It requires thought and a conscious effort. Changing habits and routines is hard. What will make this travel change MORE automatic? More practice!

Teaching.

Teaching also requires thought and conscious effort. Teaching requires so many decisions that teachers need to consciously make. Gravity Goldberg and  Renee Houser tell us that teachers make 1500 decisions per day (Edutopia link). It’s exhausting and yet equally stimulating to make decisions that matter for students. We must TRUST teachers to make decisions that will increase student joy AND student learning.

What is the end goal? Here is Laura Robb’s response. 

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Teach the children in front of you. Get to know them. Watch. Listen. Have conversations with them. Read their notebooks. Increase their reading stamina with daily independent reading of self-selected books. Respond to their needs by knowing and building on their strengths. Become a responsive teacher who can adapt instruction and interventions to students, knowing that their needs change throughout the school year. Remember, that volume in reading is the best intervention and can develop students’ joy in reading, positive reading identities, and create lifelong readers!

Laura Robb, email.

I wrote this book blurb for Corwin Press after the first time I read Guided Practice for Reading Growth and now after the third reading I believe it to be even more true. 

Book Blurb: Guided Practice for Reading Growth

“What is essential for reading growth?  David Harrison and Laura Robb provide guidelines and tips for schedules, routines, instructional practices and lessons that improve students’ reading skill and self-confidence with proven sustained growth by real students in real classrooms. The authors use the research and their classroom work to provide evidence that students working below their grade level do not need pre-made programs or one-size basals but do need knowledgeable teachers who know their students and align and craft guided practice that encourages students to work hard to meet their goals. This book details how guided practice reinforces and enhances independent reading, interactive read-alouds, vocabulary building and writing about texts in a reader’s notebook. The implementation of the ideas in this book will help teachers develop effective and efficient targeted instruction that capitalizes on teacher knowledge and relationships with the students in their classrooms.”

Fran McVeigh, email.

Three big ideas form the focus of my thinking and understanding about this book based on Laura and David’s ideas, my previous work with middle school students, and the nature of curriculum/intervention plans and resources for middle school students. Let’s explore.

Instruction that meets the needs of students must be carefully crafted and implemented

No one lock-step, one-size-fits-all curriculum works. I see students in middle school and high school who are “not proficient” in reading. I am over-generalizing, but basically that means they missed a cut-off score on some skill area. Some argue that they must ALL need phonemic awareness or phonological awareness if they are struggling in reading. But what of students who have been a part of explicit phonics instruction who year after year are given another NEW phonics program because the last one was not successful and they are now down to literally TIER 6 in phonics programs and have very little time READING but spend much of their time in drills and isolated word work? Students are frustrated, disheartened and tired of “work that makes them feel stupid.”

Instruction can be so much more for students. The lessons Laura and David provide in Guided Practice for Reading Growth can be used “just in time” for student practice that they need NOW. Not after a data team meeting, but NOW to allow students to make accelerated growth without waiting for the roulette wheel to spin up their name at a pre-designated review.

David’s stories and poems are an excellent catalyst for instruction. The lessons Laura crafted are easily replicable by teachers. There are two sets that teachers are encouraged to make their own. Trusting that teachers know the students best, there is a set for partner discussion and a set for shared reading which lead to student writing. Talk. Writing. Part of the reciprocal action cycle of reading.

And then the finale. Part III in the text is “Next Steps for Guided Practice and Growth in Reading.”  The beauty of adding in fluency practice that is self-selected and performed by students is tantalizing. Maximizing efficiency and effectiveness with teacher data-based decisions about how to structure time and resources to meet student resources is teacher autonomy at its best!

Choice and agency are necessary for students to grow as readers.

Independent reading is a daily expectation in this structure. Students are allowed to choose texts that align with their interests. Teachers are encouraged to choose texts that students will find engaging.

Fluency practice as presented in this text is never reduced to reading rate, but instead, is all about the interpretation and the love of language. Empowering teachers. Empowering students. Empowering student learning. Empowering student progress. Empowering students as leaders. And again, providing practice opportunities for students to do the work themselves and choose their own reading materials!

Student reading identities matter.

Students have to find both the joy and belief in their own ability to read. By middle school and high school this is not easy. Some students have already fake read the same book three or four years in a row. Other students are quite good at shrugging off the “I’m too busy to read. Check out my activities” excuses. We’ve known about the importance of reading and writing identities but often not had the time, energy, resources or support necessary to grow identities. Successful and powerful reading and writing identities that respect their age, emotional maturity, and are worthy of both student and teacher time and attention. Choice and scaffolded instructional times provide opportunities for student identities to grow and mature.

This is further emphasized in the authors’ responses to the remaining questions.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

The first big takeaway is to use formative assessments and relentless kid watching to identify students’ strengths and build on these strengths with guided practice lessons. Guided practice lessons are short, focus on what students need, and invite them to do the thinking and work that can improve their reading and enlarge vocabulary. The next big takeaway is that volume in reading is an intervention that can bring students reading below grade level into the reading life and develop their reading identities.

Laura and David, email.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have on the professional world?

My work with fifth grade students entering school reading at a kindergarten to early second grade reading level pushed me to rethink reading instruction and intervention.  Besides having them read self-selected books every day for about 20-minutes, I began developing guided practice lessons using short texts to engage them in deep thinking, meaningful discussions, and writing about reading. Another goal was to enlarge their vocabulary and background knowledge, and watching short videos prior to reading worked well. Students loved them, but if a few needed to revisit the video, it was easy for them to watch it a second or third time on their own or with a small group. With award-winning poet, David Harrison, writing the poems and short texts for the guided practice lessons, students can read culturally relevant texts on topics they suggested through surveys conducted in grades five to eight 

         David and I hope that teachers of grades 4 to 8 will integrate guided practice lessons into their instructional reading. Once teachers try the lessons, there are guidelines in the appendix for developing their own guided practice lessons. To support teachers as they get started with developing lessons, David Harrison wrote extra poems and short texts that are in the appendix; there’s also a list of magazines teachers can mine for short tests and lists of poetry collections to investigate. The goal is for teachers to intervene as soon as they observe students require extra practice and gradually release responsibility for learning to students.

Laura Robb, email.

In conclusion, just as students need carefully crafted instruction, with choice and agency as well as support for reader and writer identities – so do teachers! Guided practice is a simple, yet practical way to provide students with opportunities to joyfully develop into lifelong readers who can and do read.

The Last Word: What would you like teachers to know?  David’s response


Tapping Into Teacher Empowerment

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to view the Wakelet

How do we tap into teacher empowerment? This is a question that I have thought about for a long time. It has been my experience that empowered teachers draw on knowing the curriculum, having an understanding for child development, and a knack for setting attainable goals with students that help their students recognize their own inner stores of power, but I wondered what other teachers had to say on the matter. On September 16, 2021 #G2Great began a conversation about tapping into teacher empowerment, and after reading through the Wakelet it became clear to me that GROWING A CULTURE around empowerment is really the next frontier. 

What if we actively created a culture that was built around teacher empowerment in school?  I imagine that it might be like this, teachers come to school believing that their thoughts and decisions will make a positive impact on the collective good. Every faculty member would know that their expertise would be held in the highest esteem.  From where I stand, teaching is already the best career there is and if it were possible to work in a culture that tapped into teacher empowerment, it would be life changing for our profession and our students.  That is something worth fighting for, and here are some ways we can begin to make a shift towards tapping into (a culture) of teacher empowerment.

Listen to Teachers

Building a school wide belief system stems from an ongoing conversation about how students learn best. Once we have that vision, we can begin to align our beliefs and we can promote a shared voice in the materials that we put into the classroom. One way to promote ownership is to let teachers decide what kinds of materials reflect the shared vision.  Teacher autonomy would stem from having a voice and choice about classroom libraries, based on the needs of their classrooms.

Promote Intellectual Curiosity

It is a goal of many to take a student centered approach to teaching and learning. It is also important  to extend that same stance for professional learning for teachers. Having choice in the kind of professional learning that is received is very empowering.  We need to follow the teacher lead when it comes to learning because each teacher has a different need. Peer facilitated coaching is another way to promote empowerment because having the freedom to visit a colleague and learn collectively is the kind of on the job training that promotes professional growth while tapping into teacher expertise.

Take Action Through Agency

The culture of school does not always jive with the concept of agency. There are so many tasks teachers are asked to complete at school that suck up time and effort. Our focus becomes a checklist of “have to’s” rather than time spent cultivating the craft of teaching. It is hard to feel inspired to take action when obligatory duties take over.  We can strive to make this better. Everyone has to submit lesson plans, but rather than  submitting lesson plans prior to the lesson, submit them after with teacher reflections written in the margins. This encourages deeper reflection while giving administration a better view of what is happening in the classroom.  What went well? What failed? What did you learn? Innovative solutions are out there, let’s devote time and energy to making it happen.

Begin Good Conversations

One tenant of #G2Great is that we believe we move from “good work” to “great work”  in the classroom  (Howard 2012) when we continue to read and act on professional learning. A school culture that embraces a teacher’s desire to learn and try something new is one that is made to tap into teacher empowerment.  Every week, I learn so much from the teachers I work with and the teachers I know through social media. Risk would be a badge of honor, a marker of courageous learners who are trying to outgrow themselves. This would be a culture that would be worthy of the students we teach everyday. 

Never Lose Sight of What is Possible

The culture we live in school is in some part a reflection of ourselves. What if? Two common words that have an uncommon ability to power real change. If you find yourself wanting more, and dream of tapping into your own sense of empowerment; don’t wait, you can make the difference.

Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches, and Leaders to Support Students

by Mary Howard

On 3/12/20, #G2Great was delighted to welcome authors and friends Evan Robb and Laura Robb into our guest host seat to discuss their wonderful new book, Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches, and Leaders to Support Students (2020Benchmark PD Essentials) I feel honored to write this post since Evan and Laura are long-time treasured friends and we have had many spirited conversations about this shared personal passion topic that was the highlight of our chat.

Understanding the inspiration behind a book is a good beginning, so we asked Laura and Evan to respond to this question:

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Evan and I recognized that for schools to use and invest in wonderful books for independent and instructional reading, teachers have to collaborate with the principal, media specialist, literacy coach, and reading specialist. By working and learning together, we believe schools can fund classroom libraries and books for instructional reading. We want students to have choices, read widely, and find pleasure and enjoyment in reading. Research shows volume in reading enlarges students’ vocabulary and background knowledge and improves comprehension. 

In the opening words of their book, Evan and Laura cut to the chase with a call to action in the form of a promise to their readers: 

Our goal is to provide the information and inspiration you need to bring about a joyous, school-wide culture of reading. (page 3)

Bringing this promise to life requires us to notice roadblocks that may be blurring our view. A joyous, school-wide culture of reading is not the reality for too many children as we see choice reading swept aside as an irrelevant afterthought or in some cases, principals denouncing it as wasted time. For those children, the vision of schools full of readers is relegated to the luck of the proverbial draw as prescribed TO DO lists far removed from our heart quest robs us of precious minutes to bring kids and books together.

Since we must first address roadblocks thwarting our efforts to achieve joyous, school-wide culture of reading in the name of our kids, I’d like to begin by highlighting five major roadblocks standing in our path forward: 

Breaking down our Schools Full of Readers Roadblocks

As we contemplate next steps, Laura and Evan responded to our second question:

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

We want school leaders to foster ongoing professional learning and conversations and develop skilled teachers who can use books to meet the diverse learning needs of their students. We created detailed checklists for teachers, so they can assess where they are with reading, support one another, and self-evaluate as they use the finest books. 

Once we know the roadblocks that deter our efforts to create schools full of readers, we need to turn our thoughts to building a bridge that can lead us to the reader centered schools we desire. Two quotes in the book seem like a good segue to our bridge:

Be creative about transforming your classroom into an oasis of books and the joy they bring. Laura Robb

Growth comes from taking a risk–trying something new, failing, reflecting, and refining instruction. Playing it safe maintains the status quo. Evan Robb

Spurred by our creative efforts to transform our learning spaces into an oasis of joyful reading using our determination to take risks, we can now turn our thoughts to the next step in our journey by exploring five new considerations for building our bridge: 

Building a Bridge of Schools Full of Readers Possibilities

As we come to the close of this post, here is our third question we asked Laura and Evan: 

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind

Volume in reading matters! Research shows that the more students read, the more skill and expertise they develop.  We want to see independent reading of self-selected books at school and books in all subjects that represent the instructional range of learners. All students should have materials they can read and learn from throughout the day.

Final Thoughts From Mary

As I perused our #G2Great chat to prepare for this post, I was energized by the steadfast commitment our educators brought to the schools full of readers spirit Laura and Evan write about so eloquently in their book. The enthusiasm rising from inspired tweets is a reminder that teachers everywhere are honoring this spirit in their respective learning spaces. We know that this celebratory view of reading is not about window dressings with a ‘Look at me” mentality but creating classrooms where our readers can blossom in the company of others.

In closing, I am drawn back to Laura’s words along with three other tweets reflecting that our dedication is not to some readers but to all readers. We know that we will never have a school full of readers until every child has the same promise of leading readerly lives in our classrooms and beyond regardless of what they bring to the learning table. 

… and that gives me great hope that we can truly have Schools Full of Readers! 

Framing Increasing VOLUME as Our Central Intervention Goal (3/5)

by Fran McVeigh

The June 7th, 2019 #G2Great chat was the midpoint of five chats scheduled under the title: Rethinking our Intervention Design as a Schoolwide All-Hands on Deck Imperative and and it was momentous as the Twitterverse was filled with wisdom about increasing volume.

Before we can begin, what exactly are we talking about?

What is volume? This question whirred in my brain for the week leading up to the chat as I thought about my answers to the chat questions and this follow up blog post. Some answers: Not the volume on the TV. Not the “speak louder” for volume in fluent reading. Not the first “volume” in the Harry Potter series. Not the volume measurement in liters.

How do you define volume in reading? In search of a definition of volume, I consulted some reading texts, Google Scholar, and some real life literacy scholars. There are several definitions available. Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis define it as “Access + Choice + Time.” Those three elements were present in the pre-chat quotes shown here.

Although literacy gurus agreed that volume was critical to student success in reading and writing, everyone also had just a little different twist that added depth. Allington said it most succinctly when he talked of time spent reading and number of words read.

Scholastic. June 2015

Others chimed in with “meaningful” and “engaged” reading as well as “across the day” although a commitment to time remained constant. Both Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher tell us that if students are not reading AT school then we know they are not reading at home either.

But is Reading Volume more flexible and fluid than JUST time and words?

Yes, there must be a commitment to time but a small part also says access means a lot of texts as well as the engagement factor or rapture of being “lost in a great book” and then the meaningful conversations that come from conferring and dialogue about books.

How do we measure Reading Volume?

In the past many have tried to measure reading volume with book logs and lists of books read. Questions and concerns arose from those practices: Were the books chosen by the students or the teachers? Were the lists accurate? Did the lists include some “fake reading” titles?

Accountability may have won the battle and lost the Volume War as students did the “bare minimum” or perhaps less only in the name of compliance or completed logs. Time is surely one factor.

But does time only count when provided by teachers?

What about the time when students are “sneak reading”? And HOW would time be counted? Minutes? Pages? Books? If we value time spent reading, there is no time to be wasted “counting” words so we could use “The Google” to find out some word counts. (Try googling Harry Potter and number of words just for fun.) As students build up stamina, how could/should those counts increase?

One way to consider the flexibility and fluidity of time is shown in this table from Simple Starts by Kari Yates. The differences between the fall and spring show the expected growth in time and also reflects the increased difficulty of texts throughout the course of the year.

Heinemann link

A commitment to access to quality books (chat #2) and quality Tier 1 (chat #1) are a great beginning to improving interventions for striving students. Where do we find Access, Choice and Time that are necessary for reading VOLUME? We will need to continue to say NO to programs that don’t allow students to have access, choice and time to read. We will need to continue to say NO to interventions that don’t allow students to have access, choice and time to read. We will need to say NO to “magic bullets” that don’t allow students to have access, choice and time to read. We will need to say NO to spending money on resources that don’t allow students to have access, choice and time to read.

How can these tweets add to your knowledge bank?

Tweets curated from Wakelet

What conversations do YOU need to have about VOLUME?

Maximizing Our Potential: Independent Application (4/5)

By Fran McVeigh

The curtain rose on our fourth chat in our “Maximizing Our Potential Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters” with new friends from #LitBankStreet as well as other first time “chatters”, on October 4, 2018. It was quickly apparent that our topic was of great interest.  And yet, as I reviewed the Wakelet I wondered about how the topic of “Independent Application” fit into the context of the entire series.

As I began looking for patterns and themes in the tweets,  it dawned on me that all of these topics have some dependence on each other.  The way teachers and students “spend their time” depends upon what they value in terms of student-centered learning and independent work. Classroom design is dependent on the amount of access students have to the resources within the classroom as well as the amount of time allocated for learning and the priorities for learning. Student-Centered Learning also shapes the classroom design and the flexibility of Independent Application.  None really operate “in isolation” and that is both a blessing and a curse in education.  The research “says” so many variables are influencers but has a hard time pin-pointing with laser-like precision whether it’s “this” or “that” factor because instruction, curriculum and assessment have variables as do the teacher and the many students bodies facing the teacher. So let’s begin with a bit of a review.

Part 1 began with Val Kimmel’s post:Part 2 continued with Mary Howard’s post: Part 3 continued with Jenn Hayhurst’s post: And that brought me to this chat and part 4:  Independent Application

Quality Independent Application has many definite attributes. Quality implies that it is “worthy.”  Independent suggests that the goal is for the task to be done by the student without assistance. Application adds a layer of “work” to further instruction and practice. But what does that really look like?  Many teachers have had much practice using a gradual release of responsibility model that appears to place Independent Work in the final phase of the instructional cycle as the “You do it alone” work. But it could just as easily be that check or reflection at the beginning of the class period on yesterday’s learning.

Source Link

If we truly believe our goal as teachers is to provide a safe and nurturing classroom designed for optimal learning, filled with a community of self-directed learners we have to do less. The adults in the room have to establish the conditions that will increase agency and leadership in the students.  Kym summed this up in this tweet:So how do we get there? What does Quality Independent Application look like?

Includes Choice

Quality Instructional Application does NOT produce cookie cutter pages to fill a bulletin board in stencil fashion. It involves real choices that allow students to showcase their learning in different ways. This is not homework as we used to know it because students have the opportunity to make decisions about their learning products. Students could choose their final product: a song, a poem, artwork, a TedTalk or even an essay to provide evidence of their learning. We hear about this type of learning from students who say, “let us show you the different ways we know this.” Student passion for a topic can then drive their learning so fewer incentives are needed.

Is Authentic and Meaningful

Quality Instructional Application is NOT a worksheet or busy work. Instead it includes authentic and meaningful tasks that students will find in the real world. Real work and real world.  Not school work and the school world. Students are not asking “Why do we need to know this?” because that purpose has already been established within the classroom’s culture of learning.

Feedback Fuels the Work

Quality Instructional Application is NOT about a grade in the grade book or points earned for a completed task. It may be a conference with a peer or the teacher about the learning process and the product. It may be using checklists or rubrics to check understanding as well as plan next steps. Feedback is also about comparing student work to mentor texts or student examples to deepen understanding about the task criteria. Feedback may be an excited utterance in the hall or a whispered reflection from the student that names the student learning. During the learning process approximations are valued and students know where they are because the learning targets are clear and concise. Self awareness, reflection and processing are valued as students continue to progress through learning cycles.

Includes Practice for Transfer

Quality Instructional Application is NOT about a race for mastery of standards and learning objectives in lock step fashion.  It is about providing the time and practice necessary for deep learning so that students can and do independently use the learning across the day, in additional content areas, and in unique situations in the real world. Time for the practice that is needed means allowing for differences in student learning with a focus on helping students discover the ways that they best learn. How many times does Joey need to do the work before it all makes sense?

Promote Student Ownership

Quality Instructional Application is NOT sticker charts for every successful learning activity.  It is about learning tasks that are hard work and include productive struggle. Students will embrace challenges and learn that real work does come before success. FAIL equals “First Attempt in Learning.” If the student always “gets the learning” on the first practice, maybe it’s not challenging enough or maybe the expectations are too low. Or maybe students need to be more involved in the design and delivery of the learning experiences (that pesky student-centered learning). The confident smile on the face as evidence of learning means more than a grade and provides additional reasons to set students free on their own learning paths.

These five areas are characteristics that you might use when reflecting on Independent Application.  Where do you see them?  Where might you see more of them?  Which ones are most important to you and your students?




Additional Resources

Wakelet Link

Previous Posts

Part 1 Allocating Instructional Time

Part 2 Classroom Design

Part 3 Student-Centered Learning

Teaching With Heart: Unlocking Growth Through Mindsets and Moves

by Jenn Hayhurst

Picture for Gravity

Springtime makes promises: Yes more light will fill your days. Yes new life will color your landscapes. Yes your world has begun a shift to something new. Teachers are always on the lookout for signs of change. Our work is to learn how to cultivate growth, to understand its process, and to help it thrive no matter the context. We rest our hopes on a small but powerful word – yet.  When teachers use a mindset that embraces the power of yet, they make promises: Yes I believe in you. Yes I will help you. Yes together, we will find the next step in the journey.

So it seems like perfect timing that Gravity Goldberg hosted #G2Great Thursday, March 24, 2016. In her book, Mindsets and Moves, Gravity challenges teachers to honor growth in all its forms. Her work reminds us to make choices that value individual learners and the unique process that each will experience. Learning something new is seldom easy so if we are going to live and breathe a growth mindset our instruction needs to deal with struggle in strategic ways:Q1 Answers

 

Admiration: Gravity’s work celebrates an admiring lens. All students are worthy of  study, and we should regard them with a sense of wonder and curiosity. This beautiful stance embraces where they are and place trust in their potential for growth:

Answers to Question 2The Gradual Release: We offer the support students need and then work to move them toward independence. Students shape the path for learning so that our teaching has relevance. The message was clear that the more we bring students into the process the more meaningful learning becomes:

Answers to Q3Student Centered: Gravity’s work inspired reflection for the intellectual worlds we create for students. Let’s co-construct spaces for wonderment, choice, and demonstration. When teachers are expert learners rather than holders of knowledge, we reach a higher standard of rigor:Answers to Q4

Ownership: The chat began to converge on this topic and our message is ownership is the antidote to learned complacency. Thoughtful planning that supports collaborative work and independence is a sign that teachers are being responsive to students’ needs:

Answers to Q5 ...

Being Strategic:  This is different than teaching strategies. Being strategic demands an authentic  context. Whether it is: selecting a text, discovering new reading territories, or building libraries that promote connectedness. The strategy has to fill a genuine need:

Answers Q6

Problem Solving: Students are meant to be active participants who can articulate what they need next.  We name the challenge and put the learning in their hands.  When we give them time to work it out we are amplifying their learning process:

ANSWERS TO Q7

Feedback: is essential! Chatters agreed that when we take risks and push ourselves to learn more our students get the benefit of an authentic model.  When we provide clear and concise feedback, we help students to think through the process so that they can outgrow themselves:  

Answers to Question 8We invite you take the #G2Great Challenge

#G2Great ChallengeJust as springtime makes promises, we also make promises to our students. Yes, we will help our students find the next step in their growth journey. We are in this together, take Gravity’s advice back to the classroom.

Gravity Slide.with Quote png