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Maddie's Story: Book introductions at higher levels

Maddie readingAs Maddie moves into reading higher text levels I am thinking about the book introductions I need to provide her with.

I have noticed some teachers start to give very skimpy book introductions to students as they climb into higher texts. Unless I am using a book where the students are VERY familiar with both the plot and language (such as The Three Little Pigs) I feel it is important to provide my student with a good book introduction, no matter what level they are reading at. This is true when working with one student or a group of students in Guided Reading. 

The first reading of a new book is not a test. It should be a successful first reading. Marie Clay says, “The teacher must plan for the child to have in his head the ideas and the language he needs to complete the reading. In the first year or two of leaning to read it helps if the child knows what the story is about before he reads.” (Literacy Lessons: Designed for Individuals, Part Two: Teaching Procedures, p. 91)

First, I needed to select books carefully, considering Maddie’s strengths and challenges. For this day’s lesson, I selected Help for Rosie, a level 14/H book. Maddie has read several other stories about Bella and Rosie so she is familiar with the characters. This will be helpful because the language and new vocabulary in this story is challenging. She really likes stories about Bella and Rosie so I can count on her being enthusiastic about the book. I want Maddie to work on solving new, more complex words and I feel this book will provide those opportunities.


I anticipate that started to shake and pretend to be me will be challenging phrases so I will use that language when I introduce the story. Since Maddie is very strong at using language I will not to have her practice difficult phrases by repeating them. I have found it is enough for her to hear the phrases. It then leaves a bit for her to solve on the run. This story may offer up a new challenge for Maddie. This story requires some interpretation by the reader. Bella wanted to help Rosie. Why didn’t she want to put on the pink sweater and pretend to be Rosie? As Maddie begins to read higher-level books she will have to use interpretive skills more often to understand the plot of the stories. This book provides an opportunity to practice those skills.

Having thought about the book, the supports and challenges, and how I will introduce it you can now see what happened in the actual lesson. Here is a video showing my book introduction. I think she quickly shows an understanding of the plot and anticipates the outcome.  

Here are some clips from the first reading of the book following the book introduction. In this first clip, notice as Maddie comes to started to shake she uses just the first letter of started and says shake but quickly self corrects. She is using all sources of information – the meaning, the language structure and the visual information to quickly correct herself! I am very pleased with this processing.

In the next clip, I help Maddie solve the word shook and then prompt her to also check the meaning after she says, shook her hand instead of shook her head. Meaning can break down after a student has done some problem solving. Another prompt I could have used is “Try that again” or “Try that again and make sure everything looks right and makes sense.”

In this last clip you can see that Maddie does very well with the phrase pretend to be me but then struggles some with She pushed her pink sweater to Bella. She tries the word pretend again but quickly knows that doesn’t make sense.

Overall, I am pleased with the opportunities this book gave Maddie to both read long stretches fluently and practice problem solving. Help for Rosie was the first level 14 book she read. (On top of that, she had been away on vacation for a week.) I think she is doing quite well.

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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