Teachers for Teachers | It’s Monday! You Don’t Want to Miss This New Professional Resource
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It’s Monday! You Don’t Want to Miss This New Professional Resource


The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo


This weekend we set aside time to read Jennifer Serravallo’s new book, The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers.   Although this book is large in size, (including 300 lessons) it is accessible, practical and easy-to-read. In the introduction, Jennifer compares her book to a cookbook and we completely agree with this analogy. The Reading Strategies Book is a cookbook for teaching readers in grades K-8. It is filled with thought-provoking ideas to teach students what they need to learn. This book will be a “go-to resource” for teachers as they analyze data and plan instruction. As coaches, we know we will want a copy on hand to reference during our data meetings and planning meetings. Once we determine what students need to learn from our data, this “cookbook” will provide “a comprehensive collection of ideas that you can use right away and from which to inspire your own innovations.” (p.1)

When you pick up this text, don’t skip the “Getting Started Section.” In this first chapter, Jennifer shares a hierarchy of learning goals to help educators use assessment data to identify instructional goals for students. She shows the assessments she uses to learn more about readers and how she analyzes the data. Jennifer also explains the differences between a goal, a skill and a strategy:

  • Goal: “Is based on assessment data – the focus of your ongoing work with the student (p. 5).”
  • Skill: “Within each goal there may be one or more skills that a reader would need to work on (p. 5). “
  • Strategy: “Effective strategies are like my favorite recipes; they teach you how to accomplish something that is not yet automatic in a broken down, step-by-step manner (p. 6).”

This book emphasizes formative assessment and sharing data with students to help them set goals and work on goals for extended periods of time. These goals “guide the teacher’s individualized instruction and provides opportunities for teachers to provide feedback to students about their progress towards these goals.”

The remainder of the book is organized around 13 learning goals:

Goal 1: Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emergent Readers

Goal 2: Teaching Reading Engagement

Goal 3: Supporting Print Work

Goal 4: Teaching Fluency

Goals 5 -7: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Plot and Setting, Thinking

About Characters, and Understanding Themes

Goals 8-10: Supporting Comprehension in Nonfiction: Determining Main

Topics and Ideas, Determining Key Details, and Getting the Most from Text Features

Goal 11: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language

Goal 12: Supporting Students’ Conversations

Goals 13: Improving Writing about Reading

These chapters are filled with specific lessons and helpful ideas to teach readers. Each lesson describes the skill being taught and explains when in a reader’s development each lesson might be most appropriate. The anchor charts in the lessons visually show how to teach a step-by-step process (strategy) to students.   We know we will be using the lesson ideas and anchor charts as a tool when we create our lessons. Here are just a few highlights we want to remember:

Goal 1: Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emergent Readers

We believe this is a critical chapter and a topic we are thinking a lot about right now. Research has continually shown that reading earlier does not correlate with better readers in the long run. This chapter provides many ideas and lessons to engage our young readers in literacy work that is not conventional reading. The ideas in this chapter are constructivist and developmentally appropriate. We love the emphasis on talk, play and movement.

Goal 3: Supporting Print Work

When teaching students to decode at levels D and above, Jennifer shares a lesson titled, “Group Letters That Make Sounds Together (p. 91).” This is such an important strategy for readers to learn as they begin to read less predictable text. When students look for parts in a word and do not think about which letters go together, it can be misleading. For example, a reader might read the word, “father” as “fat – her.” This student must learn to first look at the word and think about which letters go together (i.e. “In the word father “th” and “er” go together”) so they can solve more complex words and make meaning.

Goal 5: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction – Plot and Setting

We are excited to use Jennifer’s ideas about how to help transitional readers retell series books. She shows students how to use what they know about a series when reading and to connect the important parts of each chapter to understand the text.

Goal 12: Supporting Students’ Conversations

We love the ideas Jennifer shares to help students have meaningful and authentic book club conversations without specific roles. In multiple lessons, she shows students how to keep the conversation focused on big ideas and ways to build ideas off of one another. One of our favorite lessons in this section is titled, “Taking Risks with Gentler Language (p. 339).” In this lesson, Jennifer shares ways students can explain an idea they are unsure about – “I’m not sure but maybe…   It could be… Has anyone thought about…?”

Goal 13: Improving Writing about Reading

In this chapter, Jennifer explains ways to teach students when and how to write about their reading. Her lessons show students how to take notes so that they can remember their ideas and how to use these notes to craft responses or “write long.”   We are excited to try, “Idea Connections (p. 336) and Pile It On (p. 337).” These lessons show readers how to make connections between several isolated ideas to develop a more sophisticated theory.

The chapters in The Reading Strategies Book build upon one another and the lessons in each chapter move from simple to more complex.   In each lesson, Jennifer provides important information about matching text complexity and a reader’s learning goal.  This information helps us think about a learner’s needs, the level of text they are reading, and the proficient reading research. Careful consideration of these factors ensures that the skills and strategies we are teaching match what learners need and are developmentally appropriate.

We would love to hear your thoughts about The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers

  • Melanie Meehan (@MelanieMeehan1)
    Posted at 20:17h, 25 May Reply

    I have this book coming in this week–I’m looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the preview!

    • Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:51h, 26 May Reply

      Hi Melanie,

      We would love to hear your thoughts about the book. The way it is organized makes it a wonderful reference tool.

      Tammy and Clare

  • Michele Knott
    Posted at 20:51h, 25 May Reply

    Really looking forward to this book! I preordered it in February but it doesn’t look like I’ll get my copy until tomorrow. Hard waiting!
    Thanks for your synopsis.

    • Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:52h, 26 May Reply

      Hi Michele,

      Let us know what you think of all the lesson ideas. We thought the anchor charts were particularly helpful.

      Tammy and Clare

  • Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye)
    Posted at 01:17h, 26 May Reply

    Now we need one for middle school! Sounds like such a great resource 🙂

    • Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:09h, 27 May Reply

      This is for students in grades K-8 -so it is perfect for middle school! You should check it out. We only work in K-6 — it would be great for you to review with a middle school perspective. Thanks
      Clare and Tammy

  • Linda Baie
    Posted at 03:12h, 26 May Reply

    I am retiring, but still will read this, I know. It looks wonderful, and your review made me want it more. It’s already on my list, a summer read!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:10h, 27 May Reply

      You will love the introduction – so respectful of the profession and so smart!!!
      Clare and Tammy

  • Carrie Gelson @There's a Book for That
    Posted at 04:03h, 26 May Reply

    Sold me! This looks amazing!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:10h, 27 May Reply

      You will love it ! It is so smart and respectful of teacher expertise. We love her work.

      Clare and Tammy

  • Sue Umpleby
    Posted at 06:29h, 26 May Reply

    I had the chance to take a quick preview of the book and thought it was an incredible resource. Just like everything Jen writes, the organization and clarity make it such a powerful resource, because it’s easy to use. It makes so much sense and is so uncluttered. It helps a teacher to focus.
    My only wish is that it was also available as an iPad app. I think it would be wonderful to have this resource available at your fingertips while working with students. I’m wondering if other people think this would make sense. Perhaps letters to Heinemann would encourage app availability, too.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:13h, 27 May Reply

      We forwarded your comment on to Jennifer — we think it is a great idea! Thanks for suggesting it.

      Clare and Tammy

  • Mentor Teaching Moves – First Graders Make a Reading Plan #T4TMoments | Assessment in Perspective
    Posted at 10:29h, 02 February Reply

    […] more information on this book, check out our blog post about it.  On Monday we also blogged about Jennifer’s new book– The Writing Strategies […]

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