This post is the first in a series where we take questions that were asked during our guided reading Twitter chats with Irene Fountas last summer, and answer them in greater length.
"I need ideas for upper-grade students who read at lower guided reading levels. Texts are babyish."
A couple years ago, I was meeting with a group of four students in a guided reading group. During our discussion of the text, one student exclaimed, “Oh, THIS is reading! I don’t think I have been reading before.” Mujeeb was in fifth grade reading Super Storms by Seymour Simon, a level M book on the Fountas and Pinnell text-level gradient. Eureka! He was completely engaged in the book and was enjoying a lively discussion.
As intermediate and middle school teachers, we understand that some students may enter the classroom reading below grade level. It is our job to observe readers carefully and get to know them in order to select a text to use during guided reading. We choose books that are at that reader’s instructional level and that students will be interested in reading. Sometimes selecting a text can prove tricky for these readers.
So how might we go about finding these texts to use for our small-group reading instruction? One way is to read, read, read as many books as possible! As we pour ourselves into children’s literature, it becomes clear what books will engage each of our readers, and the more books we read, the wider the selection from which we have to choose. Another way to find books is to ask your librarian to suggest some titles. She/he is a wonderful resource!
Remember, you can always turn to a helpful resource to find texts that are written at a lower level but have high interest, like Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Books: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Teaching. There is also an online version, www.fountasandpinnellleveledbooks.com. The list is continually updated. As you peruse your students’ instructional levels, you’ll find authors and series that your students will enjoy.
Lastly, creating a community of teacher readers at your school can be an invaluable resource to locate wonderful books to fill your school’s book room to use for guided reading. Finding and purchasing books of high interest for below-grade level readers could be an agenda item for your school’s Literacy Team.
Also, blogs contain a treasure trove of texts that colleagues around the world recommend:
Taking the time to find appropriate texts for instruction that honor a student’s age and interests will unlock the door to reading — just like it did for Mujeeb!
If you are interested in learning more about guided reading, visit our Center's new guided reading resource pages.
Heather Morris is an Intermediate and Middle School Trainer with the Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative.