Teaching Reading in Small Groups: Moving Readers to the Next Level

I leveled up!

This is a phrase that my pre-teen son used to exclaim with glee when he had successfully completed a level in his favorite video game.

I am stuck, Mom!  Can you come help me!

This was also a phrase my pre-teen son used to utter with impatience when he just could not get past a difficult stage of his game.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
In Chapter 7 of Teaching Reading in Small Groups, Jennifer Serravallo compares both the excitement and frustration of advancing through video game stages to how our students feel when progressing through leveled reading books.  She likens the experience of readers returning to the same basket of books they have been assigned to because of their independent reading level to the disheartening and disengaging feelings of a child stuck on the same level of Super Mario Brothers.

Serravallo reminds us that we must support student movement through the different book levels by teaching them strategies that will make them successful independent readers.  This chapter outlines four steps to achieving just that, and emphasizes two points that are important to the process.
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
While levels are a tool that we as teachers use to help children find books they will be able to read and within their Zone of Proximinal Development (ZPD), Seravallo insists that we should not create an over-awareness of reading levels in our students.  She believes this will have negative effects on reading culture and the level of student reading engagement.
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.

Instead of emphasizing reading levels, Seravallo advocates using a small group structure to teach strategies and skills that will help students read independently at their level and be ready to progress to the next one.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
In order to begin working in small groups with students, Seravallo insists that we need to build a portrait of how each reader is progressing over time. She suggests that the following questions are important to consider:
  • Does the child have access to books at home?
  • Is the child able to stay engaged when reading a book?
  • Does the child choose books that are on or near his just-right reading level?
  • Does the child receive explicit instruction that is helpful and targeted toward strengthening strengths and compensating for challenges?
  • Is the child an English language learner?
  • Does the child have any learning disabilities that affect decoding, comprehension, or fluency?
She then uses the Independent Reading Level Benchmark chart created by Fountas and Pinnell to track student progress and determine who is not progressing at the expected rate.  Once this data has been reviewed, she determines who she is worried about and who she has questions about.  Those not making adequate progress are then flagged to be included in her Text-Level Introduction Groups.
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
Before we begin working with readers, Seravallo urges us to get to know each of the text levels well. By doing so, we can anticipate the challenges our students will encounter, and create language around the strategies needed to help them with their difficulties.  She suggests building a four-part strategy menu or chart for each level with columns labeled as follows:
  • Text Features-Focus on a text feature that is unique to the level studied.
  • Skills-Think about skills that might challenge the reader.
  • Strategies-Think about what strategies will help the reader be successful with the text.
  • Questions-Think about assessment questions to ask to determine how the reader is handling the text difficulty.
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
Understanding trends in student performance is an important piece of the puzzle as well.  Using your knowledge of text levels, you can compare what you know about a book to what you already know about your readers.  Seravallo suggests a variety of assessment tools to use:
  • Running Records-Complete one both at the just-right level and one above it to help identify what the child does when he or she encounters difficulty.
  • One-on-One/Partnership Conferences-Use your anecdotal notes on skills and strategies that students have needed support with.  Look for patterns to get a big picture of what the reader can and cannot do.
  • Reading Portfolio-Review information about the reader during read alouds, partnership work, and within their reading notebook.  Consider how they think, talk, and visualize what they have read.
  • Assessment-Only Conferences-Ten-minute opportunity to meet with each student and ask questions from your strategy menu.  This will determine strengths and needs, and help identify next steps in fluency, comprehension, and decoding instruction.
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
As an alternative to guided reading, Seravallo promotes the use of Text-Level Introduction Groups.  These groups are strategic in nature, meaning they will teach skills the students can transfer to the next text level.  The lessons do not focus on specific book characters, vocabulary or plot.  Readers with like needs are pulled together.  Each one chooses their own book at their next level.  Because each child has a different book, the teacher introduces the text characteristics or features, along with strategies or ways to handle those features.  Each group lesson is structured in the following way:
  • Connect and Compliment-Explain why students are gathered and reinforce a strength.
  • Teach Difficulties and Strategies-Identify challenges they will meet in the book level and demonstrate how to deal with them.
  • Engage and Coach the Students in Trying the Strategies-Students read independently and teacher helps each one as needed.
  • Link-Reconvene the group to discuss the good work they have done and remind them to continue using what they have practiced.  Have them write about what they practiced as well.
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.

Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.
Text-Introduction Groups as described by Seravallo help children work in books that they have chosen themselves, but also provides targeted support around text features. Children who are all working toward the same level are grouped together, and can support each other. The structure of the group lessons follows a familiar pattern.  All of these components provide for instruction that is engaging and successful.

As always, thank you for sharing my story!  All of the teacher-authors from The Reading Crew appreciate your readership and support!  Be sure to come back next Sunday for the summary of the final chapter, Organizing and Managing Small Group Conferring: Common Questions by
Kristin 
from 
PIN FOR LATER
Learn how to use Text-Level Introduction Groups to improve student reading skills and knowledge of strategies with tips from Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.










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