Have you ever tried to do a guided reading lesson with kindergartners using little non-fiction “science” easy readers? Teaching kids to read informational texts is “hot” right now in the educational world, and teachers are often pressured to use it in their classroom more and more often- even at the Kindergarten level! Although this may sound a bit intimidating, my experience is that children REALLY ENJOY reading and learning real facts about the real world around them, especially when it includes information on animals or on how things work, such as magnets. These types of topics are highly motivational for kids, and can be lots of fun to teach! So read on if you’re interested in finding out how I give guided reading lessons using little non-fiction easy reader books.
If you are looking for a way to “wow” your administrator or get a few more “brownie points” for your next lesson observation, you might want to consider doing a lesson like the one I’m going to share below. It was actually pretty fun and easy! In fact, the hardest part was convincing myself that it was both possible and appropriate!
The truth of the matter is that children really LOVE to learn real things about the world around them, so non-fiction and kids go together quite well. Even better, writing lessons follow out of the discussions that arise from these books quite naturally, so this makes thematic lesson planning EASY. And that’s always a good thing!
First: Find Non-Fiction Books at an Instructional Reading Level for Your Kids
First, here’s the tricky part: finding books to use that your kindergarten kids can actually attempt to READ (with a tightly controlled sight word and CVC vocabulary, etc.) Your district adopted science program might even have some little books like this- mine used to! But I also used these Scholastic Science Readers, because I could easily get enough copies of the book so that each child had one to look at. I had purchased them from the Scholastic Book Club a few years back, and now I see that they are also available on Amazon. (See the link below.)
I found the “Super Set” of Science Readers right here for $70.00, plus $3.99 shipping (that’s less than Amazon!) and it includes 144 little books, all with full color photos that are so interesting and meaningful to children! My kids loved these!
How to Give a Guided Reading Lesson to Emergent Readers with Informational Print
1. Show the children the book, but do not pass the books out yet. Ask them if they can guess what the topic of the book might be? If you have not yet introduced what a topic is, then do that first, of course!
2. Introduce and practice reading any repetitive vocabulary in the book, especially if it comes up on every single page. For example, if the book is about bats, then I would make sure that my children can sound out both the words “bat” and “bats.”
3. Introduce and practice reading any new sight words or word family words that come up in the book, especially if they are found on every page. For example, if the word “go” or “can” appears on every page and these are new words for your class, make sure you go over the new words before giving the book to your students to read.
4. Read the book to your little group, pointing to the words as you go along. Ask the children to read along with you and chime in if they can.
5. After reading the book aloud together, talk about it briefly. What did they learn about the topic? Explain that these are the details about the topic, and that we might learn new details on every page! Kids should try to remember as many details about the topic as possible and be ready to tell you what they are when they’re done reading. They might even be able to show us where in the book they learned that!
6. Pass out the books. Give the children a few moments to look at the book themselves and read it through by themselves if you wish. (Sometimes I skip this step due to lack of time.)
7. If you have enough time and their attention span is holding out: Ask the children to find the front cover and put their hand on it. Now ask them to find the back cover and the spine of the book. Now see if they can find the title of the book and circle it with their finger. Then read the title together, pointing at each word as you go along. If your students are still struggling with knowing the difference between letters and words, you may want to have them count the letters and count the words, just for good measure. Then turn the page and find the title page, too. If there is a Table of Contents, find and identify that as well.
8. Have the children read the book with you choraly, all together. I tell my students, “Put your finger in the air and wait until I tell you to begin.” Once everyone has found the right page, I say, “Ready? Read!” Then we all start reading the page together as the children point to the words. When the page is finished, I say, “Turn the page and fingers up! You should be on this page now, just like me,” as I show them what the picture on my book looks like. (Telling the children the page numbers will work, too- but sometimes that actually makes it WORSE, LOL!)
I do not do “round robin reading” in Kindergarten, (in which they each take a turn reading while the rest of the group follows along and listens), except with my most mature students! Most of the children simply do not read along while other children are reading, and the time is wasted for them. They just can’t seem to “read in their head” until a certain age, and for me at least, it has been an exercise in frustration trying to make it happen. I have had much better luck giving the rest of the children in a group something to do (such as coloring or using a manipulative) while they wait their turn for me to listen to them read.
9. After we have read the entire book together at least once, release the children to read the book on their own. At this time, I usually zero in on listening to the child or children read that are the most reluctant to read or whom are struggling the most. (Two kids can usually read to me at once pretty easily.) There’s usually a child in a group or two that quickly thumbs through the book and says, “DONE!” and hands it back to me without even TRYING to read it again on his or her own! When that happens, I just pass the book right back again and say, “I didn’t see you really reading, just looking at the book and that’s different. Show me how you really read the book.” And then I WATCH to make sure that they did that!
10. Last step: Ask the children to tell you as many details about the topic as they can remember! If you still have their attention and enough time, make a short list. You can teach them to refer to it later if you want them to write about the topic. If children can show you WHERE in the book they found that information, that is a good habit to develop, too! Sometimes, children tell me other information that they know about the topic we are discussing, but not information that they learned from the book. It can be useful to start distinguishing between the two!
If you decide to try this, I recommend that you start with just the most basic steps. Skip the steps that I said to do only if you have time. Once you have your timing down for the minimum basic lesson, you can start adding the other steps in as the lesson becomes more automatic for you and you know you can get through the whole thing. My top group made it through all of the steps in about 20 minutes, but our groups were supposed to be 15 minutes!
And so for the rest of the groups, I had to skip those optional steps. And for one group, we only talked about the topic and details because there was no time to make a list. It was frustrating for me, but if I had started off with lower expectations, it would have probably gone better. Another alternative would be to talk about the book and make the chart with the entire class after all four groups were done- assuming that the entire class has read the very same book, of course. I tried give my kids a little science emergent reader that was about the right instructional level for each group, so that alternative method wouldn’t have worked well for me in this case.
I hope that you found this useful! I think that children really ENJOY reading informational books and learning about the world around them! And since this goes right along with the Common Core, it’s a nice lesson to keep “in your pocket.”