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


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! 

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

Dedication And Generosity: Celebrating Independent Reading

By, Jenn HayhurstScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.58.30 AMOn Thursday March 3, 2016 #G2Great hosted a chat that began a conversation about the importance of independent reading.  This blog post is dedicated to anyone who is “holding tight” to this work, either at home or in the classroom.  It is for those of us who believe that literacy reveals a path of growth and self discovery through text.  

Question 1The following Saturday morning, I was part of an incredible team of teachers from my district, @SCCentralSD . We went to an event sponsored by a local organization called @TheBookFairies.  This amazing nonprofit opened their doors to teachers everywhere and we were able to shop for free books!   

Imagine all of us giving our time, the Book Fairies volunteers and so, so many teachers.  I am struck by the generosity of amazing people who gave up a gorgeous Saturday to build robust classroom libraries for students to enjoy:Question 2

Many people were telling touching stories about the readers and writers in their classrooms. There was not a mention of levels.  Wise teachers value levels because they are an important tool that informs instructional practices. Levels are not to be mistaken with labels that hinder a love for independent reading:

Question 3

We were all swapping stories as well as books.  You could hear teachers excitedly saying, “Oh this is so great! Jorge is going to be so happy!” “Look what I found.” “I can’t believe I found this book, my mother used to tell us this story!” and “I’m so excited I can’t wait to get to school on Monday!”

Question 4

It was quite a sight seeing everyone loading books into boxes, crates and bags.  One teacher could barely close her trunk for all the books she and her colleague were taking back to school.  We need to share our stories about the lengths teachers will go to promote  literacy.  We need to encourage our students to become connected so that they can share their love for independent reading.

Question 5

When we work together, we are creating a community with a purpose for reading.  We are being the change we hope to see in education. Literacy changes lives.  Our dedication and generosity to that effort is the flip side of the urgency we all feel.  For these reasons, teachers are opening up their classroom libraries and giving free access to books because that’s one way to keep students at the center of all that we do.

Question 6Our message is clear. We understand that now more than ever we need to “hold tight” to independent reading.  Think of a classroom library as a garden, and every book a child reads is like a seed.  Narratives and informational texts take root and grow to fill students’ heads with stories and ideas.  This becomes our context to teach children how to read.  But even more than that, we are growing a love for literacy that will last a lifetime.

Question 7

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