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All Teachers Need a Reading Toolkit — Here’s How To Build Yours

When I moved into my current apartment, I left behind an ex-wife who was very handy and had every tool you could imagine. She could pretty much repair every household thing. This also meant that I didn’t need to focus on my fixing skills because I had someone else to do that. 

Moving into my new place alone meant that I’d have to either learn how to fix some things or hire someone. I wanted to be able to do simple things like hang pictures and make minor fixes, so one weekend, I took myself to Target to find a toolbox. 

There was no shortage of toolbox options — some were elaborate while others were simple and just had the main tools you might need. I found a pink one that I liked and actually it was even cheaper than some of the others, so I decided it was destined to be mine. I now had my very own apartment fix-it toolkit! 

To support our students with reading or writing, it’s essential that we also have our own teacher toolkits. 

Having these tools ready to go can make it much easier to step in and help kids with their struggles with reading or writing.

Here, we’re going to focus specifically on reading toolkits. You may have heard of these or even have one of your own.

Why all teachers need a reading toolkit (and how to use it):

  • For demonstrating: You want to be prepared to model any teaching strategy in a conference or small group. If you demo in a kid’s book, you may take away the only opportunity they have to try that strategy again.
  • For quick assessments: If the student you’re meeting with is reading with ease at the level their current level, you may want to see if they’re prepared to move up a level. There isn’t always time to do a formal running record assessment, so you could complete an informal one.
    First, make sure the student isn’t familiar with the book. Then you could have them read about 100 words and see if they’re reading it pretty well. Ask a few comprehension and inference questions, ask them to do some quick retelling, and then decide if they’re ready to move up.
    If they’re reading and comprehending well, keep going until you hit their frustration level (this will likely be their instructional level), then they can choose some books at their independent reading level (this will be 95-100% accuracy).

Here are the supplies you’ll need to get started with a basic reading toolkit: 

  1. Expandable folder or binder with different sections. 
  2. Your favorite demonstration texts. This could be a read-aloud or shared reading book you’re currently using with students.
  3. Pencil case for small tools like a mini-stapler, mini-scotch tape, wet or dry erase markers, small book rings, hole puncher, blank index cards, sticky notes, and a pen for writing conference notes.

And when you’re ready for level 2 reading toolkits, here are our recommendations for some additional tools:

  • At least one book per level for the range of readers in your class and the genre you’re teaching. You can use these to demonstrate or assess your students informally.
    • Begin adding sticky notes to places you could use to demonstrate the skills and strategies your students need.
  • For first grade and up, sample student and/or teacher responses to reading (on sticky notes). You can make a micro-progression showing good, better, and best versions of the appropriate responses for your grade level. For more on this, watch this video example in writing.
  • A reader’s notebook with sample responses. The responses should be at and slightly above the level of your students’ responses. You can use these to demonstrate or show examples of the types of responses students should write.
  • Blank conferring grids and completed grids. We recommend keeping a month’s worth of notes on hand to refer back to what you taught in prior weeks (you can keep digital or paper copies).
  • A list of the skills and strategies readers need at each reading level, such as the one in The Continuum of Literacy Learning by Fountas and Pinnell.
  • Blank running record forms 
  • Assessment records (i.e., a class recording sheet that shows the range of levels in your class).
  • Miniature copies of frequently used charts to share with students.
  • The Common Core State Standards for your grade level.

To peek inside my reading toolkit, join our LP Teacher Membership! Reading toolkits are the focus for April. We’d love to offer you a free month to try out the membership community. Simply use the code FREEMONTH at checkout and get 30 days free.

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