Reading Wellness: Alignment

Reading Wellness...Wow!!  Sarah from Simply Literacy and Em from Curious Firsties here today to discuss Chapter 3: Alignment.  We hope that you are enjoying this book as much as we are.  It has led us to some great conversations about our own students and what we can do a bit differently this year.  Below you will see a conversation that Sarah and Em had about the alignment chapter.

What does this mean to us?  Well in our own lives it means aligning our values with our day to day constraints.

I feel like alignment in my life is coinciding my school life and my home life.  My day starts and ends with my home life, all while my school life is intertwined. Aligning those two lives is an ongoing learning process and essentially a balancing act that I am still trying to figure out.

I know for me, alignment in my life is integrating and balancing my love for reading, blogging, teaching, and parenting.  It is easy for one to overpower another but I am always working to find that balance.

The authors, Burkins and Yaris, explain that the same alignment must occur for readers but through print and meaning.  Both must be attended to and in alignment.

I teach third grade and I tend to focus my teaching on meaning.  Of course with some students, I need to focus on both print and meaning.  When a student struggles with print, I tend to focus mostly on certain skills and leave meaning on the back burner.  I love how this chapter reminded me the importance of aligning print to meaning and meaning to print.  They go hand-in-hand, not separate.

Since I teach first grade, I find that I do tend to focus my teaching on the print.  Meaning is talked about and I always ask "does it make sense?" but I would not say that my teaching of print and meaning is in perfect alignment and harmony.  I could use some work on that.

The importance of print and meaning is comparable to a puzzle: the pieces versus the puzzle.  Which one is more important.  Both.  They are essential and important to the activity of putting a puzzle together.

I love this analogy.  You can't have one without the other.  And it makes me wonder if this would be a good analogy to help the kids understand the essential connection between print and meaning.

Whenever I read, I tend to comprehend better when I make connections to the text.  I love the puzzle and learning to dance example (pg71). These analogies immediately made me think of when I teach young girls how to fastpitch.  For years, I have taught several girls how to pitch and every time, girls immediately want to jump into full motion pitching before learning the basic drills.  This reminds me of aligning print with meaning.  Girls are not going to be able to throw strikes or throw with speed and accuracy if they don't align it with the proper techniques.  

The authors go on to explain that even the best readers make errors or misunderstand text but they have the alignment of print and meaning to resolve and cross check these errors.

True...I cross check constantly as I'm reading professional and personal books.  But this doesn't happen naturally and the kids cannot see exactly what is going on in my head.  It would be helpful if I did more think aloud modeling to help them see the connection and alignment.

I agree 100%, Emily.  I feel like with most things in life, modeling is an essential.  Integrating the language and ideas from this chapter during think-alouds will help readers to align print with meaning.

Burkins and Yaris say that by offering explicit strategies such as "get your mouth ready" or "look for a small word inside the big word," we are not allowing students to be decision makers or problem solvers.  They state that we are "...telling them how to solve a problem rather than supporting them in solving the problem themselves." (p71)

Typically I use specific prompts to help them use strategies:

Yikes!  I have been doing it all wrong!!!! When print and meaning aren't aligned, my teacher instinct has always been to prompt and help the reader to solve the problem.  My prompts, such as "look back at that word carefully", basically tells the student how to solve the problem rather than supporting them in solving the problem themselves. This part of the chapter was so informative and eye opening.  

Also, while reading this part of the chapter, a past student popped into my head.  I wish I would have read this chapter three years ago.  This past student's reading process was out of alignment.  He was constantly inserting a or the in front of words in a text, and other print cues. The miscues made sense on a sentence level, but his insertions were changing the meaning.  I was always saying "does that make sense?" which led  me to telling him how to solve the problem rather than supporting him in solving the problem himself.  

Oh geez!  This is totally me!  Being a first grade teacher I prompt a lot during guided reading.  But I noticed that later in the chapter the authors do say that some students still need this specific strategy prompts.  I want to reread and explore this.

In the lesson "Does It Match," the authors offer a lesson and extensions to support the alignment of print and meaning.

I love the way the lesson does really help the students to have more independence in their reading.

I particularly like the vocabulary and prompts that are suggested for guided reading, shared guided, and independent reading.

Agree completely!!  But it is stated that some traditional prompting may still be key for some students.  I can see this for a new reader--but overall I want to foster more independence.

Yes, my students spend a lot of time reading independently.  The chapter gave an easy example of what to say to your students during that crucial reading time.  As the students settle to read, simply say, "Raise your hand when you solve a problem.  I want to hear about how you solved it!" (pg. 85)  So easy and so powerful!

When checking for meaning, I like to use "S-T-P" with my students.  This is from Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading.  My students hear "S-T-P" (which means Stop-Think-Paraphrase) a lot throughout the year.  While students are either reading during guided reading groups, with a partner, or independently reading, students will read a page, Stop and cover the text with their hand, Think about what was read, and Paraphrase by softly telling themselves what was read.  If students cannot retell the page that was read, then a reread must be done. I think when using S-T-P, students are practicing the constant back and forth of checking and cross checking which will hopefully help readers move along the continuum of proficiency in reading.

I can't wait to try out the lesson and discover the impact that it has on my students.  When reading this chapter, what stands out to you and your readers?



  1. I love the conversation you both had and how you reflected on your own teaching. This book has really made me think about my own practices and how I should have done it differently for so many years.

    This alignment chapter really woke me up to everything I need to change about helping children as they read in both print and meaning. Now to change all of our teachers as well, so we are all on the same page! Using the same language and methods makes a huge difference too.


  2. Great conversation! I was surprised when I read the part about prompting students LESS but it's true, it probably keeps them from ever learning to figure things out on their own. I assume that's what their other book, "Who's Doing the Work?" probably addresses.

    1. "Who's Doing the Work?" is the next book on my list of books to read!