Before Reading

Before you begin reading, prepare children for what they will be working on that day.

Each time you meet with a group, spend a few moments setting up the lesson for the day and putting their learning and the book in context. Each time you meet with the group, you will:

  • Introduce the book
  • Set the teaching point by telling the children why you have called them together, what they will be learning and how it will help them as readers.
  • Demonstrate the teaching point.

What you do before reading will change a bit depending on the level of your readers and if you are introducing a new book or continuing a book that you’ve already begun. Consider the needs of all the children in the group. Think about how you can support your language learners to make sense of the text. You can help them by connecting language and ideas to other books they’ve read with similar topics, themes, and purposes.

Just remember to keep this time short and to the point. Most of your Guided Reading time should be devoted to the good stuff – the actual reading!

Guidelines for Introducing Books

Think about both the length and depth of what you will say to children to introduce the text. What amount of background knowledge do your readers actually need for this particular text?

Identify parts of the text that might be tricky for your English language learners. Introduce them to tricky sentence structures, figurative and idiomatic language, and new vocabulary.

Keep in mind that children need opportunities to do the work on their own with the book. Remember the ultimate goal is to provide them with just enough information that they will be able to tackle the text without frustration, but still read it and encounter some challenges.

Plan exactly what you will say or ask. Decide if you will tell children the background information they need, or ask them questions. In other words, are you accessing their background, just providing background, or a mix of both?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your introduction brief. You want to get the children reading as quickly as possible. The bulk of Guided Reading time should be spent with you supporting readers during reading.

  • You may spend a little time helping children with features of the text that might be particularly challenging such as unknown sight words, vocabulary, or proper names.

  • But don’t strip away all the challenges. You want to give the least amount of support you can in order for the children in the group to be successful.

  • What you do in a text introduction depends on the text itself and your children’s experiences with similar structures and content. You may or may not need to access background knowledge depending on how familiar children are with the content.

  • Book introductions will vary based on the group’s reading stage. Emergent readers need a more thorough book introduction while the more advanced reading stages will only need minimal introductions.

Book Introductions by Stage of Reading Development

Introduce the book you will be reading to the children. A good book introduction will get children interested in reading the book and help them build or access the background knowledge needed to understand the book. Your introduction will be different depending on the reading stage of the children in the group. Follow the guidelines below for some ideas for an effective book introduction.

Emergent Readers

  • Do a thorough picture walk. Lead children as they look carefully at each picture.
  • Model for children how to describe the first page and then ask them to describe the other pictures.
  • Use some of the exact words that are in the book.
  • Teach children the repeating language pattern in the book.

“Today, we are going to read a book about wheels. It is called Count the Wheels. Let’s do a picture walk together. On the cover, I see a girl on a scooter. The scooter has two wheels. I also see a boy on a unicycle! A unicycle is a bike with only one wheel. Wow! Turn to the first page. Tell me what you see… (Talk about each page. Make sure children can identify all the things with wheels.)

This book has a pattern. ‘Look at the wheels. The bike has two wheels.’ I am going to read the first two pages, so you can hear the pattern and how it changes. Then we will use the pattern to read the rest of the book together.”

Early Readers

  • Do a detailed introduction, but not a thorough picture walk.
  • Start by telling children who is in the book and give a quick description of the problem.
  • Ask children to look at the pictures and begin thinking about how the story will go.
  • You may discuss some of the pages as a group, but you don’t need to use the exact language in the book.
  • Introduce unfamiliar vocabulary, sight words, and any unfamiliar concepts.
  • Preview any tricky words that are difficult to decode if children won’t be able to figure them out on their own.

“This book is about all different kinds of frogs. When you read, you are going to find out lots of special things that frogs can do. Take a few moments to look at the pictures and think about some of the things you’ll learn about frogs….You can see that each page starts with the same question. ‘What can frogs do?’ And then answers it! Let’s all turn to page 12. What is the frog doing on this page? Yes! He is climbing the tree. Do you see how he grabs the trunk with his feet and just sticks there? Today we are going to….”

Transitional Readers

  • Do a shorter, more focused introduction.
  • Invite children to preview the text on their own.
  • Introduce text structures and text features that are new and unfamiliar to the readers.
  • Briefly teach new vocabulary or tricky language structures.
  • Introduce words that children won’t be able to decode on their own.

“Today we are going to read an informational book about elephants. Take a few moments to look through the book to get an idea of what you will be learning about…This book has lots of the text features that we’ve seen in other informational books - headers, bold words, and captions. I want to show you something you might not have seen before. Turn to page 22. Do you see the word in parenthesis and italics? This is a pronunciation guide. The author spelled out the word phonetically so you’ll know how to say it….Today as you read…”

Early Fluent Readers

  • Only a minimal introduction is necessary to refine and internalize reading strategies.
  • Invite children to preview the text on their own and then make predictions.
  • You may draw attention to unfamiliar text structures or features or tricky vocabulary and language.

“Today we are going to read a book about a pioneer family who traveled across the US to bring apple trees to Oregon. In the author’s note it says that this story is partly true and partly tall tale. Take a moment to look through the book. What kinds of things do you think we’ll learn about the pioneer life? What parts look like a tall tale to you?”

Explain and Demonstrate the Teaching Point

After you’ve introduced the book, explain exactly what the children will be working on that day as they read. In child-friendly language, tell your children:

  • The teaching point
  • Why it was chosen
  • How it will help them as readers

Right before children begin reading, briefly demonstrate the skill or strategy you want children to try. You can model, explain, or think aloud as you teach the behavior.

Emergent Readers

Set the Purpose Demonstrate the Teaching Point
“We’ve been working on different ways to figure out words we don’t know. Yesterday, we practiced looking at the pictures to help us read. Today we are going to add another tool to our reading tool box. We are going to practice getting our mouths ready by saying the first sound of the word AND checking the picture together. Now you will have two ways to know if you are reading the right word! Let me show you what I mean…” “Watch me as I read this page. ‘Look at the wheels. This _______ ‘hmmm… I’m going to check the picture. It’s a school bus! ‘Look at the wheels. This…’ Now I am going to get my mouth ready by saying the first sound /b/ bus. The word must be bus, not school bus. ‘Look at the wheels. This bus has four wheels.’ Did you see what I did? I used the picture, but I also got my mouth ready by saying the first sound. It helped me figure out the word! Okay. It’s time for us to read the book. Let’s practice our new tool.”

Early Readers

Set the Purpose Demonstrate the Teaching Point
“Sometimes we get so caught up in figuring out words that we keep plowing on even if what we read doesn’t make sense. Today, as you read, practice asking yourself, ‘Does that make sense?’ If it doesn’t, go back and try to fix it. Let me show you what I mean…” “Watch as I read this page. ‘What can this frog do? This frog can grow onto a tree.’ Wait a second! That doesn’t make any sense. Frogs don’t grow on trees! I’m going to go back, and use one of my tools to see if I can fix that up. ‘This frog can… grab! This frog can grab onto a tree.’ Did you see what I did? I reread when it didn’t make sense. I used one of my tools (I looked all the way to the end of the word), and fixed up my mistake. Okay, now you try it. Keep asking yourself if what you are reading makes sense. If not, go back and reread to see if you can fix it up.”

Transitional Readers

Set the Purpose Demonstrate the Teaching Point
“Sometimes, authors tell you that they are introducing an important vocabulary word by putting the word in bold. Today, I want to show you what to do if you see a word in bold. You are going to stop, ask yourself, ‘Can I figure out what this word means?’ and, if the answer is ‘no’, look it up in the glossary. Let me show you how I do this…” “Look at this word in bold in the middle of the page. It says ‘African bush elephants live on the savannas.’ I know savanna is an important vocabulary word because the author put it in bold. And I know there will be a definition in the glossary. Let’s look this up to see if it helps us picture what a savanna is. Let’s all look in the glossary… ‘Flat, hot lands covered with grass and few trees.’ I’m glad we looked it up! That is very different from the jungle the African forest elephants live in. As you are reading today, look out for bold words. Use the glossary if you are not sure what the word means, or if you want more information.

Early Fluent Readers

Set the Purpose Demonstrate the Teaching Point
“The book we are reading today has a ton of good, rich vocabulary words. We can learn a lot of vocabulary through reading if we pay attention to words that are new to us. Sometimes we can figure out the gist of the word by the words around it. Let me show you what I mean…” “Listen as I read this sentence. ‘And now we were set for a showdown with the most ornery varmint of all: Jack Frost.’ I’m thinking about that word ‘ornery.’ Even if I don’t know exactly what it means, I can tell a lot about the word from the rest of the words in the sentence. I know a showdown is a fight and a varmint is like a pesky animal – something you don’t want to have a showdown with! So ornery must be a negative word, like pesky or mean. I know I wouldn’t call someone ornery, unless I was looking for a fight! As you read today, look for some words that are new to you. Write them down on a post it and see if you can figure out the gist of the word from the other words in the sentence or paragraph. We can look them up later to see how it works!”

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