A Day with Jan Richardson

OK. If you follow K Teacher Talk on Facebook, you know that I have been wayyy too geeked out about seeing Jan Richardson today. I have been using Jan's format in my classroom for the last 3 or 4 years now and I love it! Before Reading her book The Next Step in Guided Reading, my guided reading instruction felt scattered. It has since clicked for me and I will never go back! I love the Jan Plan! You can read my original posts about it here and here.
So, on to our day. The training was called Harnessing the Power of Guided Reading. She knew that most of us had her book and were very familiar with it, so it wasn't a "Guided Reading 101" session--which I was very happy about. Her presentation focused on the pre-A lesson to the transitional guided reading lessons...which works for me, since I teach K and this blog is for primary teachers! While I obviously can't recount every detail of the day-long session, here are some of her key points on various topics:
Assessment
We hear it time and time again, because it's the truth--assessment is SO important. Jan called herself a "running record junkie!" Taking consistent running records on students as they read is vital in order to meet their needs. As Jan said-- "it isn't enough just to say 'oh, he needs to work on fluency.' WHY isn't he fluent?" I'll admit, I only began taking regular running records on my students 3ish years ago. My consistency with doing one at each lesson is getting better every year, but I'm still not quite there yet. I used to think that taking running records was something you only did a few times a year with the formal benchmark kit (DRA, Fountas & Pinnell, Rigby, etc...) Now I take informal running records on my students often, just on 1-2 pages of the book...my goal is to do one on a student each week. It has made a HUGE difference in how I group my students and how I have planned for their instruction. While I'm definitely not a "running record junkie" yet, I hope to get there!

On her website, Jan provides a WEALTH of information that helps you track student data. Click the resources tab and scroll on down to find everything you could need!
Book Choice
I find this to be the hardest part of guided reading! What Jan reiterated again and again, is that we don't want to get too caught up on the student's level. Meaning, we need to think of the student's level as a range--how often do you have a students who reads only on a level D all the time? Even within levels, there is a range. In addition, it is impossible to have and manage groups where everyone in the group is at the same level. Grouping students who are close to the same level and who are in need of the same STRATEGY work will give you the most bang for your buck. We also spent some time analyzing texts and deciding what teaching points the text would be good for. If a text has lots words for students to decode, we wouldn't choose that book for a group that is firm with decoding but needs fluency work--even if the reading level matches where they are.

I won't lie--I can get hung up on the level when it comes to my students' reading. Hearing Jan talk about this (which reiterates what Debbie Miller said when I heard her speak), is that students are so much more than a level.

Another interesting tidbit--Jan also said that she normally goes a level below when reading nonfiction, since it is  harder!
Differentiation and Scaffolding
Jan went through various scenarios and gave examples of prompts that she would give throughout the lesson. ESOL or low vocabulary students received a high level of scaffolding and vocabulary in the introduction. She gradually released support for students who were more language proficient. It seems like common sense, but she does it so masterfully and it was great to watch! She has a WONDERFUL list of prompts and scaffolds in her book for different circumstances.

A note on vocabulary--don't ask "what do you think this word means?" when introducing new vocabulary at the start of a book. Just tell them! Because if they get it wrong and you tell them the correct answer, research says they will remember the first answer--the wrong one. Good to know! During reading, she often asked a student "what can you do to help yourself?" when they came to a word and they didn't know the meaning. She doesn't use the term "context clues" because students don't get it--just look for clues.

The Plan
You can download Jan's lesson plan format on her website for each stage of guided reading, but you really need to read her book in order to understand the research and the background behind each part. The lesson for pre-A is really not guided reading, but small group work--even Jan has found that trying to do traditional guided reading with a pre-A group is a waste of time...so her format which has students building visual memory with their names and known letters, working with books, building phonemic awareness and sharing the pen packs in a lot of powerful teaching into a 20 minute group. And her format is awesome--it's all filled out and you just fill in the blanks and check where needed! That way, you can focus on thinking about the text rather than typing out your lesson plan.

Management
Jan has a "six weeks to independence" section of her book which details some popular stations and how to set them up, so that students are engaged in literacy while you're doing your guided reading. She really advocates making your life easier and having students do authentic reading and writing-- no worksheets! She even plugged The Daily Five because of how explicit it is and it fosters independence!

Fluency
Jan reiterated what all teachers already know--timing students for words-per-minute is not the best idea, and it can be harmful in the early grades. Why? Because comprehension often takes rereading--rereading for self-corrections and to make meaning of the text. We WANT our students to go back and reread when they need to, and reducing students' fluency to how many words they read in one minute discourages that. YES--fluency is important for comprehension! But we need to think of fluency in terms of intonation, smoothness, etc... and not simply how fast a student reads the words, which is unfortunately the emphasis of many reading tests. She reiterated the work of Richard Allington time and time again regarding this.

Guided Writing/Word Study

Each guided reading lesson incorporates guided writing and word study. Jan requires students to write a dictated sentence about what they read, which increases comprehension and also ensures that students are writing using pertinent sight words and phonics rules. For example... if your students read a book about clothes and the sight word was "like," and let's say in word study they are sorting short o words, the sentence might be "I like to wear my socks. I like the red ones a lot."

Jan provides various word study options to get the students working with words in different ways. Under the resources section on Jan's website, scroll all the way down to "word study procedures" to see what I mean.

So those were my biggest take-aways from the day. Jan is coming to do professional development in my district in November, so hopefully I have some new insights to share then!

I know that was a lot of information...what are your thoughts? Anything you'd like me to clarify or are unsure about?
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DIY Whisper Phones- Too Easy to NOT make!


The whisper phone is a classic teacher DIY. I don't know who first discovered these babies, but I first learned about them 10 years ago during my undergrad from my favorite reading professor. 8 years into my career, and I'm just getting around to making some of my own. And I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner! 

I do have whisper phones in my classroom, which I purchased years ago from a teacher catalog. Almost every single one has broken. They were flimsy, not that cute, and expensive! 

So I finally took my tushy to Lowes and got what I needed. Word on the street is that Lowes can be hit or miss for getting your materials cut for you. I always engage the workers there in a conversation about what I'm making, and they are always happy to help free of charge! I DID have to play it a little bit dumb to get my PVC pipe cut. "Do I need to buy a saw, or are there special scissors for this stuff?" The nice lady took pity on me.

I asked for 3/4 inch pipe, because that's the most popular size. She ended up cutting the 1/2 size by mistake, but they still work perfectly and it ended up costing me a little less. Here is what I purchased: 

1 long piece of 1/2 inch PVC pipe-cut into 3.5 inch pieces (it made about 30)
1/2 inch 90 degree elbows (I bought 40, since I only needed 20...I might get more later to use the extra sections of pipe)
Colorful duct tape (it doesn't take much)

I couldn't decide if I should spray paint the pipe of just use duct tape. I went with the tape because 1. I can change it later, 2. it's faster and less messy, and 3. I was able to do it today in my living room while it rained outside. It took no time at all! 

If you've been considering making some of these...go do it! You feel feel so productive for very little effort! :)
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