Responding to Informational Text using the 3-2-1 Strategy!

Hello, friends!  We are Colleen and Stacy from The Rungs of Reading here to talk to you about an effective "After Reading" strategy for informational text called 3-2-1!  This strategy can be used in both primary and intermediate grades in whole-class, small group, or individual settings.  The 3-2-1 strategy is especially successful with struggling readers as it helps them comprehend, summarize, and retain information they've read.
The 3-2-1 strategy can be used with informational books, magazine articles, biographies, even websites!  Here are a few of our favorite books and websites we have used with this strategy!

After reading, exploring, and discussing an informational text or website, students actively engage with their reading by summarizing three important points from the text.  Summarizing requires the reader to focus on the major elements of the text and to determine what is important.  When students are selecting these important points, the teacher should guide students in choosing new facts and information they learned from the text (not prior knowledge).

After recording three new discoveries on their graphic organizers, students go back into their reading to choose two interesting facts.  At this point, the teacher should guide students in selecting facts and information that is unusual or exciting.  For example, "the baobab tree can reach the height of a five story building".  

Finally, students brainstorm and record one question they still have about the topic they read.  This is a good opportunity for students to share and discuss their questions with classmates in preparation of additional research.  Students complete the graphic organizer by drawing an interesting photograph, diagram, timeline, etc. that illustrates the topic they read about.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the 3-2-1 reading strategy!  Here is a little FREEBIE to get you started!  Depending upon the age and ability of your students, you may want to differentiate your expectations when having them complete the graphic organizer.  For example, younger students or struggling readers can be instructed to copy facts and information directly from the text.  Older or more capable students can be instructed to paraphrase or summarize information in their own words.  When initially modeling the strategy for students, you can explain which expectation you would like them to follow.
 3-2-1- Strategy Graphic Organizer


Engaging Reluctant Readers

Hello, Adventurers!  Jana, from Thinking Out Loud, here with you today to give you a few ideas on engaging reluctant students.  My post is inspired by Lauren's "Are You a Book Whisperer" book review over Donalyn Miller's fabulous book.  I read her book this summer as part of an online book study and still can't get it out of my head.  As I read the book, I kept nodding my head and saying "I am so glad that I am not the only one who thinks this way."

Before we delve into helping reluctant readers, let's define it so we are all on the same page.  Scholastic had a great definition:  "reluctant readers are those who, for a variety of reasons, do not like to read, do not like to expose themselves as readers, and have a hard time finding books they want to read."  I love this definition because reluctant readers aren't just those students who do not like to read.  This group also includes students who don't want others to know that they are readers and those who haven't found the right book yet to introduce them into the wonderful world of reading.  Donalyn Miller put a positive spin on reluctant in her book The Book Whisperer by calling them "DORMANT" readers because "they have a reader inside themselves somewhere" and "need the right conditions to let that reader loose" (p.28).

So many times we focus on the struggling reader:  the one who has trouble decoding, who has poor fluency, who struggles with comprehension.  With that as our only focus, the reluctant/dormant reader can fall through cracks.  These readers can read but don't.  As teachers, what can we do for the reluctant/dormant ones?  We need to wake them up and show them the wonderful worlds that await in books.

Student Choice
Donalyn Miller begins chapter 4 with a wonderful quote from Richard McKenna:  "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him."  Student choice can be difficult for teachers because it is a time when we have to let go.  When Henry continually picks Captain Underpants books to read, I wanted to scream, "Pick something new!"  Instead I should be celebrating the fact that Henry is continuing to read, no matter what it is.  Giving students choice in what they read creates buy-in.

Be a Reader
Time to be honest.  How many of you read on a daily basis?  When I was teaching reading, I could have raised my hand.  Today, I cannot and that makes me sad.  However, I am working on bringing reading back into my life through on One Little Word, passion.  Books are a passion for me and I let everything else get in the way and push that passion to the side.  Teachers need to be role models for their students and that includes being a reader.  I could not stand in front of my seventh and eighth grade students every day and tell them that reading is important if I was not reading on a daily basis.  Why?  Because actions speak louder than words.  If they know that I am reading, if they see me read, if they see the stack of books I am reading and the stack that will be reading, then they will believe me when I tell them that reading is important and should be done every day.

Giving Honest Recommendations during Book Talks
Let students know that it is okay if they don't like a book.  Let students know that you don't like every book you have read.  Let students know if there are genres you do not read.  I was honest with my students when I gave book talks.  I would tell them if I liked or disliked the book and why.  Why would I book talk a book I disliked?  I knew that some of my students would like it.  It is also a good thing to let students know that you abandon books.  Even good readers don't finish every book that is started.  A book that I recently abandoned was the first City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  One of my friends and my husband told me it was a good book, but I could not finish it.  I got bored and didn't care what happened to the characters.

Some Recommendations
Any of these books are fantastic read alouds to draw students in and have them complete the series on their own.  They are also great books to give book talks on to draw students interests.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I was just going to put the first book, but I love the series so much that I have to include them all.  The first one is short compared to the rest and gives an introduction into a world different but the same as our own.  Students can relate to Harry, through his horrendous family life, going to a new school, making friends for the first time, and learning to find his way.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (series:  Percy Jackson and the Olympians)
Riordan draws you into the books before you even start chapter one.  Reading through the table of contents will draw in any reluctant reader.  Chapter titles include:  "I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-algebra Teacher" and "I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom."  The main character is a middle school boy who struggles in school, has ADHD, which makes it easy for kids to identify with him.  The story is filled with adventure and is fast paced so it keeps the reader's attention.

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman (first in the series)
The series is written in journal format from the viewpoint of one of the main characters Ryan, who is investigating the strange things that are happening in his town, Skeleton Creek.  What really draws in the reluctant reader?  The video component.  The other main character Sarah takes videos and emails them to Ryan, so you get the story from the journal and through the videos.  The videos are accessed online with the use of a password you get while reading.  The videos are creepy also.  Middle school students love that!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (first in a series)
Jeff Kinney writes his books through a journal format also, but it is different that Carman's.  Kinney's are written through a younger middle school student's eyes.  From Kinney's website:  "It's a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you're ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary."


Phonics: The Recommendations and What They Might Mean to You

Hi everyone! It's Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead with some phonics recommendations. Read on to learn more, see what it might mean in your classroom and for some resource ideas!
Why is phonics instruction so important? I went to school (and student taught) when it seemed like whole language was all the rage. Luckily for me, I found it easy to learn to read and write. Things came naturally to me so I did not have to have phonics instruction in order to succeed as a reader. Unfortunately, that is not going to work for all students. As a reading specialist, I am always thinking about those students who are struggling. We now know that learning phonics will help children learn to read and spell. Written language is like a code, so knowing what sounds the letters and combinations of letters make will help students decode words while reading. Knowing phonics skills will also help students decide what letters to use when they are encoding (or writing words down- or these days, perhaps writing them in a text message or on social media?).

The National Reading Panel examined tons of reading research to find out what it tells us about teaching phonics. I could explain in more detail what kind of studies they used, and how they did it, but let me give you the abridged version. After analyzing all the studies,  the National Reading Panel determined that  phonics is an  essential part of beginning reading instruction. Specifically, systematic and explicit  (follows a particular order/sequence and is directly taught) phonics instruction is more effective than other kinds of phonics instruction or no phonics at all.

What might systematic and explicit phonics instruction look like in your classroom?
  •     teaching letter shapes and names
  •     teaching phonemic awareness
  •     teaching sound/spelling relationships of both consonants and vowels
  •    ensuring that students have tons of practice applying the knowledge of  letter-sound relationships  as they learn to read
  •    ensuring that students practice this knowledge when learning to encode (spell words in their     writing)
  •   using texts that contain many words students can decode using what they have learned 
  •   providing students with opportunities to practice spelling words and writing stories while               applying their knowledge of letter-sound relationships

Let me break down some of the more specific recommendations and share what this may mean for your teaching and your students.

 Research has shown that students who received phonics instruction in kindergarten or grade 1 are more successful in learning to read than students who did not. Okay... but WHY is this? I suppose it is for several reasons. A few I can think of may be that kindergarten and first grade is when the bulk of getting students to "learn to read" occurs. After first grade, most children know how to read and you might only teach basic phonics skills systematically to students who have never had it and are also struggling to read. I can't imagine a teacher saying, "This student is new to our school and never was taught phonics, and is reading above grade level, so we need an interventionist to teach her phonics skills".  So, if students receive appropriate instruction in phonics from the get go , they will be less likely to struggle, and those struggling students who never had phonics and who start learning later than grade one tend to not make as much progress and see the same type of success? 

Of course, phonics can be taught to older students and can be used with older students by doing activities with suffixes, prefixes, word origins and more!

 It takes a while for a student to get to where has has instant recognition of words. In the meantime, teaching phonics helps students improve word recognition skills by providing information on which letters and letter combinations make what sounds (such as that ir, er, and ur all make the same sound). Also, with an understanding of more advanced concepts like rhyming and syllabication, the student has a lot of tools that he can keep in his reading "toolbox" for when he comes to new words when reading.

As far as comprehension, if a student can recognize or decode words quickly and easily, he is  much more likely to understand what he is  reading.

With spelling, what usually happens is as a child's reading skills improve, so does his spelling. Instructing students on letter-sound relationships also your student tools to use when trying to encode (spell) a new word. For example, if a student wants to write the word "turn" but has never done so, he can draw on knowledge that t makes the first sound of turn, n is the ending sound, and that the middle sound is probably er, ir, or ur. This is why when students are learning to spell you may come across spellings that are close and that make sense, but not quite correct, such as "tirn" for "turn".

Quality phonics instruction helps students no matter what their background may be. I don't know if there is much that needs to be explained here, but even if a child comes from a home where  there are no reading materials, or if a student is an ELL student, effective phonics instruction gives them the tools to decode words and develop their skills as a reader.

Reading Specialists are often doing phonics  interventions with students who need extra help; however, classroom teachers can and should teach phonics to all students. Here are some general tips, whether you are teaching your whole class or a small group (or tutoring an individual student).

  • Focus on a few regular sound and spelling patterns and then move into irregular sounds and spellings later 
  • Include a lot of practice (fun, not tiring!). There are tons of resources to make phonics instruction and practice fun.
  • Use multisensory materials and strategies. Paper and pencil gets tedious!
  • Frequently review previously taught material, especially with students who have struggled to learn to read. This will ensure they do not lose skills they previously learned.
  • Include words and text at an appropriate developmental level for the students
  • Give immediate feedback if students make errors - it may be better to correct them so they don't learn it wrong, but you can give feedback in a positive way rather than be overly critical.
  • Frequent assessment (formal and informal) will help you see if students are making sufficient progress.

So phonics is important, but research and experience has taught us that the best reading programs are well balanced. Students should be working with the alphabet, doing phonemic awareness activities, listening to stories and texts read aloud, reading texts themselves, and practicing writing in whatever way is appropriarte (words, stories, letters, poems...) 

Also, keep in mind the major areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. If you want to see our other blog posts of those topics, click on the "Topics" heading up at the top of our page and find the one you want to see more of!

Here are some resources for phonics instruction that I have come across. Do you have a resource to share or a link? Please comment below and let us know!

Geraldine Giraffe Videos - my class loves her! She is a puppet that teaches phonics skills. The link will take you to Mr. Thorne's youtube channel. he also has awesome lessons that he does himself without Geraldine.

Teachers Cauldron's Reading Mini Lesson with Phonics 

Make Take Teach's Phonics Folder Games and Actvities and segmenting and blending activities

Teacher Mom of 3 has a guest blogger with great information about phonics and some resources

Applicious Teacher has a helpful post about phonics in action with some resources for you

 Run! Miss Nelson's Got the Camera shares some fun way to teach phonics

Games 4 Learning has a phonics freebie

Heidisongs has a detailed post on the DIBELS (reading assessment) and what phonics skills are involved, aslong with resources to help students

Sarah Winchell's Teaching Resources for the Classroom always has great information and freebies for you. a recent post has a free phonics game.

On Teachers Pay Teachers Marsha McGuire has a throrough resource of word work.

Karen Jones has a huge phonics pack you can check out.

You can also take look at my Mystery Words Pack or the individual sets to help students review common letter and sound combinations.

Online games and activities include:
Phonics games at a UK site

Phonics games online Family learning
Starfall's website


Persuasive vs. Argumentative Writing: What's the Difference?

Hi! It's Erin from Lovin' Lit, here to discuss the differences between persuasive and argumentative writing.

Argumentative vs. Persuasive: What’s the difference between argumentative writing versus persuasive writing? The answer is simple. Research.

Persuasive writing is opinion based.

Argumentative writing is research based.

You might have your students write a persuasive essay, and it probably would require little or no research. Example: Should uniforms be mandatory in schools? Students can easily come up with valid arguments without doing any research. That is persuasive writing.

One shift with the Common Core is that students should be doing more argumentative writing. That is, writing that persuades the reader one way or the other with research.

Does this mean that your students have to go out in search of their own information? Not necessarily.

The best way to ensure that the writing activities you are doing with your students are argumentative and not simply persuasive is to find writing activities that cannot be done without the specific reading passage or passages you give them. In other words, for argumentative writing, you want your students to be writing about something they didn’t know anything (or at least not much) about before your lesson started. Having students take a stand based on evidence in a reading passage and write an organized paragraph or essay about it is the ultimate goal in writing.

It’s combining:
Reading comprehension
Citing text evidence
Persuasive writing

All rolled into one activity!

It’s the ultimate Common Core writing experience. Master this, show your principal, and you’re golden! Because argumentative writing is such a hard and complex skill, you must keep student interest at the center of any activity you do. Don't attempt to practice such a hard skill with a topic or subject that your students care little about. If your students care about the subject and actually have an opinion about what you are asking them to write about, their writing is going to be SO MUCH BETTER!

I’m constantly thinking of and looking for topics that my students would care to write about.  A prison escape with an open ending is something that is interesting to just about everyone. This activity on the Escape from Alcatraz is my favorite argumentative writing activity. It’s definitely introductory level as I do it with my 6th graders early in the year. I have made changes and added options in this packet so that it can be done with students as low as 3rd grade or as high as 8th. I've done it with my own son (3rd grader with exceptionalities – autism) and he was riveted and interested from the start.

Grab this lesson for free (only through February 28th!) from Google Docs.


Are You a Book Whisperer? A Book Review

Welcome!  It's Lauren from Teacher Mom of 3 with you today to share some highlights and applications for one of my favorite professional books of all times, The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller.  


 Many times over my career, teachers and administrators have viewed independent reading (read to self) as not "teaching" and something that students can do at home.  If an administrator walked into a classroom and students were reading silently, many  teachers would feel guilty.  Some admins expected that the students should be actively involved and engaged in a project or lesson; or they expected the teacher to be delivering whole or small group explicit instruction.  However, I have always felt as a teacher and literacy coach, that if I did not observe students reading independently during a 90-120 minute literacy block then something needed to change.  Like Miller, I suggest 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted independent reading daily in addition to other literacy frameworks you may use such as Daily 5, Guided Reading, etc.

Now, I am far, very far from being "Polly the perfect teacher".  When I was in the classroom if something had to give because of time restraints, I admit that it was usually my D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time.  Although I felt guilty for doing so, I also felt that I needed to give my students time for direct instruction and small group time.  After reading The Book Whisperer, I know now more than ever that something that looks so simple is very, very important. And besides, I have always held the philosophy that students should be doing most of the work and talking in the classroom.  Independent reading fosters a student-centered climate, allows students to practice and apply reading skills and strategies, and promotes reading for enjoyment.

I'll begin with an overview of the book if you haven't read it and offer a review for those that have.  Then, I'll move on to some authentic applications for the classroom.


 The premise of this book is that to create passionate, life-long readers, teachers must create a learning environment that stimulates and nurtures independent reading. Independent reading is more than the ten or so minutes of D.E.A.R. time we try to squeeze into our literacy block. It is a restructuring of our literacy instruction to intentionally carve out as much time as possible to let kids read. As a side note, if you are a Reader’s Workshop fan or if your teaching has been inspired by the research of Nancie Atwell (In the Middle), you will adore this book!

For years, I have been using the research of Atwell, Allington, Wilhelm, Routman, et al, to support my plea for teachers to stop the barrage of worksheets, journal entries, quizzes, tests, and book reports for kids read. We don’t need to work kids to death when reading a book. We don’t need to develop a beautiful book or novel unit that is crammed with pages and pages of written work for students to complete. And, with the reading of The Book Whisperer, I have found yet another researcher and classroom teacher who begs us to change our ways, if in fact our goal is to motivate and create life-long readers and not just effective test-takers.  And that is the gist of this brilliant book- that our job as literacy teachers is not only to teach students how to read and how to read to learn, but to instill a love of reading in them that will last a lifetime.

Highlights and Take-Aways

  • Although this book is geared toward middle-level teachers (the author is a sixth grade ELA and Social Studies teacher), much  can be adapted for early and intermediate elementary grades.    
  • Miller explains and details how her students achieve her expectation that they read *40* books a year.  
  •  Miller cites researcher Stephen Krashen who identified fifty-one studies that “…prove that students in free-reading programs perform better than or equal to students in any other type of reading program” (p.3).

  • Students’ goal: read for pleasure, not to complete endless activities.  Let me clarify:  this does not mean that students never respond to their reading, complete vocabulary tasks, or are not held accountable for their reading, comprehension, and learning.  Miller delves deeply into this topic later on in the book including preparing students for state tests.
  • Implement a workshop approach to reading and writing that works for you and the needs of your students. 
  • Allow for individual choice of reading selections with expectations.

  • The classroom library is paramount and powerful if we are to guide our students toward developing and internalizing a love for reading. As for me, although I loved having a Smart Board in my classroom, I would rather have an extensive classroom library!  Miller suggests that schools invest in classroom libraries rather than expensive reading programs and professional development sessions.

  •  Listen to what students need instead of us teachers telling them what they need. Offer students choice in what they read and you have instant buy-in. Miller shares that self-selected books empower and encourage students, it develops self-confidence, and gives control- all in the name of independent learners.  Reading choices should not always be dictated by the teacher.  Gone are the days of everyone reading the same novel at the same time throughout the year.
  • Choosing not to read isn’t discussed and it is not an option.
  • View each student as a reader no matter their reading level.
  •   Students need to learn how to select books for themselves instead of being a passive learner and relying on the teacher.   

Classroom Applications

Fonts by KG Fonts

  • On the first day of school have a “Book Frenzy”.  Let students select books from the classroom library for in-class and for reading at home.  Have an array of varying genres and themes and allow students to choose the books they are interested in reading.  And then, let them read!  As a result, you will set the tone that reading is prominent and this activity allows you to interact with students and get to know a little about them.  I can think of no other important activity such as this.  Discussing classroom rules and procedures can wait! 
  • Research shows that student choice is not only the number one motivator for reluctant male readers, but for all students. When students have the freedom to choose their own books, it empowers them, strengthens their self-confidence, rewards their interests, gives them control, and promotes a positive attitude about reading.  Miller mentions that she does not “micromanage” their reading choices and allows students to choose books that are too hard or too easy.  Why?  Because if readers have an invested interest in a book they will read it, and isn’t that the ultimate goal?  There will be plenty of time during the remainder of the school year to nudge students toward reading material that is more on their level or that you think they need to read to meet curricular standards.  However, Miller states, “Listen to what your students need- don’t tell them what you think they need to hear.”
  •  Show students that reading is fun and engaging. To accomplish this, allow students to make choices, to abandon books that are not appealing or that are too difficult.  Show them that reading is often done for pleasure, not just for work.  The goal of reading is not to complete a book report, take a quiz, complete worksheets, or vocabulary activities.  The goal is to read, enjoy it, and learn from it. Administer reading interest surveys, multiple intelligence assessments, informal and formal reading assessments to allow you to successfully match readers to books.
  • Snatch every spare minute you have to allow students to read independently.  This includes having students read at the beginning of class instead of having them complete morning work, a warm up, or “bell ringer” work- worksheets, DOL, etc.  For students who finish their work early, instead of having them complete “fast finisher” work- again worksheet or centers type activities- let them read!  If your class is interrupted by a phone call or visitor, teach students that they are to pull out their books and read until you are able to resume teaching.  Condition students to carry a book wherever they go.  At my previous school, we had this expectation for our middle school students.  If they were finished with their work in a content class, they were expected to pull out their book and read.  The Principal rewarded students he "caught" reading as he made his rounds throughout the school.


Are you a book whisperer?  How do you create a culture of readers in your classroom?  Which of the ideas in Miller's book have you had success with over the years?

Next time, I will share a review of Miller's follow-up book, Reading in the Wild, which by the way, did not disappoint!

Graphics:  Bunting and section separators by Ashley Hughes

Incorporating More Fluency

Happy Wednesday Literacy Land friends! It is Em from Curious Firsties to talk about some quick tips to boost reading fluency in our students---at any age!

Working with first graders that are currently reading at a lower level than peers, I am always searching for more ways to get print into their lives.  I am always looking for more ways to incorporate more "time on text" for them.

After attending a Literacy Conference this winter, I walked away with some fluency tips that I wanted to explore and implement.  Here are some of them:

1. Closed Captions at home
I don't think this is a new tip.  There is research to support the benefits that closed captions do have on reading.  I found many research articles listed on Zane Education.  In the fall, we asked our parents to start turning on the closed captions (with child-appropriate TV shows); however, my own little preschoolers watch PBS without the closed captions on because I never remember to turn them on.  It made me wonder...if I'm not doing it, how many other families are not doing it?

My school had conferences last week and we decided that we would make the closed captioning suggestion again, but this time we would use magnets.  My hope is that families will go home and remember this tip when they put their magnet on the fridge!

Thanks to 3AM Teacher for frame and KG fonts.
You can grab these magnets for free, print them off, cut them out, laminate them (if you would like), and stick a little magnet on the back.

2. Neurological Impress Method
Tim Rasinski introduced me to this type of paired reading when I saw him speak at the Ohio Literacy Conference in December.  Since then I have done some more reading and research on the method.  It is very similar to paired reading but there are some slight differences.

*Choose a book at the student's instructional level (for the first few sessions, I would use an independent text until the student understands the technique).
*Sit next to and slightly behind the student.  In "The Fluent Reader," Rasinski suggests that you try to read into the student's left ear.
*The more proficient reader points to the text (or both readers point).
*Both readers begin reading the text; however, the more proficient partner readers slightly faster and louder.

This is a more intense method to paired reading because the student will need to keep up with the proficient reader.  Due to this, Rasinski suggests that these sessions would last no longer than 15 minutes (and even less time when you first begin).  But that over the course of the week 3 of these sessions should occur.

ReadStrong provides some additional information on this type of paired reading.  I also watched quite a few videos that demonstrate how neurological impress method should look.  Here are two videos that my vertical team watched together to get a better idea of how to implement:

3. Purpose to Repeated Readings
Repeated readings also assist in reading fluency.  As Rasinski discussed repeated readings at the Ohio Literacy Conference he said that you should always set up your lesson with a purpose behind the repeated readings.  I was thinking, "Yes, yes, of course.  I do this."  But do I?  I always set up my lessons with why we need to do this or that.  But when it comes to reading  a text more than once, do I really give my students the necessary motivation to become more proficient and fluent?

It got me thinking....and I made some changes.

I started doing my daily fluency practice a little different this year in my small groups.  You can read more about that here.  One major difference is the purpose I establish.  Each Friday I will be audio recording each small group reading a particular text.  I use the free Evernote app to record them chorally reading.  Then they will each get a CD filled with these recordings.  They were so excited to hear about the CD.  YES!  Purpose was established!

Have you found that any of these tips have worked in your classroom?
What are some fluency tips that you use in your classroom or ask your families to try to incorporate?

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