#107: How to Structure Your Literacy Teaching Time

Let’s talk about your reading block…Some of the questions I get asked all the time are:

How do you fit everything into your literacy block?  How do you decide what to do, not do (ie.. prioritize)? And what’s your schedule during your literacy block?

When I first started teaching it wasn't long before I realized I needed to be clear about the most important things my students needed to know in order to read and write well, the sequence in which to teach them, and more. It's a lot! Don't worry, I have a plan to share with you.


I'm not going to kid around and tell you it's easy to teach literacy. it's not. You have to have a long-range plan before you can plan weekly and daily lessons. That might mean you planned it all out over the summer or you will plan by the quarter or trimester. We'll do baby steps here. I'll break it all down over a few episodes. 

Today, I have the skinny on...

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#105: What is the Science of Reading (and is it Just Another Education Bandwagon)?

teaching reading Aug 04, 2022

The Science of Reading is the latest in literacy education. But...is it for real or just another education bandwagon?

Every few years there’s a new reading or literacy bandwagon to jump on. The buzzwords and “acceptable” techniques abound. Phonics, whole language, close reading, balanced literacy, Accelerated Reader, IXL, Reader Rabbit, Reading Recovery, phonemic awareness to name a few …and the MOST RECENT ADDITION to the list…the science of reading. 


Well…I’ve been around the block a few times and let me tell you, I’ve seen it all [and quietly ignored much of it and done my own thing for years once I realized what real reading instruction looked like]. You see, years ago, when I realized my youngest son had dyslexia [and apparently my father as well], I started to question all of the things I thought I knew about literacy and learning to read.


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#098: Reading Aloud - My 100 Book Literacy Strategy

teaching reading Jun 02, 2022

Reading aloud 100+ books a year to my students might sound daunting but think about this... Do you ever wonder how to build a love of reading or help students who are rarely read to catch up on background knowledge and vocabulary? How do we close the reading gap a bit? 

Well, this read aloud strategy can help even the playing field and help all your students make greater gains in literacy. The best part is, once you've chosen the books, it's simple and doable to implement.


Teaching reading is never as easy as its sounds. Every student comes to your classroom with a different experience with books and reading.

And...helping students become lovers of books, committed, skillful readers is even trickier. However, with the right modeling, instruction, and immersion in great books, we're able to create the conditions for a joyful experience with reading. That experience, when repeated often enough, opens...

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096: 11 Tips for Summer Reading Success

Summer reading is such a touchy topic. It’s hard to get buy-in for all parties [parents and students] and consistency in a busy summer.

If you know me, you know I’m a quota and timer hater when it comes to reading. Anything that can create resentment or cause students to find reading to be a chore or dislike reading is a No-Go in my book.

Today, I have ideas to help you and your students not only read this summer but love it too.


As teachers, we often struggle with what to do about getting our students to actually read during the summer.

Sending home work packets, requiring reading logs, and most other traditional methods simply don't work. The only way to ensure your students will read over the summer is if our students have acquired a love of reading during the school year. I hope your students have made the leap from knowing how to read to being committed readers. But if they...

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#091: 5 Steps to Successful Small Group Reading Instruction

reading teaching reading Apr 14, 2022

Are you frustrated with your small group reading instruction?

Or maybe you don’t do small group reading instruction. Don’t worry…no judgment here if you don’t. Teaching small groups can be a tricky [and sometimes overwhelming] thing to navigate much less figure out how to fit it into an already packed literacy block.


Whether you haven’t done small groups or if you’re frustrated with your small group time, it’s never too late in the year to start or refine a small group time.

So where do you begin?

Well, the first 2 steps might seem basic, but they are important foundations for success.

First, structure your literacy block with a large enough block of time for independent work/group time. If your literacy block is not actually a block of time but is fragmented in your day, try to set up your schedule to capture a couple of larger chunks of time for literacy so that...

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#090: Teaching Genre in Primary Grades

Teaching genre in primary grades is more important than you think. Do you have students that read the same book over and over again?

It can be worrisome since students may start to think reading is boring. And once something becomes boring, good luck convincing them otherwise.

Today is all about teaching genre. Young children love books. They love books, "reading" and being read to. Once they start the hard work of actually reading though, finding interesting books is an added challenge. This can be where students get so discouraged that they lose their love of reading. We can't have that!


Genre is more than just fiction versus nonfiction.

We teach students authors and illustrators to help them narrow down books they might like--if they like one book by an author, they may like other books by the author, too. Maybe you even compare authors to each other. How are two alike? How are they different?...

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#088: How to Begin Teaching Students to Read Nonfiction

Teaching students to read nonfiction is not harder than teaching fiction, it's just a few different strategies that make the difference.

With that said...do you know the nonfiction reading strategy your students really need? Let me just tell you upfront. It's using text features.

If we’re honest, we know most students skip over the text features when reading nonfiction texts. They either don’t know what to do with them or it feels like it’s just one more thing to do or the text features feel disjointed or separate from the text, and students don’t know when to pay attention to them. Well...

I've got a system for that! [Shocking, right?!] 


Are your students confident in using text features when reading nonfiction texts?

There are definite steps to teaching students to read nonfiction effectively. We certainly can't just throw them in and expect students to read and...

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#084: Main Idea vs. Theme - What's the Difference?

teaching reading Feb 24, 2022

The main idea vs. theme can be so tricky for students to understand not only the difference between them but what each one actually is as well. So, let's be clear from the beginning. Begin by teaching each one separately, then you can talk about the difference between them.


To start, the main idea tells us what a text is mostly about. You can often sum this up with one sentence. When we can figure out the main idea then we know the purpose of the text.

Some questions you might ask for main idea are:

  1. What is the title of the text?
  2. Who or what is the text about?
  3. What is the topic?
  4. What is the most important information about that topic?
  5. Is there information that is repeated [in different ways or the same way]?

Here's a YouTube video from McGraw Hill on Main Idea.

A theme is a lesson, message, or moral the author wants the character or reader to learn. You can often use a few words to explain...
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#083: The Key to Teaching Students How to Monitor Comprehension

teaching reading Feb 17, 2022

Monitoring comprehension is not a given no matter how many comprehension strategies we teach our students. Learning to use the strategies in concert to continually check in with themselves is the only way students will truly be able to monitor their own comprehension. Understanding what they have read will only be possible for our students when using comprehension strategies is a habit.


A habit is something we do without thinking. We've done it so many times that we no longer have to think about how and when to do it. 

Think about it...you see your shoe is untied and simply tie it. You don't think about how to tie your shoe or when to tie your shoe. The situation calls for it, so you do it.

Using the reading comprehension strategies you've spent so much time teaching, is something you eventually want your students to do without thinking about it. Choosing which strategy to use at any given time is only...

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#081: How and Why to Teach Your Students to Compare and Contrast

When’s the last time you talked about comparing and contrasting and didn’t use a Venn diagram? Venn diagrams and comparing and contrasting seem to just go together, don’t they? It’s not the only way…


Did you know there are many benefits of being able to compare and contrast? Here's a few...

Comparing and contrasting is a strategy that helps us evaluate various aspects of a text. It prepares your students for higher-level analysis of texts. When your students compare and contrast, they are improving their comprehension of the text by drawing their attention to important details. Students are clarifying their thinking and looking deeper at a text. This improves their memory of the text as well. And that's just the beginning...

There's lots of activities we can use for teaching comparing and contrasting. It's a simple reading comprehension strategy to teach and to use with...

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