Category Archives: Fluency

The Fluency Project: Final Entry By Dr. Sam Bommarito

The Fluency Project: Final Entry

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

This week I want to wrap up the topic of what we are currently doing with the fluency project and make the transition to what I’ll be saying about the Reading Wars when I present at the Write to Learn conference in two weeks. Remember that what we are doing in the fluency project is supplementing the main program at the school. We’re using the ideas of Tim Rasinski to help improve our students’ reading.

There are several things I hope my readers take away from this series. First and foremost, there is more than one way to approach the teaching of phonics, and it pays to supplement one approach with others. On the one hand, I make sure my students are given direct instruction in synthetic phonics. That is provided by the basal they are using. I view that as the start point, not the end.  In the fluency work we have them do; they also get analogic phonics activities as part of the 5-7 minutes daily practice reading a poem. They know, in advance, they that will be expected to perform that poem at the end of two weeks. When Rasinski visited our site, he made special note of the follow-up word-work the teachers were doing around the specific sounds in words from the poems.

Our view of fluency goes beyond simple measures of reading rate. Concentrating on rate alone can lead to other important factors of reading aloud being ignored. When that happens, young readers learn to read like robots rather than read with expression. That point is made in the entertaining  U Tube videos  Don’t Read Like a Robot – Blazer Fresh- GoNoodle.

We use the rubric found in Rasinski and Cheesman-Smith’s Megabook of Fluency.  That rubric is organized around Rasinski’s prosody factors (EARS). E is for Expression, A is for Automatic Word Recognition, R is for Rhythm and Phrasing, and S is for smoothness. Robotic reading is replaced by reading like a storyteller.  Readers are invited to look at my original blogpost about Rasinski’s research around the efficacy of repeated readings.

Last week I talked about one unexpected but welcome shift in the project. The classroom teachers decided that they were able to carry out the daily reads without my help.  They decided my time with them would better be spent by using the Raz Kids program, as I described last week. It became another part of their independent reading time. Each student is assigned to an instructional level in Raz Kids.  They are asked to complete at least two books a week and take the quiz for those books. While I do the Raz Kid’s work, the teachers work with a group of students solving one of Rasinski’s word ladders. Again, these activities are used as a once a week supplement to the main work of the basal series.

Lets’ take another look at what the students see when they come into the Raz Kids program:


When they first come in, each student checks to see if there are new messages. These come from me. This is how I accomplish cyber-conferencing with each student. Because the program is the kind that the teacher controls, rather one that controls the teacher, I was able to repurpose it for use as a test practice program. Inside that program, I give feedback on how to handle test questions. I described the extensive feedback the program gives on test results last week. After students complete two books in the Level Up area, an area that allows them to choose books at their instructional level, they are then encouraged to do additional reading in the Reading Room area. The program allows me to set the range of levels of the books they choose from.  I usually set that range to be at least one level below and two or three levels above their current instructional level. Students read these books for fun; no quiz required.  The groups are of mixed ability. The groups are formed so I can conference with each student from the group. They contain 4 to 6 students. I do two groups each week. There are four groups in total. Remember that these are not guided reading groups. Rather, these are groups formed so I can give each student specific feedback and strategies for handling the various types of test questions they do.  As indicated already, once they do two on level books, they are allowed to read more challenging books if they wish.

Significantly, students are allowed choice in most of the books they read.  In some cases, especially with those students I tutor individually outside class time, I can assign a specific book to that particular student. When I do that, the ASSIGNMENT icon you see on the student screen appears. This activity is not their only independent reading. However, it does allow me to build in a once a week independent reading time for all students while I work on the specific skills and strategies, they need to be successful in handling the various types of multiple-choice questions.

The final and most important point I want to make about this overall project is this. Teachers feel they are in charge and in control. After all, they are the ones that suggested my switching roles in the project.  This doesn’t mean the school has no control over what they do. They are implementing the basal program. But, they are also allowed time and latitude to do the work they feel would help the students. This fact reminds me of how Reading and Writing Workshop works. There are lessons to be carried out within the unit; there are scripts et. al.  But units of study are designed so teachers have time to do additional things if they wish. This final point is a natural Segway into next week’s topic.

Next week’s topic is that teachers need to be empowered. I think empowering teachers is the key to finally ending the reading wars. I hope that got your attention. You’ll be hearing much more about what I mean by that in next week’s blog. In the meantime, happy reading and writing!


Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka- the team leader who empowers his teachers)

Copyright 2020 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.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.



Fluency Part Three: The fluency project, the teachers are taking over, and that’s a good thing by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Fluency Part Three: The fluency project, the teachers are taking over, and that’s a good thing by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 This is a kind of special time for me. The Write to Learn conference in Missouri is coming up this month. I’ll be making a presentation there about the reading wars. I am the president of the Missouri Literacy Association and we are one of the co-sponsors of the conference. We have an amazing line of speakers including Pernille Ripp, Penny Kittle, Michael Bonner, Sylvia Vardell and my blogging partner William Kern. There will be four keynotes in over 70 breakout sessions.  Here is the link

Two years ago, I wrote my very first blog. I wrote the blog while I was at that conference. I wrote it from the hotel room at the conference- cool stuff! That first year my blog had over 11,000 views.  Last year that jumped to over 43,000 views, and we’re on the pace to easily break that record this year. I really want to thank all the readers for their interest in the blog. I think that, for many of you, the interest comes because you are the kind of folks that believe the real key to improving education lies with the teachers. So, when I report that our team of first and second-grade teachers who are carrying out this fluency project have essentially taken the project over, I make the report with a very happy heart. Here’s what happened.

I’ll start by giving a brief reminder of what the project involves. We are basing our project on the fluency work of Tim Rasinski. Students read poems and songs for 5 to 7 minutes a day. The teachers provided the poems/songs to pick from. By and large, the poems and songs they get to pick from support the scope and sequence of the basal phonics program used by the school. As Tim described it in a presentation he made in St. Louis two years ago, the teacher he talked about had the students do daily reads and weekly performances of their poems. Our team made a number of adaptations to the basic model. We set up our daily reads so that relatively weak readers and relatively strong readers were partners. This has resulted in both students helping each other. The basic goal was to read like storytellers. The teachers report that that is happening in a very noticeable way. We are doing a formal measure of that using Rasinski’s rubric from his Megabook of Fluency. We also added a second layer of daily reading practice. To be more precise, daily singing practice. Before starting with their partners, the whole class sings a song excerpt, again picked because it contains some of the elements stressed by the basal’s phonics program. Overall this brings the daily time spent to around 10 minutes.

After we’d been in the project for a couple of months, my role, which was to come in during this time and help to monitor the paired reading began feeling a bit like being the 5th wheel.  One of the teachers suggested that the project had essentially gone into autopilot.  The routine was established. The kids were singing and doing the paired reading and they were doing their performance on an every other week basis using SeeSaw. She suggested that when I came in instead of coming in for the fluency part, I could come in and do something with the Raz Kids program that I had used in previous years as part of an afterschool program. That is exactly what happened. The team is continuing to carry out the fluency work as described, but my role has changed at the request of the team. Now it’s time for some full disclosures and explanations.

I’ve long been a fan of the Raz Kids program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, here’s a link to their site-  You can look over the program and even get a free trial.  I’ll say from the outset that there are other computer-based literacy programs out there. Actually,  there is a whole constellation of them. I’m sure everyone has their favorites, and I’m equally sure that some people would never consider using them. I’m talking about Raz-Kids now because that’s what we’re using. I found out about Raz-Kids while I was still teaching full-time. One of the teachers I was supporting told me about it. Her son was using it at his school. I did the trial and fell in love with the program because it is the kind of program that lets the teacher take charge rather than telling the teacher what to do.  It includes a huge level library of both fiction and nonfiction books, a way to talk to students individually via the program, and a way to let students record themselves reading. The teacher can access the recording along with the book they read from. It also has a great tracking system that tells teachers about how students do on questions they answer from the story. I’ll have a lot more to say about this next week.

Over time, I got in contact with folks from Raz Kids (a Learning A-Z product), including the regional director and even the president of the company. I did a presentation for them when the ILA was in St. Louis, and this year they came out and did a presentation for my ILA group in St. Louis.  That information is given to you as full disclosure of my relationship with the company. Let me get back to the point that this is the kind of software that the teacher controls rather than the other way around. This is important to me. My very first presentation at an ILA conference was in 1985 on the topic of using microcomputers in reading. The computers of that age had nothing like the power of today’s computers, but there were some powerful ideas about how to use this technology. In his book Mindstorms, Seymour Papert proposed an idea that computers should become tools of the mind and that is how they should be used. It was a principle I talked about back then and one that I think should continue to guide all uses of technology. Some folks use their technology almost as electronic flashcards. The scope and sequence is defined by the computer rather than the teacher. I guess that is one way to do it. I think Papert’s way is better. He was a pioneer in using the computer as a thinking tool. The teacher is in charge, not the computer. Mindstorms is still in print and can be found at any number of book sites.


Next week I will try to describe how I use the Raz Kids program as a tool of the mind. To allay the fears of some of my friends who are somewhat reluctant to do any kind of cyber books, I’ll stress that this is not the only reading the kids do and that I really do try to integrate all in a way that results in kids wanting to read everything- paper books as well as cyber books.  This also integrates quite well with what the team is doing in fluency instruction. So, this is Dr. Sam signing off until next week. Happy reading and writing.


Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka- maker of MindStorms and other such things)

Copyright 2020 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

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Fluency Part Two: Finding ways to use wide reading to scaffold young struggling readers into becoming lifelong readers by Dr. Sam Bommarito

(As previously indicated, I am now posting on Saturday mornings instead of Friday mornings)

Last week I talked about how Susan (pseudonym) wrote her very first book and talked about the success I had in getting her to begin doing a wide reading regimen. Remember, I am talking about a 1st-grade reader who, until now, was a virtual nonreader. Here is a recap of what was said last time:

Susan writes her very first book

The next step I used with Susan may come as a bit of a surprise. I began sending home Keep Books with her. These are leveled readers produced by Fountas and Pinnell. They are sold in bulk. They are very low cost (as low as .25 cents a book when bought in quantity). They are available from Ohio State University I started her with some RR Level 1 and 2 books. Next week I will have a lot more to say about this teaching move.  After reading a couple of these books, with my help, Susan began publishing books (with my help). Here is what her latest one looks like:

Susan Sees One

Susan Sees THREE

Wide Reading for the Very Beginning Reader

This brings us to the most important point of this blog entry. It is possible for even the youngest readers to do wide reading. By giving them a beginning level (RR 1 & 2) to take home and read and by helping them write their own books, students like Ned and Susan quickly develop a large library of books. The books are rich in high-frequency words. The books they write themselves have many words from their listening vocabulary.  Last semester I worked with Ned (pseudonym). I took him through this very same sequence. Ned went from non-reader to reading on level and above this semester. His shoebox library (that’s where we keep all these books) now has over 50 titles. Ned and I had conversations around his favorite books in that library. In the course of that, I let Ned know that good readers often develop favorite books and favorite authors. I told him one of my very favorite authors is Eric Litwin.  Over the holidays, he asked his parents to by him a book by Eric. In our last session, Ned read that entire book to me on his own. That’s quite an accomplishment for one semester’s work.


This week I want to talk about the whys of doing what I’m doing with each of the three students who started out being struggling readers and are now making real progress.

 I am including goals for them that are often forgotten or ignored by some current approaches to helping struggling readers. One key goal is to take steps to ensure they will become lifetime readers. Not a surprise, given the title of my blog! What am I doing toward this end?

 Each of the readers has a shoebox library. They keep it at home and bring it to each session. It consists of copies of the books they made using Language Experience (they dictate the book; I write down what they say) and copies of Keep Books (Each session, I try to give them one or two books to take home and keep,  They do daily rereads of these books. From the outset, when they come for their session, the first thing I do is ask them to pick their favorite book from this library and read it to me.  Sometimes they choose one of the Keep Books, which are predictable books published by F&P that are rich in high-frequency words. Other times it is one of their own books. The result is that students like Susan and Ned are not just learning all their high-frequency words. They are also learning that good readers have favorite books and favorite authors.  The fact that Ned brought the different Eric Litwin books he had purchased at a local library (they periodically sell their used books) to the session to show me he could now read them, indicates that the habits he developed using the controlled vocabulary books quickly transferred over to trade books. I would mention that both Eric Litwin’s books he bought are well above 1st-grade readability. Yet Ned is reading them fluently.  The fact that he wanted to buy them to keep forever speaks volumes about his progress as a lifelong reader. BTW I just read excerpts from one of the Pigeon books by Mo Willem to Ned as the first step in scaffolding Ned into learning that good readers often have more than one favorite author.

The lessons I am doing for all three children also contain a strong analogical phonics component.  See for a quick overview of various ways to teach phonics. In the case of my kids, we make and break selected words from the story, teach sound-symbol relations, and use Elkonin boxes to help them learn about how the words work.  I use their word dictionary, where we write down the words they own, to track which sounds have been covered.

The reaction to last week’s blog was overwhelmingly positive. Many teachers told me of their success is using Language Experience and similar activities. However, it was also sad, because some of the teachers are reporting they are no longer allowed to use such methods and are being forced to use one size fits all scripted programs. It seems that in some places, we are forgetting the fundamental lesson taught by the First Grade Studies and subsequent work by Allington and others demonstrating that teachers make more difference than methods. I’ll have a lot more to say about this as we get closer to the Write to Learn conference at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo, where I will be presenting about the various aspects of the current round of the reading wars. If you are in the Midwest region, do consider coming to the conference. It is always a good one and includes speakers like Penny Kittle and Michael Bonner. Here are links to registration and to a blog describing all that is happening at the conference Hope to see some of you there!

Next time I will take up what the fluency component of our 1st and 2nd-grade program looks like. Until then- Happy Reading and Writing!

Dr. Sam Bommarito aka, a skillful scaffolder in search of creating lifetime readers

Copyright 2020 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

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.





Fluency part one: Using wide reading and analogical phonics to help beginning readers by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Readers: Last week, we had some family issues because of the heavy rains and flooding basements. Those are now resolved.  I am resuming the regular blog entries this week. For a variety of reasons, my “usual” day to post will now be Saturday.  Thanks for your patience!  Dr. Sam

Fluency part one: Using wide reading and analogical phonics to help beginning readers by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that I devote one day a week to going to a K-8 elementary school. I push into grades 1-2 with a fluency plus program, I work with 3rd grade in implementing a writing workshop, and I tutor some students individually. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about the things I am doing and why I am doing them. Let’s begin with the students I work with individually. They are in grades K-2 and are the students who have the greatest need.

What I do:

My goal is to get my very beginning readers started in the process of figuring out words for themselves and developing the skills need to make meaning from simple text. This, of course, involves beginning the process of developing the kind of sight word vocabulary these readers need. The single most effective way of developing a student’s sight word vocabulary is for the student to do wide reading. Yet, when readers are at the very beginning stages, they can’t do wide reading, because they can’t read at all. What can be done about this conundrum? Is there a way for the very beginning readers to do wide reading? I think I have found one. The rest of this blog is devoted to telling you how I accomplish that.

The Beginning:

Frequently I am asked to work with K-1 students who do not know any of their letters or letter sounds.  They are well behind their peers on the development of this important aspect of reading. In addition, they often had no concept of word. Given these circumstances, what often happens is that when presented with the little books, RR Level 1-2, they simply memorize the whole book.  Teachers mistake their ability to recite a memorized book as a form of reading. It is not. What are some teaching moves to try in this situation?

I begin by applying some things I often used in roaming around the known in Reading Recovery. For children in this situation, the first word I try to teach them is their own name. Let me tell you about Susan (Susan is real, the name is a pseudonym). I began by teaching Susan to sing a song about her name (sung to the tune of BINGO). Her song went like this:

“There was a girl with a lovely name and Susan was her name:

S   U SAN      S U SAN  SU SAN and SUSAN was her name.

After she learned to sing the song, we began using magnetic letters. We used an upper case for the S and then lower case for the rest. We sang the song, at first pointing to the letters. Then we began making and breaking the name using the letters.  We had both an alphabet sheet with all the letters on it, with pictures for each of the letter. We also had a dictionary, using the very same pictures as the alphabet sheet.  Soon she was able to make and break her own name and could tell me both the name, sound, and picture for all the letters in her name.  Susan had just learned her first word! That word, of course, was Susan.

Now I began writing simple phrases for her, both on paper and a small whiteboard.  Susan sees a ball. Susan sees a bat. (she like baseball by the way). I knew that in the past, she had been doing a pseudo reading (reciting a whole book at a time).  I was about to take advantage of that ability to memorize a whole book. First, I tried to convince her that memorizing a whole book was not really a good idea. I showed her a Harry Potter book. I asked her if she thought anyone could memorize that whole book at once. Of course not!!!!! I told her that memorize whole books was not what to do.  We learned a little chant:

“Make it match, don’t make it up, that is what to do.

Make it match don’t make it up; you’ll read your story true.”

Making it match means that as you read, you read each word that is there, no more, no less. If you see five words, say five words. If you see three words, say three words. I began asking her to point to the start of each word in the written phases as she read. Whenever the words in the phrase had letters that were not in her name, we learned the name/picture/sound of the new letters. I used the alphabet sheet and word dictionary to help keep track of these new letters.

After she read a phrase, e.g., “Susan sees a ball,” I asked her to show me “Susan,” show me “ball,” show me “a.”  I also began having her make and break each of those words, using magnetic letters and a small board. I formed those words on the board; I pointed out to her the importance of leaving a finger space between each word. This further developed the idea of each word a distinct group of letters. Eventually, she was able to make and break the whole phrase at once, properly spacing between the words.

Sometimes, we sounded out the words as we put them together.  Then we read the word a whole unit. By the way, Susan would take home both the papers with the phrases and she had her on magnetic board at home. Her parents helped her practice what she was learning in each session. I asked them to keep that short and playful.  She even learned to put down the magnetic letters as she sang the song about her name.


What next?

Before moving on, let’s get some quick background on sight words vs. high-frequency words and learn how they are the same and how they are different.  First, know that mature readers read mainly by sight. They know the words they read instantly, no need to sound them out.  By 6th grade, most readers have a sight word vocabulary that numbers in the thousands. However, not all those sight words are high-frequency words.  The two best known high-frequency Word Lists are the Dolch and the Fry.  Dolch developed his list in the 1930s and ’40s. The Fry list was developed in the 1950s. What both lists have in common is this- the words on them make up at least 70% or more of all the words kids ever need to read. Educators quickly saw the value of having the very beginning readers learn these words early on.

A whole movement developed- known as the sight say movement. Teach the Dolch words by heart. That way the students would know most of the words they need to read. Great idea. But it didn’t work, as the First Grade Studies and other research has documented. Why not? Simply put, the only word strategy the student learned was to memorize the words they need. It worked well on the very short and simple beginning reading texts of the day. However, as soon as the readers got into other longer, more complex text, with more variety in words in the text, they had no effective strategies for working out the thousands of new words they would meet each year. There was no possibility they could memorize thousands of new words each year. It became apparent to most educators that beginning readers needed strategies beyond simply memorizing as part of their beginning reading instruction.  Phonemic awareness and phonics are part of what they need. BTW- There is more than one way to teach phonics. I’ll have much more to say about that over the next few weeks.

Susan writes her very first book

The next step I used with Susan may come as a bit of a surprise. I began sending home Keep Books with her. These are leveled readers produced by Fountas and Pinnell. They are sold in bulk. They are very low cost (as low as .25 cents a book when bought in quantity). They are available from Ohio State University I started her with some RR Level 1 and 2 books. Next week I will have a lot more to say about this teaching move.  After reading a couple of these books, with my help, Susan began publishing books (with my help). Here is what her latest one looks like:

Wide Reading for the Very Beginning Reader

Susan Sees One

Susan Sees TWO

Susan Sees THREE

This brings us to the most important point of this blog entry. It is possible for even the youngest readers to do wide reading. By giving them a beginning level (RR 1 & 2) to take home and read and by helping them write their own books students like Ned and Susan quickly develop a large library of books. The books are rich in high-frequency words. The books they write themselves have many words from their listening vocabulary.  Last semester I worked with Ned (pseudonym). I took him through this very same sequence. Ned went from non-reader to reading on level this semester. His shoebox library (that’s where we keep all these books) now has over 50 titles. Ned and I have conversations around his favorite books in that library. In the course of that, I let Ned know that good readers often develop favorite books and favorite authors. I told him one of my very favorite authors is Eric Litwin.  Over the holidays, he asked his parents to buy him a book by Eric. In our last session, Ned read that entire book to me on his own. That’s quite an accomplishment for one semester’s work.


 By now, I hope I have your attention. Next week I’ll be continuing this saga of using wide reading with very beginning readers. I’ll talk about where phonics and other decoding strategies fit in. I’ll also answer any questions you may have about what I’ve said so far. Feel free to ask such questions in the comments section of the blog. Until then- this is Dr. Sam signing off.

Dr. Sam Bommarito aka publisher of books by Susan and Ned


Copyright 2020 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

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Introducing the special edition of the Missouri Reader- Poetry- a Path to Literacy by  Dr. Sam Bommarito, Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader


Introducing the special edition of the Missouri Reader- Poetry- a Path to Literacy by

Dr. Sam Bommarito, Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader

You may know that one of the hats I wear is that of Co—Editor of the Missouri ReaderMissouri Reader has been publishing for over 40 years now.  We publish between two and three issues a year. We are peer edited and have a highly qualified review board.  We do publish some very well-known literary leaders. But we also give teachers a chance to publish right alongside them Most often those teachers are graduate students at one of our state’s universities, though we do accept articles from all over the United States (and Beyond!). Details on how to submit are always found on the last page of each issue of the journal.  This latest issue is something very special. As you both read about it and then actually read the journal itself, you’ll see what I mean. For me personally the timing of this issue couldn’t be better. It’s my birthday today (don’t ask!). It’s also the first anniversary of this blog. Over 10,000 people have read it since beginning it last year.  In a way, things have come full circle. That first blog entry was written at Tan Tar Ra (Lake of the Ozarks, Mo.) at last year’s Write to Learn Conference. Next week Glenda (my Co-Editor) and I will be at this year’s conference making a presentation on Friday, March 1st..  It will be about this issue of journal (it’s that special). If you’re in the Midwest region come see us, links to all the registration information can be found in our journal. We are part of the Missouri State Literacy association which is a co-sponsor of the Write to Learn Conference.

Readers. I now want to editorialize a bit.  Please indulge me. It relates to the theme of our special issue, Poetry- a Path to Literacy.   Lately I’ve been wondering aloud why we have so many people writing about the need to return to joy in the reading and writing field (lots of titles about that lately). Why do we have a famous video called Don’t Read Like a Robot.  Why are some so determined to turn reading into a race?  Do we really need a nation of Robot Readers and Auctioneers? Or do we need a nation of students who know how to read like Storytellers? Storytellers around those long-ago campfires were the beginnings of what we now call civilization.  The historian in me thinks they were at the heart of the movement that separated human kind from the rest of the living creatures on our planet. To read a story like a story teller you’ve got to understand the characters, know what they act like, what they should sound like. I think that is why Rasinski calls prosody the gateway to comprehension. To read like a story teller is to return to the most basic of basics.  All the authors contributing to this very special issue of our journal hope that our readers find the ideas and resources in this issue that will help them get back to the real basics. Learning to read poetry well is one of the key things that make up what I call the real basics. I also hope the readers of this issue will find much of what they need to help create a nation of readers who know how to read like story-tellers. Perhaps then we would not have to worry about how to bring joy back to all aspects of literacy. The answer is so very simple. Read (and write) because you want to. Let your children do the same.

Pardon me, it’s nighttime and I suddenly feel the urge to build a very nice campfire. Then I think I’ll get out a copy of the new journal. I hear there are some wonderful things to read in it, poems and such. I hear that there’s a whole world of joy to find if you’re just willing to look. Please do have a look. You deserve some joy and so do your children.


Here is the link to the newest Missouri Reader:

Happy Reading and Writing!

Dr Sam Bommarito (aka, the storyteller/poet/singer songwriter)

Copyright 2018 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.

Tips for Parents on How to Grow Motivated Lifelong Readers by Dr. Sam Bommarito

TIps for Parent @DoctorSam7 copyright 2017


The following is based on a presentation I’m scheduled to give next week to a group of parent educators in St. Louis.  Here are some of the key ideas from that presentation.

Key Take Aways From My Presentation

  • About those reading wars: The past 50 years has seen a spirited debate on how to best teach beginning readers. This presentation is based on a balanced, middle of the road approach.  For most children phonics needs to be taught. However, there are several ways to teach phonics (see my blog posts under the categories Decoding & Phonics and Ending The Reading Wars). I argue that since research supports the position that no one beginning reading method works with every child, that the key to successful reading instruction in early reading is to match the child up with a method that works for them. Fit the program to the child not the other way round. Starting with the First Grade Studies and through the work of Dick Allington research has consistently demonstrated that teachers make more difference than any one method. This means that in-servicing teachers in a variety of methods is critical to creating successful early reading programs. Participants are cautioned to examine the claims of some successful one size fits all “reading” programs. Too often these programs based their claims on measures of decoding skills only. The proponents seem to argue that reading achievement and comprehension automatically follow once decoding skills are established. Extensive work with comprehension is delayed, often until third grade.  Teachers like myself who have worked with children who are the product of such approaches are skeptical. Too often such an approach produces “word callers”, children who decode well but don’t remember or understand what is read. These children can be mistaken for children who have learning disabilities. This presenter takes issue with any approach that fails to include meaning making as part of the reading process. I recommend an approach that teaches decoding strategies and comprehension strategies concurrently from the very beginning stages of reading instruction.
  • Ages and stages When should formal instruction on letters sounds and letter names begin, how should that be done? We will review research like that presented in The conclusion is that for the early years (birth through three), it is counterproductive to try to directly teacher letter sounds and names. The brain literally isn’t ready for that yet.  The key is to use a discovery approach to learning. Parents need to create a print rich environment in which children learn all the various Concepts About Print (print carries the message, in English writing goes from left to right, et. al). At this stage it is vital that children have things read to them, talk about things that are read, hear the various sounds that make up our English language.  This work in ages birth through three lays the foundation (creates the schema) for the formal instruction about how words work, letter sounds and letter names et. al. That instruction can (and should) begin starting no sooner than age 4.  Many children will leave the early stage (birth through 3) already knowing letter sounds and names. For those who don’t, instruction in those things can be provided using method(s) that best fit each particular child.


  •  Supporting the emergent reader- Helping them Work for WordsWORK FOR OWN WORDS

While your child is reading to you, if they are stuck on a word don’t just give them the word. Instead try to help them work it out using the tips above. If they still don’t get it, then give it to them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many words they’ll get on their own if you just give them that first sound to start with.

Also, everyone can make mistakes on their first cold read of a passage. If the child is in the habit of noticing their mistakes and correcting them THAT IS HUGE. Encourage it whenever it happens.

  •  Supporting the emergent reader- Reading to Remember/Talking About Books

Talk to them about books

You can ask about any one of these three things (not all three at once!). Use any of these three as a starting point to talk about the book. You can also ask them about favorite characters or favorite parts or new things they learned. THIS IS NOT AN EXAM. The idea is to get them to talk about their story. Knowing that you want to talk about their book encourages them to READ TO REMEMBER!

  • Supporting the emergent reader- Learning to Book Shop/Visiting the LibraryShop for books

Shop for books by interests not by level. Help them find that series or author that they want and they may “binge read”. Binge reading beats binge watching Netflix all to pieces! If the book they want is to hard for them to decode, still check it out and read it to them. Read it more than once. Share the reading with them. Make it a goal to visit the library periodically and check out books for them, books about things they are interested in!!!


The MegaBook of Fluency

  • Reading Like a Story Teller

 Rasinski & Smith Have a wonderful book called The Megabook of Fluency. Use the EARS rubric from that book to guide you into better fluency.  Read with Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, Smoothness.  The rubric is on page 316 of the book. Also check out their help sheet about reading with expression found on page 309.  In addition to these two resources, the book has tons of other activities parents can do to help their child read with fluency (PROSODY!).

  •  Supporting the emergent reader- Parents Should Act Like Books are Important & Wonderful (Because they are!)

xmas-presents creative commons

 Books can be (and should be) presents. With Christmas coming up look over some of these suggestions for books for preschoolers and emergent readers.

Most of these suggestions come from the website

I’ve found it to be an excellent site for getting literacy ideas to use with younger children.

Parents should think hard about making a book one of this year’s Christmas presents. It can be the start of a great family tradition.


So…, that’s the advice I’ll be giving to parent educators about what to say to parents.  It’s advice that can set the child down the path of becoming a lifelong reader. It’s advice that’s grounded in a solid research base.  It’s advice that can give their child a world of wonderful new experiences.


Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, book shopper, advice giver, lifelong learner)

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS

Copyright 2018 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.

Developing the Concepts About Print Provides the Solid Foundation Early Readers Need to Become Successful Readers.  By Dr. Sam Bommarito

READ ALOUD neural networks from the Read Aloud 15 minutes website

Developing the Concepts About Print Provides the Solid Foundation Early Readers Need to Become Successful Readers.  By Dr. Sam Bommarito

In a little more than two weeks, I’ll be doing an hour long in-service for a group of parent educators from a local school district. In the way of full disclosure, my wife is among those parent educators. That fact makes me want to do an extra good job.  Thinking of what I should say to them has caused me to synthesize some views I’ve been expressing over the past few months. The core of those things is that one should fit the literacy program to the child, not the other way round. What does literacy for our very youngest children look like? What should it look like?

The topics of phonics and phonemic awareness will come up. My audience is going to want to know what to say to the parents of children ages Birth through 3 (the core group served by the Parents as Teachers program) and children 4-5, the children in preschool (some children from this group are also served, though they are not the predominant age group served).

The first thing I will tell the parent educators is that it is likely they wouldn’t be gathering for an in-service at all if it weren’t for the influence of the First Grade Studies. It’s been over 5 decades since the First Grade Studies were completed. For readers not familiar with this landmark study, the First Grade Studies compared the efficacy of the major approaches to reading of that era. Overall, they found no one approach worked best, every approach worked better when used with a phonics supplement and that teachers made more difference than methods of teaching in predicting the variance of reading achievement tests. The methods of analysis were not as sophisticated as those employed in today’s metanalysis, but these pioneering studies did have a major impact on our thinking about how to teach reading. Among the things that resulted from these studies was the conclusion that if we want to improve reading instruction for all children, we should invest in in-servicing our teachers. This makes sense. If one approach doesn’t work for a particular child, teachers would become knowledgeable in other approaches that might work for that child. The whole business of providing in depth in-service for teachers in a variety of literacy practices began with the First Grade Studies.  My own take about this point is that the education world recognized there would likely never be a one size fits all solution to the task of teaching literacy skills and strategies. So rather than promote a single method, our resources would be best used to train teachers in a variety of methods. This was based on the finding that good teachers seemed to make more difference in reading achievement than using any one particular approach or method. The First-Grade Studies are also credited with a shift from the Reading Readiness model of early reading, to today’s current model of Concepts About Print as the core of an early reading program. So what advice will I recommend these parent educators give to the parents of very young children?

First and foremost- encourage parents to create and foster a print rich environment for their children.  That means parents should be reading aloud to their children. It also means the parents should be providing that rich constellation of experiences that foster the development of the Concepts of Print. Children also need to see their parents reading and know that their parents consider reading an important life skill.  Parents need to talk about what they are reading to their children, so their children can learn how stories work. That includes talk around non-fiction and fiction (expository and narrative) works.

Currently, there are actually folks telling us to abandon the constructivist approaches often used with these youngest children and to revert back to directly teaching letter sounds and names from the very earliest of ages.  Put all the meaning making on the back burner and get the decoding skills done first. The problem is that the research seems to favor folks using approaches like Reading Recovery. Those approaches combine meaning making and decoding.  It is no accident that Marie Clay, creator of Reading Recovery is also the creator of the CAPs test. That is because CAPs form the core of her highly successful program in beginning reading.  Reading Recovery remains the most successful approach in improving reading achievement in early readers.  Readers are welcome to review the evidence I’ve compiled to demonstrate that the aforementioned conclusion is a research-based statement. The entries can be found under the Reading Recovery category on the side column of this blog.

Turning to things on the CAPS list, as children are read to, they learn important things about how print works. It is print that carries the message. In our system of reading, print moves from left to right. They learn to hear the sounds of various letters, the phonemes that are the building blocks of the written word. At this earliest stage it is not important that they be able to name particular letters and sounds (though they certainly can if they want to). Rather through listening, through talk, the child builds a background knowledge of the various sounds that are used to construct the written word. In addition to learning how words work, they also learn how stories go. They learn about beginning, middle and ends of story. They learn how some stories simply give information. They learn about the meaning carried by the print.

As children reach the age of 4 of 5 they are ready for more direct instruction in how words work. This does include phonics instruction.  But as readers can tell by reviewing my entries about phonics, there is more than one way to teach phonics.  Chief among them are analytic and synthetic phonics.  Again today there are folks who would like to ban the use of anything except synthetic phonics. That position flies in the face of decades of research demonstrating that different children learn by different methods.

I expect that most of the parent educators I will be talking to are already more than familiar with the idea of developing the Concepts About Print. In that sense I will be preaching to the choir.  But I will be making them aware that there is a large body of research supporting the kind of things the choir is doing. I also will make them aware of Rasinki’s work around fluency.  In my opinion (and the opinion of many other folks in the reading world) Rasinski is today’s foremost authority on the topic of fluency. He views prosody as much more than improving reading rate.  He wants readers to learn to read with expression. His newest book, The Megabook of Fluency contains a large number of resources to help teachers help students to obtain that end. He provides a rubric based on EARS, Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, Smoothness. The final page of his book lists 20 different strategies readers can employ to develop prosody and gives connections to pages in the book where teachers can find specific activities and resources. Rasinski views comprehension as an integral part of the reading process. For him, prosody is the gateway to comprehension. You see, for a reader to understand what voice a character might use, what the characters might sound like, the reader must first develop a basic understanding of the story as it develops. Readers who understand the story also understand when the story calls for an excited voice, a worried voice a happy voice et. al. This is another approach to teaching beginning reading that embraces the idea the meaning making and encoding are entwined (and should be entwined) from the very earliest states of learning to read.

So, that is the foundational work I’ll be calling to the Parent Educator’s attention. Job one for kids birth through three is to promote a set of experiences that promote all the Concepts About Print.  Readers are invited to notice the impact that reading the right kind of books at this early age can have.  My friend Eric Litwin talks about how his books do exactly that in a comment you can now find at the end of this post. I have to say that I agree that his books are among those I would use as read alouds for children birth to three in order to provide them with the rhythm,  repetition and rhyme they need to hear in order to lay down the neural networks they will need.  His books are also easy to talk about (and worth talking about). Talking about books after reading to children is a habit every parent of the youngest children should get into. Next week I will turn to some of the specific parent help sheets and ideas I’ve found on how parents can grow lifelong readers. These are readers that want to read. These are readers who understand from the outset, that reading is all about meaning making. More about that next week.

So until next week, this is Dr. Sam signing off.

Dr Sam Bommarito (aka, the CAPS guy, aka the reading is meaning making guy)

P.S. The study that came to be known as “The First Grade Studies” was done by Bond and Dykstra in 1967.  It appeared in RRQ (see screen capture below).  It has been the subject of a great deal of analysis and commentary including a special edition of RRQ in 1997 that marked the  30 year anniversary of the publication of the study.

Screen Capture 1st grade studies

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any particular group or organization. 


Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three) By Doctor Sam Bommarito


MY COMPUTER & PETE THE CATMaking use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three)


Doctor Sam Bommarito

For the past two weeks I’ve been talking about the work I’m doing with an after-school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary.   We call it the Reading Club.  My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist.  In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Last week I focused on my use of ideas from Megabook of Fluency.  This week I’m going to talk about how I am using/will use resources from Eric Litwin and from selected web-based site to help implement that program. I’m also going to talk a little about the way I teach word strategies.

The after-school program is meant to be a supplement to the building program, not a stand- alone program.  I’m trying to motivate the students to want to read, to read with prosody and to use word strategies based on both analytic and synthetic phonics.

For the kids I talk about two different ways to figure out words. One is to “sound them out” (traditional synthetic phonics). The other is to “say the first sound and think of the clues” (my adaption of analytic phonics).  I tell them to use the one that works best for you first.  I also tell them if one way doesn’t work, try the other. I want to point out to any readers who might be nervous about my promoting “word guessing”, that in fact what I’m promoting is “educated word guessing” based on crosschecking.  Marie Clay talks about “crosschecking”, i.e. using more than one of the cueing systems concurrently.  That means making sure that the “guesses” make use the visual clue (first sound) and work with the meaning clue (picture or how the story is going).  So if the child was guessing the word “sun” for something they see in the sky, but the text actually says star I WOULD NOT accept sun. I would prompt near point of error by saying that “ ’sun’ is a very smart guess, but does sun start with the ‘st’ sound and look at that picture. What other word would work here that starts with the ‘st’ sound and goes with the picture?  (The picture, of course, is a picture of a star).

As I’ve already mentioned I picked Eric and his books for our groups first favorite author because his work incredibly motivating and it promotes the use of crosschecking as I’ve just described it. They are predictable and engaging. They often include real life lessons or teach relevant literacy lessons in an entertaining way.   Kids REALLY want to read his books. I told my kiddos that I learned that it pays to find a favorite new author from time to time. It pays to learn all about them and to read lots of their books.  I told them that for our first favorite author, the after-school group would be explore books by Eric Litwin.  I also told them if they wanted to find their own new favorite author for the year I would help with that. They know that later in the year we will all talk about our other favorite authors and pick a new author for the group to focus on after Christmas.

Eric has turned out to be a very good choice for a first author. Several of the students raised their hand when I asked if they have heard of the book Pete the Cat Book- I Love My White Shoes. I then told them that Eric had written a new book, called If You’re Groovy and You Know It Hug a Friend (

I read/sang some of the book to them. Rather than go straight to the full book, I then used the session to practice the song “If your Happy and You Know It”.  That fit in exactly with learning to read/sing a new piece and then practice it for future performance.

Here’s how I expect this to play out over the next few weeks.  Eric’s site is a treasure trove of songs and videos (see for yourself  It includes free downloads of songs and lively video renditions based on his books.  For instance, the Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes has a free download of the song.  So does his new book. I’ll be encouraging parents to let their children visit the site and listen to the songs.  I’ll also encourage them to use these books as night-time read alouds, and even let the children join in the reading.  Parents are welcome to buy them if they want, but they are also readily available at the public library. Because we meet only once a week, the VOLUNTARY performance songs/poems practice during the week (recommended by Rasinski) will be done once a month rather than weekly. I’m also trying to get permission to use one of the several programs that allow students to share videos with parents and students within the class (and only within the class). In that way their “performance” is something they can share with the whole group. There are also other things going on within reading club, especially as it relates to direct instruction in phonics & other reading skills, that I will discuss at a future date.  This includes sharing how  to “talk big about little books” .

Now I want to take a moment to talk about an important UPCOMING EVENT here in the Midwest. The Early Childhood Conference, which is usually held at Lake of the Ozarks each year is being held at Harris Stowe University in St. Louis. MARY HOWARD will be one of the keynotes.  Bill and I will be leading a panel discussion at one of the sessions. If you are in the Midwest Region please have a look at the website.

Happy Reading and Writing



Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, big fan of Eric Litwin)

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Early Learning



Copyright 2018 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


Singing our Way into Fluency: Exploring the Work of Eric Litwin and How He Brings Together the Art and Science of Reading By Dr Sam Bommarito

I’ve already discussed how one educational leader, Timothy Rasinski, uses songs as an important part of his fluency program. Today I have very a special guest on the blog, Eric Litwin.  Eric is a well-known children’s author and educator. His website describes him as follows:

Eric Litwin is a song singing, guitar strumming, # 1 New York Times Best Selling, award winning author who brings early literacy and music together. 

 He is the original author of the Pete the Cat series as well as the author of The Nuts and Groovy Joe. 

Eric believes early literacy is more joyful and successful when the child is fully engaged with the book. He calls this interactive reading. 

 Eric’s books have sold over 12.5 million copies, been translated into 17 languages, and won 25 literacy awards including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award.”  

             Dance Party    The Nuts, Keep Rolling    Pete the Cat

Regular readers of my blog know that I first met Eric when he did an all-day presentation about music and literacy. In an earlier blog, I described how he engaged teachers, myself included, in a day long workshop at the annual Write to Learn conference in Missouri @WritetoLearnMO. It was held in February of this year.  By the end of the workshop he had us all writing our own songs- songs that were designed to help our students on the road to literacy. He also shared his wonderful books with us.  I talked with Eric after the workshop and he agreed to be interviewed by the Missouri Reader for the fall issue. Glenda Nugent, my co-editor on the Missouri Reader has completed that interview. More about that a little later.  I asked Eric if he would consider talking to the readers of this blog about the topic of Singing Your Way into Fluency. He agreed.

I asked Eric how music can help readers, especially beginning readers. Here is the core of what he had to say:

“The components of song including melody, rhyme, rhythm/cadence, and repetition facilitate prediction. Prediction is essential for an emerging reader to successfully read a book. This combined with appropriate phonetics and sight words is empowering for emerging independent readers. I really do believe early literacy is more joyful and successful when the child is fully engaged with the book. This is the heart of interactive reading. This is the what my books try to do, engage the child and at the same time teach the child things they need to know in order to become successful readers.”

He went on to say:

“When I’m writing, a critical issue for me is to clarify my book’s message. The main message of a book can be incorporated into the song increasing the success of the message. One example of this can be found in The Nut Family, Keep Rolling.The song says, “Keep Rolling”. This reinforces and communicates the essence of that book’s message.”

Eric has certainly written books that do all the things he talks about and more. Here is an example:

Groovey Joe Colorado

Groovey Joe Dance Party Countdown! was the winner of this year’s One Book 4 Colorado program. That’s the governor of Colorado reading the book aloud to a group of children.  This book is a perfect example of what Eric was talking about. I can guarantee it is engaging. It is definitely predictable. Got a copy for my grandchild. She loved it! She just finished preschool. This book, and others like it, really do lay the foundation for so many things. That includes building the background that children need to effectively use phonics. Just as important it gives the children experience in how to make meaning from the words they see, hear and sing.  Visit Eric’s website to see for yourself. When you do be sure to scroll down the page and click on the audio link for the song Disco Party Bow Wow which is pictured below.  We got to see him perform it live at our conference, and the teachers in the room all loved it. More importantly, so did my granddaughter. I predict that your beginning readers will also love it and learn from it.

Website Play

This song uses a form of “call and response”.  Sing it with your children. It helps when children look at the lyrics of a song when they sing. Use the book. You’ll be amazed at how much they pick up when you use that strategy.   You don’t need to be able to sing yourself. Eric’s audio does that for you. I’ve spent lots of time already exploring this site- the downloads, the newest books. It is a treasure trove of materials that can help you help your beginning readers.  I think Eric’s work is an example of reading instruction that is both art and science. He is serious about both.  His musical books are unique because they bring narrative and music together. Want to read more about Eric and his thoughts about literacy?  Check out the fall issue of Missouri Reader.  It’s free.  To subscribe go to the current issue and click on the subscribe bar on the left side of the reading page. Once you are subscribed, you’ll receive future journals, including Glenda’s interview with Eric in the upcoming fall issue.

Here are some additional links to Eric’s materials:

The Nut Family:

Groovy Joe: (can download Groovy Joe music for free at this site)

Additional Free Music From Eric:!songs-and-activities/c129x

Next week I will expand the blog topic. It will become “Singing and Writing Your Way into Fluency”. I’ll tell you about some of my other favorite children’s books that include the use of music. Not all of them are just for beginning readers, some are for older readers and deal with topics that are important to them. I’ll talk about how to look for writing craft in these books and teach your students to use that craft in their own writing. That way they can also write their way into fluency!  As always- I value your comments and suggestions about the blog and its content.

Happy Reading and Writing


Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a., fan of Eric, friend of Groovy Joe)

Blog content Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Content from Eric Litwin’s website is copyrighted & used with permission

The Teaching of Reading as Both Science and Art: A Report & Evaluation of Rasinki’s Recent Presentation In St. Louis by Dr. Sam Bommarito


The above quote from Diane Ravitch is taken from the Rasinski’s presentation in St. Louis at our local ILA’s spring banquet. Last week I promised to tell you more about it.  Here goes! As I proceed I will try to make it clear which part of what is said is Rasinski’s and which parts are my reactions or comments on what he said. As you could tell from my remarks last week I found his presentation to be enlightening, empowering and encouraging.

During his presentation, Rasinski made it clear that the teaching of reading is, and should be, a science.  He gave many details about this. However, he also feels the teaching of reading is also an art and that there are many benefits to treating it as an art as well as a science. Let’s talk about why he feels that way.

Great Minds

As illustrated by his slide about Albert Einstein, he talked about the many great minds over the years who recognized the importance of art. Others he mentioned included the Dalai Lama and Steve Jobs

Rasinski maintains that treating the teaching of reading as art can raise the level of performance of students. Look at his take on Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Blooms Tax

My take on this rendition of Blooms is that when you use an approach to the teaching of reading that is based on both art and science you raise the level of student performance.  When students are allowed the time to create things of their own, they are going beyond what they already know (Rasinski’s words).  They are adding new things to the base of human knowledge. In short, they are performing at a higher level than before.

There are unintended consequences to the “All Science” approach to reading.  Rasinski shared the example of what it’s like to read a decodable text about the “ag” family.  He used the decodable book, Mr. Zag. Rasinski asked is this science?  His answer was yes. Is it art? His answer was no. Is it engaging? My answer is no. As I thought about this example, it become apparent there while the text was read, it’s content was at the very lowest levels of blooms (e.g. Mr. Zag saw a bag with a tag). The text did not require the student to perform at a high level.  It did not require students to think except at the very lowest levels of Blooms.  I anticipated that his next few slides would show us examples of ways to accomplish the very same task (teach the ag family) but do it in an artful way- a way that would engage students and require them to perform at a high level of thinking.  That is exactly what he did. Poetry was involved.

This brings us to the centerpiece of his presentation, his new book, which is entitled the Megabook of Fluency. The book is exactly that. It is organized around his prosody factors (EARS). E is for Expression, A is for Automatic Word Recognition, R is for Rhythm and Phrasing and S is for smoothness, fixing mistakes. Rubrics based on these factors are available in the book and are written on a variety of levels including one for 6-8.  So, this book isn’t just for the primary grades, it’s content and suggestions include ideas and activities for all grade levels PP-8.  For a list of all the strategies in the book organized by EARS skills the reader can go to:

This link is for people who own the book. You can use information from the book to get the password for this link.

It was in this part of the presentation that Rasinski told the story I mentioned last week. It was the story of a new primary teacher who used the strategy of having children practice reading poetry for four days of the week in preparation for performing those poems on Friday.  Despite push back about “wasting” instructional time, she continued to do that. By the end of the year her first grades were performing significantly higher on reading tests. She replicated those results the next year and became the teacher of the year for her state. The book gave several more examples of other teachers in other grade levels having similar success.

By now my readers can guess the book contains a treasure trove of ideas and resources. There are many activities that take advantage of original sources, including a variety of songs like It’s a Grand Old Flag, primary source texts like Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, poems like Paul Revere’s Ride and of course children’s nursery rhymes.  I mentioned those nursery rhymes last on purpose. That is because I want to emphasize that this book is not just for primary students.  Students in the middle grades can also benefit from instruction in prosody. Rasinski asked what would happen if we had students practice and then perform such historic and artful texts? I think part of what would happen is that through use of primary sources teachers would include both science and social studies content within their literacy block. This in turn would enhance both their literacy scores and their science and social studies scores.  The book also includes materials on how to teach comprehension artfully.  Based on the examples Tim gave during the presentation, this is done with materials that students would find engaging.  It would be done in a way that allows students to perform at the highest levels of Blooms.

As I just indicated, the activities in his book are not just about helping students get better at decoding. Remember last week when I said that during parts of the presentation I felt like I was in a seminar on writing workshop? That is because Rasinski talked about how students used some of the poems and primary source pieces as a source of inspiration for writing their own works. He showed examples of student writing. Hmm. Students writing their own poetry, scaffolded by reading poems from this book or other sources.  What a great idea for poetry month! Might I ask on what performance level students would be working? That would be the level that comes after Blooms evaluation level, creating! Ideas for poetry lessons based on Tim’s book can be found at POETRY LESSON PDF

Ok, is all this real science? Rasinski makes a case that it is. Look at his example summarizing the impact of deep repeated reading:

Deep Repeated Reading

Example A demonstrates that performance improved over several rereads. Notice the big red arrows when doing the next set of rereads (B) and yet another set of rereads (C). They are there to call your attention to the fact that the improved performance with the first set (A), results in the reader starting on the second set at a higher level, and this phenomenon is repeated on the third set. That means the skills gained in the first performance carried over to future performances. Rasinski says that’s science! I concur.

Rasinski also says that repeated reading is more effective when done for authentic purposes.  His book gives you many pieces of authentic reading materials and many authentic reasons for rereading (e.g. rereading to prepare for a performance). My experience with his materials over the years is that his materials work and they are engaging to the students.

That concludes what I have to say about Rasinski’s presentation. Stay tuned. Next week there will be a blog post over the next part of this topic. I’m using the title “Singing Our Way into Fluency”.  Eric Litwin: Best-selling author of the original four Pete the Cat books, The Nuts and Groovy Joe. will share his views on using music with beginning readers. So please come back next week as we continue our discussion.

For more information about Tim and his various visit his website  BTW- the blog on his website includes free versions of his famous Word Ladders.


Also check out his articles in professional journals:


Reading Teacher


Article Copyright 2018 by Sam Bommarito

Includes the use of the title “Singing Our Way into Fluency