by Irene Fountas, Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative at Lesley University
In the last two decades, you may have noticed how much we all have learned about the importance of differentiating instruction in our literacy teaching. We have learned the importance of meeting our students where they are and bringing them up “a staircase of text complexity” to grade level or beyond grade level performance in focused, explicit small group instruction (http://heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/pdfs/WhitePaperTextGrad.pdf). In our recent article published in The Reading Teacher (http://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingMaterials/FountasPinnell_revdReadingTeacherArticle12_2012.pdf), we celebrated the many accomplishments of literacy teachers in their journey of developing expertise and shared new challenges for the years ahead. You might find the article worthwhile as a jumping off point to discuss where you see yourselves in the journey.
As we move forward and address the Common Core State Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy), think about how important your expertise in guided reading will be in helping your students achieve the goals. Your teaching will need to be precise and powerful, so your students can achieve success. It will be important that you engage your students in text introductions that help them learn how the text is structured and involve them in discussions that help them learn how to support their thinking with evidence from the text. You may use the technique of close reading to revisit particular pieces of text for brief, extra attention and analysis. As you engage your students in reading a wide variety of genres across a level, be sure that you include about half informational texts in your selections. As you select and use texts, capitalize on opportunities for your students to think across texts and build deep understandings of concepts and ideas. And, as is always important, the “thinking together about texts” will need to assure that students take away the bigger ideas or messages the author communicated.
Alongside the work in guided reading, your work with shared texts that represent grade level complexity will also be important for all students, regardless of their instructional reading level.
This is an exciting time for literacy teaching. When you view reading as thinking, all your students can bring their voices to every text and benefit from the rich art and voices expressed by the world of authors and illustrators. Our students will be able to grow up in our schools realizing the power of their own literacy.