Literacy Tips

Literacy experts Jan Richardson and Michele Dufresne have developed a new guided reading system called Literacy Footprints that will help teachers provide powerful small-group literacy instruction.

Literacy Tip of the Week: October 26, 2020

by Jan Richardson

I recently did my first Facebook Live event titled, Let’s Talk Intervention.  I shared practical tips for accelerating struggling readers from Pre-A through Fluent. To watch the recording, click here

Literacy Tip of the Week: October 19, 2020

Teaching RISE Remotely by Leslie Lausten,

Reading Specialist and Educational Consultant  Click here for bio.


The 2020 school year is upon us--and it’s a doozy! So many new challenges have come hand-in-hand with remote and hybrid learning. However, remember this: our students still need good, solid instruction, even if they are learning at home! Many, perhaps most, have lost instructional time and are starting to fall behind. If they were already behind when schools closed in March, they have fallen even further behind by now. What can we do? 


The answer is RISE remote! As a Jan Richardson consultant, I was one of the first to pilot RISE and RISEUp in a remote format. Using the resources from the new RISE and RISE Up kits, in conjunction with The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (Richardson, 2016) and The Next Step Forward in Reading Intervention (Richardson & Lewis, 2018), we were able to work out a few kinks and develop steps to ensure high-quality intervention. 


Step 1: Choose an implementation model. There are several options to choose from. RISE is flexible and can be taught during the school day or after school. 

     ● Option 1: 20-30 minutes each day. RISE students have Stations 1 and 2 on Day 1 and Stations 3 and 4 on Day 2. RISE Up students have Station 1 for 20 minutes on Day 1 and Stations 2 and 3 for a total of 30 minutes on Day 2. If you choose this option, the program would likely be 12-16 weeks.


     ● Option 2: 45-60 minutes each day. With this model, the students experience all stations every day. They could have all stations at one time or be taught some stations in the morning and the others in the afternoon. Since students are receiving intensive intervention instruction, the program would likely be 6-8 weeks.


Step 2: Select and train the RISE instructors. In our school, we have trained four instructors, so we can accommodate up to 16 students in four groups of four that rotate between stations. With RISE remote, we have found it best to have one instructor who will teach all four stations with 4 students at a time. It is too difficult for us to switch between stations without breakout rooms; however, if your virtual platform has breakout rooms, you could put each RISE small group in a different breakout room and have the RISE instructors float between the groups. Your RISE instructors need to be trained. The RISE kit includes a training webinar to train instructors on the procedures for each station. They have recently added a comprehensive RISE Remote training manual to the RISE website.


Step 3: Schedule a virtual meeting with the RISE families. You need to explain how the intervention works and what is expected from the families. If possible, designate a specific time for the RISE lesson so parents can plan their schedules accordingly.  


Step 4: Organize and distribute RISE materials. At our school, we created baskets of materials which the parents  picked up. We included a letter tray, white board, dry erase marker,

eraser, notebook, and computer. If you don’t have a letter tray to send home, there is a

digital letter tray on the RISE website that students can use for word work. You can send

home printed texts or use digital texts. We chose to use the RISE digital texts from the RISE

online website.


RISE instructors will need the same materials as the students. They will also need access to

digital texts so they can project the text on their computer screen. Having a letter tray is

essential for modeling word study activities. Don’t forget to have your observation form next to

you so you can take notes to help guide instruction! The RISE Remote manual has a more

detailed list of materials and resources for both teachers and students. 

Step 5: Teach RISE. Once you begin to teach the lessons, the instruction flows just like face-to-face! One important adjustment to RISE remote is to have students mute themselves while you are listening to another student read. Remember: NO ROUND ROBIN READING! While you are conferring with one student, the others are reading the text and (in RISE Up) writing short responses to the comprehension focus. When you are ready to work with the next child, use name cards to get the student’s attention. During the discussion, you will need to call on children one at a time so you can hear the students' responses. Other than that, the children adapt beautifully!


Step 6: Communicate! Finally, don’t forget to communicate with the teachers and parents on a weekly basis. Let them know what you are doing, how the students are progressing

and what your next steps will be. Also, continue your RISE roundtable discussions

so the team can support each other in troubleshooting, problem solving, and

lesson planning. 


RISE is a flexible intervention that can work in any school under any circumstances.

Watch this 6 minute video to see RISE Remote in action. You can RISE to any challenge

to help your students reach their full potential. You can do it!


Literacy Tip of the Week: October 12, 2020


Time for a “Selah Break” - by Jan Richardson

The Book of Psalms, loved and appreciated by all major world religions, contains repeated and encouraging messages of hope. The word “selah” appears 71 times in the Psalms. In Islam and Arabic, Selah means prayer or connection. In the Hebrew scriptures, the word was used as a breathing mark for the choirs who sang the psalms.  For most of us, perhaps all of us, it is time for a Selah break in our lives. It’s time to breathe deeply, pray and connect. Teachers, administrators, parents and children have been on overdrive since schools reopened. Many of our students are suffering from “Zoom fatigue,” and parents are stressed from working at home while supervising their children’s education at the same time. Most of the teachers I’ve been in touch with are just plain exhausted. Why not make time for a Selah break? Take some time off to appreciate the change of the seasons, hug your family, and pray. Following your “Selah,” you’ll be refreshed and even more ready to take the next step forward for our precious children. 


Literacy Tip of the Week: October 5, 2020

Helpful Tips for Teaching Pre-A Virtually - by Julie A. Taylor, Next Step Guided Reading Consultant,


I don’t think anyone can deny that virtual teaching has been quite a challenge for teachers and students alike. Yet, during these difficult times, we have to make lemonade out of lemons… and that means continuing to do our best to teach all children to read. Starting students out with successful pre-reading skills such as letter and sound knowledge, proper letter formation, and concepts of print will help get Pre-A students off to a great start!

Probably the most challenging guided reading lessons to teach virtually are Pre-A lessons because in person, those lessons are very hands-on. Below are some pointers and recommendations to help you get started with successful virtual Pre-A lessons:

  1. Create a “To-Go” bag for each Pre-A student. Ask a parent to pick up the bag at the school or enlist the help of a volunteer to deliver it to students. Include an ABC chart in a plastic sleeve, a dry erase marker, a try of magnetic letters or cardstock letter tiles, a name template for rainbow writing, and an ABC book for tracing. You can download and print an ABC book here. Giving students these manipulatives will make the learning more engaging and effective. 

  2. Utilize your document camera. Younger students are more engaged when they see you physically manipulate the materials. By placing the ABC chart or tracing book under your document camera, you can model procedures. 

  3. Tilt their screens. Teach students how to place their materials on the surface just below their keyboards and tilt the screen down so you can see their work. This will help you monitor students during lessons.

  4. Follow your finger. When you put your materials under your document camera and use your pointer finger to model a procedure, ask students to follow your finger on their computer screen. This is helpful for practicing letter formation, 1-to-1 matching, teaching concepts of print, and more. (If their screen is touch sensitive, they will have to place their finger close to the screen but not touch it.)

I’ve developed an alphabet book that will help students complete the tracing routine remotely. I’ve placed a green dot on each letter to guide the letter formation. Students should put their finger on the green dot when they trace each letter. You should still follow the procedures on pages 29-31 in Jan’s Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (Scholastic, 2016). Follow these simple steps to adapt this process for remote instruction:

  1. Place your ABC book under your document camera and share your screen. Tell the student to put a pointer finger on (or slightly above) the green dot on his or her computer screen.

  2. Trace the letter in the ABC book and tell students to follow your finger. 

  3. Invite the parent to trace the ABC book with their child every day. The parent or caregiver should watch you do the process first. Be sure to include the ABC tracing book in the “To-Go” bag.

  4. If you are printing from a PC, go to “Page Sizing and Handling” and print the ABC book as a booklet. The book will print out on half pages so you can fold it in half and staple it.

These tips will help you teach letter names and formation to your Pre-A student. Don’t delay. Start the tracing immediately so students can begin learning the alphabetic principle. I’ll be sharing more tips on teaching guided reading lessons remotely. Check back soon. Teach on, guided reading warriors!

Literacy Tip of the Week: September 28, 2020

Interview about Teaching Guided Reading Remotely - by Jan Richardson and Monica Rodriguez

Reading can be a particularly challenging subject to tackle during school closures, especially since younger students tend to struggle more with online learning. I was recently interviewed by Monica Rodriguez from NWEA. She considers guided reading a valuable technique for teaching readers and wanted me to explain how to teach it remotely. The following are the questions and answers.

Q: Tell me about guided reading instruction. What is it and why is it such an important pedagogical approach?

A: Guided reading is a small-group reading instruction method that provides differentiated teaching to support students in developing reading proficiency. The small-group model accelerates progress by making it easier to focus on each student’s individual needs. 

Guided reading is important because it works—as part of a balanced approach to literacy instruction—and it has made a profound, life-changing difference for countless thousands of striving readers.


Q: What are some of your favorite books for guided reading and why?

A: You would think my favorite professional book would be my own, but I have to give honor to Dr. Marie Clay, the founder of Reading Recovery. Her books laid the reading instructional foundation I stand upon today. 

My second favorite professional books are my own, The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

series. They’re my go-to books for teaching reading.

My favorite guided reading books to use with children are the RISE kit and Literacy Footprints. They have wonderful, engaging texts that embrace diversity and address themes that matter to kids. I wrote the accompanying guided reading lesson plans that follow my Next Step framework. 

Q: Can teachers prerecord guided reading lessons to send their students? Could you provide some tips on how teachers can go about creating some? 

A: Prerecorded lessons are not the best approach for virtual reading instruction. Live remote lessons are much better because the teacher can confer with each student. Good instruction requires feedback, something a recorded lesson can’t provide. 

That said, if teachers have to provide asynchronous instruction, a recorded guided reading lesson that matches kids’ needs is better than a one-size-fits-all reading lesson. There are three important components to a recorded guided reading lesson: reading, word study, and writing. These are the three parts of my Next Steps Guided Reading lesson.  Each component should be recorded as a separate lesson to keep students engaged and allow time for an in-person check-in after each portion.

  1. Reading. (10–15 minutes) Introduce the book by providing a short synopsis to set the purpose for reading and generate enthusiasm. Then teach new vocabulary that the children probably wouldn’t be able to decode. During the introduction, upload the text and share the screen or hold the book so that it’s easy to see on camera. Point out important text features and new vocabulary words as you discuss them.


       After the introduction, tell students to read the book on their own. You can send home hard copies          of the books or use a digital reader. Follow up with a short phone call to each student or schedule          a video meeting. Have the student read a few pages to you so you can prompt for strategic                      processing.


  2.  Word study. (5 minutes) Teach a developmentally appropriate word study lesson using          

       manipulatives such as magnetic letters, dry erase boards, or picture sorting cards. Afterwards,

       have a short video or phone conference about the word study lesson. You might even have the

       student do a similar word study task while you observe through the camera.


  3.  Writing. (10­–15 minutes) State the writing prompt and guide students in developing a writing

       plan. Students should then write independently. When they finish, they can take a photo of their

       writing and email it to you. Have a phone or video conference to discuss the student’s writing and

       teach the skills the student needs to learn next.

Q: Can you please share some tips for what a live remote lesson should look like?

A: A live lesson should look a lot like a face-to-face guided reading lesson. Since you’ll be on camera, remember to hold the book in an accessible way, or display a digital copy of the text.

After you introduce the book to the group, students can read the text independently while you confer with individuals. When students are not conferring with you, they should mute their volume so they aren’t distracted. After you have conferred with each student, gather the kids back on screen and discuss the text. Teachers could then teach a short word study lesson with the group.  On the following day, students would reread the book while the teacher confers with individuals and then do guided writing. Teachers can use the lesson plans outlined in my book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading for live, remote or recorded lessons.

Q: Do you have any other suggestions for teaching guided reading that are not covered by the previous two questions?

A: It is important to assess your students before you begin teaching guided reading. My assessment kit has a digital platform so teachers can assess students remotely. Many students will have regressed in their reading skills due to school closures and summer learning loss, so teachers need to know where to begin guided reading and what to teach next.

Q: Do you have concerns for young readers as they return to school? If so, do you have any ideas on how to begin addressing them now? 

  • I am deeply concerned about our young readers. Data show that younger readers will be more affected by school closures than older readers. There will likely be a greater achievement gap than in previous years. More than ever teachers will need to provide differentiated instruction that includes small group and individual lessons.

Q: Do you have any tips for how families can help with reading?

A: Read. A lot! Have kids get together for a book club, even if only via Zoom. I led several book clubs this summer with my grandkids and neighborhood children. My husband did a book club with our older grandsons. It was an uplifting and rewarding experience. Invite relatives and friends to join in the fun!

Literacy Tip of the Week: September 21, 2020

When are students ready to learn the silent e? - by Jan Richardson

I recently received a question from a first grade teacher who has been using the analogy chart to teach the silent e skill. Although she was doing the procedures correctly, her students weren’t applying the skill to writing without teacher prompting. This teacher is so passionate about helping her students; she even sent me a video! Here is what I noticed:


1. The students were reading at text level F. Most children aren’t ready to learn the silent e rule until they are reading at text level G or H. Page 135 of The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading says, “They need to have a bank of known words that follow the rule.” Don’t rush into the silent e skill.

2. The teacher used sick and like for the word study lesson. Although they are appropriate key words to use, not all of the children were able to spell them correctly. This was another indicator that they weren’t ready to learn the skill. 

3. As the lesson progressed, the teacher dictated a few words that had either a short vowel sound or the long vowel sound. Some of the students were confused. They were having trouble hearing rhyming words--an essential spelling skill. When you see this occurring in your word study lessons, teach the students to orally break the word at the onset and rime before they write it on the chart. For example, if you say the word quick, the students would say /qu/  /ick/. This technique helps them hear the rime (the part of the syllable that begins with the vowel) so they know what key word pattern to use.

4. As the lesson progressed, the teacher dictated a few one-syllable words with initial blends (stick, brake). This follows the procedures on page 137 of NSFGR. However, some of the students left out the second letter of the consonant blend. It is important that students hear initial blends before you move into the silent e skill. Have students sort pictures that begin with st and str or cl and cr. Making Words (e.g. sick-stick-slick-click-clack) and Sound Boxes (e.g. track, brick, strand, squint, etc.) are other word study activities that teach blends.

5. Once students have a solid foundation in short vowels and consonant blends, you can introduce the silent e skill. However, this skill often takes several weeks or even months before students automatically transfer it to writing. That is because there are different ways in English to represent a long vowel sound. For example, the following words all have the long a sound but are spelled with different patterns: stay, pain, weigh, paper, bouquet, break, grape.  I look for spelling approximations that include the silent e. They might spell stane for stain or wate for wait. Consider these attempts as signs the students are beginning to internalize the silent e rule.

6. Continue to prompt students to use analogies during writing. For example, if they want to write the word hike, you might say, “Do you know another word that rhymes with hike? If the student hesitates, say a known word (like), and have the student write it on the practice page. Then have them write the word hike under like. Sometimes I have students underline the spelling pattern (ike) in each word so they can see the similarities.

7. The silent e rule is a great spelling skill to teach. Just remember it will take multiple word study lessons, and exposure to higher-level books (H, I, J, and possibly K) before you’ll see students transfer the skill in writing without prompting.


Literacy Tip of the Week: September 14, 2020


Guided Reading Works! - by Dr. Jamieson

This week’s tip is from Dr. Jamieson, an elementary school principal in Maine who has been implementing guided reading for several years. In this tip he shares how guided reading has impacted the teachers, the students, and the test scores.

“Teachers have learned additional strategies to support differentiated instruction, which in turn has supported individual student learning. In my opinion, teachers now feel empowered to make a difference and support student growth through the small groups created with the guided reading process. We know we live in an economically depressed area but we can no longer use that as an excuse for poor reading scores. Access to good books and reading strategies are pushing our students out of the stigma that poor communities produce low achievers.

As a school leader, I am excited to see my teachers engaged in an authentic process where they can see gains in their student learning. Hence, they are becoming more effective teachers. The teachers are also growing as leaders as they share their classrooms with colleagues. As an administrator, I have learned to give teachers the power to make changes in their curriculum to expand learning through reading. This support includes new novels as well as technology to support building student vocabulary. I am very proud of my teachers. There is power in sharing what we know.”


Click here to see Dr. Jamieson's results.

Literacy Tip of the Week: September 7, 2020

Bring Back the Joy in Teaching Kindergarten

I was recently interviewed by Jennifer Burns, a Reading Recovery® Teacher Leader who taught kindergarten last year. She asked me to share the essential elements of a kindergarten literacy program that will bring joy to both teachers and children. Click here to watch the interview. 

Literacy Tip of the Week: August 31, 2020
An Opportunity to Personalize your Professional Developmentby Jan Richardson

I have partnered with CESA 6 in Oshkosh, WI to deliver a series of eleven 75-minute webinars that will guide teachers through the RISE and RISE Up reading intervention frameworks (Scholastic, 2020). RISE (levels C-N) and RISE UP (levels O-C) provide small-group instruction that quickly accelerates struggling readers. The lessons are based on my Next Step framework and include instruction in decoding, fluency, comprehension, word study and phonics, vocabulary, and guided writing. There are several implementation options, ranging from using 1-4 instructors and teaching RISE for 30 – 60 minutes a day. Students gain the confidence, proficiency, and skills they need to excel as readers and meet grade-level benchmarks. Click here to get more information about RISE.

All of the webinars will be recorded and can be viewed at your convenience-- at home or with colleagues at your school. You can purchase the entire PD package or select individual modules to take you deeper into one of the RISE components. Here is a list of modules you can choose from:

Module 1: Introduction to RISE

Module 2: Introduction to RISE Up

Module 3: Using Assessments to select groups and make instructional decisions

Module 4: RISE Station 1 – Read a New Book

Module 5: RISE Station 2 – Word Study and Phonics

Module 6: RISE Station 3 – Reread and Discuss Yesterday’s New Book

Module 7: RISE Station 4 – Guided Writing

Module 8: RISE UP Station 1 – Read a New Text for Literal Comprehension

Module 9: RISE Up Station 2 – Reread a Familiar Text for Deeper comprehension

Module 10: RISE Up Station 3 – Guided Writing

Module 11: An Overview of The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics with a focus on teaching appropriate and effective word study lessons for Pre-A through Fluent readers.


Click here for more information about this unique professional learning opportunity.

Literacy Tip of the Week: August 24, 2020

Going Back To School Special: Teaching Guided Reading Face to face or Remotely - by Jan Richardson

No one could have predicted the effect COVID19 would have on our education system and children. Because most teachers are now being asked to teach remotely, I’ve received numerous questions about how to teach guided reading using social platforms like Zoom and Google Classroom. Since the first of April I’ve taught over 150 remote guided reading lessons, Pre-A through Fluent. 


I recently did a “Teaching Guided Reading Remotely” webinar for Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. You can view it here. These are the key points from the webinar (along with free resources for teaching remote guided reading lessons):


Assess – Now more than ever, it is critical that you know your readers. Have they made progress since schools closed, or have they fallen behind? Use a leveled reading assessment such as The Next Step Forward Guided Reading Assessment (Richardson and Walther, 2014) to assess a student’s reading interests and motivation, word study and phonics, comprehension, and instructional text level and reading skills. You can easily assess a student remotely. Just display a leveled text for the student to read aloud while you take a running record. Find the range at which the student reads with 90-94% accuracy. This will give you a starting point for guided reading instruction. To assess a fluent reader’s comprehension strengths and needs, use the comprehension interview.


Decide – What will you teach? Use the assessment summary charts from The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading to summarize your assessments for each student. This will help you form flexible groups based on your students’ needs. 


Guide - How will you teach guided reading during the pandemic? There are basically three options: face-to-face instruction with smaller group sizes and health safety guidelines, live remote instruction using a virtual platform, or recorded lessons for asynchronous learning.


Option 1: Face-to-Face Guided Reading Instruction

Teach students at the reading table or at their desks. Arrange students so they are positioned 6 feet apart, or position plastic table shields between students. Students should have their own word study materials (dry erase board and marker, Sound Box/Analogy Chart inserted in a plastic sleeve, and magnetic letters). These materials can be stored in a gallon-sized plastic bag with the student’s name written on it. Follow the Next Step Forward (Richardson, 2016) lesson plans. If you only see your students twice a week, consider doing two 20-minute lessons each day. Day 1 could be taught in the morning and Day 2 in the afternoon. That way, students complete two books each week.


Option 2: Remote Guided Reading Instruction

Teach students in the classroom or at home using a remote platform. You can follow the same lesson format from Next Step Forward in Guided Reading with a few modifications.

  • Each student in the guided reading group would need a computer and headphones along with their own word study materials. If you don’t have enough magnetic letters for each student, you can make a digital letter tray on a google slide. Julie Taylor, one of my consultants, has created virtual materials for remote guided reading lessons. Download the materials here


  • If students have their own computers at school, they could remain at their desks while you teach their guided reading lesson. Other students who are not in the guided reading group would do independent reading or other classroom assignments at their desks.

  • Students could read a hard copy of the book or access the book online. You could still confer with individual students by muting the other students and having them mute the volume on their computer. 

  • For the guided writing portion of the lesson, students could write in a small journal and tilt their screen so you can observe their work. Another option is to use an interactive white board on which you could model and guide students as they either write their responses in a journal or type them on a word document.

  • If you have an interventionist or teaching assistant in the classroom, you could each teach a guided reading lesson simultaneously.


Option 3: Recorded Guided Reading Lessons

The teacher could record a guided reading lesson and send the file to students to read in school or at home. Students would play the recorded book introduction and then read the book independently. Be sure to follow up with students so you can listen to them read a portion of the text and have a short conversation about the book.


Here are some examples of recorded guided reading lessons using the Pioneer Valley Literacy Footprints Kit I created with Michele Dufresne.


Although experts are predicting there will be increased variability in student reading performance, you CAN continue to teach guided reading. The best way to close the reading gap is guided reading. Despite the obstacles, take the Next Step to help your students become better readers.

Literacy Tip of the Week: June 8, 2020


Dear Literacy Friends,
The long-awaited RISE and RISE Up kits, in conjunction with The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (Richardson, 2016) and The Next Step Forward in Reading Intervention (Richardson & Lewis, 2018), are now available for purchase! Thank you to Jan and Ellen, in collaboration with the Scholastic team, for leading the way in providing struggling learners an opportunity to excel as readers, writers and thinkers, due to engagement with this blue-ribbon, literacy intensive intervention. 

In my roles as author of selections in the RISE kit (levels C-N) and lesson designer for the RISE Up kit (levels O-Z), I witnessed first-hand a commitment to respond to the globally expressed need for meaningful literacy learning opportunities for striving readers. According to some 2,000 literacy professionals from 91 countries, as noted in the What’s Hot in Literacy: 2020 Report (International Literacy Association, 2020), topics of significance include “determining effective instructional strategies for struggling readers” and “increasing equity and opportunity for all learners” (reference). RISE and RISE Up are attentive to these aspects and those associated with them; they provide opportunities for learners to strengthen word-problem solving and writing skills, as well as fluency and comprehension. 

Instructors appreciate the lesson guides and instructional cards, featured in the station handbooks. Added resources, to include picture sorting cards, comprehension card set, and a teacher portal with videos and more, make this highly effective intervention instructor friendly. 

Students are captivated by the passages in the kits. Some texts encourage learners to consider how MAX (E. Lewis) changes as a character across time; others challenge readers to ponder interesting careers as in High Flyers (C. Gwinn). Some students will busily make slime in their kitchens, in response to Let’s Make Slime (R. Coutu), while others will expand their understanding of poetry as they enjoy First Men on the Moon (J.P. Lewis).

As I deliver RISE and RISE Up specific professional development nationwide, I am witnessing an excitement for this intervention -- and for good reason! Student data reveal on average, RISE learners, who received an average of 33 lessons delivered over 6 to 8 weeks, gained 6.3 months. RISE Up students, who received an average of 33 lessons over 6 to 8 weeks, progressed 5.7 months (Richardson & Lewis, 2018). Thankfully, Jan, Ellen, and the Scholastic team have worked feverishly to make RISE and RISE Up kits available for all. I am confident that instructors and their students will thank them for years to come!

Warm wishes,
Submitted by Carolyn Gwinn, PhD
Educational Consultant and Author

RISE and RISE Up Action Research Study: The Next Step Forward in Reading Intervention by Jan Richardson and Ellen Lewis. Copyright © 2018 by Jan Richardson and Ellen Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc.


Literacy Tip of the Week: June 1, 2020


Can You Teach Pre A lessons Remotely? Many of you have been teaching guided reading remotely and have asked if it is possible to teach the Pre-A lesson this way. Michele Dufresne has written a blog about it. Click here to read her suggestions.


Literacy Tip of the Week: May 24, 2020


What is Literacy Footprints?

I recently wrote a blog for Pioneer Valley Books on the power of the Literacy Footprints Guided Reading Program. Click here to read more about Literacy Footprints and why it is such a popular guided reading program.


Literacy Tip of the Week: May 17, 2020


Are you interested in receiving virtual guided reading training? If so, read about how Julie Taylor, one of my guided reading consultants, is providing remote professional learning.

Virtual Professional Development on Guided Reading 

by Julie Taylor 

Yes, during these uncertain times, I have adapted initial guided reading training to be delivered virtually over the summer months. With a doc cam, I will work with teachers to analyze running records, group students with data on Assessment Summary Charts, score sight word assessments and complete sight word checklists, analyze word knowledge inventories, plan lesson components based on running record data, and plan for guided writing using student writing samples.

I have developed Google slides so that teachers can follow along and practice each of the word study activities, right at their own fingertips! After the training, the teachers have access to the Google slides so they can use them with their students if teaching guided reading remotely. 

Thanks to the flexibility of Zoom, teachers will be able to practice prompting and delivering teaching points in virtual breakout rooms using actual texts and student guided reading video clips.

The trainings are as close to what we normally deliver in person, and even use hands-on virtual manipulatives. Up to 100 teachers can attend each training. This is a great way for schools and districts to train new teachers so they’re prepared to begin guided reading when schools reopen. The flyers, training dates and descriptions can be found on my website: click here.

Literacy Tip of the Week: May 10, 2020


Reach Out and Teach

Scholastic is launching a new resource for remote learning: Reach Out and Teach. This week they feature lessons from Kylene Beers and Robert Probst -- and Jan Richardson and Michele Dufresne.
Visit the landing page and click to the author pages from there: click here.

Literacy Tip of the Week: May 3, 2020

Using Graphic Novels in Book Clubs
Since schools are closed, I’ve had the pleasure of volunteer tutoring two middle school boys via Zoom. Both boys are reading several years below grade level. One lives in Wisconsin and the other in New Mexico. I’ve seen them make amazing growth through guided reading. They have accelerated about one text level per week. I also wanted to motivate them to read independently, so I asked them to be in a virtual book club together. They agreed, even though they don’t know each other. Since both boys were reluctant readers, I decided to use one of Dav Pilkey’s Dogman books. It was a huge hit. After just a few days, one of the mothers sent me this email. “I love that the first thing Jaxon does when he gets done with his morning zoom lesson is go to read Dogman. He is really enjoying it. I have never seen him be so independent with reading -- without me nagging him!” We meet on zoom every day for about 10 minutes. I ask the boys to be prepared to share their favorite part of each chapter and ask a question. We are still working on getting a conversation going, but the boys are getting a lot out of the books. I’ve been able to teach them some challenging vocabulary and literary elements such as flashback, theme, and how characters influence the plot. Attached is a recording of their last book club discussion. It was the first time I didn’t support them. We have now completed two Dogman books, and the boys are ready to try a different genre.

Click here for video

Literacy Tip of the Week: May 3, 2020

Using Graphic Novels in Book Clubs

Since schools are closed, I’ve had the pleasure of volunteer tutoring two middle school boys via Zoom. Both boys are reading several years below grade level. One lives in Wisconsin and the other in New Mexico. I’ve seen them make amazing growth through guided reading. They have accelerated about one text level per week. I also wanted to motivate them to read independently, so I asked them to be in a virtual book club together. They agreed, even though they don’t know each other. Since both boys were reluctant readers, I decided to use one of Dav Pilkey’s Dogman books. It was a huge hit. After just a few days, one of the mothers sent me this email. “I love that the first thing Jaxon does when he gets done with his morning zoom lesson is go to read Dogman. He is really enjoying it. I have never seen him be so independent with reading -- without me nagging him!” We meet on zoom every day for about 10 minutes. I ask the boys to be prepared to share their favorite part of each chapter and ask a question. We are still working on getting a conversation going, but the boys are getting a lot out of the books. I’ve been able to teach them some challenging vocabulary and literary elements such as flashback, theme, and how characters influence the plot. Attached is a recording of their last book club discussion. It was the first time I didn’t support them. We have now completed two Dogman books, and the boys are ready to try a different genre.

Click here for video

Literacy Tip of the Week: April 19, 2020

This week my friend and co-author, Michele Dufresne, shares more tips for teaching guided reading remotely.


Teaching Guided Reading Remotely

The concept of how to teach children to read remotely was not even on my radar a couple of weeks ago. As the coronavirus spread and schools began closing across the country, I began thinking about how we can best provide guided reading instruction to our students at home. 

There are two very big challenges we as teachers need to overcome: giving at-home students access to high-quality reading materials and finding ways to provide literacy instruction that engages and motivates children to read and write. Here are some solutions to these challenges that will help ensure children continue to progress in their reading and writing skills in these unprecedented times.

You can find all the Pioneer Valley Books resources mentioned at the following links:

®   Read-at-Home Sets

®   Online Resources for Read-at-Home Sets

®   Resources for Remote Learning

®   BookBuilder


Ways to Get High-Quality Reading Materials into Students’ Hands

1.     Send a collection of 12 to 15 books home with students in a book bag—some at the student’s current reading level and some at the next level up. Of course, you might not get them all back, but I think the gains will be worth the loss.

2.     Make personalized books for your students at Pioneer Valley Books has opened up this subscription-based service to everyone.

3.     The Read-at-Home collection from Pioneer Valley Books provides very inexpensive leveled books that can be shipped to students’ homes for free. There are 12 books in each set (available for Levels A–N), and each level provides a blueprint of a guided reading lesson that parents can easily use for all 12 books.

4.     Coming very soon, Pioneer Valley Books will be providing digital access to their books. You can sign up for our newsletter here to be alerted when this is available.


How to Engage and Motivate Your Students Remotely

I have been giving my grandchildren reading lessons via Zoom. I’ve also been busy filming guided reading lessons (with the amazing help of Karen Cangemi) to accompany some of the books in the Read-at-Home sets. You can watch (and use!) the videos we have created so far on our website; they are available to everyone.

I have learned a few things in the process of creating these online lessons that I’d like to share with you here:

1.     You are now an actor! It is pretty strange to talk to a computer—we can find ourselves wondering, Are students listening? We certainly hope they are nodding and answering our questions! To test my video lesson, I had my son hold his phone up so I could watch via FaceTime as my grandchildren did my online reading lesson. I had to laugh when Harper held up her book to the computer to answer a question. So smile! Ask rhetorical questions. And, yup, answer your own questions after giving the kids some wait time.

2.     Include a great, big, beautiful book introduction in your virtual lesson. A carefully crafted book introduction can help students successfully read a new book on their own. Since you will not be there to help them as they read the book, the introduction needs to be longer and more detailed. 

3.     Try to get some one-on-one time with students. Can you arrange to teach your slowest progressing students a couple of times a week via Zoom, FaceTime, or a similar platform?

4.     Be creative in helping students gather together word study materials. Pioneer Valley Books has been experimenting with remote word study lessons (see our Word Study lessons at on the Read-at-Home online resources page), but students do need some word study tools. Pioneer Valley Books has a single student word study kit available (our new Words-at-Home set) and has also created some tools that can be downloaded and printed. But students can also make do with letter tiles from games or even cutout letters.

5.     Get students writing! It is challenging to support students remotely as they write, but we can help them develop a plan to get them started. For example, have students jot down a key word from the beginning, middle, or end of the story and then use those key words to retell the story in their writing. When they are finished, ask someone at home to take a picture of the completed writing so you can see the results (and encourage completion of the assignment!). Seeing their work can also help you make decisions regarding what to focus on and which skills to address. Try to arrange for students to read and share their writing with other classmates online.



I hope you will find some of these ideas useful. And I bet, like me, you have heard a lot of parents saying they never realized how challenging teaching is!

Literacy Tip of the Week: April 12, 2020

Does Guided Reading Work for Students with IEPs?

By Julie A. Taylor, Next Step Guided Reading Consultant,


“I teach special education. Can I use guided reading?” The answer is YES, YES, YES!! Students with learning and language difficulties need specially tailored instruction that meets their needs in all areas – reading text, strategic actions at the point of difficulty, self-monitoring, writing, word study, and comprehension. Since students with IEPs have such varied strengths and weaknesses, they need evidence-based, customized instruction that meets them where they are on the continuum of literacy development and grows them into proficient readers and writers (Foorman et al., Institute of Education Sciences, 2016). Through Jan’s Assess-Decide-Guide framework, teachers learn exactly what students need for instruction in all areas of literacy, and specifically how to meet those needs through teaching and instruction that is receptive, formative, active, and engaging - and most importantly wastes no time!

Jan’s guided reading approach allows teachers to plan lessons by combining elements of powerful literacy instruction into a highly effective framework that wastes no time in giving students the specialized, laser-targeted instruction they need. Jan’s approach to guided reading instruction is precisely what helps to close learning gaps for our most vulnerable students. Teachers learn to make day-to-day instructional decisions based on student needs, so no time passes without students receiving lessons that are planned especially to suit them. This continuous teaching and learning cycle helps students with IEP’s to efficiently increase their literacy proficiently through streamlined lessons that are the most beneficial for them.

Hundreds of special needs children I have taught, including my own children, are living proof of the research that has repeatedly shown that reading ability, not IQ, is tied most closely to school and real-world success (Sparks, Patton, & Murdoch, 2013).

If you are a special education teacher, I recommend using Jan’s progress-monitoring charts for tracking student progress. They are ideal for setting goals and objectives on student IEPs and align perfectly to foundational, language and vocabulary standards. For access, click here.


Literacy Tip of the Week: April 5, 2020


Virtual Bookclubs

By Jan Richardson

Because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, teachers are searching for effective ways to teach their students remotely. Here are some tips for doing virtual book clubs.

1. Form partnerships - Invite your students to participate in a book club with another student. You could group kids together or give them an opportunity to connect with one of their best friends.
2. Get resources – The children will need to read the same book. Some schools have made entire virtual libraries available for free. You could also use text that can be downloaded or free from the Internet.
3. Provide discussion starters – I just added discussion starter bookmarks to my website. Students can use them to ask each other questions about the books they are reading. Click here and here for the free book club bookmarks.
4. Get students connected – If parents agree, children can use their cellphones to Facetime with each other, or they could use an Internet platform such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. The important thing is that they read books and discuss them with their classmates.

 Here is a video of my granddaughter, Anna, doing a virtual book club with her best friend, Amalia. They are both reading The Ghost of Blackbeard, a Literacy Footprints book. View the book here.

Then watch the video  of the girls discussing the book using the book club bookmarks. 

Literacy Tip of the Week: March 28, 2020

Thank you! 

Today I want to thank you for your passion for teaching students, even when they can’t come to your classroom. 

Since schools are closed, I’ve been exploring ways to teach guided reading remotely. You could schedule a live lesson with individual students or record a lesson that children can do with their parents. I’ve been using the techniques on my grandkids, and they love the lessons. I’ve added a resource to my website called Steps To Teaching Guided Reading Remotely. Click here to access the handout. Here is an example of a three day fluent lesson with a short word study activity.

Click here for videos

Day 1 – Reading the book using the Yellow Questions strategy
Day 2 – Reread the book using the Key Word summary strategy
Day 3 – Guided Writing
Day 4 – Word Study – This could be added to one of the lessons above

You can access the book, Cat People, Dog People, Gecko People here.

For other examples of video lessons for text levels A-N click here.

I’m doing two free webinars this week. The first is this Monday, March 30, at 4 p.m. EST. Michele Dufresne and I will be presenting on our book, The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics. You can register at this link.

The other webinar will be April 2. It’s on teaching guided reading remotely. Click here to register for that session.

One more tip for online word study. I have partnered with Jack Hartman to do a series of videos on letter formation, sight words, and breaking words. Remind your parents they can view these at home on Jack’s YouTube channel here.

Stay healthy, dear friends!

Literacy Tip of the Week: March 15, 2020

At Home Learning for Challenging Times 

With the closing of many school systems because of COVID-19, keeping students engaged in meaningful learning is especially important. Furthermore, the challenge of being housebound with children who are used to a school routine can be daunting. Here are some websites to share with parents and students: 

1. Scholastic has a website that offers online books, videos, and hands-on projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and learning.  There are 20 days of resources and activities sorted by grade level. For example, students can read or listen to a book about spiders, watch an engaging video, and do follow-up activities to enhance their learning. This is all FREE! Check it out!!   (By Ellen Lewis,


2.Kids love dancing and singing with Jack Hartman on YouTube. Here is a link to my newest Break it, Say it, Make it video with Jack.


3.Did you know you can take virtual tours of museums? Here is a link to 12 museums around the world.

Literacy Tip of the Week: March 8, 2020

This Wednesday, March 11 at 4 p.m. EST, Michele Dufresne and I will be offering a free webinar on running records. We will share how to use running records to guide your small group instruction. After the 20 minute presentation, we will answer questions about running records. Click here to register for the webinar. I hope you will join us.

Literacy Tip of the Week: March 1, 2020

I am reposting a review of the RISE INTERVENTION from Amazon. It has useful information for teachers who are considering this intensive, short term intervention.




5.0 out of 5 stars RISE is a valuable resource


Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2019

Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)

One of the most powerful things about using RISE as a strategy to help student reading, is that it focusses on the content. Without understanding the content, there is no reading. Understanding and breaking down the steps to comprehension are crucial to student success.

I entered graduate study to become a Reading Teacher and Reading Specialist when my youngest was in 7th grade and he proudly brought home a certificate showing me that he could read Nonsense words at Grade 26 level. That meant he was done with the supplemental reading program in our public school. He had not learned to read better, nor had he learned to enjoy reading, but DARN, GRADE 26! He was my first child ever who struggled with reading and to see these results from a public school were devastating.

There are two sides to the Teaching Reading world. One is pronunciation and rote learning, and the other is the richer world of comprehension and learning to love words and how they enrich our world.

This is the richer world of comprehension and love of language.

Literacy Tip of the Week: February 23, 2020

For this week’s literacy tip I’m reposting a blog by Michele Dufresne on guided writing. You can view the lesson plan and the actual guided writing lesson I taught a group of 2nd graders reading at text level K.

Read blog (February 13, 2020)

Literacy Tip of the Week: February 16, 2020

Guided Writing by Tammy Seals

This week’s tip on guided writing is written by Tammy Seals, one of my Next Steps Guided Reading Consultants.


Although students may be writing more, they aren’t necessarily writing better. Teachers often struggle to teach writing standards to their students, especially their striving readers. Many students still need support with writing skills they should have mastered in earlier grades. Guided writing is the perfect tool to help them become better writers.


Guided Writing is assisted writing. It extends comprehension on the text students have read during guided reading and improves writing skills as teachers work side by side with their students (The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, p. 139).  Teachers should select a response format for writing based on the book the students read and their comprehension focus for the group. Then teachers help students create a simple plan and prompt them as they write. With transitional and fluent readers, Jan suggests teachers analyze writing samples to pinpoint a target skill for each student. See pages 198 and 199 for a list of goals and prompts for transitional readers.


Whenever I teach a session on guided writing, I ask teachers to bring a few student writing samples so we can analyze the writing and select a target skill using Dr. Richardson’s writing skills continuums (pp. 207-208). I love to model guided writing lessons to show teachers how to scaffold and assist students on the spot. I demonstrate how important it is for some students, especially English learners, to orally rehearse their sentences before they write them. This gives teachers the opportunity to support the student in developing standard English structure. Guided writing is the bridge between whole-class writing lessons and independent practice. Once you have taught students a target skill during guided writing, expect them to practice that skill during writing workshop or independent writing time. Reading word study, and writing are reciprocal processes that should be integrated in every guided reading lesson regardless of the text level. 


Guided Reading consultants are available to assist and scale this type of professional development model in schools and districts. 


Tammy Seals, M.S.Ed.

Guided Writing PD in Charleston, West Virginia

Literacy Tip of the Week: February 9, 2020

Break it, Say it, Make it!

I recently teamed up with Jack Hartmann to produce a set of engaging videos that help students break words at the onset and rime. There are five videos. Each targets a specific phonics skill such as digraphs, blends, and silent e. Remember to subscribe to Jack's YouTube channel so you can be notified when a new video is posted. Happy breaking!

Literacy Tip of the Week: February 2, 2020

Teaching children to apply what they have learned

I encourage you to read the recent Teaching Tip from my friend and coauthor, Michele Dufresne as she talks about teaching children to apply phonics skills during reading and writing.


Literacy Tip of the Week: January 26, 2020

Learn more about Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics (Richardson and Dufresne, 2019)

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with two exceptional reading coaches from West Dubuque School District in Iowa. Listen in as we talk about my newest book coauthored with Michele Dufresne. It’s called Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics. Click here to join.

Literacy Tip of the Week: January 19, 2020

For this week's literacy tip, please join me in a podcast with Greg and Jenny from West Dubuque, Iowa. We discuss RISE, an intensive intervention program based on the "Next Steps" lesson framework. I share why so many interventions fail, what RISE is and why it works. Check out the RISE Framework book here. To listen to the podcast, click the link below.


Next week we will have a podcast to share with teachers on word study.

Literacy Tip of the Week: January 12, 2020

Can whole-class instruction take the place of guided reading?

I totally endorse and encourage whole-class reading instruction, but I don’t think it can take the place of guided reading. There is a seductive efficiency to whole-class instruction that says we can save time by giving every child the same lesson. The reality, however, is that the few children who respond appropriately may be "getting it," but the others are not. Even those who respond correctly during the read aloud may have problems transferring that strategy to a text they read independently. Guided reading is the bridge between whole-class instruction and independent processing. I recommend that teachers model a comprehension strategy with a read aloud or short text during whole-class instruction, and then thread that strategy into guided reading in which the children are doing most of the work -- not the teacher. Whole-class instruction can never achieve the differentiation and scaffolding found in a teacher-led guided reading lesson.


Literacy Tip of the Week: January 6, 2020

Don’t Be Fooled:  Accurate Word Recognition DOESN’T equal Comprehension.


Many think that comprehension is the natural by-product of accurate word recognition. Just because students can read the words, however, doesn’t mean they understand what they read. Many students are given comprehension assignments asking them to respond to questions, but these activities are void of instruction on how to comprehend using the critical strategies. Comprehension can be taught through interactive read-alouds as well as during guided reading instruction.  

Character analysis is a powerful means for teaching students to make inferences.  During training, we examine the pages in Jan’s book for techniques to support the teaching of character analysis. I model for the teachers, we do it together, then teachers apply these techniques to text they are using with students. 

Rereading is a powerful contributor to comprehension. Reading material once for the gist is parallel to writing a first draft. Rereading is the process that contributes to developing deeper understanding. Expect students to reread a guided reading text as a meaningful follow-up task. You are helping them strengthen their comprehension. 

Written by: Sophie Kowzun, page turner consulting,

Literacy Tip of the Week: December 16, 2019

Michele and I will be holding office hours for 30 minutes each month to talk about literacy. This evening at 7 p.m. EST we will be sharing suggestions and tips for teaching comprehension during guided reading. Specifically, we will focus on using the progressive steps I’ve outlined in chapter 7 of my book, Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. To order the book, click here.

After a brief introduction to the topic, we will answer questions live during the session. If you aren’t able to join us this evening, you’ll be able to watch the webinar for free once it has been uploaded. Click here for more information and our office hours.


Literacy Tip of the Week: December 8, 2019

Do Fluent Readers Need Guided Reading?

I recently had a video conference with a group of teachers in Singapore.  They are just getting started with Guided Reading, but are enthusiastic about taking this next step in their literacy instruction. One of their questions was whether fluent readers really need guided reading. Fluent readers might be good decoders, but they still benefit from explicit instruction in comprehension strategies.  When they read self-selected books, they are often reading at their independent level. Since the text is easy, they are rarely required to engage in strategic actions. When we give students a complex text during guided reading, students encounter challenging vocabulary and sentence structures. They might be reading about a topic that is not part of their background knowledge. That is when they need to employ a variety of strategic actions to construct meaning. 

Literacy Tip of the Week: December 1, 2019

Mining for Comprehension in Low-Level Books


When I select a book at any text level, I look for one that supports a comprehension conversation--both at the literal and deeper level.  It is fairly easy to find good books at level C and higher since they usually have a story; however, the books at levels A and B have patterned texts such as I can, I see, We like, etc. Still, there are discussion prompts that can work with most patterned texts. For instance:


1. Retell - What did you read? Children can always retell what they read. Although this is a low-level comprehension skill, it does build working memory.

2. Favorite part - What is your favorite page? Tell us why you like that page? This taps into personal experiences and preferences.

3. Connections - What is in this book that you like to do (or eat, or play on, etc.)? What connections can you make to this book? Does this book remind you another book we've read? Kids can make connections with a read aloud book or another guided reading book. I'll often have the other book on hand so we can flip through the pages to refresh their memory.

4. Comparisons - Find two things in this book that are different and tell how they are different. Find two things in this book that are similar and tell how they are the same.  This prompt works for a lot of low-level books, and it digs into deeper thinking.  Kids can compare two fruits, two animals, two kinds of playground equipment, etc.. Here's an example --  Tap on the "Read Online" button to view the insides of the book.  It is an awesome feature that I use in presentations.

5. Inferences - Ask a Why ... question.  I find a picture that I could ask a why question about. In this book called, Looking Out, (, I could ask, "Why does Bella like to look out the window?"


6. Text features - One of my favorite things about Pioneer Valley is the text features they add for their nonfiction books, especially Explore the World series. Here is a link to the Monarch Butterfly. Go to the "read online" link to view the insides of the book. We could discuss the diagram on pages 4-5 (How does a butterfly use its legs or antennae?), or the illustration that shows the formation of the chrysalis on pages 13-14, the emergence of the butterfly on pages 15-16, or the fold-out of the lifecycle. All of the Explore the World books have these amazing text features that can be mined for comprehension discussions.

7. Photographs - Occasionally I'll find a great discussion prompt by examining the photos.  In this Level B Pioneer Valley book, called The Walk, the text is patterned and simple. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much to discuss. However, if you examine the photos, you will notice the text is told from two perspectives -- the dog walker and the dog. 


8. Asking questions - Although typically I ask questions to stimulate discussion, I love to invite the students to find a page and ask their own questions. I often have to model and then scaffold by providing question starters, but it is an important comprehension strategy that children will use for the rest of their lives.

Literacy Tip of the Week: November 24, 2019

Be Thankful

As Thanksgiving approaches, remember to give thanks for your faith, family, friends--and the fabulous students you teach every day.

My son recently shared with me a list of “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.” It’s taken from an article in Psychology Today magazine. 

1.     Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.

2.    Gratitude improves physical health.

3.    Gratitude improves psychological health.

4.    Gratitude improves empathy and reduces aggression.

5.    Grateful people sleep better.

6.    Gratitude improves self-esteem.

7.    Gratitude improves mental strength. (Click here). 


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us looked for something (and someone) to be thankful for each day?


Literacy Tip of the Week: November 17, 2019

A Word of Advice to Literacy Coaches

When I work with a district, I almost always recommend on-site coaching. However, coaches need to be well trained on the purpose and procedures of each guided reading component. They need to have good interpersonal skills, and they need to understand the strengths and growth needs of their teachers. One concept I emphasize is to offer a variety of professional development opportunities so teachers can choose how they want to learn. Opportunities can be offered district-wide or among teachers in a single school. Maria Kampen writes: “Formal settings include conferences, courses, seminars, retreats and workshops. Informal opportunities for teacher professional development include independent research or investigation, peer learning initiatives or even just chatting with a colleague in the staff room." (reference).


Every time I work with teachers and students, I learn something. Never quit learning and growing!


Literacy Tip of the Week: November 10, 2019

Confessions of a Running Record Junkie

I confess. I'm addicted to running records. I can't listen to a child read without having a pencil so I can record reading behaviors and strategic actions. Why am I hooked? It's all about responsive teaching. Running records are a window to a child's processing system. Once I understand what a reader does at difficulty, I can respond to that student's needs.


But running records are time-consuming. How can we take running records without sacrificing valuable instructional time? The answer is to embed running records into our guided reading lessons. I take a short running record on each student on Day 1. It helps me know if the book is too easy or too hard. It guides my teaching point for the group. On Day 2, I often take a running record on a single student while the others are rereading the text I introduced the day before. This tells me if my teaching had an impact on the student's reading. Did the student notice an error he or she made on Day 1? What strategic actions did the student use to construct meaning? 


I don't take a running record on an entire book - just a few pages where I would expect the student to engage in strategic processing. I quickly analyze the reader so I can praise him or her for problem solving or respond to some aspect of the reading process that the student is neglecting.


So, may I cordially invite you to get hooked with me on running records?


Literacy Tip of the Week: November 3, 2019

Help! I have too many guided reading groups.


This past week a second-grade teacher in Wisconsin asked me for advice in reducing the number of her guided reading groups. Based on her students’ reading text levels, she had ten groups! Here are some tips I gave her:

1.     Use the Assessment Summary Charts found in The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading to summarize the data on individual students. There is a chart for each reading stage, pre-A through fluent. You can download the free charts from here.

2.     As you form instructional groups, consider a range of instructional text levels. Students are rarely at one specific level. Look beyond the accuracy level and analyze fluency, the types of errors, and the student’s comprehension. skills. 

3.     After you’ve determined instructional ranges and analyzed your students’ strengths and needs, form groups based on your focus. For instance, you might have a group of students reading at text levels D/E who need to improve accuracy and fluency and another group at H/I who need help with comprehension. 

4.     If a student doesn’t fit well into any of your groups, teach that student individually with the 10-minute lesson plan or work with your teammates to share and exchange students.

5.     Consider regrouping every few weeks. As your students make progress, update the assessment summary chart and create new groupings. Keep your groups flexible and targeted. 


As for the second-grade teacher -- by using text level ranges and considering the processing strengths and needs of her students, we were able to form four groups, a much more manageable number. She left with a smile, eager to begin teaching guided reading. 


Always remember to Assess – Decide – Guide so that every student becomes a better reader.


Literacy Tip of the Week: October 27, 2019

Questions Teachers Ask about Implementing Guided Reading

I’ve repeatedly encountered questions from schools and school districts about implementing guided reading. These are some of the most common questions:

Question: What materials do teachers need for guided reading?   

Suggestion: Dr. Richardson’s Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (2016) outlines how to prepare and organize materials for each guided reading stage. Materials common to most groups include:

·      Dry erase boards and markers

·      Magnetic letters on individual trays

·      Sound box templates inserted in a plastic sleeve

·      Analogy charts inserted in a plastic sleeve

·      Comprehension cards (can be copied from Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (Richardson, 2016) or ordered from

·      Pictures for sorting sounds  These can be copied from Words Their Way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary and spelling instruction 6th edition (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton and Johnston, 2015 or ordered from

·      High-quality leveled books. If you are looking for books with lessons written by Jan, see the Literacy Footprints Guided Reading Sets for grades K-6


Question: How do I get staff trained in guided reading and what grade levels should I start with?

Suggestion: Some schools or districts roll out guided reading in phases. For example, a district this year decided to bring two schools on board initially and train their K-2 teachers in both buildings. Next year, they will be adding five additional schools and training 3-5 teachers in each building. Some individual schools bring in a consultant to train their teachers in a systematic fashion covering all guided reading stages and grade levels.

Question: Are there resources we can use to help level students based on running records? 

Suggestion: Use the Next Step Guided Reading Assessment (Richardson & Walter, 2013). Teachers should be trained on how to code and analyze running records to help target students’ needs.

Question:  How can I beat the timer and not feel rushed?

Suggestion: It will take time and practice to get through a lesson in twenty minutes. I suggest teachers use a timer for each component. When the timer goes off, they should reset it for the next component. Self-reflection is also critical. Teachers should reflect on what parts of the lesson are taking longer and why. The majority of teachers master the pacing in about six to eight weeks.

Question: How do I fit guided reading into my reading block?

Suggestion: Page 18 in The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading gives a sample reading block on how group rotations can flow during reader’s workshop. I suggest that district/school leaders plan how many reading groups teachers should be able to carry out daily based on expectations and the allotted time for the reading block. 

Question: How can upper grade teachers thread comprehension strategies from whole group to small group to independent work?

Suggestion: Chapter seven in The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is a great resource for this. It contains 29 modules with progressive steps for teaching 12 comprehension strategies. Teachers say this chapter has been especially beneficial in showing how to integrate comprehension instruction across their reading block.

There are questions and answer at the end of every chapter in Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. Each of them will be helpful to you as a guided reading teacher.


Tammy Seals, Next Step Guided Reading Consultant

Literacy Tip of the Week: October 20, 2019


Fantasy, mystery, biography, poetry, and informational are some of the genres we use during guided reading. Often forgotten, or maybe not considered, is reading for test-taking. This genre demands different cognitive skills that need to be taught for both reading the passage and answering the questions. 

To introduce this genre to your students, first download and print copies of the Test-Taking Strategies cards from Next Step in Guided Reading author Jan Richardson’s website. These cards outline the steps for reading the passage and answering the questions. Print the cards back-to-back so each student has a card to use in the lesson.

Strategies for Reading the Passage

Step 1. Before reading a test passage, students should use their background knowledge by previewing text features—such as the title, headings, illustrations, graphs, and/or charts—to make predictions. This preview sets a purpose for reading.

Step 2. As they read the passage, students should circle or underline one or two key words in each paragraph. This helps them maintain focus and attention. When students read with a pencil in hand, the result is an amped level of accountability and understanding.

Step 3. After reading each paragraph, students should use the key words they highlighted to orally summarize it. This helps them remember what they read, which will assist them when they answer the test questions.

Step 4. Once they read the entire passage, they can use their highlighted key words to retell the entire passage.

Strategies for Answering Questions

Step 1. The first step involves understanding the question. Here, you will teach students how to identify key words in each question. (Hint: these words often include academic language, such as compare, analyze, determine, etc.)

Step 2. Now teach students to paraphrase the question using the key words they identified in step 1. This helps students focus their attention and clarify the purpose of the question. Through paraphrasing, their processing is slowed down, providing time for students to comprehend what the question is truly asking. Students who struggle with reading tests often jump to the multiple-choice answers and look for something that may have been in the passage but may not answer the question.

Step 3. The next step is to have students decide if they should look back through the text. Once students know where to look, they can utilize the comprehension strategies you have taught them in guided reading. For example, if the question is asking for a comparison, students can think of what they know about answering yellow questions. Or if a question asks which statement would be included in a summary of the text, they can quickly use the Somebody-Wanted-But-So card for the text and choose the answer that best fits.

Step 4. Finally, it is important to teach students to evaluate all the choices. Students need to toggle with the answer choices by asking, “Does this choice answer the question?” or by concluding, “I think it is right/not right because …” Once an answer choice is determined, students should reread the question and their answer to be sure they’ve selected the correct response. Sometimes all the choices are lifted from the text but only one answers the question. In some cases, the question asks the reader to identify two correct answers.

Teach these steps during your guided reading lessons. Once these strategies are internalized, they will become second nature for students.

—Karen Cangemi, Literacy Consultant, Pioneer Valley Books

Literacy Tip of the Week: October 14, 2019

I posted this literacy tip earlier this year. So many have found it useful that I've decided to post it again in case someone missed it.

ELL students often leave off the endings of words when they read. In Latin-based European languages, words tend to end with continuous or open sounds, so ending sounds blend right into the initial sounds of the next spoken word. The idea of “Romance” languages stems from this common trait among Latin-based languages. Words flow so melodically from one to the next that they’re pleasant to the ear. That is not the case with English. Many endings for English words are derived from German and Dutch, languages much more harsh sounding.  

Students whose native language is Latin-based are not used to pronouncing and stopping sounds so abruptly. They have no concept of certain “stop” sounds. Non-native English-speaking students tend to read words as they would be pronounced phonetically in their native languages. 

Just a few minutes of explicit instruction during a guided reading lesson can make such a profound difference in developing students’ reading skills. During a guided reading lesson, we can prompt students to read all the way through the words and teach them to consciously pronounce and enunciate ending sounds as they read. All it takes to establish those neural pathways for English sounds is a few minutes of laser-targeted instruction scaffolded within a few guided reading lessons.

by Julie Taylor, Next Step Guided Reading Consultant


Literacy Tip of the Week: October 6, 2019

Expanding Vocabulary

Research on vocabulary acquisition has revealed that most vocabulary is learned indirectly through everyday experiences with oral and written language, and that children benefit from direct instruction in new words and vocabulary strategies (Cunningham, 2009). Students learn vocabulary indirectly when they are read to, when they read on their own, and when they converse with others, especially adults. Although there are lots of exceptions (my husband is one), children from professional families generally have richer vocabularies because they hear more words in the home (Hart & Risley, 1995). 

This week I want to suggest some steps for teaching vocabulary during whole class lessons. Next month I’ll address teaching vocabulary and vocabulary strategies during small group guided reading.

Explicitly Teaching Vocabulary During a Read Aloud

Step 1. Select a book that supports vocabulary development. It should have some challenging words that are defined in the glossary or supported by text clues or illustrations. For older readers, look for challenging multisyllabic words that contain common affixes and roots. Write 5-7 of these challenging words on index cards.

Step 2. During the read aloud, discuss the target vocabulary words you wrote on the index cards. Children have a better chance of remembering them when they can connect them to a book. Model how to use one of the following strategies:

- Substitute a word that makes sense.  
- Reread or read on and search for clues.
- Make a connection to a word the students know. If you have English learners, use common cognates.
- Find a part they know. It could be part of a compound word or an affix or root.
- Use the glossary.

Step 3. After reading the book, distribute an index card to partners or triads and have them use the word to retell part of the book.

Step 4. Make a vocabulary word wall by posting the index cards with a copy of the book cover. Use some of these fun and engaging practice activities.

Vocabulary Review Activities

GUESS THIS WORD: Place the Vocabulary cards you have taught on the table. Give a clue about one of the words by saying, I’m thinking of a word… Students try to identify the word. You could give clues such as the definition, how many syllables, the part of speech, an antonym or synonym, the meaning of the affix, etc.

PUT TWO WORDS TOGETHER: Students create a sentence using two vocabulary words you have taught.

PICTURE THIS: Place the vocabulary cards face up on the table. One student draws or acts out one of the words while the others in the group try to guess it.

HIGH FIVE: One student writes down a word from their New Word List, and the others try to guess it by asking questions. The goal is to guess the word in less than five questions.

Jan Richardson, Ph.D.
Author and Consultant

Literacy Tip of the Week: September 29

Letter Formation with Jack Hartman

I had the privilege of pairing up with Jack Hartman to create a fun and engaging video series on teaching letter formation. Click here for an engaging set of videos that teach letter names, sounds, and formation!


Literacy Tip of the Week: September 22

Four Steps for Teaching Sight Words

I have seen several videos on Youtube that have used my four steps for teaching a sight word. Unfortunately, the videos were not accurate. Click here to see the correct steps and an explanation of each procedure.


Literacy Tip of the Week: September 15th

Word Study Literacy Tip from Carolyn Gwinn


Utilize the Assess-Decide-Guide Framework to Ensure Effective Word Study Instruction--Meet Jacob!


As a nation-wide staff developer focused on the implementation of customized guided reading, I am frequently asked how to best engage learners in effective word study. Jan and Michele have authored a timely publication intended to help us design and deliver developmentally appropriate word study and phonics instructioneven more strategically. Let me offer steps to take based on the practices featured in The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics (2019)and The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (2016),as well as my long-term work with students including Jacob (pseudonym).

I began to work intensively with Jacob at the close of his second-grade year. His data revealed a struggle with skills including digraphs. As suggested by Jan and Michele, I led Jacob through a series of word study activities during his guided reading lessons. Across his journey of learning, I monitored Jacob to confirm he was utilizing his newly acquired word study skills when reading and writing. 

More specifically, Jacob first engaged in picture sorting (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 34) to help him hear sounds and link them to letters. Once he accurately and confidently sorted pictures featuring digraphs, we then focused on making words, which challenged him to visually scan words to check for letter/sound accuracy (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 36). As he demonstrated proficiency with making words, he then engaged in sound boxes (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 38) with the intent of helping him hear and record sounds in sequence. The sophistication of his word study activities increased as he displayed proficiency. I repeatedly witnessed the value of strategically embedding word study into his guided reading lessons. I celebrated as he applied what he was learning about letters, sounds and words when reading and writing. 

A summary of the steps taken to help Jacob become a more proficient word-solver, which are presented by Jan and Michele in their Assess-Decide-Guide Framework (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 20), is as follows: 

·     Assess:Examine Jacob’s data to determine word study needs and strengths

·     Decide:Determine the word study activities aligned to Jacob’s need 

·     Guide:Plan and teach needs-based word study instruction.

Try Jan and Michele’s framework. The results are invigorating and rewarding for learners and teachers alike!

Author: Carolyn Gwinn, PhD; Educational Consultant (

Go hereto order your copy of Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics