By Beth Richards, Literacy Interventionist, Reading Recovery Teacher, Guest Blogger
Identifying teachable moments that move our students forward as readers is something we should be doing as frequently as possible. Today's blog post is one of two posts that will help you decide on the most important moves you can make when teaching students who are reading at levels G–I.
Examining the Text Structure in Leveled Books (G–I)
Fiction texts at these levels often have a more complex storyline than in previous text levels. Students will encounter more dialogue and conversations between characters, descriptive sentences and clauses, longer sentences with conjunctions, new punctuation marks, and smaller font. Students will need to expand their bank of known words in order to navigate these levels, as well as visually attending to all the parts in a word when solving. Students will need to read in fluent, meaningful phrases while attending to the punctuation in order to access meaning.
Observation to Guide Teaching Decisions
When you are reading with a student, and they come to something tricky, quickly observe how they are trying to solve. Once you’ve noticed what they are using, you should “prompt the child to use information he is ignoring” (Clay 2005, 39). This is crucial to helping students develop a balanced way to problem solve when reading.
Sometimes, prompts are not enough, and the situation may require a demonstration, explicit teaching, or scaffolded practice. Prompting is merely a reminder to do something that you have already taught the child to do. If you haven’t yet taught it, you can’t prompt for it. You can always praise something the child did well independently that she has been struggling with. This lets the child know that what she has just done is important and indicative of good reading.
When teaching, you should take into consideration your students’ individual needs while directing your teaching point toward one of the following behaviors:
- attending to punctuation in lengthier sentence structures
- visually searching the entire word to solve
- monitoring or noticing when something’s not right
- understanding the structure of the sentence
Attending to Punctuation
As sentences grow in length, so does their complexity. As a result, it’s imperative for students to notice and attend to the punctuation present in the sentence in order to grasp the meaning the author is trying to convey. Kellan was reading Little Dan and tried to read right through without attending to the punctuation.
When he came to the second flying in the first line, he stopped. While he could have easily decoded that word, he was confused about why it would be showing up again, because he didn’t understand that the author was listing multiple items. Quick verbal support during reading, and some teaching after about commas and their purpose, helped him have a successful read the next day. Afterward, he was pleased with himself and commented, “It made sense today because I paid attention to those marks!”
Understanding the Structure of the Sentence
Students may need guidance in navigating new structures, especially at this level, where the sentences are longer, and they will encounter adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and synonyms for words. The text language is becoming more complex than the language children usually use at this age. As a result, the text becomes less predictable and more confusing. Let’s look at an example from page 8 in The Hungry Giant’s Baby.
Notice that the entire page is one sentence. It includes a prepositional phrase (up and down the street), a comma and conjunction (but), and an adjective (giant). This complexity may require attention and scaffolding in the moment. For the prepositional phrase, a quick “This is where they went,” and for the conjunction, “This will tell the problem” will assist with navigating the text.
This in-the-moment support will help kids through the text without frustration. Over time they will be able to maneuver through the text independently because of their numerous encounters with those types of structures.
To read about more details of the behaviors listed above with guidance on what to say when these are not yet controlled or neglected by students, be sure to visit our blog soon for the next part of this series on making thoughtful decisions at guided reading levels 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.