Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Guided Reading to Support Textbook Reading, Part 1

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Feb 14, 2017 2:42:00 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the first post in a series about using guided reading activities to support content-area textbook reading.

The blog will demonstrate why students need explicit guidance when reading textbooks. Textbooks are often the backbone of content area classrooms, but can pose many challenges for a budding reader.


First, let’s examine the characteristics of formal educational textbooks and the challenges they present:

  • Textbooks are often written at a reading level above the students’ grade level.
  • The authors of textbooks have no conception of how much—or how little—prior knowledge their readers bring to the text.
  • An enormous amount of new vocabulary must be acquired if the child is to read with full comprehension. Students need very strong strategies, such as letter knowledge, for decoding these unfamiliar words. 
  • Many vocabulary words in content area-specific textbooks are not part of the everyday language. Students must read words that they have never heard before, making comprehension difficult.
  • Long paragraphs and passages, packed with new information, can overwhelm readers. The teacher needs to sort through and focus only on the information needed to master a specific concept.
  • Sometimes, students are asked to read silently without knowing the goals of textbook reading. Many students do not know how to independently set goals when reading formal texts and how to monitor their comprehension. The student may be led to think that they need to memorize the entire text.
  • Some textbooks are outdated and contain old information. The teacher must study the textbook carefully and only use sections that remain relevant and accurate. Additional sources of information should be used to support the textbook, adding opportunities for critical thinking and synthesis skills.
  • Good textbooks include specific features to help the reader. The reader needs to learn how to use the table of contents, index, glossary, diagrams, charts, and maps.

child science book_13183583_Nyul.jpg

Research shows us that student average comprehension percentiles become lower and lower as the students go into higher grade levels. We know that reading content area material is more difficult than reading narratives because it demands a more specific and sophisticated level of comprehension.

Intermediate, middle school, or high school teachers report that many students do not enjoy content area reading and have difficulty with textbooks. The joy that we often see in our younger readers as they learn about the world is not always present in the older reader.

Clearly, teachers of all grade levels need to provide verbal and guiding reading support for content area reading. Teacher can interact with students in small groups, large groups, and individual settings.

My next blog post will introduce guided reading activities and ideas for teachers to incorporate content area activities into the classroom.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 


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Topics: Geraldine Haggard, Science, Guided Reading, Math, Social Studies

Teaching Math through Literature—with FREE Download!

Posted by Dana Lester on Feb 7, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Dana LesterThis is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Teaching Math through Literature

Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are skills that cannot be limited to one specific discipline. They play a role in all areas—even math! The educational trend is toward integrated curriculum. The integration of math and reading makes math meaningful and creates real-world connections.

Research shows that incorporating children’s literature is a great way to open the lines of communication about math. Students become better critical thinkers and improve problem-solving skills when the two are combined. If you, as a teacher, look forward to teaching reading and language but dread math, try incorporating a book into your lesson. Or maybe you have a student who is into reading, but not so great with numbers—they can make the connection through books!

Shape Hunt 2Here are several ways to incorporate literature into mathematics:

  • Books can be used to pose a problem. Read a book that lends itself to numbers. Stop reading after you come across the character's problem and have the students solve it mathematically.
  • Create task cards with math problems to accompany specific books in your reading center.
  • Use a book to set the stage for a new math concept or to review a previously learned skill.
  • Use a book as the basis of your math lesson and let the students create equations that relate to the story.
  • Introduce certain manipulatives through literature. If you read a book about cookies, give the students paper (or real!) cookies to solve the problems.

Shape Hunt 3Any type of literature can be used for its mathematical instruction. The books you use do not have to be written specifically for one math skill. You can take a real world situation from any book and create a math task the students can relate to and solve. Hide math in the story! Math can be fun!

Take for example, Baseball Shapes by Jamie Duncan. Obviously, this book is intended to teach shapes, but it also incorporates real-world connections by using baseball to appeal to students. Most students can relate to baseball either through having seen it on television or through playing on a team or on the playground.

After reading this book, I would encourage my students to find more of the shapes named in the pictures, then around the room. I would even take them on a shape hunt around the building to identify these shapes in real life and to find shapes I had previously hidden. I have included the materials you need to go on a shape hunt of your own free for you to download. I hope you will share ways you incorporate literature into your math lessons in the comments below!


Dana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.


To download the Shape Hunt Word Cards, click the cover image below. To learn more about Kaleidoscope, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image below to download an information sheet with key features.

Shape Hunt Shape Cards Download New Call-to-Action

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Literature, Dana Lester, Math

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