Yesterday in part 1 of my blog series, Guided Reading Survival Guide, I explained how teachers must go beyond the basal to provide several authentic, high-quality supplemental texts ranging in complexity and genre to promote a deeper understanding of content. In part 2 of the series, I will explain how to select research-based strategies for guided reading groups.
Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 2: Selecting Strategies
Now that I have broken the bond with the basal, let’s talk strategy. My students used to struggle with transferring and applying learned strategies across settings, curricula, and various genres of authentic text. I partnered with Jennifer Zoglman, a veteran special educator, and her sister, Tina Rataj-Berard, an award-winning graphic designer, to create a unique cast of strategy animals that make learning safe and fun while teaching critical strategies in an engaging way. Each animal teachers a research-based strategy using a short, rhymed poem and child-friendly language.
Animals were specifically chosen because animal characters are present in children’s lives from the very beginning in toys, books, and cartoons. Children learn to associate animals with comfort, safety, and play. When animals are personified, children readily understand and apply the lessons and messages from the animals. Brain research shows that when material is presented in a novel way, it ignites curiosity and interest in learning new topics and leads children to readily grasp and internalize the information.
Students first meet the strategy animals in the read-aloud, “Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Animals.” Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, is a struggling learner as she lacks the strategies needed to help her succeed. Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.
Students in all academic settings make an immediate connection with the animals and love to practice new strategies using the animals’ special tools. Read more about how animals help children learn here. Meet our complete line of strategy animals here. Watch this short video to see our strategy animals in action.
In my classroom: I select one comprehension strategy animal to use for both whole group and small group instruction. This strategy animal is introduced and modeled as we read the basal during whole group time. I use the same strategy animal during guided reading groups where students can practice and apply the strategy within leveled text.
In the Journeys basal text, “Animals Building Homes” the strategy was to answer questions in the text. I selected Quinn the Questioning Quail as the focus strategy animal. I read through the text and wrote a list of text-dependent questions, separating them into 3 categories: I Do, We Do, You Do.
I did the same thing for my guided reading text, “What Lives in This Hole?”, a multi-level book from Reading A-Z. Since this was the first lesson on this strategy, I created only text-dependent questions where the specific answer was clearly stated in the text. As students become proficient with answering specific text-dependent questions, I will incorporate questions that require students to use inference skills as well.
I use puppets to introduce the strategy animals. The students always greet the animal and then I read the poem which explains the strategy in a child-friendly way. Many students actually believe that the animals are real and often go home and tell their parents all about them. Tying the animals to strategies makes learning more concrete and helps students effectively apply and transfer across settings.
Read tomorrow’s blog, Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 3: Incorporating Hands-On Tools to see how students practice the strategies in a motivating, engaging way. Be sure to read part 1 of the Guided Reading Survival Guide: Going Beyond the Basal.
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