Jennifer Serravallo’s Independent Reading Assessment Review *****


Okay..I know…it has been WAY to long since my last blog.  Everything kind of got away from me.  LOL.  But this entry will make up for it!

Jennifer Serravallo just might be the sharpest tack on the planet right now.  Everything she writes is unbelievably on the mark with everything teachers are needing in regards to supporting independent reading and conferring.

I can’t say enough about how thrilled I am to show you what I think the best thing out there for grades 2-5 (even middle school) in regards to assessing their independent reading needs and making sure they are in just right books in both fiction and non-fiction.  I think the hardest thing for teachers isn’t so much deciding “what” to teach but the “how”.  Strategies and skills are NOT the same thing.  A skill is the ability to do something and a strategy includes steps that allow you know how to make it happen.  I can NOT SAY ENOUGH GREAT THINGS about this!  It will not only be a huge support for beginning teachers but also for teachers who have taught for years but feel like they need more clear strategies for teaching specific skills to readers. This assessment kit gets 5 STARS from me! Check this out!

Even though it is labeled grades 3-5 I am recommending even 2nd grade and middle school grades can also benefit from the support in the kit.  Levels in the 3rd grade kit include K-R; 4th grade M-U and 5th grade O-W.  These levels span 2nd - middle school levels.
Even though it is labeled grades 3-5 I am recommending even 2nd grade and middle school grades can also benefit from the support in the kit. Levels in the 3rd grade kit include K-R; 4th grade M-U and 5th grade O-W. These levels span 2nd – middle school levels.

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This assessment kit is great for SO many reasons.

1.  You don’t have to STOP instruction to administer it.  Kids just independently read the books (which are regular trade books) during their independent reading time.  They keep a reading record for the time they are reading. They stop and jot at designated points in the book marked by post-it notes and respond on record sheet.  Fiction assessment reflects understanding of Plot/Setting, Character, Vocabulary/Figurative Language and Theme while the non-fiction reflects Main Idea, Key Details, Vocabulary and Text Features.  Every text includes questions across the text in these areas.  Here is a video and some pics and a download sample of the forms to help you see just how amazing this is for your classroom!!

Student Response Form

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2. Teachers will grow in their understanding about assessing reader’s written responses.  

The continuum and reading progressions in the kit help teachers not only decide if the reader is exceptional, proficient or approaching in each area but also transfer that to help them assess readers written responses from read aloud jottings as well as independent reading jottings. This will help teachers not only decide about independent reading levels but also about how their readers are progressing in their texts for independent reading.  

3. The assessment doesn’t only tell you what your kids independent reading level and what skills they need to be supported in but ALSO HOW to do it!  This is what everyone wants…not just to find out the “what”, but the “how”.  It is one thing to find out “Ok…this reader needs to work on character development” or even, “This reader needs to work on plot structure.”  But to ALSO have a built in resource full of organized and specific strategies of HOW to teach that to a reader???? That is worth EVERY penny!!! These strategies will help teachers in conferences as well as small group instruction!

4. There is a website to enter data online as well as a dozen videos of of modeled lessons.  Watching with real students is always a bonus for teachers.  With this piece a teacher can watch videos many times to help them as they grow in the work.

What should we purchase???

I am recommending that principals buy 1 kit per teacher grades 2-5.  If you want them to REALLY use it at their fingertips in their classrooms.   This resource will be something teachers will use across the year to move readers rather than an assessment used only at beginning, middle and end of the year.  

FYI:  In the schools where we are trying these out kids are reading 1-2 levels below where Fountas and Pinnell, DRA or Teachers’s College assessments are showing them to be reading.  This makes total sense due to the length of a chapter book and the expectation for readers to carry critical thinking across all of those pages.  This is why this assessment was so very needed.  I can’t wait to hear feedback on how you like it!!!




Hey Everyone…as I have been seeing a variety of grades and campuses it has come to my attention that many people are not getting their readers’ words per minute when they do the F&P Assessment or DRA because the district isn’t necessarily requiring that…ok…first of all…LOVE ALL OF YOU…but…remember that you shouldn’t be doing the F&P Assessment or DRA because of district requirements but because of the information it gives to help you think about your readers.   Knowing the words per minute is critical when you are considering levels of text for readers that would be suitable for independent reading.
WPM isn’t just on cruise control either…kids’ reading should have an “ebb and flow” – increasing and slowing down with the tone and meaning of the text.  It is essential to look at this part of fluency (albeit only 1 of 5 components for fluency) when supporting readers. I am attaching a PDF from TC. It is a Fluency Benchmark – a rubric based on text level.

 Oral Reading Benchmark

Putting Words into Action!


This entry is in celebration of the classroom pictures I have snapped of teachers making words spoken into reality in their classrooms!!  October is usually the month I notice that all the zest and energy from the beginning of the year has moved to the doldrums of the teaching year.  Not this year!!!  These teachers are just as excited about the work at hand as their kids!  Woohoo!  The beauty of this work is that you can take an anchor chart that you have created in read aloud or mini-lesson and move it with you to a strategy group in order to support readers who need additional instruction on the skills and concepts in your unit of study.   Hopefully these will help you as you work with your readers.   In addition to this…all the hard work in the unit pays off when you have have ensured your kids are in just right books.  This is attainable when you create a strong library to support your readers as well as utilize Jenn Serravallo’s engagement assessment to help you make sure they are really reading and becoming lost in the world of story.   

A well stocked library that is organized and leveled is not a luxury in a classroom…it is a necessity.  


Anchor chart for identifying big ideas in Character Unit and then thinking about how they can use that to think about how they will live in the world. IMG_6024

Another great anchor chart for character unit…lifting these literal details are critical to get kids to step up into the inferential thinking about characters. Actions help us infer traits. Dialogue (what is said and HOW it is said) helps us infer possible traits and/or current feelings. When a character acts OUT of character we stop and think about why they might do that (motive). Objects that are important to a character could be a metaphorical representation of an internal need, desire or tie to major themes inside the book. Noticing how others see the main character can also help us infer traits or needs of the character.


Holy cow, I LOVE this! What a great way to give your kids a concrete visual of how to step back from the reading and analyze their notes across the book to develop theories about their characters. This is great way to help readers infer and synthesize their thinking as they journey through the story. This type of thinking (ideas developed across a text vs. just right there kind of thinking) is exactly what standardized tests are looking to see if readers can do!

Pushing the boundaries of readers’ vocabulary in regards to precise language for feelings has been a hot topic.  If you you watched me in read aloud with students you will know that this is a BIGGIE for me!  Growing readers vocabulary is very different from inferring the meaning to vocabulary as they read texts.  If you want kids to have more precise and sophisticated vocabulary it is ALL about developing it in oral language.  In read aloud I may prompt the readers to turn and talk about feelings…ex: “Given what just happened, how do you think Maggie is feeling? Thumb up when you have your idea.  Turn and tell your  partner, ‘I think Maggie is feeling…’ (this will support and nudge them to use complete sentences as well as language to talk about story).  When the room erupts in an explosion of, ‘I think Maggie is feeling sad’, we make our move!  I will say, “Readers…is it ‘big’ sadness or ‘little’ sadness?”  They all will know big sadness. Follow up by saying, “A more precise word for big sadness is devastated.  Turn and tell your partner, I think Maggie is feeling devastated because…”.  It is important that kids have precise language to describe the degrees of emotion.  The best way for it to stick is if they are using the language regularly.  


Heather and Shannon are 5th grade teachers (almost all of the charts in this blog entry I snapped in their classrooms last week). They are reading This Means War by Ellen Wittlinger.  Throughout the read aloud they are stopping along the way to develop theories with their students about the characters in the story.  These anchor charts will be able to support their readers as they grow their ideas and even compare the characters as time goes on.  This work would then be carried over into the mini-lessons as well as independent reading.  Students will use their own texts to practice the same kind of thinking!  


Focus Poetry is a great way to embed poetry into your classroom every day.  It’s a lot of ‘bang for the buck’ as it is easy to teach so many things and kids LOVE it!


Just like character feelings we need to grow the vocabulary of readers in regards to words for traits.  These anchor charts help the readers think about more precise language to use over “watered down” general terms.  



Another great chart that really helps readers think critically across texts.  Heather read Junebug by Alice Mead earlier this year.  You can see she had conversations with readers about not only Junebug’s character traits, but also how he is treated by the other characters surrounding him in the book.  This helps readers think not just about the main character, but about the relationships within the story as well.  

Whew…hope that will get you going with some new energy and ideas!  Thanks Heather and Shannon!!


Your Passion and Tenacity: Essentials to Success




I want to tell you about a teacher named Stephanie. She’s a fourth-grade teacher Oak Crest Intermediate school in East Central ISD. While she isn’t new to teaching, it’s her first year to teach language arts. She taught math and science in the past. Often times this is a can be a daunting task for teachers -moving from one content area to another. Stephanie is determined to learn this work well for herself and her students.  I am inspired by the passion I could see in Stephanie from the moment I met her.  I don’t think, “I can’t” is in her vocabulary and “these kids can’t” would never part from her lips.  She has LOTS of questions.  Her questions are all about the how and the why because she is very deliberate in trying to understand her work deeply.  One more thing to know about her…she hated reading in school.  She didn’t see herself as a reader.  And yet in spite of and maybe because of this she has found a way to change this in her own life as well as set kids on fire for the work.  She shared this story on my last visit with her.  I wanted you to have the opportunity to be inspired as well.


Changing a Reader

This is my first year teaching reading and as a non-reader as a child I felt intimidated by the idea of teaching reading. At the beginning of the year we taught how to choose a just right book by reading the blurb and giving it the 3 finger rule and so on like all reading teachers. As you know you have students who just don’t use the tricks and tips because they don’t see the value or importance of it. As I was conferencing with Tony, a struggling reader, he had a hard time retelling the story or who even the main characters were. As a non-reader I realize that he’s faking reading and nothing is sticking to this kid. To watch him you would think he really didn’t enjoy reading. I created shopping cards for my kids and spent some time conferencing with Tony.  I told him I really thought he would enjoy Magic Tree House. I offered him several to choose from and after selecting one, he was laughing and smiling with another student who also had a Magic Tree House book. Concerned that he was once again off task and not engaged in his reading I headed back to have a quick conference.   I was prepared to speak with him about how could I help him with reading and being on task during workshop, but before my speech I asked what he was talking about with his reading partner. With the biggest smile and a light in his eyes he said, “I really like this book, Mrs. Fulford!”  Tony began to tell me in great detail all about his story. This retelling had never occurred before. I told him this was a moment that made my day because now he truly knows how important a just right book is. He looked at me and said “Thank you, Mrs. Fulford, for helping me to find a just right book. I really love this just right book.” What else can you say other than, Wow! I have a struggling reader who wants to read and to be honest there’s nothing we can’t do now. Thank you Becky!

Stefanie Fulford
4th Grade


THIS just makes me GIDDY!  I love these kinds of stories.  I know that Stephanie has only won round one with Tony, but I have full confidence that by May this kid is going to see himself and his reading life in a whole new way.  Choosing a series for a struggling reader is such a smart thing to do because you have more to feed them when they like it.  They are less reluctant to head into another book because they know that Jack and Annie or Ramona or Jake Drake will be there waiting for them.  It was actually Hank the Cowdog that made my son LOVE reading.  Good ‘ol goofy Hank…

If I could put Stephanie’s passion and drive in a bottle I could be a millionaire.  I have met so many teachers in my districts like her.  These teachers are the game changers in the lives of children.  Stories like this are the best rewards I could ever ask for from my job.  I love the star fish flingers like Stephanie and all the other teachers that are like her.  You guys know who you are in each of my districts.  It isn’t about knowing everything about reading…Stephanie is still at the beginning of her “Teaching Reading” journey.  Reading content-I can teach her.  The most important things for success with kids – she already knows.  When we boil it all down…it is about relationships with kids and the drive and tenacity that we have to stop at nothing to help them be successful and show them how valuable they are in our world.

***Tony’s name has been changed for this blog.  All other information is accurate and exact.



Miscellaneous Downloads People Request


So I know I am behind on emailing some items to people…it has been a little crazy this year.   I am going to add some pdf’s and images that people frequently ask for  and that way you don’t have to wait for me to wade through my emails. LOL…I am attaching the “Quitting” Poem and school article I frequently mention to bundle with Chalkbox Kid as well as one possible bundle for that book.   We have been talking A LOT about read aloud and so I am attaching some images as reminders to:

1. Make sure you have students turn and talk and stop and jot well by supporting them with stems to get them started.

2.  Push the boundaries of their vocabulary.  One way to do this is to push the degrees of emotions.  “Big sad or little sad.”  Kids totally get the emotion but lack the word to help them be exact.

3.  Watch your kids stop and jots in upper grades.  Are they getting enough volume?  Do you see evidence of growth in their jottings?

I am also going to attach the keys to the PM Readers as well as the leveling guide from Rigby.  The Keys give you all kinds of great background on the PM Readers.  They are FAB!  The leveling guide will help you with the levels of any of your books from Rigby.  I am will also attach some booklists that I can’t take credit for developing.  These were PDF’s you could download from Teacher’s College.  Lastly the grand reading log to support your readers.  Remember it is a tool…not an assignment with a grade at the end complete with a parent signature.

Hope this helps some of you guys out!  I am off to bed.  Trying to get there tonight before 11.

Becky DSC_9620DSC_9622DSC_9632

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Article for Chalkbox kid bundle

Chalk Box Kid Bundle

Keys to PM’s magenta

Keys to PM’s red-green

Keys to PM’s orange-silver

Sight Word List 1-17

Mystery Booklistgenre



Primary Series Books

Reading Log




As I stepped out of the door this morning it was apparent that October is on her way. Cooler temperatures tend to make me giddy. I’m excited about the idea of sweaters and scarves and boots.
As October approaches, it also means that school is now in full swing. Many of you are on the last week or two of your first unit of study with your students in reading workshop. As we move into October it’s critical that you begin asking yourself if your kids are reading with enough volume. Lucy Calkins addresses this within her units of study. Here is a list of text levels and how many books children should be reading per week if they are reading texts within that level.
Level K – 8 to 10 books per week
Level L/M – 4–6 books per week
Level N/O/P/Q – 2–4 per week
Level R/S/T – one – three per week depending on the length of the book
Level U/V – 1 book per week

Keep in mind this is based on the idea that kids are reading for 35 to 40 minutes per day in school as well as home reading. If you have not been able to get your kids stamina up to this number of minutes, continue to work towards those goals. You will need to adjust the number of books they’re reading per week based on the number of minutes they’re actually reading.

If you do not have the curriculum calendars for reading workshop, I have attached PDFs that are available online for each grade level.

While grades one and two are tackling tricky trouble and tricky words, grades three through five will be digging into character units in October if you are following the Teachers College curriculum calendar.

If you haven’t administered an engagement assessment in grades two through five, this may also be necessary so that you can make sure kids are engaged in their reading. If they’re not engaged in their reading, the volume and stamina of their reading will not increase. You can use this assessment to look at kids who might need support with motivation, focus or stamina. These become some of your first strategy groups.  You can look back at my blog in August to get more information on this assessment. I would also recommend that you read Jennifer Serravallo’s book Teaching Reading in Small Groups.

I hope this has helped you today!!
In the words of Debbie Miller, “Happy reading!”


Kindergarten Reading

1st Grade Reading

2nd Grade Reading

3rd Grade Reading

4th Grade Reading

5th Grade Reading

Bundling Texts for Beginning of the Year


I am not sure what happened. Summer is supposed be filled with long days and evening skies littered with the flickering glow of lightening bugs accompanied by the string quartettes of surrounding crickets. I was supposed to find time to sit on the porch swing and be bored. I haven’t had one of those days yet and summer has already began to pack her bags and back out of my driveway! School supplies has been back out on the shelves for weeks and teachers are already back in the throws of planning out their curriculum. So I will blow a last kiss out to summer, wave good-bye from the porch as I call out to her, “Have a have a safe trip and I will see you next year.” The requests from teachers are flooding in for good books to plan for Read Aloud with Accountable Talk. So, I decided today that there is no time like the present. Here we go People!!  Bottoms up!

Let’s consider K-2… Remember to choose books that have the cares of 5-7 year olds in mind. Common issues that are great for read aloud include:

  • friendship trouble
  • moral choices (lying, stealing)
  • family issues…fitting in with your family, new sibling, bossiness, sibling rivalry, etc.
  • fears…new school, sleeping away from home, going to school, getting glasses, going to the dentist, riding the big roller coaster, etc.
  • believing in yourself
  • being true to yourself

See the attached PDF for great beginning and first semester books for K-1 readers.  I will be back soon to tell you about 2nd and up…Book List K-1 Table