Friday, April 29, 2016

Inquiry into digital annotation

How might this inquiry project inform one I hope to conduct using digital tools in high school literacy classrooms? 

Here's an excerpt from Douglas Reeves' Reframing Teacher Leadership

Project: A mark in time. A study on the impact of text marking and reading strategies on student reading comprehension.
Abstract: We wanted to know if the implementation of reading process before, during, and after reading activities) coupled with text-marking strategies would improve student reading comprehension. We began our journey to discovery in January 2007 and tracked our students' progress through April 2007, Text-marking was evaluated using techniques and a rubric developed by Scholastic Red. As well, student work was evaluated for implementation of the reading process as we moved through the unit. Students were also given pre- and post-surveys aimed at gathering information concerning attitudes about reading and strategies or techniques the students used to assist in their comprehension of text.
The thing I like best about Reeves' book is the appendix, where he lists inquiry project after inquiry project, some involving a whole school, some led by a single teacher interested in pursuing a nagging question. Flipping through and skimming those projects, the book conveys to me a tone of possibility. When I talk to k-12 teachers who are interested in using digital tools in their classrooms, those conversations have that same hopeful tone of possibility. With an eye toward mining possibilities, I read these inquiry projects catalogued by Reeves and I wonder how emerging digital tools create opportunity for powerful iterations on these projects, most of which were conducted with a spirit of innovation along with traditional tools.

The specific project I cited above, creatively titled "A Mark in Time," asks broad questions about text marking and reading comprehension and uses specific tools from Scholastic. In this post I will explain how this inquiry might evolve to study the use of digital annotation and its potential role for civic action.

While I'm not familiar with the aforementioned Scholastic rubrics and strategies, I have a background with reading strategy instruction and annotation. In my middle school literacy class I used to pass out page after page of Fountas and Pinnell's Thinkmarks, which are behind a paywall now, but represented pretty creatively on Pinterest. As an example, the screenshot below, taken from Jennifer Findley's blog post, Reading is Thinking: Using Thinkmarks, shows a straightforward, if elementary, application of the concept. In my class, I used to use this version and ask students to record their thinking, then I'd give them feedback on the thinking strategies I saw evident. We'd use these annotation-friendly bookmarks to prepare for book groups, to record our ideas during guided reading, and to inspire reading responses.

Jennifer Findley's Thinkmarks

My Thinkmarks borrowed from Fountas and Pinnell

Over the course of six years in that middle school literacy classroom, I used different instructional approaches with these bookmarks but I'd always emphasize the importance of stopping and jotting thoughts while reading, particularly as a way of preparing to talk about text. Not all students embraced Thinkmarks, but I remember a few who loved writing them and tried to dazzle me with the sheer volume of their recorded thoughts. One girl brought me a stack of 100 Thinkmarks after a long weekend, slapped them on my desk and said, "Bam! 100 Thinkmarks!" Such are the joys of the 7th grade literacy teacher. 

Social annotation online provides a new and potentially rich dimension for thinking about text marking strategies. The online tool enables readers to write digital notes alongside online texts. A reader might take write a huge number of private notes visible to only herself, before publishing her most important three or five notes to for the class to see. She might also choose to make them public online to initiate a larger conversation. 

What approaches?

The inquiry project in Reeves' book sought to study the effectiveness of one instructional approach. By reflecting on how I used to ask students to use Thinkmarks, I can imagine a number of strategies I might ask students to try on which I could then study. Here are two:

1. Read through a text or text excerpt and jot down all the questions you have. After you've done this, read through your questions and try to answer them yourself with the information you have now. You will find yourself selectively rereading and also making inferences and predictions. What else do you notice when you try to grapple with your own questions? Share your most important annotations with a peer and ask them to respond to your inference or prediction. 

2. Find a complex sentence in a challenging text, then do this:
Close reading activity for annotating a sentence from NYT. #iste12 #engchat— Joe Dillon (@onewheeljoe) June 25, 2012 Share your rewritten sentence with a peer. Ask them to check your replacement of pronouns and to provide feedback on your interpretation of figurative language. 

These two approaches would yield a few types of student work- the original annotations and the peers' responses- that I could monitor for improvement. I could also ask students to tell me how helpful these strategies and the peer responses are for supporting their meaning making. 

What about saving the world? 

As Sherman Alexie might say, reading teachers are trying to save lives. A worthy inquiry, in my mind, should effectively bridge the work of helping students make meaning of the texts they read while also helping them see how they can make change in their community and the world. That heady goal will require more than Thinkmarks piled on a tired teachers desk. Hopefully, it is the kind of goal that will drive teachers to look to digital tools and the web for the possibility they hold. 

Interested as I am in social annotation, and tinkering the way I do with* in professional learning settings, I'm inspired by the real world innovative use of the tool that might inform reading instruction and English language arts. I learned recently about the organization Climate Feedback at that is working to "to comment on the accuracy of a variety of climate change media articles using the emerging technology of web annotation." 
Screenshot of the Climate Feedback website,
This type of annotation effort is a model for educators because these scientists approach online texts purposefully, leveraging the flexibility of the web in order to publicly comment on the credibility of texts and reporting. This type of purposeful, interest-driven reading and response is why we want learners to make sense of texts and develop agency as writers in the first place. In 

1. For students: Immigrant students, or students whose parents are immigrants, have an important expertise with the issue of immigration. Teachers might invite students to annotate texts in popular media to publicly comment on the way journalists treat the issue. 

2. For teachers: Teachers who are interested and experienced with using digital tools in the classroom have an important expertise in an emerging field. Those teachers might organize to comment publicly on the popular media's portrayal of the role digital tools play in schools, and how digital tools are marketed to schools. 

Moving forward, I hope to post about the development of inquiry projects like this that mark an evolution of sorts from those described in Reeve's Reframing Teacher Leadership. I also hope to collaborate with educators who have interest in exploring the inquiry possibilities I've outlined. By this coming August, I plan to report out at a conference (teaser below) that is in the planning stages now. Please place any questions or ideas you have in the comments below. 

* When I look at this post and the associated annotations, I'm excited by the sheer volume of notes alongside this chapter from a curricular resource. My glee at the responses is akin to that eighth grade girl who slammed Thinkmarks on my desk. I look at the margins and think, "Bam, 76 notes!" 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

City planning, love and #clmooc the Beatles have a message for reading? Remember their song: All you need is love? I’ve been thinking about it for months in relation to the teaching of reading and writing. The more I thought about it the more ridiculous it appeared and I found myself embarrassed for having even contemplated it. What a mockery it was, after all! Of course it isn’t all we need. Love? Passion? How superficial. How sentimental. How inappropriate to even consider its role in an education system high—jacked from the beginning by a bitter Puritanism which declared if we were relaxed and engaged and having fun we couldn’t be learning anything.

It must be love if I set my alarm on a Saturday. I awoke this morning to log in to yet another Hangout with Terry and Kevin. Before the stirring effects of my morning tea warmed the synapses, I listened to these two talking about connection and community. What would come of the hashtag if #clmooc didn't happen? What's the right way to respond to people who are already asking if #clmooc will go this summer? They discussed the strange idea that #clmooc became interesting not when it grew but when it shrank.


Shrunken as it was on this Saturday morning, #clmooc was Terry, Kevin and I talking in a hangout about the nature of community,  and our responsibility to a community. Terry said, "I'm not opposed to chaos." Kevin and I laughed and faked sarcastic surprise. Later Terry asked, "What if this work isn't about connectivist learning? What if it is about love?" 

Another idea that resonated was this: #clmooc builds capacity, and educators need capacity. 

Whose capacity? 

Ours. Yours. A new teacher's. 

Capacity to do what? 

On this Saturday morning, my friends and partners in online learning and I became city planners, planning a new city,-Capacity, we'll call it, by remembering other cities we'd visited and loved. We remembered the streets we'd walked, a few quaint shops we'd visited, and even the breathtaking view of the harbor we gained when we hiked a short trail on the outskirts of town. We remembered the people we'd met in those cities we loved and how our visit had enlivened them and their reception had enlivened us. This morning we remembered in order to plan a city. Capacity. Population 3? Surely our population in Capacity is bigger than 3! 

What would come of the hashtag? 

After all, if #clmooc didn't take place this summer, what would happen to the hashtag? We didn't talk about it for more than a moment or so this morning, probably because it is so sad when a hashtag falls apart. I hate to think of it even now. After a while the pound sign stops talking to the two C's, falling out over money perhaps, but is it really about the money? The O's will get wrapped up in work and other projects. L and m turn to drugs and it starts to become uncomfortable to have them over... with the kids and all. Frankly, it is too depressing to think about what happens when a hashtag disbands. 

Saturday morning commitment

Before Kevin's wifi took a coffee break,  and just before he had to take his son to baseball, we talked about opening the doors and turning on the lights of #clmooc this summer. We became sure that energy and electricity wouldn't be a problem. We committed to making a Google doc, spreading the word, and, barring the apocalypse, unlocking the doors of #clmooc. There are already some folks playing outside, just waiting. What room should we open first? Maybe we can just see how many folks we can squeeze into this room Sheri Edwards drew recently:

The smiling faces certainly set the right tone but seating might be cramped. It might feel a little small but we've already decided that it might be more interesting when it is small. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reading teachers reading together about teaching reading; An experiment in social annotation

An experiment in social annotation

In order to participate in this experiment, you'll first need to...

Create a accounts - 5 min

Follow steps 1 and 2 here to create a account.

After you've done steps 1 and 2 on the link above, this video tutorial will help you see how to share your thinking in the virtual margins of the text below.

Our shared text

The text excerpt below comes from A Guide to the Reading Workshop, Primary Grades, by Lucy Calkins, pages 34-41. I have posted them here so that these pages can be used as part of a multimedia project- an experiment in social annotation. Happy reading and annotating! Oh, and if you're interested in the results of this experiment, you'll need to install yourself and see what teachers wrote in the digital margins.


The books that are labeled A/B are designed to help students develop concepts about print such as left to right and one-to-one correspondence. These books encourage readers to come to know a few high-frequency words and to use those words to help anchor their reading. At levels A and B, students will rely on many familiar texts (especially texts read in shared reading and texts created in shared writing) to be able to approximate reading.

There are a few key challenges to keep in mind while helping readers progress from emergent storybook reading into level A/B books.

Challenges for Readers of Level A/B Books
• Children must be able to locate one word as a unit in a line of print. Then, they must locate two words.
• Children continue to draw on a sense of story, book language, and concepts of print. Meanwhile, their reading begins to be constrained by what the text says, and especially by a language patterns.
• Children must begin to match their voice to print, so one spoken word matches one written word, using one-to-one correspondence.
• As children work on reading with one-to-one matching, as well as carrying a pattern across the book, they will also work on using the pictures and what is happening in the text to help them solve words. Books that work for these readers are written and illustrated in such a way that they provide this support.
• Children need to learn a few high-frequency words (such as the, and, and so on) so they can recognize them quickly.
• After children can identify a word as a unit and before they move to the next level, they should be able to identify the first and last letter in a word.
• Although children are not using letter-sound correspondence to read books in levels A/B, they should be able to identify a core of upper- and lowercase forms of letters and locate these letters in words.
• Children should be learning sounds for consonant letters. (Note: This is an ongoing process. Not knowing the sounds of all consonant letters should not be used as a reason to hold students in level A/B books.) (Adapted from Fountas and Pinnell 2006)

Building on Children's Developing Skills and Concepts
When children move from emergent reading (which might involve reading well-loved story books) to reading books that are leveled A/B, both you and the kids need to remember that all the skills your students drew on to produce renditions of books like Caps for Sale are still important now as they read books with one line of print per page. Their work with level A/B books is not something altogether new, but rather a continuation of the work they were doing with familiar storybooks. The hope is that they will continue to draw on their sense of story as they get started reading these sparse, heavily patterned books. Some level A/B books actually have fairly rich storylines embedded into the illustrations, and children will bring their knowledge of stories to their work with these texts, which will help them to see and to follow those storylines. Some books will not. But it should be noted that the level A/B books that provide a balance of all three sources of information will be most helpful to kids—that is, the books that have a story and that use language that sounds like natural talk. Books that say, "one cake, two balloons, three presents" prevent children from being able to draw from their own natural language as a source of information. You want young readers to orchestrate all three sources of information while pointing to words as they read and using the pictures to help them think about what the words are saying, so it is best if your book collection doesn't contain too many level A/B books that have neither a storyline nor language patterns that will be familiar to your children.

Meanwhile, as your students work on locating known words on the page and using the pictures to solve new words, the patterns in the books they read will be especially supportive. Prior to now, when children looked at stories like Caps for Sale, they looked at the pictures, thought about how stories go, remembered that particular story, and then essentially made up the story. Back then, the text supported that process but didn't constrain it as much as happens now.

Now the hope is that children will pay closer attention to the words on the page. That is why these texts have fewer words and sentences. The books are written so that readers can try to read with one-to-one matching (saying one 

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word for every print word)—no more, no less. The goal is to track the print. At these very early stages of reading development, reading words accurately is not essential.

To support your students who are reading books at levels A/B, you'll need to find a few ways to help them grasp the language pattern in a book that they do not already know well. When they were rereading storybooks at the emergent literacy stage, they knew how the book sounded because you'd read it to them, over and over. Now, when reading books at levels A/B, they continue to need similar help. Because level A/B readers are not yet conventional readers, they may only be able to produce a text that is similar to that which is in the book. It is helpful, therefore, to introduce some of these texts through shared reading and interactive writing. Some of these texts can also be introduced by providing a meaning-based book introduction.

Let's think, for example, about the book Can I Have a Pet?, by Gwendolyn Hudson Hooks. If you read through the book, which won't take long, you'll see that on every page, the little girl asks her mother, "Can I have . . . ?" a different animal: a monkey, a tiger, a zebra. The story ends with the girl asking "Can I have a fish?" and the answer, "Yes."

Perhaps you might be tempted to do an introduction to this story by encouraging the child reading it to memorize the repeated language stem. You might say, "The book goes like this . . ." and then you read it, accentuating the repeating line, then say, "Can you repeat that?" and the child recites back the refrain, "Can I have a . . . .” Although that introduction does provide syntactical support (the S in MSV) by highlighting the language pattern, it is not a meaning-based text introduction, which is what I recommend.

A more helpful introduction would highlight the meaning in the story. A close look at the book reveals that the girl and her mother are at the zoo together. So, as the girl asks the question, "Can I have a . . . ?," she and her mother travel from animal to animal at the zoo. A sign even points out that the girl will first travel to the monkey, the zebra, the tiger, which is the sequence that the book follows.

In a meaning-based introduction to this book, then, you'd say to the child, "This book is about a little girl who wants a pet. She asks her mom, 'Can I have a . . . ?' But then, they go to the zoo. So when she gets to the monkey cage, instead of asking her mom, 'Can I have a pet?' I bet you know what she will ask for. So when she asks her mom, 'Can I have a . . . ?’ what do you think she will say?"

Note that in this instance, you are providing the child with syntactical support (one of the three needed sources of support—meaning, syntax, visual) and also with meaning support (telling the story about the girl at the zoo), The child will likely say the word monkey, drawing on the picture to support her in reading that word.

When you and the child read the next page, you can look at the picture of the girl and her mother walking up to the tiger, and you can say to the child, "I bet you know what she says on this page! She wants a pet, so what does she say?" That prompt is far more helpful to a child than "Do you remember the pattern for this page?" Children are best at using meaning to help them read, so engage them in doing so when you can.

This detailed discussion addresses the introduction for just one book, and hopefully, your students will have ten books in their baggies and a new collection of ten books each week. (After all, each book takes just a few minutes to read.) You may be wondering how on earth it's possible to provide this sort of support to all those books for the entire class.

Know straight away that it won't be, and you'll just do the best you can. Remember, at the start, children can become familiar with many of these texts through shared reading. The good news is that, as children return to these books and reread them, they'll discover more themselves. Across these days, you'll also have repeated opportunities to introduce the books. Introductions need not all be done prior to children working on their own in a book.

But here are a few suggestions. First, some of your kindergartners could start level A/B books earlier in the year than others. Some will be ready for these levels during the first week of the school year. Don't wait. Avoid launching all your students into this work at the same time.

If you have a shortage of books, you may have only five books in each child's baggie. In that case, make sure that partners share the books in their baggies with each other. That gives an individual reader access to ten books at a time, and it means there are half the number of books in play for you to support. Of course, it is ideal to have multiple copies of level A/B books so you can give book introductions to a small group of readers at one time, then challenge them all to continue reading on their own, but this is not apt to happen. If you populate your shelves with duplicate copies, you'll need twice as many books. When children are shopping for books, make sure that you are engaged in that work and that you give little book introductions as they gather books up into their baggies.

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Finally, you can make little books out of familiar songs and poems. For instance, you might make books out of the song, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." These types of books, songs, and chants give children some texts in their baggies that they can start on right away.

Supporting New Skill Development

The next challenge for readers of level A/B books revolves around one-to-one matching. At these levels, you'll begin to help your students match their voices to print, so that one spoken word matches one blob of print (one written word) in a one-to-one fashion. Remember that when children were generating their own made-up stories to accompany the pictures in storybooks, they were producing their own language. They weren't constrained by someone else's language. Now your book introductions can help children stay with the printed page.

You can draw on an array of methods to support that learning. Reading with these children, you may say, "Each time I say something, I will point to a word—one word said, one word touched." Tell them that one-to-one matching applies to writing as well as to reading. "If I want to write, "I love my mom,' how many words do I need to make to write that?" You can record four blanks. "Let's touch these and read them back to see if we did this right.” Then touch each of the four words as you read the sentence together. There are other ways to teach the concept of one-to-one matching; the important thing to note is that generally children learn this easily. But that doesn't mean that they'll read every level A/B book accurately. They won't. You need not keep children reading at these levels until they do so with accuracy. Once children grasp one-to-one matching, you can graduate them to levels C/D, While at those levels, they'll begin to read with more accuracy.

For example, a child may read a page that says, "Can I have a tiger?" and say, "Can I have a lion?" and you may think, "No, that is wrong." Had the child read the sentence, "Can I have a duck?" then it would be fair to call this incorrect—a duck looks nothing like a tiger, and therefore the child who says duck is not using the picture to help solve the word. In this instance, however, the child reading the word tiger as lion is not a problem. Although she may have confused the name of the two animals, she did make a syntactically correct substitution. You are not yet asking children to look at V (letter-sound relationships) in level A/B books, and both lion and tiger fit the syntax (they are names of animals) and the meaning (they're both from the cat family) of the sentence. Later, when the child begins reading level C/D books, you can go back to this one and teach to the mismatch of beginning letter sounds in tiger and lion.

Another way to support students at this level is to do interactive writing with them. For example, you might support a child or a small group in learning how to read and write with one-to-one matching by writing a book, with the child's help, that names the parts of the child's bedroom, recruiting the child to illustrate it. "I like my bed. I like my bureau. I like my chair. I like my cat." If the child is a soccer player, she can help you write a book that goes, "I like to kick. I like to pass . . ."

It's helpful to do lots of repeated work around one-to-one matching. When a child reads without matching, you might say, "Oh, no, somethings wrong. You need to make it match. Watch me make it match, then you try to make it

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match." When the child reads in a way that doesn't match, you could mimic what the child did, again not making it match, and ask the child to help you. "You read like this," you might say, and read without matching. "Does that match? Can we try it again?"

It's enormously important for children to learn to recognize a few words instantly. These are referred to as known words. If a child recognizes the and and, and is trying to read with one-to-one matching, those words anchor the matching. You'll probably want to teach a few high-frequency words (snap words) during word study time, and then those words can be posted on a word wall in your room. Many teachers teach students to become familiar with those words by teaching them to look at the words, say the letters, write the word while it's covered, and then check it: look, say, cover, write, check. In any case, support students in using these words as anchors when they read. For students to move beyond books at level B, they may need to recognize twelve to twenty words.

It is exciting to see a child discover a word that she is learning in a book she is reading, exclaiming "Here's the! It's that word wall word! It's right here in my book!" To allow this discovery to happen and to ensure that readers are really "learning to look at print," ensure from the very beginning that level A/B readers are pointing under the words as they read them, not on the words.

Some level A books and most level B books have two lines of print. Readers at levels A and B need to be taught the return sweep to a second line. In addition, many students need to learn that sentences can continue onto the next line and that, when this happens, they need to move their eyes (and thus fingers) to the next line of print as they continue to read.

Do not expect on a first reading of a text that students will read with much fluency. As students are rereading their texts several times, you can coach them to begin to work on better phrasing, and you can expect more automaticity in reading the words on the page.

Generally, children are in and out of these levels of text complexity within two to four weeks, rather than a few months. You may find that some children are in between levels—they read level A/B texts just fine but can't independently read level C. This is a common stage. Do not let them languish in these level A/B books, but instead support them in moving into level C books. Most likely, they will need the skills demanded by the next level to be able to move forward, so it's helpful to teach students to use those skills in level A/B books as well as level C texts.

While children read level A/B books, you'll be teaching them phonics (sound-symbol relationships), and that knowledge will be important for them to draw upon when they shift to reading level C books. These books are designed so that the reader must use the first consonant to identify the object in the picture or the action that is happening in the story. The text in one level C book reads, "A truck takes the dirt away." The truck could be carrying many different things. In this book, the reader must recall that the previous pages told about dirt being put into the truck by a "loader." Bringing that information forward, they look at the unknown word dirt, say the beginning sound /d/, and read dirt. Your phonics instruction may, for example, teach children a letter a day. Children will listen to hear the sound of the letter, and then they'll write the letter. When they learn these letter-sound relationships, the journey through level C/D books becomes easier.

The important thing to keep in mind is that while readers don't progress up a notch of text difficulty unless they are generally reading books with about 94% accuracy, moving to levels C/D is an exception. Children are not expected to read level A/B books with accuracy on their own. If the picture shows two striped snakes and a child reads "I see stripes" as "I see snakes," that is considered just fine. Onward.

The move from level B to C is a significant jump with regard to meaning, syntax, and visual information. Most texts at levels A/B are nonnarrative texts, or concept books, where the reader can think about what the book is mostly about—team sports, things that kids can do, and so on. An entry level C book may also consist of similar nonnarrative structures, but narrative texts are also now introduced, asking students to do more challenging meaning work with regard to comprehension. Students will now need to consider character feelings and motivation. With regard to structure, level A/B texts are written with a child's natural language. The child's natural language is preserved in the beginning books at this level, but as the child progresses within level C and into level D books, the language may transition to more book language (for example, in a beginning level C book the text might say, "The tiger went up the tree." An exit level C book might read, "Up went the tiger!"). Another important structural change for level C/D readers is the use of prepositional

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phrases. Students at level C must use visual information, not just meaning and syntax, to read the correct word. Level C books are designed to challenge the reader to cross-check visuals so that their reading now makes sense, sounds like it would in a book, and looks right. Additionally, the number of high-frequency words significantly increases in level C and D books.
Because of the myriad new challenges at level C, you need recognize all of the meaning, syntax, and visual changes and pick books for guided reading that are appropriate for the individual child.
Challenges for Readers of Level C/D Books
• Illustrations become more involved and do not support all words in a text, requiring readers to rely on known sight words or beginning word analysis. (Example: "I can see the pizza." The illustration does not support reading the word can.)
• The fact that text patterns begin to change at least once in level C books requires that students "comprehend" what is going on in the illustrations to be able to deal with the pattern switch.
• Dialogue statements by characters are introduced in level C books. The character's statement is followed by the word said. (“Help!' said Marco. 'My cat can't get down.")
• Language patterns repeat as they did in level A and level B books, but sentences are longer. A new syntactic characteristic in level C books is that prepositional phrases are introduced in longer sentences. ("He went to see the rabbit.” “The mice go down to the ice.”)
• Multiple lines of text are common in level C books, but the text is often formatted to support students reading in phrases. ("I am looking / for a home.")
• A range of punctuation is introduced, and students must be taught the function of these new punctuation marks, words in bold text, commas, quotation marks, question marks, exclamation points, ellipses, and apostrophes in possessive forms of words or contractions.
• Students to have a wider range of high-frequency words under control. They should be able to read these words instantly with automaticity.
• Students must know the meaning and/or function of all high-frequency words and know how this creates meaning or determines how the words are used in the sentence structure.

Students need to use the first letter to read the words that are in thebook.
• In level D books, consonant blends at the beginnings of words are introduced.

Supporting Readers in Building an Increasing Variety of High-Frequency Words
It's a good idea to look through the sets of books you are using with your children, noting the type of high-frequency word they contain as well as choosing words from a list you were given. You'll probably notice that these books are chock full of words with irregular phonemic patterns: was, said, here, come. Other high-frequency words contain vowel rules that have not been taught yet in your word study program: like, came, look, play. The difficulty of these new high-frequency words requires explicit teaching and practice in isolation during word study time and in context in shared reading and interactive writing.

If you have students entering level C books well before the rest of the class, you may choose to give them the new, challenging high-frequency cards during small-group instruction and ask them to be on the lookout for these words during independent reading time. These students might use these more challenging high-frequency words during word study time. When half the class or more is transitioning into level C, you may want to make sure that the high-frequency words that you are teaching the whole class represent the words they need to read at this level.

Supporting Readers in Using Multiple Sources of Information
Reading level C/D books requires readers to be proficient using early concepts about print behaviors so they can focus on the new challenges of integrating meaning into their reading of stories that become more involved and using some letter-sound relationships to support accurate reading. They must be pointing under words, specifically under the first letter of the word, to focus their attention on first letter sounds. They must realize that analyzing the illustrations is becoming important to get full meaning from the story. The following examples from Michelle Dufresne's book Bella Likes Purple illustrates these new challenges:

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This level C book may be described as an entry-level C book. The meaning is familiar and it is a nonnarrative book, just like those students are used to at levels A/B. It contains just two sentences on most pages. The sentences are simple and use a natural language pattern. The text sounds like the way a child would talk. The text does not contain the prepositional phrases that we see in harder level C books,
The work that this text requires, however, does lift the level from A/B in two major ways. First, instead of following a consistent pattern across all pages, the pattern changes. The different patterns use the same high frequency words, but in a different order, requiring the reader to carefully check that the words she is saying match what is printed in the book. This text also requires the reader to do new beginning level work with visual information. A child who looks at the picture on page 7 and says "Sunglasses," will now have to think about what is happening in the text and also check the beginning letter of the word to make sure the word that she said "looks right."
After a lean "check it" prompt, you might coach the child by saying, "Sunglasses does make sense, but what letter would we expect to see at the beginning of the word sunglasses?" You might then instruct the child that the words we say need to make sense with what is happening in the book, but we also have to something new. We now need to check the beginning letter of the word to check if our guess matches the letters that are written. If it does not, we need to think of another word that fits with the book and looks like the written word on the page. The work of using and cross-checking with visual information is repeated on page 8 when the child encounters the word hat..
A perfect place to practice cross-checking visual information is during whole-class or small-group shared reading time. Simply cover words like goggles and hat and have students check their guess when you reveal the covered word.
Another level C text, Food for Bella, also by Michele Dufresne, represents a text with several more challenges.
In this text, as in many level C books, the reader is invited into the world of story. There are characters, Bella and Rosie, and Bella wants something. She wants to eat the lood on the table! Bella's friend Rosie knows they are not supposed to eat the food and repeatedly yells, "No!" and "It's not for you!" The comprehension work required is more complex than previously. The reader needs to think about the characters' feelings, what the characters want, and why they might do or say things. All readers can benefit from explicit teaching about this inferential work and work involving how stories go, because it sets a model for the thinking beyond letters and words to meaning that will be critical in future reading.
Because readers at level C are now reading stories, another new challenge will be reading simple dialogue and seeing how it is punctuated with quotation marks and commas and assigned with the speaker tag said. In addition, there are many sentences with prepositional phrases now ("The pizza is not for you. The bones are for you and me!"). The use of these prepositional phrases marks the transition from oral to written language.
Although this book does not present particularly challenging book language, there are several other level C books that do. We all know the books that sound like "In went the socks," "Up went the cat," or "Shall we come to dinner?" When you find books with a challenging structure, point it out to your young readers and explain that books do not always talk the way we do. The more students read and are read to, the more familiar they will become with book language and be able to anticipate how their own book might

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talk—just one more reason to continue the emergent storybook work even after students are conventionally reading
In addition to the ongoing work that readers will need to do visually, using and cross-checking with the first letter, students will also have to figure out words that do not appear in the picture. In this book, one such word is can. Your students should know the high-frequency word an before they enter level C. You could begin showing them on a white board how the word an changes when you add the letter c. Always take them back to the text to see how the word fits into the sentence, "I can see the pizza." Emphasize what can means in that sentence.
Another way to approach this work is to grab your magnetic letters and practice making and breaking words so that students are able to see that they can change the beginning of a word to make a new word. After reading this text in guided reading you might go back to the word can and say, "Let's look at this word. We already know an." Add the letter c and show how it becomes can. Then show what happens when you go back to an and add the letter m to the beginning.
The work moving from levels A/B to level C described above is monumental for some children, but level D books allow them to further master and orchestrate this work, because level D books have minimal changes in difficulty. Comprehension and thinking about story characters and events continues to develop. A bigger change is that letter-sound work at the beginning of the word requires students to use consonant blends and digraphs to read the correct word.
The slope from levels C/D to E/F is a steep one. The length and complexity of books at levels E/F/G are great enough that many children won't have enough knowledge of phonics or high-frequency words to be able to rely on decoding alone to read these books. Instead, it will only be by coupling those skills with strong comprehension skills that most readers can make headway through these books. And then, their experience reading these books will provide practice and exposure that helps those developing readers grow into the work they are doing.
There are some key challenges to keep in mind while helping readers progress from reading level C/D books to reading level E/F books.
Challenges for Readers of Level E/F Books Meaning Changes:
• Stories become more complex, with a clear beginning, a series of events, and an ending.
• Illustrations become more complex, with many things happening in the picture. Students must select the important content that will assist them in comprehending the story and word solving,
• Longer stretches of dialogue, often split dialogue, are common.
• Dialogue statements begin to be assigned with words other than said (cried, shouted).
• Since level E books have a series of episodes, students must recall the important, big events, ruling out minor details.
Structure Changes:
• Sentences become longer and often contain multiple embedded phrases. Commas are introduced in dialogue statements, placing items or statements in a series, and parenthetical statements.
• A new structural change at level E is sentences in which the verb precedes the subject ("Ring, ring went the phone."). Sentences written in a question format are very common ("Can I play with you?")
Visual Changes:
• Books have easy, predictable letter-sound relationships and spelling patterns, but using the first letter(s) is not enough. Readers must begin to look at the beginning part of the word, rather than across the word.
• Compound words are introduced at level E.
• Words with inflectional endings (-ed, -ing, -s) are quite common.
When helping children read a page of a level E book, you can ask them to think hard about what is likely to happen next in the book. That thinking allows a child to generate almost a private, made-for-the-moment word wall of options. Then, when the child turns to the next page, she can read to see which of those options works best.
The fact that readers of level E/F books rely heavily on comprehension to support their work explains why it will be important for you to emphasize the

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need for children to think deeply about level C/D books. Prior to getting into level E/F books, it is important that children are already accustomed to stopping and thinking as they read, mulling over what is going on, and generating more language about the content as they do so. This process of pausing to think about a text pays off in a big way for readers of level E/F books.
Suppose a reader is reading the book Frogs Lunch, by Dee Lillegard. It begins like this:
Frog was sitting on a lily pad in the middle of the pond. "It's lunchtime," said Frog.
Along came a fly. "Mmmm, lunch," said Frog.
It is likely that a reader of this book will get stuck on some of these words, Chances are good that this reader has never encountered the word middle before now. This is one of those words that causes some readers to slam on the brakes. At these levels, you can count on the book containing a number of words like this. A reader might read the opening page of Frog's Lunch like this, omitting the word middle.
Frog was sitting on a lily pad in the of the pond. "It's lunchtime," said Frog.
Some suggest telling students to skip the word and read the remainder of the sentence, probably because they are a competent adult reader and do this themselves. At levels E/F/G, readers have not developed the reading savvy of adults who use this strategy. Readers of E, F, and G books are not ready to skip the word and read on and need a better means of problem solving words. Wise teachers ask their children to use the following strategy when coming to a difficult word in level E, F, and G, books:
1. Stop at the difficult word and think aloud about what is going on in the story right now. Check the illustration if necessary. ("That frog is sitting on something in the pond. It looks like a green leaf.")
2. Look at the words up to the tricky word. ("The frog sat in the
Hmm, . . . it looks like the missing word is going to tell where the frog is. The name of something. I remember that the name of something often comes after the word the when I write stories.")
3. Next, teach the student to say the sounds of the consonant(s) plus the next two letters (/m/+/id/). Note that the word is consonant(s),
because sometimes a word begins with a two or three letter blend. If the word has a vowel digraph (ai, Oa, and so on) after the consonant(s), the child reads the next three letters. (Example: "c + oun" to read the word counted. Notice how important it is to teach "vowel teams" when readers begin reading level E, F, and G books.)
4. Next, tell the child to go back to the beginning of the sentence and read up to the tricky word, saying that first part. (It has been our experience that, if the word is in the student's vocabulary, she'll get it correct most of the time.)
This is the part most teachers forget:
5. Ask the child, "Did it make sense to call that word middle? Why?"
6. Then direct the child to the word middle and say, "Run your finger under the letters and see if the right letters are there for the sounds you hear all the way across the word." (This prompt is important, especially in level G books, because you will want to begin teaching readers to go across the word with their eyes, checking "word parts" or "chunks.")
The strategy instruction above is demanding of teacher time and student attention. But explicit teaching takes time and attention to pay off. The minilesson, shared reading, and teaching point at the end of small-group work and conferences are places where this explicit teaching can happen. It is important that children don't progress to third grade as "first letter guessers." This strategy for reading beyond the first letter is the first step toward stamping out "first letter guessers."
During word study time, readers who are working at these levels of text difficulty profit from working on inflectional endings, such as -ing, -er, and -ed. Children need to learn that a word they know by heart can add on an ending—say, -ing—and still be the same essential word.