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Teaching Tip: Good book introductions in Guided Reading

A good book introduction is critical to a successful guided reading lesson. The introduction serves as a scaffold to the readers. You tell students enough about the text so they will be able to read most of it with ease, but you also leave enough opportunities for problem solving. Fountas and Pinnell say we need to “shape the introduction to support readers’ ability to successfully process the text. The introduction sets the stage for effective reading of the text."

To look more closely at book introductions for beginning readers, I am going to share a video of Jan Richardson, author of The Next Step in Guided Reading, introducing a group of ELL students to Bella’s Bone, a Level D book. Here are some things I notice about how Jan prepares the students to successfully read the new book.

1. Jan starts by telling the students what the story is going to be about. This is a critical feature of a good book introduction. It is important to give students a synopsis of the story. This summary should only be one or two sentences and tell students the main idea of the book or text. It should also entice students to want to read the story.

2. Next, Jan guides the students to look through the book. They quickly look at the pictures and discuss who the characters are.

3. Jan reads a tricky language structure in the book (“Go away, Rosie.”) and then has the students repeat the language. It is very important to both say and have the student repeat unusual or new language structures in a book.

4. Next, Jan prepares the students for a difficult new word in the book: away. They clap the parts and locate the word. Preparing students for a word that may be difficult to decode can be very helpful. At Level D, students are just learning how to problem solve new words beyond the first letter. Clapping and looking at the word will help prepare them to successfully decode the word when they start reading.

5. Jan has the students turn and talk about one of the pages. I love this tactic. It gives all the students an opportunity to speak and share ideas about the story. It doesn’t take long and everyone gets to talk.

6. Next, Jan tells students that Bella is going to make a growling sound and she demonstrates how it should sound. This helps students build meaning and fluency.

7. The last thing Jan does before they start reading is have them locate a new sight word: this. Since the word is probably new to the students and shows up on almost every page, it will be a helpful word for them to know before they start reading. At early reading levels, I always recommend doing this. Jan’s introduction is brisk and lively. She doesn’t have long discussions about each page but gives students a quick opportunity to see and think about what is happening in the book. They are all ready to read the story! Before you watch the video, you might want to read Bella’s Bone online. I hope you find the video as helpful as I do.