Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Best Practices and Recommendations for Using Basal Readers


Best Practices and 

Recommendations for 

Using Basal Readers

by Tina Winkle
What is a basal reader?

Basal readers are primary books that teach students how to read. They are primarily used during guided reading. Basal readers are often used in K-5 classrooms. Some advantages to using basal readers is that they systematically introduce a controlled vocabulary, beginning teachers can rely on them to help guide the process of teaching reading, and there are many activities a teacher can use to build on skills found in the books. Basal readers have come a long way from their initial models like Dick and Jane books, and the "ancient" McGuffey Eclectic Reader. Many basal readers include non-fiction material and true to life stories. Even the fiction readers are fashioned in a way that students can relate the text to their own lives. There are now a variety of genres available in basal reader format. Basal readers often accompany lesson plans or units. Sometimes workbooks or assessment material will accompany the basal reader kits. Basal readers are supplements to a balanced literacy curriculum.

What are some of the best practices in utilizing a basal reader?

There are many skills the teacher can work on with students through the use of a basal reader. Basal readers often feature decoding skills, fluency, phonemic awareness and word attack skills. The teacher can introduce the story by showing students the cover and then by asking them to guess what the story is about. If it is a primary group of students or ELL, it is a good idea to take a picture walk before beginning the reading. Vocabulary can be pulled from the book. The students can be shown these words written on index cards, and told to look for them in the book. They can also help add them to the word wall. Then the reading of the basal reading begins. Each child can read a page out loud, or they can partner read aloud. The teacher should monitor and use prompting questions throughout.

Some good prompting questions include:
-What was the cause and effect in the story?
-Who was the main character?                      
-What was your least favorite part?
-What was your favorite part?
-Where was the setting?
-Did you have any questions while reading the story?
-Can you point to the word ______?
-What do you think was the author's perspective?

According to Tomasek, in the upper grades Tomasek assigns one reading prompt at the time the reading assignment is made. Students respond in one or two paragraphs prior to the next class. They are asked to share their responses to the prompts in a variety of ways (Tomasek,2009). As you can tell, there are many wonderful ways to implement the use of basal readers into your literacy block.
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