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Teacher Talk

Welcome to Teacher Talk, where our authors 'talk' early literacy with teachers. You'll find practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators, as well as personal stories and innovative approaches to improving your teaching practice.

  • Small Group Instruction for Struggling Readers - Explorations: The Intervention Solution

    What is Explorations: The Intervention Solution?

    Explorations: The Intervention Solution provides effective small group instruction for students who are struggling in reading.  This intervention aims to provide students with explicit instruction in meta-cognitive reading strategies as they read informational text.  Students will be engaged in guided practice and independent practice as they participate in ongoing application of these strategies.

    • Flexible use of 6 meta-cognitive strategies:
      1. Making Connections
      2. Monitoring and Clarifying
      3. Predicting and Inferring
      4. Questioning
      5. Summarizing
      6. Visualizing
    • Independent use of vocabulary strategies
    • Locating and using information to support comprehension of written text and visual elements
    • Improving attitudes towards reading and broadening reading interests
    • Using and comprehending information through literal, interpretative, and critical lenses.

    How Do You Define a Struggling Reader?

    A struggling reader is one—having the cognitive tools to be a successful reader--who has developed a breakdown in strategic processing and metacognition, and as a result is having difficulty controlling and managing the meaning-making process in a purposeful and reflective way while reading.

    How Does Explorations: The Intervention Solution Support the Struggling Reader?

    Explorations: The Intervention Solution supports the struggling reader by providing a well-designed intervention framework that promotes meta-cognitive processing through the gradual release of responsibility.   The framework consists of four main parts:

    1. Modeling of the comprehension strategy with a poster
    2. Supported practice with students reading in pairs with partner cards
    3. Independent reading with short text of 3 levels of difficulty
    4. Extended independent reading with a topic aligned book

    The structured routine supports and scaffolds struggling readers and English Language Learners as they progress toward grade-level proficiency.  The program focuses on the teaching strategies that will promote proficient and competent readers.

    Is the program centered on evidence-based practices?

    Explorations: The Intervention Solution is an integrated, informational, intervention program that is based on the process of the gradual release of responsibility and the apprenticeship approach. The practices that support this theory of learning are helping students to acquire literacy through assisted instruction and a knowledgeable teacher.  In addition, research-based practices include a structured routine that utilizes mini-lessons, demonstrations, and discussions to promote problem-solving and reflective thinking. 

    Interventions Table
    Explorations: The Intervention Solution
    offers a variety of ways that teachers can differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the struggling reader.

    The program is comprised of 5 sets that have a narrow range of readability levels.  The texts within each set contain text that support struggling readers as they progress towards grade level proficiency.  The Sets range in difficulty of guided reading levels from K (DRA 20) to Y (DRA 60).

    There are 6 Topic Units within each Set.  Each Topic Unit contains high interest texts that motivate students.  The text in each Topic Unit is leveled for targeted intervention, and the independent practice cards come in 3 different levels for further differentiation.

    Finally, teachers can differentiate instruction not only by the level of the Topic Unit, but also differentiate with the focus Comprehension Strategy assigned to each set.  For example, students who need targeted instruction on making inferences, the teacher can choose the appropriate leveled Set and then choose the Topic Unit that provides explicit instruction in making inferences.

    Does Explorations: The Intervention Solution Include Assessment that is Built In?

    Placement in the Program

    • Students are selected for intervention based on the school or district assessment process. Students are placed according to their instructional reading level.

    Teacher Assessment

    • Each Set contains six assessment cards and an assessment manual. These assessments provide the teacher with the information about the students’ use of reading strategies, their comprehension, and their ability to locate and use information from the text.

    Student Assessment

    • Lessons provide opportunities for discussion and reflection
    • Students participate in self-assessment in each lesson as the learning goal is directly related to the comprehension strategy focus.

    Is There Ample Reading Material for the Diverse Needs of Students?

    Yes, there are a variety of digital and print, short, complex texts and full length leveled texts in each Topic Unit.  During the Model the Strategy lesson component, a digital short complex text or a print poster is used to support the teacher in modeling the comprehension strategy.  Moving on to the second sequence, the students work in pairs, using their large format Working with Partner Cards.  When students have mastered the strategy, they work individually on one of the 3 leveled Practice Cards. The text level of the card is differentiated as identified by one, two, or three stripes on each card, indicating the degree of difficulty.  Finally, there is a leveled full-length text in each Topic Unit that students can read independently or in a small group.

    Are All of the Materials and Resources Included to Teach a Lesson?

    Yes, Explorations: The Intervention Solution contains all the resources needed to teach each intervention lesson.  Each Topic Unit comes packaged in a grab-and-go format for ease of teacher use.  Each Topic Unit contains the following:

    • Poster for Modeled Instruction (1 Poster)
    • Working with a Partner Cards (3 copies of one card)
    • Working by Yourself Cards (18 cards, 6 each for Below, Above, and Baseline Difficulty)
    • Lesson Plan
    • Full Length book for independent reading (6 copies)
    • Digital Access to print materials and extension resources

     How Do Teachers Select a Topic Unit to Begin Instruction?

    First, teachers are encouraged to select an Explorations Intervention Set based on the student’s instructional reading level.  After identifying the appropriate leveled Set of materials, teachers then can choose a Topic Unit based on the Unit’s assigned comprehension strategy or the content area topic.

    How is Each Topic Unit Paced?

    Explorations: The Intervention Solution supports the development of six core reading comprehension strategies within each Set.  Each Topic Unit within a set contains a flexible timetable of instruction to meet the needs of the varying lengths of time that intervention teachers meet with their students.  The Getting Started Resource contains pacing guides that provide flexible five-day, seven-day, ten-day, and 15-day lesson schedules.  The pacing guides illustrate how teachers who meet with students 2, 3, or 5 days a week can use the resources effectively as they cycle through each of the 6 Topic Units in a Set, within their chosen time frame.

    Can the Digital Components be Utilized Without an Interactive Whiteboard?

    Yes, a USB device for each Topic Unit is included in the program.  The digital version of the Model the Strategy Poster can be projected and enlarged using an LCD or a Data Projector.  The digital accessibility makes it convenient for modeling the comprehension strategy for a whole or small group of students. The USB device also contains printable resources for vocabulary instruction for each Topic Unit located in the Printable Resources Folder on the device.

    Learn more...

    Explorations: The Intervention Solution

  • What does Guided Reading look like at Grades 3-5?

    Guided reading Grades 3-5 contains some of the elements of guided reading in the primary Grades (K-2). When working with students at higher Grades (3-5) the teaching approach needs to take into consideration that the texts will:

    • be longer in length
    • have less familiar content
    • become increasingly difficult.

    The teacher’s role is first to support students in developing the strategies and skills to read these texts. And second to teach the students to transfer their increasing knowledge and understanding to texts they will encounter across the curriculum.

    Establishing the strategy focus

    While the teacher may initially introduce the text and establish the focus, most of the reading the students do will be done independently or with the support of a partner. When the students meet with the teacher for their small group lesson, the teacher’s role is to encourage the students to talk about their thinking and prompt them to respond critically to the text. Students in the group are expected to engage in high level discussions with the teacher acting as a facilitator.

    Help students to synthesize

    A graphic organizer for students to use as they read provides a framework for the students to record and keep track of their thinking. The graphic organizer not only holds the students accountable for their independent work it is also a very useful a tool for the teacher to assess the strategies and skills that have been taught.

    Below is an example of a graphic organizer that could be used for students to track their thinking when comparing and contrasting information within a text.



    Can students use information they have gathered to form their own opinions about a topic?

  • Starting a New Shared Reading Book with Kindergartners (Video 1 of 7)

    Join literacy consultant Debra Crouch as she shares a big book with a San Diego Kindergarten class. This introductory session focuses on meaning and cognition of Which Pet is Best?

    Watch how Debra models her thinking about how the book works.

    Most conversation happens as whole-group discussion, until the turn-and-talk at the end of the book.

  • Deepening Meaning: Returning to the Book with Kindergartners (Video 2 of 7)

    This follow-up reading's focus is about deepening meaning of the book. Debra again models her thinking and invites students to turn-and-talk several times during their second reading of Which Pet is Best?

    Students join in reading the text aloud with the teacher as they choose.

    Debra uses a pointer to track the print by moving fluidly under the text, as all students in the class have one-to-one match established.


  • Building Vocabulary During Shared Reading with Kindergartners (Video 3 of 7)

    In this installment with Debra Crouch, she and her students revisit the text to focus on vocabulary —specifically, describing words. Students discuss numerous describing words in the book.

    With each word discussed, Debra reads the sentence on the page to establish meaning, discusses meaning of the vocabulary word, and then rereads the sentence to put the word back into context. Students join in reading the text aloud with her as they choose.


  • Word Study: Returning to the Shared Reading Text (Video 4 of 7)

    Before the video begins, Debra had students draw and write a response to the book: write about a pet you think is best. After collecting the students’ writing, Debra examined their writing to determine an appropriate teaching focus for word study.

    Debra determined that the word study focus would be to encourage students to ask themselves, “Does the word look right?” after they write a word. Several children had or could have used the word “because” in their writing. So this became the example word for their new strategy.

  • Modeled Writing with Shared Reading for Kindergartners (Video 5 of 7)

    This modeled writing experience gives children an opportunity to hear a writer decide what to write about, how to say the ideas to be written, and to notice strategies and conventions for getting an idea onto paper.

    Literacy consultant Debra Crouch writes about a topic the students had already written about: the best pet. After discussing the topic with students, Debra discusses different ways to begin the opinion piece and that the piece needs to include reasons to support thinking. She emphasizes rereading to check your writing and maintain meaning.

  • Extend Oral Language with Kindergartners (Video 6 of 7)

    This lesson happened just before the first reading of Which Pet is Best? The book had been used in several reading sessions the previous week. In this session, several pages, not the entire book, are used as a warm-up at the beginning of shared reading time to extend oral language. Students join in the reading as they choose. The language focus is on continuing to use positional words. The vocabulary of “lumberjack” was used by students during the previous week and, as it was a known word, we used that word.

  • Extending Oral Language, Small Group Kindergarten (Video 7 of 7)

    Small Group reading to extend Oral Language

    Watch as the teacher leads a reading lesson with a small group of kindergarten children.

    The teacher invites each child to look at the pictures in the book and asks the child open questions about the story. Most of all, the teacher prompts the child to use their own words. She also asks the children questions starting with "which" and "where" to encourage the flow of communication. The teacher encourages the children to "add into the thinking", while supporting their ideas and concepts.

    As a result, the child displays a curious interest and communicates their thoughts about the book with the group.

  • Guided Reading: Synthesizing & Talking About the Pair (Video)

    Join literacy consultant Debra Crouch as she and her guided reading group of 3rd grade students talk about paired texts AMAZING SALAMANDERS and SALAMANDER SURPRISE, Level N paired texts from the FLYING START TO LITERACY series. FLYING START is available from Okapi Educational Publishing.


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