How to use chapter books in guided reading
As students get older they need more advanced reading material. So in march the chapter books. They provide more in-depth plot development, more action and more opportunities for your reading students to develop better and more complex reading comprehension skills.
You usually only have 45 minutes to an hour to work with your reading students. In that time you need to discuss new vocabulary terms, literary devices the author is using, as well as the story itself as it unfolds (to make sure your students are comprehending the plot). Even if you are a homeschooler, you don’t want to spend too much time on a reading lesson in order to keep interest level up.
So, if you want to introduce chapter books into your students’ reading repertoire, you will need to break the books up over several reading sessions.
How to divide a chapter book into bite-sized reading sections
While it may seem obvious to break a chapter book up into its individual chapters, that tactic doesn’t work for all chapter books. Some beginning chapter books have very short chapters and your students may be able to read two or more chapters before you need to move on to comprehension discussion. Some more advanced chapter books have very long chapters and you will need to break one chapter into two reading sessions.
So this is the part where I tell you to use your best judgment. Because you know your reading students better than anyone, you really do have to make the call. However, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the reading material is at your students’ reading level and, more importantly, not too far above their grasp in terms of vocabulary as well as maturity. Too many references to events or experiences they may not know or understand will make the book too confusing for them. This would slow reading down too much if you are trying to explain too much about the story itself.
- If you are working with good readers, you can test to see how much you read in 20 to 30 minutes and use that measurement as a gauge for your students. Remember, however, that you will need time to discuss new vocabulary terms and visual clues before reading starts and stop during reading to discuss events as they happen.
- If you are working with struggling readers, know that you will need extra time to help with the act of reading as well as reading comprehension. In these cases, you will need to have students re-read certain sections to help them learn to correct their own mistakes. Choosing a book that is at their reading level is extremely important in this case. You may want to figure that your students will get through half of what you did in the same time just to be on the safe side.
Of course, you could just keep close watch on the time during your first reading session and just see how far you get. This will give you a better idea of how long it will take to get through the rest of the book. I don’t really recommend this method because planning is so important to guided reading. But if you feel you will be better able to plan the rest of the reading sessions for a chapter book by judging the first session, be my guest. At the very least, however, do have a plan for comprehension discussion.
Discussing the book before reading
If you recall from my post on before reading activites, before you start reading a book with students you need to introduce the topic and vocabulary words. The same holds true for chapter books.
First introduce the theme and topic by asking open-ended discussion questions. Discuss with your students what experiences they have had with the topic or allow them to use their imaginations about what it would be like (if they haven’t had any experiences relating to it). For example, if you are reading a Flat Stanley book, you will want to ask students what it would be like to be flat or what they would do if they were flat. If you are reading the one of his adventure in Egypt, you will want to discuss Egypt a little and maybe even bring a map and some pictures.
Along with reading the title to gain a little insight, you can now read chapter titles to gain some clues as to what might happen in the book or what it’s about. Be sure to read the summary on the back cover (if available) as that will help give your readers more clues about the plot.
While chapter books will not have as many illustrations as early readers do, they are still there in the beginning chapter books, so you can still look through the book to see what clues they give your readers. Of course, discuss the cover illustration first and then go through the book to look at the others.
Then make sure to discuss new vocabulary words your students will see as they read. For chapter books, however, you will want to only discuss the vocabulary words they will see in the session they are currently going to read. If you have 20 vocabulary words, but your students will only see two in each reading session, only discuss the two they will see just before each session. Discussing them all in the first reading session will likely overwhelm your students, and you run the risk of your students forgetting the words and their definitions before you get to the session that actually uses them.
During-reading activities for chapter books
Your guided reading activities for chapter books during reading are really no different than reading any other book. You will want to pay attention to how your students are reading to make sure they are reading correctly, self-correcting and re-reading as necessary. You will still discuss plot development and characters as students are reading as well.
With chapter books, however, come new literary tactics used by authors. As students come across imagery, allusion or foreshadowing, you will want to point these out and ask your students how they feel, what they envision or what they think will happen. For a really thorough list of literary devices authors use, click here.
After-reading activities for chapter books
After you are done reading a section of a chapter book, you will not be doing a hands-on project every time. You will want to save the hands-on project for the end of the whole book as a way to wrap it all up.
What you will do at the end of each session is go back over important details that will help students continue reading with more comprehension in the next session. This means making sure they know how the characters are connected and what main action has taken place so far. For example, if you read the first two chapters of the first Flat Stanley book, you would want to make sure your students know that Stanley is the boy who was flattened by the bulletin board, that Arthur is his sometimes jealous brother and that his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lampchop, are finding ways that Stanley’s flatness could come in handy (have your students give examples).
You will also want to discuss the literary devices the author used in the part of the book your students read. They need to know that these are tactics authors use time and time again to help develop the plot and make the story more interesting. Ask your students to point out instances where the tactics were used to ensure they understand them and their importance to the progression of the book.
When the next session comes around
When you are moving on to each session, remember to cover any new vocabulary and review what happened in the last reading session. Then go straight to during-reading activities and after-reading comprehension discussion. Continue this way until you have finished the book. When you have finished the book, be sure to wrap it all up with a fun hands-on project.