This summer, I've been doing a book study on Jennifer Serravallo's book, The Reading Strategies Book, lead by Crystal from Teaching Little Miracles.

If you've missed this book study, you can catch up with these links!
Getting Started
Goals 1 & 2: Emergent Reading and Engagment
Goals 3 & 4: Decoding and Fluency

Today, we are talking about Reading Comprehension....the end goal for our sweet readers!  Let's dive in!!  And read all the way through to catch a FREEBIE!
{affiliate links are included in this post}

Goal 5: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Plot and Setting


At the end of the day, we read as adults because we understand and enjoy what we are reading.  So, we want that for our kiddos too!  For me, comprehension has always been a struggle.  I am that reader who reads and rereads the same paragraph 3-4 times so I can understand it.  And I naturally pick easy fiction reads as an adult that I don't have to "think" too much about.  I know all the skills, but it's just something I didn't completely learn well until I started taking education classes as an adult.

So, that influenced me as a teacher.  I want my own kiddo and my firsties to understand what they are reading!  Here's a look at some of my favorite strategies from the plot and setting section of fiction comprehension.

Strategy 5.3: What's Most Essential

This is one of my go-to comprehension strategies in first grade!  In this strategy, kids tell the characters and setting and then summarize the beginning the middle and the end.  I usually use these graphic organizers from my guided reading packet, but I also love Serravallo's foldable she used too!

What I love most about BME graphic organizers is they are the perfect scaffold for both sides of the spectrum.  I love the ease of differentiation with just one tool!

When I have kids that do not comprehend well, this organizer helps give them focus and order to retelling the story.

And when I have kids that comprehend so well that they want to give me every little detail in the story, this organizer helps them lock down on 3 major events from the story.  It gives them a way to think about the most important parts and filter out the supporting details.

Strategy 5.9: Who's Speaking

In this strategy, readers "try to have a mental picture of the people in the scene to keep track of who is speaking."  After all, if you can't figure out who saying what, you can't understand the story!  I have used this strategy in whole group reading before during our Wizard of Oz reading unit.  You can read about the "Who Said That?" whole group game we play in this blog post.

But I have not used this strategy much in guided reading--I have no idea why!!  In our Wizard of Oz game, we connected it to character traits and inferring.  But in guided reading, Serravallo suggests connecting this to comprehension of the plot--which I LOVE!

I loved the way she color coded the dialogue for the characters!

Goal 6: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Characters


Serravallo says,

"Underneath the umbrella of 'fiction comprehension,' I consider plot and setting to be first...and character to be a very close second."

In general, I think first grade teachers do a great job of identifying characters and a not-so-great job of understanding characters. #raisingmyhandtoo  In my mind, it's very easy for me to brush that aside for older grades to take care of.

But we have to work hard to teach both of these aspects of characters along side each other....just like we teach visual and meaning cues together in decoding.  Here are my favorite strategies from this section.

Strategy 6.3: Put On The Character's Face

In this strategy, kids look at the pictures and think about the words to infer the character's feeling as they read.  I loved the real picture chart of kid faces for each emotions!

As I was reading this strategy, I was trying to visualize what this could look like in guided reading.  For my firsties, I think it would be super engaging to have some mirrors (this is the one shown in the picture) at the reading table.  I could have 2-3 pre-determined spots to stop and check on character feeling.  We would have sticky notes in those spots.  Then, at each spot, the readers would stop, think about the text and pictures, infer the character feeling and then put on the character's face with the mirror!  How fun is that??

Strategy 6.1: How's the Character Feeling?

This strategy goes hand in hand with the other strategy, but I love that it extends the concept into text evidence.  In this strategy, students  make sure they "care about how the characters feel, talk, act and think."  They imagine themselves to be "in the same situation and think about how we felt or would feel."

What I love most about this strategy besides the extension is the scaffolds she gives.  She gives our little readers categories and questions to answer about the character and his/her traits during reading time so that they can make a better inference on how the character feels.

I made a character feelings organizer FREEBIE for this strategy to add to the other organizers in my guided reading packet.






This week in our book study we are talking about Goals 3 and 4: Decoding and Fluency.

If you've missed this book study, you can catch up with these links!
Getting Started
Goals 1 & 2: Emergent Reading and Engagment
Goals 3 & 4: Decoding and Fluency
{affiliate links are included in this post}

Goal 3: Supporting Print Work {Decoding}


Decoding is pretty much our jam in first grade, right?  I have all of the decoding strategies posted (found HERE) in my room just like any good primary teacher... But sometimes we get so caught up in decoding and sounding out words (visual cues), that comprehension suffers (meaning and syntax clues).  As Serravallo says on page 76...

"Sometimes, as children are learning to read, they overemphasize on one or two of the sources of information or use each inconsistently.  This affects their accuracy rate and often ultimately limits their comprehension."

I believe that we have good intentions, but it is easy to fall into the trap of sounding out, segmenting and blending and leave comprehension at the door.  I'm as guilty as anyone else!  The way I've tried to get around this is by forcing myself to pair a VISUAL strategy with either a MEANING or SYNTAX strategy at the same time, instead of teaching them in isolation.

As I blogged about last week, I am focusing on getting your mouth ready in our tutoring sessions (which, interestingly, I didn't read a specific strategy for this one in this chapter...maybe I missed it, but I use this all the time!).  But each time we discuss this strategy or I prompt my kiddo, I make sure and say, "Look at the picture, then get your mouth ready."  That way I'm prompting her to use meaning and visual clues together.  I believe that in the long run, this with make her a more successful reader.

Strategy 3.7: Slow Down the Zoom, Zoom, Zoom to Make Sense

I loved the wording in this strategy.  I typically have prompted with, "Stop. Think. Does this make sense" which worked just fine.  BUT, I love the race car strategy and think this would work well for engaging boys. Basically, you tell readers to try not to be a zoom zoom reader, but to slow down and think during reading.

I thought it would be fantastic to give little reading cars/hot wheels to kids who are tactile and let them drive their car the pace they are reading.  When they get to a spot they need help making sense of, they would slow down or stop their car.  I don't think this would be appropriate for lower level students, but levels E and higher I think it could be a powerful visual for kids!

Goal 4: Teaching Fluency


Just as decoding is my jam in first grade, I feel like I have to work really hard to give fluency the attention it deserves.  But as I've seen with my own kiddo, even modeling fluency transfers to kids and goes hand in hand with comprehension.  There were so many great strategies, but I narrowed it down to one that I seem to focus a lot on in first grade.

Strategy 4.6: Punctuation at the End of a Sentence

As Serravallo mentions, once kids hit a level D or so, it is blatantly obvious who can recognize and attend to punctuation.  I think missing out on reading the punctuation is one of the biggest reasons kids struggle comprehending text.  It completely changes the meaning when punctation isn't read!

I use many of the same prompts mentioned for this strategy, but I love how she talks about having kids "look ahead" to get ready for the punctuation!  I have this chart hanging in my guided reading area and I give each punctuation mark and hand motion to help give some TPR to my kids that like to move! :)


Here are the motions I use for each punctuation mark...
? - scoop and slide your hand to the air as your voice sliiiiiiides up!
! - make your hand blinking for excitement as your voice reads excitedly.
. - make your hand into the stop signal as your voice stops to read the period.
, - snap your fingers as this is a quick break.

I don't usually focus on the comma until about level G or so, but then we talk about how a period is a longer break I can take a breath for and a comma is as quick as a snap.

It seems tedious, but it really does work.  And it's amazing how much more kids understand when they read with expression and attend to punctuation!


It's not just the students that enjoy getting new school supplies.

We teachers love a good cart full of fresh school supplies!  I love the smell of fresh crayons, the crisp corners of the crayon boxes, the sharp tips of pencils and the bright colors of cardstock and flair pens!  I don't know a single teacher that doesn't enjoy getting new supplies every year.

Here's my list of school supplies that every teacher should be shopping for before school starts!
{This post includes afflilate links}

1. Pre-Sharpened Pencils

I don't know why it took me almost 7 years to buy in to these things, but man was my teacher life better once I discovered pre-sharpened pencils.  There is nothing teachers loathe more than standing at the pencil sharpener for 28 hours a day sharpening pencils. #badmathintended

When I bought school supplies for my entire class instead of kids bringing their own, this was at the top of my list.  And when I moved schools and the kids brought their own supplies, this was STILL at the top of my list.  Those kids that bought the pre-sharpened pencils to add to our stash? Yeah, they were pretty much immediate teacher pets! :)

2. Pencil Sharpener

But, alas, even the pre-sharpened pencils dull up... #wompwomp  And when they are dull, raise your hand if you still use this guy?
Yeah, no one?  That's what I thought.  This ol' guy was one of the first things to get taken down in my room my first year teaching.  Not only was it in the most horrible spot EVER, but I just can't even deal with the squeaks and squawks that go along with this guy. #realtalk

So, when my kids do have to sharpen pencils (I have a helper that does it every afternoon for me during our afternoon stack and pack time!), I love using this battery powered sharpener.  I don't have to worry about where to put it, and if my helper is still sharpening after our stack and pack time when we read aloud our chapter book at the end of the day, she can take the sharpener in the hallway to finish or in a quieter corner of the room!  Word to the wise though: I buy an extra one every year because every now and then one just dies on me.  Doesn't happen every year, but it's good to have an extra just in case!

3. Cardstock

Not much makes me happier than fresh, crisp cardstock arranged by color in my cabinets.  It's pretty much my happy place.  Astrobrights cardstock and colored paper are must haves on my list!  The only complaint I have is that I can never find a packet that has ALL the rainbow colors included!  Why do we always leave out purple?!? I need a complete rainbow, please!

4. Flair pens

My most favorite thing to write with.  Ever.  I love all the colors and I love that the ink doesn't leak and gel up like regular pens. #grossesmeouteverytime

My favorite part is using them for records and color coding.  I use a different color for each quarter on my report cards.  And I use different colors each time I do a running record to keep my records from running together!  See what I did there? :)

5. Colored Sticky Notes

Yes, I could use the banana yellow sticky notes my school keeps in the office for us, but what fun is that?  I'd much rather buy packs of bright color stickies that get the "ooooohs" and "awwwwws" out of my firsties!  We love using them to color code our class graphs, to respond to our books during guided reading, and to spell with color coded sticky notes during phonics!  I usually several packs of these to last me through the year!

Of course, I love writing odds and ends on bright sticky notes, but these are my absolute favorite for organizing guided reading.

They are slick like plastic and last the entire year...even through all of our flexible grouping switches and such.  Plus, I can color code them to match my color reading groups. #winning

6. Dry Erase Markers

I refuse to live in a world where only black, red, blue and green dry erase markers exist.  Since dry erase markers are my main squeeze for anchor chart drawing and writing, I have to have color.

I buy 2 packs of these colored markers every year and they last me all year.  Some years, I luck out and have enough left over that I only have to buy 1 more packet!

Even with my interactive whiteboard becoming my main source for number talks, calendar math, writers' workshop model lessons, and more, I still use dry erase markers enough to make this a must have purchase in my book!

7. Laminator

Am I the only teacher that loves to laminate?  From the smell to the warm film to the crisp edges when I cut it...I love every bit of it!

Having my own small laminator in my classroom was a life saver!  I still laminated things on our large school laminator, but when I didn't feel like booking it all the way to the library or was in a time crunch, this small laminator was PERFECTION!  The laminator is still going strong almost 6 years later and a pack of 100 thermal sheets was enough to make it through an entire school year for me (and sometimes longer!)

8. Paper Cutter

Last but not least is a paper cutter!  I bought mine as soon as I was hired for my first teaching job.  I learned from my mentor when I was interning that it's just not worth the walk down the hall to use a paper cutter you may have to wait in line for...and that is probably going to be dull and add those fuzzy edges to your cut.  You know what I'm talking about!  That's a major sad face situation for this girl.  I had my own and it stayed sharp and crisp enough all 10 years for me...and my teacher buddies loved coming to borrow my paper cutter too! :)

What's on your must have list of teacher school supplies?


It's the second week of our book study on The Reading Strategies Book, by Jennifer Serravallo.  And I'm LOVING this book so much!!

If you've missed this book study, you can catch up with these links!
Getting Started
Goals 1 & 2: Emergent Reading and Engagment
Goals 3 & 4: Decoding and Fluency
{affiliate links are included in this post}

This week we are talking about Goals 1 and 2: Supporting Emerging Readers and Engagement.  For me, these two goals go hand in hand...so, let's look at them separately and keep in mind how they relate too!

Goal 1: Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emerging Readers


It probably wasn't until I had my own kiddo at home that I was super passionate about these little readers.  Through parenting, I learned that a few things were vitally important to the success of my kiddo as a "conventional reader" as Serravallo calls it!  It's imperative that my son knows that he CAN read.  Even when he couldn't conventionally read.  He CAN hold a book.  He CAN retell a story.  He CAN infer based on the pictures and what he is reading.  He CAN learn new vocabulary.  So many times, we say things that make our pre-emergent readers aware that they "CAN'T" read... and then they're less motivated or ENGAGED in reading to even try! :) I'm more aware now than ever that we must watch our language with our own kids and our school babies! #steppingofsoapbox

I loved so many strategies in this section, but I've narrowed it down to 2 for the sake of time! :)

Strategy 1.7: Act It to Storytell It

This is a favorite in our house.  Cooper LOVES reading in character voices.  He loves copying our voice after we read to him-- "Let me try, Momma!"-- and he even loves making his stuffed animals look like the characters in the story.  Talk about making a little on feel like he is a REAL reader.  This strategy helps him feel a part of the reading, while also giving him the chance to hear and practice fluent and expressive reading.

And....let's talk about how engaging it is to listen to and practice character voices! {See how connected these goals are???}  I'm just a firm believer that significant time spent reading aloud, talking about books, and modeling fluent reading, is a prime indicator of how ENGAGED readers will be when they begin to read independently.  And in the last year, through parenting experiences, I've come to believe that this time spent may be the single most important factor in reading success later on in life.  Looking back over my 10 years in the first grade classroom, I can definitely pick out kids who were and were not read aloud to, who had or didn't have parents and adults that talked about books or modeled fluent reading!

Our favorite stories to do this with are Elephant and Piggie Books.  These books are FULL of opportunities for character voices and acting out!  They are short enough that my guy can easily say, "Let me try!" after I read a speech bubble and he can imitate my fluency!

Strategy 1.2: The WHOLE and Teeny Tiny Details

I absolutely LOVED this concept and it was something I have not directly done with kids before... Yay for new ideas!  The basic idea is to go back through a story after you've read it and use your finger to circle the whole page and answer what it is about.  Then, use your finger to point to one teeny tiny detail and describe that.  This is such a great way to work on summarizing, main idea, and supporting details with emerging readers...and another great way for parents to talk about stories with their kids!  I especially love this with non-fiction books!

Goal 2: Teaching Reading Engagement


I remember many years having first graders--mainly boys--who couldn't care less about reading.  And unfortunately these were almost always my kiddos who were struggling a little in reading also.  Many times, what I noticed was that if I could just get these kids to a guided reading level F, they would be set.  It seems like many of the books available to read below an F just aren't that engaging content wise--especially for boys.  Yes, we tried non-fiction readers as much as possible, but it just seemed like around E-F it started clicking and they were engaged and reading suddenly!

Like I mentioned earlier, engagement is such an important key to reading success and it starts early.  I love how Serravallo says,

"Sometimes to help students with engagement, you need to work on comprehension."

Yes!  That's why I believe pre-emerging skills and engagement are tied so closely together!  But when it is JUST engagement, this was my favorite strategy from the book...

Strategy 2.1: A Perfect Reading Spot

I love this so much.  And with flexible seating being the way to go these days, it really can be easy to do!  I left the classroom on "mommy leave" before flexible seating became super popular, but even then, my classroom was set up with several options: pillows, chairs, stools, an old desk, and the original flexible seat...THE FLOOR! :)

I loved letting kids find their favorite book nook and did find that something that simple did help kids focus on their reading better.

And I adore this anchor chart she had in the book.  Totally wish I would've used this when I was in the classroom!

Student choice is so important.  And empowering them to make them feel like they have control over what is happening can be so powerful....and the key to good engagement!

What were your favorite strategies from Goals 1 and 2?




This summer, I've been tutoring a sweetie in reading.  We are working a lot on finding ways to remember to get our mouth ready for the first sound.  You know, instead of like making up whatever random word comes to our mind??? :) #realtalk

Here's a look at some of the strategies we are using and how I used this in my first grade classroom!
{This post contains a few affiliate links.}

Pop The Bubble

This is one of my favorite whole group games to use with my kiddos no matter what content we are learning.  It works well for whole group and small groups, and is a fun way to keep everyone engaged while practice knowledge level skills! :)

I simply show a task card on our interactive white board.  I chose pictures and words purposefully so that their can be more than one option for each picture.  The picture below could be "gift" or "present."  And I quickly know who is getting their mouth ready and paying attention to print by who answers "gift" and who answers "present!"

When students have their mouth ready and know the word, they but an air bubble in their mouth to let me know they are ready. (No shouting out!)

Then, we all kids are ready, I simply say, "POP!" and they all blurt out the word together!

To add even more engagement, poke your finger toward the group (don't really poke kids, K? :) ) to "pop" their bubble without saying anything.  It's amazing how many eyes you can keep on you doing this! :)

Guided Reading Warmups

In small groups, I love using these task cards when getting our mouth ready is our focus strategy for reading.  There are two sets of task cards in this resource...one with support (highlighted beginning sounds) and one without (no highlighted sounds).


There are several ways we do this.  We just go through them flash card style and play Pop The Bubble.  Or, I give each kid a card to practice on their own and then we go around and quickly share!

Mouth Ready Gloss

This idea came to me this summer through tutoring and my tutoring kiddo is LOVING IT!  I used this Burt's Bees and took off the wrapper.  Then, I just used some colored sharpies to write on the side of the chapstick.  Last, I added a small piece of washi tape to the top cap for some extra decoration!


Of course, this wouldn't be sharable in the classroom! :)  But you can find cheap chapstick here for less than $1 each if you need to buy several for a small group or class set!

You can find all of these materials from this post in my Reading Strategies Intervention Packet!



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