Strategic Reading

What parents need to know

A little bit about me, Amy Zimmermann

I'm thrilled to have your children in Strategic Reading! I have been at Lake Forest for 22 years as an English teacher, and I recently completed a degree necessary to be licensed as a reading specialist. I love coming here every day. My husband and I have 3 boys: a 4th grader, a 7th grader, and one who started high school this fall.

A bit about the course

The course aims to aid students with reading. We approach reading (and writing) through 4 dimensions: personal, social, cognitive, and knowledge-building. Everything we do in class aims to improve our reading and writing through one of those dimensions and often activities focus on several dimensions simultaneously. We also include reflective or "meta-cognitive" work to be sure that the "voice in our heads" and our executive functioning or self-regulation skills are actively part of our reading processes.

Our syllabus explains more about the course. You can access it through this syllabus link. Some highlights include strategy instruction, achieving personal reading goals, building vocabulary and word knowledge, note-taking, increasing stamina, and writing to make sense of our reading.

What we've accomplished so far...

Getting-to-know you activities (week one), including student reflection letters, a vocabulary pre-assessment, individual introductory presentations by each student, and a spelling inventory.

Individual student-teacher conferences to identify strengths and weaker areas with regard to reading and individual student reasons for being in the course.

Non-fiction/non-narrative texts: we have begun to look at the Question the Author strategy for reading non-fiction, non-narrative texts. Lessons included discussion on knowing when to stop reading and take stock of the author's meaning,recognizing confusions, identifying unfamiliar or difficult words, questioning what the author is saying, and identifying how parts of a text connect to other parts.

Vocabulary/Word Work: affixes, base or root word parts, assimilation, and ob/op prefix along with words in Unit 1. Our vocabulary program focuses on word roots as tools for unpacking unfamiliar words. Our vocab book is called Building Vocabulary from Word Roots by Tim Rasinski.

Where we are going next

Anticipated Topics of Study on the Horizon

  1. Identifying text structure and using it for meaning

  2. Reading novels: strategies for gaining deeper understanding of narrative writing

  3. Note-taking options to increase comprehension and memory

  4. Grammar: it's not just for writing anymore

  5. Approaches to reading for standardized testing: taking charge of the ACT

  6. Taking risks: experimenting with more complex texts


We will often use a descriptive rubric to determine grades for this course. This course is about growth, so one of our main rubrics looks at growth and attempts to describe what kind of growth constitutes A,B, or D/F work. Students will also be given pieces of text to work with, break apart, analyze, and write about in practice and in test situations. Students can also earn grades through vocabulary assessments, expressive reading projects, and reflection letters. Tests will ask students to apply strategies, articulate main ideas, discuss how the author supports his or her ideas, recognize author's tone, etc. Students will also earn grades based on personal reading goals they set and achieve.

How you can help

  • Encourage your child to read and chart that reading nightly (120 min. per week of a free choice reading book they can read easily on their own is required to build stamina, fluency, and overall knowledge).
  • Get your child a gift certificate to a book store, or find second hand books that your child might enjoy. Also, encourage your child to visit the library and check out a book.
  • Donate young adult books to our growing classroom library.
  • Discuss articles in the paper, in magazines, or anywhere else you see print that your son or daughter might be interested in.
  • Ask your child about what he/she is reading. Encourage him/her to bring "problem texts" in for us to discuss as a class.
  • Share what you are reading with your child, and congratulate your child when he/she finishes a book.
  • Ask your child what his/her million-word goal is and encourage him/her in achieving it.
  • Let me know if you see anything of concern or if you have questions!

How to reach Mrs. Zimmermann

We largely use our Google Classroom website. Ask your son or daughter to see it since it requires an invitation in order to maintain student privacy.