SharpReading BLOG

Thoughts About Teaching Reading


Tell me again...What are StoryBytes and InfoBytes?

StoryBytes and InfoBytes have been around for a few years now but I still get queries about what they are and the thinking behind the design.

This all started with my own frustration as a teacher, trying to find 'effective’ fiction and non fiction material for guided reading lessons. As a teacher trainer working in a multitude of schools, I saw other teachers struggling to engage students with text that was too long or just not interesting enough.

So I decided to write my own.

I needed something that provided the right fit for a 25-30 minute time slot, short enough to be satisfyingly completed in one lesson, but long enough to generate some interesting content about a topic or develop some satisfying characters and story plot.

Tightly written
As my interest was in getting my learners to unpack the meaning at a sentence level the text had to be tightly written...full of interesting sentence construction and packed with appropriately challenging vocabulary. No room for fluff.

Random topics and quirky tales
Because my focus was on strategy practice my rationale was that, as long as the writing was engaging and of high interest, the content was just a context for strategy practice. Therefore, with InfoBytes, I went for a wide range of random topics to keep my readers guessing and cater for their wide range of interests. StoryBytes are aimed at a variety of writing styles and story ideas that would be of interest to 7 to 14 year-olds.

Catering for different reading levels
Having spent considerable time and effort writing a piece, I hated the idea that it could only be accessed by students at a certain reading level so I went about rewriting each text at different levels of difficulty. I started with three levels and have extended that to five (still filling in some gaps). That has been a very interesting challenge and taught me a whole lot about the tools of text difficulty, vocabulary, sentence length and sentence structure.

Follow-Up Activities - an organisational necessity for any guided reading programme
As with all of SharpReading resources, each text comes with a number of follow-ups drawn from Bloom's Taxonomy ranging from simple written responses and vocabulary extension through to text analysis and creative responses.

Forty StoryBytes and twenty InfoBytes at (mostly) five levels of difficulty...currently a total of 240 unique texts. The levels line up with our testing procedure (Informal Prose Inventory) which in turn are aligned with PAT testing levels. For those who have no time for reading ages and levels,  at least it can be seen that there is a progression of difficulty within the range provided.  As you can see, I have gone for just the five odd numbers rather than trying to generate all nine levels (the recipe for a mental breakdown).
Level 1: RA 7-8 yrs, Level 3: RA 8.5-9 yrs, Level 5: RA 10-11 yrs, Level 7: RA 12-13 yrs,  Level 9: 14+ yrs.

And (thankfully) the kids and the teachers seem to love them!

"How can I use these resources?"
They were originally intended to support our approach to comprehension instruction and have been modified for use in our 'SevenPlus' intervention for Struggling Older Readers. However, they can be used for any variation of guided reading. Some teachers even use them in their writing programme as models of how to write increasingly more complex text.

Each text comes as a PDF file which can be printed off for a lesson or loaded onto iPads or similar devices. Each text also comes as a Powerpoint file for use with the whole class (data projector or big screen TV). These Powerpoints also make for great distance learning guided reading lessons.

So there you have it. A significant set of resources that can take the angst out of your text selection.


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