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March 13. 2018

Teacher Tip: Expanding Students' Vocabulary in Specific Instructional Contexts

How to expand students' vocabulary in specific instructional contexts:

  1. Interactive read-aloud and literature discussion. Here you have the opportunity to use intentional conversation to bring students' attention to words and invite them to discuss words. The texts that you use for interactive read-aloud can extend vocabulary minilessons in which you have taught word-solving strategies. You can demonstrate how to derive meaning from context or look at word parts.
  2. Small-group reading instruction. Here students have the opportunity to read for themselves with your support. In each instructional segment––introduction, reading, discussion, teaching points, and writing about reading––words can be examined, taken apart to identify meaningful parts, and discussed. Students are presented with examples in context and have the opportunity to apply word-solving strategies independently.
  3. Extending meaning through writing. Here students have a chance to examine words more closely. You can extend understanding of the meaning of texts––and the words in them––by supporting students as they write about their reading. They can summarize their understanding using organizational tools like graphic organizers to analyze the text, respond to specific language and the meaning they take from it, or write from the point of view of a character. As they write, they are considering and using the vocabulary from the text. In addition, they can focus on vocabulary directly using word webs, grids, or charts.

From When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2009 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

December 20. 2016

Spark Students’ Interest via Book Talks: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell

Reading is thinking, and students’ “talk” reveals their thinking. Talking about books is a way to activate students’ interest and introduce them to new texts they might otherwise miss. Think of a book talk as a brief commercial for a book. Book talks are short—you simply want to whet the students’ appetites. 

Consider the following when selecting books for book talks:

  • New books by authors whom the students love.
  • Another book by an author whose book you’ve read aloud.
  • “Best-selling” titles that are popular with the age group.
  • Books on issues or topics that interest the students.
  • Books that introduce a new author, genre, or illustrator.

Book talks enable you to help your students get to know authors, genres and books that appeal to them, and thus extend their literate lives. Excerpted from Guiding Readers and Writers. 

December 13. 2016

Help Students Make Good Reading Choices: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell on Independent Reading

Your role in independent reading is to ensure that students consistently select books they can read with understanding and fluency, and to have conversations with them about those books. You may be tempted to prescribe book choices, but this can result in a mechanical approach to reading as a “task.” Without genuine choice they will never experience the authentic role of a reader. At the same time, the ability to choose appropriate books is not something you can expect students to know how to do. It is something you need to teach. Communicate to students that choosing a just-right book, not a difficult book, is the expectation for independent reading. 

Teach students these 7 ways of judging a book choice:
Decide if the book is just right to read independently by reading a little at the beginning or middle
Think about the topic of the book to see if it peaks your interest
Read a bit of the book to get a feel for the author’s style and the language
Ask peers/teachers for recommendations
Look at the book cover, back cover, book flaps and illustrations
Think about the author and what you may already know about the author
Give the book a good chance.

Excerpted from LLI Red System Choice Library Guide to Independent Reading