Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo

“The problem with these groups, though, is that the instruction was about the book itself. It was devoid of explicit teaching about how to transfer what students had learned to other books or other situations. In other words, the students weren’t learning much about being a reader – they were learning mostly about a book.” Jennifer Serravallo
“The problem with these groups, though, is that the instruction was about the book itself. It was devoid of explicit teaching about how to transfer what students had learned to other books or other situations. In other words, the students weren’t learning much about being a reader – they were learning mostly about a book.” 
Jennifer Serravallo

Why should you read this book?

In Chapter 1 of Teaching Reading in Small Groups, Jennifer Serravallo recalls her early days as a reader in elementary school and then as a student teacher.  We learn how she read a story and answered the questions in the basal reader.  As a student teacher, it was slightly different.  Students read real books – authentic literature.  It was an enjoyable experience.  But they still answered the questions at the end of the chapter.  Reading remained about the book, not the instruction of strategies to use when reading another book.  Even when she taught using guided reading groups with one-on-one conferences something was amiss.  Again, she says it was more checking comprehension than teaching comprehension.

And, that was her “AHA” moment.  Seravallo says, “I wanted to get better at differentiated reading instruction.  I knew to do this I needed to group children more flexibly and purposefully and to develop a repertoire of ways to meet their needs.”

The flexible group has a purpose.  Students don’t start as Redbirds in September with the hope of becoming a Bluebird by June.  All of our students need support and strategies to develop into independent readers.  Seravallo shows us in Teaching Reading in Small Groups that small group instruction is an essential part of a student’s reading journey.  In this book, you will learn how to create a small group with a purpose and many different ways to work with students in small groups.

How can you use this book?

Here are two ways you can use this book:

First:  Invite all school staff – teachers, aides, and school leaders – to read the first chapter of Teaching Reading in Small Groups.

If you want to honestly and responsibly address your reading instruction – everyone needs to participate in the conversation about your current literacy practices.  In the first chapter, “Beyond Reading Groups, Beyond Guided Reading,” Serravallo tells us that reading instruction should:

  • Match the individual reader
  • Teach toward independence
  • Teach strategies explicitly so that readers become proficient and skilled
  • Value time spent, volume, and variety of reading
  • Follow predictable structures and routines

Sharing what we believe about reading instruction and how it is happening in our classrooms should be a common conversation.  This book helps us have that conversation and supports those who take this step.

Second:  Create a study group.

Why read by yourself?  After reading the first chapter, I am certain there will be other colleagues who want to take this journey to make your reading instruction more engaging and accountable for your students.  Use the study guide prepared by Jennifer Serravallo:

It is organized by chapter and includes a section with questions to ask yourself and explore with your colleagues, and a section listing ideas for activities or exploration in and out of the classroom.  In addition, at the beginning of the book, Serravallo has a section entitled, “Recommendations for Reading and Returning to This Book.”  Here she lists situations you identify with such as, “My students just aren’t ready to function independently in book clubs.  What’s an intermediate step?”  Then, she directs you to Chapter 5, “Talking about Books:  Improving Partnerships and Clubs” where you can find help.

Finally, I am confident that you will find Jennifer Serravallo to be accessible.  When you read her book, it is as comfortable as having a conversation with a colleague and together finding new ways to help grow readers!