Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Making Thoughtful Decisions at Guided Reading Levels D–F, Part 2

By Beth Richards, Literacy Interventionist, Reading Recovery Teacher, Guest Blogger

Today's blog post is the second part of a series written to help you decide on the most important teaching decisions you can make in the moment with students who are reading at levels D–F. Keep reading for more details of the behaviors listed in the first part with guidance on how to effectively respond to students.

Adding More High-Frequency Words

Books at guided reading levels D–F require automaticity of known words as well as exposure to new words for learning. Known words act as stepping stones, comfortable spots to help students navigate the unknown. Having a child locate a word they are working on learning prior to reading draws their attention to the visual features of that word and sends a message that it is a helpful word to know. Give the child plenty of exposures and opportunities with the words they are learning.

Testing New Language Structures

Texts at this level start to use more complicated language structures, such as temporal phrases. Examples from Buddy Boy and His Skateboard include “That night…” and “The next day…” These may require some attention prior to reading by quickly practicing with the student. During reading, you can prompt in a way that attaches meaning to those phrases. “He’s all ready for bed now…” or “Now it’s morning…” to assist. For more ideas on how to support language structures in text, read Teaching Kids About the Structure of the Spanish Language .

Cross-Checking and Noticing

It’s imperative at these levels that students starting paying more attention to the visual information on the page. They should be checking to make sure their meaningful predictions also look right. If they notice their predictions are incorrect, they should be rereading to help search and make an integrated response (one that uses meaning, structure, and some visual information simultaneously).

In addition, students who attend too much to visual should be noticing when their guess doesn’t make sense or sound right, then stopping to reread and integrate. Students may notice they are wrong (hesitating, stopping, making a comment or second attempt) but may need your help to self-correct. Praise the noticing, prompt them to think about the source they are neglecting, and encourage them to reread and try again.

The noticing must come prior to the fixing. If they haven’t noticed the error, they can’t fix it. If a child continues to read without monitoring, stop them at the end of the sentence or page, and ask them to try it again while checking more carefully to make sure everything makes sense or looks right. The teaching task here may be helping the child to understand that monitoring is the important part, and for a while, you help them with the fixing. Your teaching needs to send the message that noticing when something isn’t quite right is important and worthy of their time and energy.

Searching for Something Known

Students will need to understand that words are made up of parts. Attention to those parts (inflectional endings, compound words, or onset/rime) can help them solve words on the run by quickly taking them apart and looking for what is known. Clay says, “To make the child an independent reader the teacher must encourage him to search for links between new words and words he already knows” (2016, 179).

A masking card can be your teacher’s helper to slide and reveal what visual information you want the child to attend to. It’s a quick, silent way to prompt during reading. After reading, give students the opportunity to quickly work with those types of words using magnetic letters. Can they hear and see the parts in looking, cannot, into, or sit? A word of caution: as readers at these levels can be easily confused, make sure anytime you use the masking card or ask them to closely attend to parts, you are doing so in a way that demonstrates and requires left to right scanning across a word.

Do not be afraid to help your students during the first reading of a text. Not everything needs to be solved independently by the child. They are beginning readers. Clay cautions, “Give thoughtful attention to the level of help a child needs and decide when you are prompting for processing or when you should be supplying information which the learner does not have” (2016, 118). Perfection is not the goal of the first read; it is to help students develop ways of noticing and working through difficulty by scaffolding them in the moment to become more independent along their reading journey.

Keep visiting our blog often for more insights that could help your budding readers. You'll want to keep an eye out for upcoming guidance on how to make thoughtful teaching decisions in the moment for readers using level G–I!

Beth has been teaching for seventeen years. She has taught kindergarten, third, and fourth grades in Wisconsin. For the last six years, she has been a literacy interventionist and Reading Recovery teacher and loves spending her days helping her students develop and share her love of reading.