A Day with Sharon Taberski

By Mary Jo Barker


I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day with Sharon Taberski on July 6, 2011. What a great experience for me! I found her to be a delightful cross between Fountas & Pinnell and Tim Rasinski. She had serious information to communicate like the Fountas & Pinnell workshop last spring, but the information was delivered in an entertaining manner like Tim Rasinski where you think you could sit and listen to her all day. And, I did listen to her all day!!! She taught two classes (one with primary children and one with intermediate students), debriefed the lessons with us over lunch, and presented a three hour workshop later that afternoon to 120 people at Maryville University. I LOVED every minute of my day with Sharon Taburski and learned much!!!!



Text: The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Level G) retold by Carrie Smith (Benchmark Education)

Taberski did several things in this lesson that I thought were worth noting.


Story Map

Taberski believes that a story map should always be beside a struggling reader as he/she reads and be used. The story map is a reference to help them with the story grammar of characters, setting, etc. It also helps a child to think through the story using the parts of the story map as a reference. See her story map format for K-3 posted on her blog at http://allaboutcomprehension.blogspot.com/


Concrete Examples – You’ll want to add this to your strategy toolbox!

In this lesson of reading a fable, Taberski helped the children understand the term "flaw" as it relates to the characters in a fable. She did this in a very concrete way. She used pencils. Every child was given a pencil with a flaw and asked to tell the flaw in his/her pencil. One pencil had no eraser, one had no point, and one had teeth marks on it. Each child was able to tell the flaw and later use that term to describe the main character’s flaw. What a novel idea!


Reinforce Good Thinking

Taberski said to a child at one point of the lesson,

"I have heard you say ‘I think’ several times today. I can tell you are thinking today. Yeah!"

She did a great job of reinforcing for students that they should share their ideas. She was not looking for one specific right answer. At the end of the lesson, she praised the children,  "Good thinkers!"



Text: Tropical Rain Forests (Level L) by Libby Romero Carrie (Benchmark Education)


Go Down One Reading Level with Informational Texts

To support reading success, go down one reading level below the instructional level when working with informational texts.


Build Background Knowledge(BK)

Before reading this book on the rain forest, Taberski gave each child a nonfiction book on the topic to skim/scan and share with the group to trigger BK. Then, all shared information on what could be found in a rain forest as she wrote it on a chart. This added greatly to their background knowledge helping each to be successful while sharing what each knew about the rain forest and when reading the book.


Demonstration on the Importance of Text Features – Can’t wait to use this in my classroom!

At one point, Taberski gave each child a sheet of paper with only the text of a page from the book written on it. She read it to the students and asked if they understood what she read. No one did. She repeated the reading. Again, no one understood. She then had the students open the books to the page with that text AND text features. She asked them to look at the text features. She then asked them to tell her what the text meant. Every child now understood the text after using the pictures with labels and the other text features. What a great demonstration to bring home the importance of using the text features to understand informational texts!


Pictures as Important as Words

Taberski told the students that pictures are every bit as important as the words when reading informational texts.



Our Primary Focus During Guided Reading – Needs of "the Group."This is not the time to meet individual student needs. That is done in the reading conference. Guided reading is for the needs of that specific group. Think in terms of the Fountas & Pinnell reading level (Level C) or the grouping such as "emergent readers" and teach to the behaviors/skills/strategies that they need to be able to do. Taberski works on these in the guided reading groups.


Timing Is Everything.

Attention K-1 teachers:  Meet with guided reading groups for 15 minutes four times a week so the behaviors/skills/strategies are revisited in a shorter time frame.


We Need to Know Our Students (Their Stage of Reading Development) and the Books (What They Offer) So That We Can Make a Good Match.

Get to know the books you use so that you know what development of behaviors/skills/strategies they support. In other words, when you find a book that offers great opportunities for inference, remember it and use it every year. Also, find books that you can package together – one topic with a fiction book and nonfiction book. This is much better than grabbing a book off the shelf at the last moment and using it in a guided reading group when you really don’t know the book. Then the lesson becomes a generic guided reading lesson in which we don’t get as much "bang for our buck.



Background KnowledgeTaberski believes that there is "nothing more important to reading comprehension than the knowledge students bring to the text." True to this belief, she has rewritten the Pillars of Reading from the National Reading Panel. Taberski’s version looks like the following:


Five Pillars:

Accurate Fluent Reading

Background Knowledge

Oral Language and Vocabulary

Reading-Writing Connections

Repertoire of Strategies


These five pillars all support Comprehension which is seen as the roof of the structure.


The steps leading up to the pillars are the following:

Time to Talk

Time to Write

Time to Read


While I have always thought background knowledge was important, I now have a new and heightened respect for it. Watch the following 10 minute video clip to check your belief on the topic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiP-ijdxqEc I promise you will come away with a stronger belief in the need to build background knowledge.


Of course, there are many ways to build background knowledge with the use of nonfiction.

Read Aloud

Shared Reading

Small Group Reading

Independent Reading


Content Area Studies


For me as a reading specialist, I am committing myself to learn the topics of study in science and social studies at each grade level. Then, I will work to build background knowledge in these areas for my students in order to ensure their success in the content areas.


My day with Sharon Taberski was so full and I learned so much that I cannot do it justice with this length of article. The information that I have shared here was just "the tip of the iceberg."


I encourage you to purchase Taberski’s new book, Comprehension from the Ground Up. You can check it out at her website http://www.sharontaberski.com/index.htm . I would also highly recommend her blog, All About Comprehension, at http://allaboutcomprehension.blogspot.com/ .


And, if you ever get the opportunity to hear Sharon Taberski speak, do it. You will LOVE her just as I do.

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