Category Archives: Strategy & Skill

Looking Through Different Perspectives: Setting Reading Goals A common thread: Intention, Engagement, Observation

Literacy Coach:

Intention: The Wheel of Strategic Action (WoSA) is a powerful teacher tool.  One that is worth meaningful study.  However, there seems to be a disconnect from the tool to its true power.   If we  turn the wheel into a physical structure in the classroom it connects to strategies making them more relatable to children.  It makes this theoretical tool become a viable influence on learning.  Everything changes when we take theory to practice by placing it in the hands of teachers and students alike. Now we have a  structure that supports student reflection and goal setting, while reminding teachers to keep the reader at the center of instruction.  A place to house teacher made and student made tools.

Engagement: Bringing the WoSA from a graphic to a physical  structure offers many invitations for engagement. The most important thing to know

is that it is deeply contextualized through story.  A story about building a Skyscraper (an analogy for critical thinking).  Its power rests in the belief that there has to be room for  student voices as co-creators of that story so it is meaningful to them.  Not only do they add their voices to the story, but they also lend their efforts towards creating strategic tools.

Observation: The goals students selected for themselves were goals I would have chosen for them.  While conferring with students I found that the next logical step was to have children generate tools that they could use for  themselves or each other.  This was very empowering because as students negotiated strategies that worked for them they took their learning to the highest level by creating a tool to represent that strategy.  My scaffold for this work was carefully worded open ended questions such as – what would a tool for this look like? I sent children off to get supplies and they got right to work and created tools that really helped them make applications for their own learning.  

Classroom Teacher:

Intention: Jenn and I have been studying the WoSA and creating structures in the classroom that reflect this process.  One of my core values  is that instruction in my classroom is consistent and has a strong underlying structure.  Another, is the importance of goal setting as a way to put learning in the hands of students.  In an effort to find a way to marry the two, Jenn and I created our reading wall; a place to display a visual representation of the reading process and pair it with tools to be used for goal setting and independence.  

Engagement: Student engagement is the key to making the structure  successful.  It  has to be meaningful to the students, it has to fit in with our learning and there needs to be time set aside to explore it.  Children love choice and this is built into setting goals- they have the power to choose what they will work on and how. They engaged in reflective work through conversation about their own reading lives.  It became personal because it was part of their own narrative.  Students are given a voice in creating the structure and have personalized it to represent their thinking.  It is important that teachers  show that goal setting is valued by setting time in each day for work around individual goals.  The WoSA is a continuous part of  the learning in the classroom and is not something that seems disconnected from their real learning- it has a true purpose and place.

Observation: Students felt empowered.  They were able to verbalize the strategic action they were setting their goal around and how it would help them with their reading.  When given a choice of tools to support this work, children were evaluating the pros and cons of a variety of tools and selecting the ones that fit their needs best.  If they were not satisfied with the choices, they worked collaboratively to create tools that would work for their learning style.  Students felt proud of their work and were eager to have conversations with peers about it.  Every moment was valued and children were focused on the job at hand, planning how they would get started.


Intention: Students shared their intentions for goal setting through a grand conversation around reflecting our their reading lives (what they do well and what they are working on)  “Can my goal be something I already do good but I want to work on more?”  “ I want to try different things that I don’t do already!”  

Engagement: Students are excited about setting goals, making tools and working in the process.  It starts with deep reflection and then students quickly wrote their names on post its.  They clammered around the wall placing their post its on the strategic action that they wanted to explore. They were dedicated to this work and wanted to do it.  Tools were chosen or created- something that would support them in their learning.  Students got right to work because they knew this work was important. This level of engagement sparks agency.   

Observation: Here is what our students had to say.

  • “We all need different tools.  I want to use the award ribbon to critique my books and he wants to use the thumbs up and thumbs down.  I don’t like that one because I like to give awards instead. We can use whichever we want.”
  • “We worked really well together to make our tool and Mrs. DeRosa likes it so much she is going to put it in the folder for the rest of the class.”
  • “When we talk about books, the both of us never talk about what is going to happen.  We just keep reading.  I think it will be interesting to stop and guess what is going to happen.  This will slow us down a little bit.”
  • “She likes to make her own pictures to go with the connections.  I am not very good at drawing, so I think I am going to use the one she makes or maybe I’ll use the one in the book. I could try both.”
  • “Wow, she is able to use my tool to figure out the words.  That really helps.”
  • “This makes sense I think I should make a diagram of the word so you can see the parts.” She drew arrows and colored parts of the word.

From Skill to Strategy Access Points for Fluency

Fluency instruction is a critical foundational skill.  We recently had a Twitter chat on #G2Great where (if you missed it click here ) we explored the nuances of what it means to be a fluent reader.  We believe that fluency should be measured by Fountas & Pinnell’s Six Dimensions Fluency Rubric .  We are thinking the best way to teach children to be flexible and supportive of the transfer of fluency work is to put the focus on comprehension, while  attempting to define the work though context.   We will define our context through genre:

Poetry, Informational, Narrative

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Our Plan

  • Pick mentor texts that represent each of the above genres- text that the children are familiar with and understand (Comprehension is key!)
  • Explain that fluent readers adjust their reading according to genre- narrative readers should sound like storytellers, informational readers should sound like expert reporters and poetry readers should have feeling (Set a purpose)
  • Use the mentor text to model how to fluently read each genre (Watch Us)
  • Provide fluency tools that align with each genre (You can do it too).  We used Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Book
  • Plan opportunities for active engagement when children are using the tools to practice reading fluently excerpts from the mentor texts (Try it)
  • Promote transfer as the children work independently with tools in hand to practice these strategies (On your own with tools to guide you)

We have a plan, we have a structure, and all that’s left is to put it in the hands of students and sit back and observe.  We think it’s important not to overwhelm students  with a lot of tools – but rather to place the tools strategically so that children can work with greater independence.  

Strategy Tool Skill  – Pathways  to Agency

Comprehension instruction revolves around teaching discrete skills  – when really it should be rooted in does this make sense to you?  Connectedness to texts makes comprehension tangible. This is highly differentiated so success will be defined through individual pathways for learning.  Another important question: how do we provide instruction in meaningful opportunities that promote independence? We believe it begins with making it a concrete structure in the classroom.  One that can be readily put to use in the hands of students tied to individual goal setting.

Classroom environment is so much more than an aesthetically pleasing decor – it is a skillful placement of tools, nested in an intellectual framework.   Explicit instruction through modeling is one piece to the learning process the other is to promote independent practice so that students can outgrow themselves.  Strategies promote access points along the way to greater skills acquisition.  Students need a way to understand the process through metacognitive work – they need to identify a task and have intellectual routines for accessing higher levels of critical thinking.  Having a strong foundational understanding comes through strategic actions for “Thinking Within the Text”.  This allows for deeper comprehension for “Thinking Beyond the Text” or “Thinking About the Text”

If proficient readers are not aware of these strategic actions; why then do inexperienced readers need to know about them?  Proficient readers have outgrown strategies – they are proficient in the process of reading/ writing.  For these reasons, strategy teaching is done best when it’s done with brevity.  A simple stepwise approach that is taught with the intention that it will be forgotten.  Each wedge is a key for understanding.  Demystification is a form of enlightenment  that can be supported through relevant goal setting an endeavor that is informed through daily conferring.  

If engagement means having the resolve to do challenging work, we have to meet the  social emotional needs of the learners themselves.  What do children need to be successful?  Children are egocentric they don’t want to wait, or to delay in immediate gratification.  A classroom structure for tools becomes that space for children to go – instead of the teacher or a friend.  

Children are natural collectors – they crave to have something tangible in their hands that belongs to them. We can put the learning (literally) in their hands.  This is work that is on-going and we will continue to highlight as the week progresses.