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June 6. 2017

Help Students Choose Books for Independent Reading: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

The ability to choose books is not something you can expect your students to know. It is something you need to teach. What you are enthusiastic about and recommend is very powerful.

Here are some suggestions for helping students choose their independent reading books:

  • Have the collection well sorted and labeled by topic, genre, theme, author, illustrator.
  • As you observe student interests, create more baskets for particular topics, authors, or types of books.
  • Have a “book recommendations” rack.
  • Have students help set up new-book baskets.
  • Put books you have used in book talks on display so that they are easy to find.
  • Create book baskets that connect books: “If you liked ____, you’ll love ____.”
  • Create “exclusive” baskets of selections for individual students if needed.
  • Give book talks that motivate and legitimize student book choices (e.g., easy books, more difficult).
  • Provide as many minilessons as needed to help students understand how to choose just-right books.
  • Communicate to the entire class that choosing a just-right book, not a difficult book, is the expectation for the reading workshop.
  • Through conferences, help students learn to evaluate their own choices.
  • Share book reviews from journals or websites.

From Teaching for Comprehending & Fluency by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

May 30. 2017

4 Ways to Provide Reading and Writing Workshops in Limited Time Periods: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Middle schools are usually departmentalized, with teachers working with different groups of students throughout the day. This kind of schedule can make it difficult for English and language arts teachers to teach comprehension and to get to know their students well as readers and writers in a short period once a day.

If you are locked into a fifty- or sixty- minute period and must teach all aspects of language arts and literature within it, you’ll need to be flexible. Here are some options for providing reading and writing workshops in limited time periods:

  1. Conduct both reading and writing workshops each day. Consider linking the reading and writing work through specific units of study some of the time and promoting self-selected reading and writing topics in between.
  2. Alternate the reading and writing workshop. Have the reading workshop for one or two weeks to include interactive read-aloud and independent reading, with minilessons sometimes focused on a particular genre, author, topic, literary element, or the reading process. Follow up with one to two weeks of the writing workshop to focus on units of study such as writer’s craft, convention, writing process, writing genre, author study, or topic focus. Specific reasons or genres for writing about reading are provided (e.g., letters, two-column entry, literacy essay). During those weeks students do not have reading or writing workshops, but students continue to read and work on writing at home.
  3. Provide a reading workshop for one quarter and then a writing workshop for one quarter. In addition to self-selected reading and writing, include several units of study. For example, focus on reading memoirs, personal narratives, and informational texts in one quarter and follow with writing in these genres the next quarter. Students continue to read and work on writing at home.
  4. Conduct a language/word study workshop to include word study, interactive read-aloud, and a poetry workshop on Monday. Follow with a reading workshop and a writing workshop on each of the other four days of the week.
From Teaching for Comprehending & Fluency by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.