Reading Goals, Skills, and Strategies

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Summer is a great time for professional development because I really have time to digest what I'm learning!  Today I attended a workshop on Jennifer Serravallo's work with Strategy Lessons and it helped me get clear on the difference between a reading goal, skill, and strategy. I thought it might be helpful to you as well!


In Jennifer's book, she says, "An ideal classroom, I think, is one in which every student has a clear goal, based on reliable formative assessment information."  She then shares a Hierarchy of Possible Goals that include the following:

As a kindergarten teacher, I so appreciated that her goals included emergent reading and engagement before jumping right into print work.  She says, "We can meet students where they are and help them engage with and enjoy books, make meaning, acquire vocabulary, use text features to understand, connect the pages, respond to texts by writing and talking, practice their fluency, and perhaps above all, develop identities as confident, engaged, joyful readers (even without decoding)."


Under each of the above goals, there are multiple skills.  To help understand this, she offered the example of shoe tying to illustrate skills and eventually strategies.  If you were teaching your child how to dress themselves (goal), tying their shoes, buttoning their shirt, zipping their coat would be several of the skills they would need to learn.

To use a reading example, if the goal was emergent reading, skills might include storytelling, fluency, expression, using transition words and phrases, and monitoring for meaning.  Children might be working on the goal of emergent reading for several weeks as they work to master each of the associated skills.


She defines strategies as clear, step-by-step how-to's, like a procedure or recipe.  For each skill, children are taught one or more strategies to serve as a pathway to skill mastery and ultimately to employ the goal independently.   Using the above example, if the skill were tying shoes, strategies might include using a loop, crossing the laces, or making bunny ears.

You can find a video of Jennifer teaching a small group strategy lesson to kindergartners here and a coaching conference here!

In some cases, you might be crafting your own strategy in which you would want to "spy on yourself" as you perform the skill and think, "What am I paying attention to? What questions am I asking myself" and find the language and prompts for the strategy from there.  Our presenter also suggested thinking about how you might tell these steps "across your fingers."

The Reading Strategies Book

Jennifer's book is broken down into color-coded chapters, one for each of the above goals, and includes 300 (yes 300!) strategies.  The skill for each strategy, along with the text level, is listed on each page along with lesson language, prompts, and a visual (think anchor charts!) for each strategy.

You can find this book, along with her other books on writing strategies, small group reading, conferring, and formative assessments here.

There is also a great Facebook group where teachers using her methods ask questions and share great ideas!  Hope this was helpful!

Thanks for stopping by!

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