Monthly Archives: December 2019

Happy Holidays from Dr. Sam (& a little holiday treat from my kids)

Happy Holidays from Dr. Sam (& a little holiday treat from my kids)

I have many friends of many faiths and beliefs. I want to wish you all the best in this holiday season. Happy Holidays! May your holidays be filled with joy and wonder, including the joy and wonder reading great books can bring.  I’ll resume my blog series about teaching students how to read with prosody after the new year begins. In the meantime, here’s a little holiday treat from my third graders. As you know I am working with their teachers, helping them to implement writing workshop. We were doing a little demonstration of how paragraphs work (main idea details). It was a whole class endeavor. Share the pen. First attempt. Wasn’t expecting much of a result. They surprised me & came up with this funny, amazing little story about Santa. I love it when the kids learn more than you teach.  ENJOY!


Santa Got Stuck

Building Fluency Using the Ideas of Dr. Tim Rasinski: What our project looks like by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Building Fluency Using the Ideas of Dr. Tim Rasinski: What our project looks like by Dr. Sam Bommarito

A couple of weeks ago we had a very exciting visitor. Here is a tweet about that:


This year I spend one full day a week doing push-ins. Two of those push-ins are with third-grade teachers. I’m helping them to implement a writing workshop program.  I do some individual tutoring for students. Both are topics for another day. What I want to now talk about are the push-ins I do into two first grade rooms and two-second grade rooms. Those push-ins last about 50 minutes each. Last week I wrote about Tim’s visit a couple of years back where he told the story of a 1st-grade teacher who made some amazing progress with her students using repeated reading. Tim had a large body of research to back up the idea that repeated readings can have a very positive effect on reading. Let’s talk now about what this particular iteration of this general practice looks like.

In a nutshell here is what the team has arranged. Once every two weeks, the students get to pick a poem/song/other short reading to rehearse. The poems are rich in the sounds their basal is stressing for that period.  The students mainly work in pairs. Groups of three are formed only when the alternative is to have a student work on their own. Students showing stronger reading skills are paired with students showing somewhat weaker reading skills. Students practice their poems 5-7 minutes daily. If both students in the pair pick the same poem, each student takes a turn reading the poem, otherwise, each student reads their own poem. The pairing has proved especially useful. Both partners benefit. We’ve noticed that after a few weeks, children are no longer reading like a robot.  This link to a song from Go Noodle will help the reader understand what I mean by “robot reading” . Our children are already reading more like storytellers. We are using the rubric from Dr. Rasinski’s Megabook of Fluency to help document that. Details about that will come in future blogs.

The whole idea of this arrangement is that the students know they are “rehearsing” for a performance. In this case every two weeks they record their poem on See-Saw.  Parents have access to the recording that their child makes. One of the unanticipated consequences of the program so far has been the parent’s reaction to hearing their child read. It has been overwhelmingly positive. They too seem to notice the difference reading with prosody makes.

We are drawing on the ideas of two of Rasinski’s books to guide the team in the implementation of the project. Here they are:


As the weeks go on, I will address the issues of what the underlying theories are about,  what we are doing,  and what the research says about those theories. We’ll discuss how these methods fit into the big picture of the overall literacy program being used at the school.  I’ll also talk about what the initial prosody instruction looks like. But for now, I hope you’ve gotten enough of an introduction to get a good sense of what we are up to.  I want to especially thank the team for their participation in the program. As you will find out, they’ve pretty well taken over the implementation of the project and have added a new element I hadn’t thought of. To find out what that is you’ll need to follow the blog over the next few weeks. In the meantime:

Happy Reading and Writing


Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka the team facilitator)

Copyright 2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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Exploring the Science and Art of Teaching Reading By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Exploring the Science and Art of Teaching Reading

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

This is a repost of a piece I did when I first decided to try out the ideas of Tim Rasinski with my students. I spend one full day a week pushing into classes. I thought reposting this piece from a year ago would be a great introduction to the how and why of what we are doing this year to scaffold our first and second graders into reading with prosody. Pay special attention to the true story of a first-grade teacher and what she did. I’ve highlighted it in red. More to come next week as I talk about how this has evolved into a complete program of prosody

Reading is both an Art and a Science. Why on earth have we all seemed to have forgotten that?  I’m just coming off an amazing evening that included the installation of the board and officers of our local ILA group in St. Louis, and listening to two outstanding speakers, Amanda Doyle- the author of Standing Up for Civil Rights in St. Louis and Tim Rasinski who was there to promote his newly released book The Megabook of Reading Fluency.  My regular readers know I post every Friday. For the next few Fridays, I’ll be unpacking the many wonderful ideas that came from the speakers and audience at that meeting.

Let’s start with the big gun. Tim Rasinski. I got to introduce him. Didn’t know I was going to do that until the outgoing president of our local ILA said: “Sam, why don’t you introduce our second speaker.”  OMG. What to say! Actually, it wasn’t very hard. Tim is a long-time friend of literacy in St. Louis. He is a former president of the IRA (now ILA), former editor of many prestigious journals, including the ILA’s research journal. He has enough publications to fill a room. Yeah, I said it that way- I was on the spot.  But you know, it’s true.  Most of all I described him as a major reading guru, well known for his work in fluency.

Let’s talk about fluency for a second. Tim doesn’t view fluency as speed reading (ugh!). He views it as prosody (yeah!).  He has a prosody rubric that he makes available for free on his website. He also uses it in his own 3-minute reading assessment, which is also available on his website ( That one’s not for free! His new book contains a revised version of the rubric that includes the acronym E.A.R.S. to describe the major components of prosody. I’ve supported the use of the various forms of this rubric for a long time. This is because, in my opinion, it actually measures reading. I’m not at all sure what it is those tests that measure only the speed of reading measure. I guess they might help folks who want to become auctioneers. Not sure who else really reads or talks that way. But I digress. What about this idea of reading as an art as well as science.

I’ve heard Tim speak many times in many places. But this was the first time I’d heard him pitch the idea that READING IS AN ART AS WELL AS A SCIENCE. He made a very compelling argument. He made it clear that he supports the idea that the teaching of reading is a science. Given his background and publications, I find his claim that he believes that teaching reading is a science more than credible.  However, my ears perked up though, when he started talking about the teaching of reading as an art as well. The more he talked, the more I realized that he was afraid it was becoming a lost art. What does the art of reading look like in the classroom?

Tim talked about several different classroom teachers he has encountered. One of them spent about half of her literacy time doing all the traditional scientific things, and the other half of the time having her children learn to read AND PERFORM poetry.  Practice all week, performances on Fridays.  She was a second-year primary teacher. She was getting major push back about “wasting” instructional time. The upshot- lots less art, lots more science, please. She wrote to Tim about that. He advised her to stay the course. She did. As a result, her classes’ end of the year test performance went up dramatically. She replicated the results the next year. She also became her state’s teacher of the year.

Readers, have I got your attention yet?

By next week I’ll have my own copy of Tim’s latest book (found it on Amazon Prime) and a chance to really look and think about both the ideas he presented Wednesday night in St Louis and about the content of his new book. (UPDATE Dec. 2019: The 1st and 2nd-grade teams and I are now using this book in this year’s project) A big thanks to Scholastic for sponsoring him. Just in the brief chance, I had to look at the book he brought with him and also looking at the online previews of the book I have become convinced that this book is destined to become the go-to handbook for teachers who want to do serious teaching around the concept of fluency.  It’s packed full of practical lessons and a defense for using such lessons that can only be mounted by someone with Tim’s knowledge of fluency. It is a blueprint on how to use the art (and science) of reading to help kids become more fluent readers. For me, this means readers who read with prosody. It doesn’t mean readers who aspire to read fast, faster, fastest. Instead, it means readers who aspire to read with varied speeds, speeds appropriate to the text content and meaning, speeds that demonstrate an understanding of text meaning. In short, readers who read like storytellers.  I predict the use of Tim’s rubric, and his lessons will go a long way toward helping to make that happen.


(NOTE TO READERS: Please read the previous single word paragraph in a voice drawn out slowly, emphasis on the first syllable and with real enthusiasm! 😊 Writer’s workshop note I learned the writer’s trick of single-word paragraphs for the purpose of emphasis from my writing workshop teachers many years ago. At this juncture, I just tried to meld that particular piece of writing craft with the concept of reading with prosody. I hope all that just had the desired effect).

So…, there will be more to come on this topic over the next few Fridays.  For right now, I’m inviting my readers to wrap their heads around the idea that reading is both an art and science.  Some of you have had this idea for a long time. For some, it may be brand new. Please understand that treating the teaching of reading as art can be justified.  Treating it as an art can pay off in so many ways. According to Rasinski, one of those ways happens to include the possibility of better test scores. But it also includes so much more. I think Rasinski’s newest book will help you as a teacher to get into the art of teaching reading (and writing) while still using the science of reading (and writing). Some of the things he said in St. Louis made me feel I was back in a writer’s workshop seminar.  You’ll see what I mean next week. Anyway, we REALLY need to talk more about all this over the next few weeks. As always, both push back, and praise are welcome. Have a good week!


Happy Reading and Writing


Dr. Sam Bommarito (A.K.A. Dr. B., newly minted “art” teacher & wanna-be storyteller  who is learning how to read with a storyteller’s voice)

Here’s a little more information about Tim and his background: