The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

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Week Twenty Four: Building Strategic Readers (Pt. 1)

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing some innovative strategies included in another Solution Tree text, 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core: Increasing Rigor in Middle and High School (2013). If you’re one of my many elementary school friends, don’t fret! This text absolutely works for the lower grades and the strategies can be easily adapted. In fact, one of the authors, Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins, has also published several similar books that target K - 6 and has a background in both the classroom and the library.

Having been trained at several Solution Tree national workshops and local professional development sessions facilitated by their consultants, I am a believer in their work, which is one reason I chose another text published by them. The other, however, was the acknowledgement and affirmation early in the text that to be skilled readers, students must also be strategic readers (7). I know from my own teaching experience with at-risk student far below level in reading that strategies work; proficient readers use them without consciously thinking about it because they automatically choose the right strategy to make meaning and inferences. The problem seems to be that we teach strategies, but not reading; we model the strategies, but don’t do a very good job sometimes of making our thinking about how to select the right strategy in the right situations while reading. This texts addresses that and provides guidelines for modeling effectively.

This week, I focused on the first section of the text to pull out three literacy strategies for you, which is Key Ideas and Details, the first strand in the anchor standards. What I have provided for you is just a tiny taste of the what the book has to offer. If you find it useful, the whole text is available online in various places, including Amazon. Download reproducibles from Solution Tree here.

McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. & Burnett, Allyson J. 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core: Increasing Rigor in Middle and High School. Solution Tree, 2013.
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Key Ideas & Details: Anchor Standards 1 & 2

Strategy 1: Read-Decide-Explain

“Some readers become so enamored by their own experiences and creative thoughts that they fail to recognize that comprehension is about getting meaning from the text — particularly when that text requires a response in writing” (28-29). When students struggle to extract and make meaning, it is certainly easier to tell them what the text means so they can get to the business of making inferences or determining theme. The problem is, in saving time, we are crippling them and making them even more dependent on us than ever. This strategy includes a graphic organizer that forces students to pay attention to close reading (pictured here). The teacher prepares the chunks, essential questions, and numbers the sentences. The students use the organizer to answer essential questions about the text. This is an excellent alternative to multiple choice, or a way to guide students through the reading to prepare for them later.

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Strategy 2: Read Like a Detective

“Skilled readers have learned that inferring involves not just reading between the lines to determine the author’s intent, but also reading beyond the lines to draw on their own background experiences to make sense of the text” (58). The work of a detective is very similar to that of a skilled reader; they both examine the facts in front of them and draw conclusions based on both the text and their prior knowledge. This strategy prompts students to consider reading as a crime scene in that way. The teacher chunks the text again, makes an inferential statement to guide the work, and the students generate the rest of the answers in the graphic organizer (pictured here). Eventually, students work toward completing the whole organizer, including the inferential statement, on their own.

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Strategy 3: Snapshot Summary

“Summarizing requires diligent mental work. Brown and Day further state that summarizing ‘requires judgment and effort, knowledge and strategies’” (95-96). The skill of summarizing adequately is truly underrated and often discounted as a low-level skill when in fact it is as complex and at times difficult as the text the students are reading. The idea with this strategy is to prompt students to avoid re-telling, but to extract the most important ideas from chunks of what they read, reproduce them in their own words, and condense that even further to one sentence for a whole text. I’ve featured the one-sentence summary and the 17-word summary before (Gallagher); this one works in a similar way (pictured here).
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Website of the Week


The K-12 Teachers Alliance has been around for quite some time (on Twitter since 2008!) and has been a place for K-12 educators to find quality teaching tools for years. The website platform is built by teachers for teachers, and offers many free lesson plans, blogs, reviews of apps, and tools, in addition to reasonably priced options for purchase. Check out TeachHUB here and follow it on Twitter @TeachHUB or Facebook for up-to-date ideas and to connect with other educators.
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Tool of the Week


The Technoritas of Sigler Elementary in Plano, TX schooled me on three tools to use for student engagement and differentiation this week at the TCEA Conference in Austin, TX. As such, I will be featuring one of these three each week in the next several issues. The first is NearPod, which is not a new tool but which has evolved over the last several years into much more than a teacher-paced PowerPoint presentation students follow on their devices. Melinda Hoover, specialist at Sigler, even takes district-created PowerPoint presentations for science lessons, saves them as images, and imports them into NearPod, adding in formative assessments and other tools to make the lessons more interactive for students, including Draw It and Collaborate. Teachers can truly utilize the many features of NearPod to personalize the learning and offer multiple ways for students to show what they know. Follow Ms. Hoover @Hoover_Melinda, Sigler Elementary @SiglerStars and #SiglerNation, and NearPod @Nearpod for more ideas. Check out Melinda’s Nearpod presentation by using the code: HBCUT at or in the app.
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What Students Are Reading

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Kristie Hofelich Ennis, NBCT

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!