Zaner-Bloser Read for Real
If you haven't heard the term "non-fiction reading strategies" you just haven't been listening in the right places. It's the "new" focal point for reading comprehension and while it might sound involved and scary, once you start digging into the concept, it starts to look a lot like common sense. The Zaner-Bloser Read for Real series is a non-fiction reading comprehension program designed to complement literature-based reading or basal readers. Each grade level book has six units; each containing three reading assignments. Each unit focuses on a specific before reading strategy, a during reading strategy, and an after reading strategy. In the first story in each unit, the strategies are modeled by a "partner" - a grade level counterpart who shares his/her thoughts and responses to the strategy prompts as the story progresses. In the second article, the strategies are mentioned and response prompts are outlined but the student is asked to make his own notes. In the third article in the unit, students are to make their own similar observations and notes. All the stories in a unit are related in terms of topic. While this sounds confusing, there is an orderliness summed up in a chart found in each text and shown on our website that removes much of the confusion. Before reading strategies are: preview the selection, activate prior knowledge, and set a purpose. During reading strategies include: make connections, interact with text, and clarify understanding. After reading strategies are: recall, evaluate, and respond. Each strategy further has two applications within the course. For instance, "respond" by drawing logical conclusions about the topic and "respond" by forming my own opinion about what I've read. The bottom line here is that there is a very well-thought out progression of before, during and after skills that are being modeled, taught, and evaluated. And these skills are taught consistently through the courses with grade-appropriate, non-fiction content.
That content is vibrant, multi-faceted, and on a rich variety of cross-curricular topics. For instance, just in skimming through the various levels, I noticed articles on the Cirque du Soleil, the Ironman race, Female Pirates, and the Special Olympics, not to mention a number of biographies. And that only scratches the surface. Frankly, I had a hard time keeping myself from getting caught up in reading. At first glance the colorful pages can seem a bit cluttered - particularly in the first article of each unit. In that article, there are responses from one of the student "partners" along with his/her picture. Once you get used to them, these are helpful because they help the student understand what is expected of him in terms of reading through the article and responding to it using the strategies. There are also a number of pictures, photos, graphs, and charts.
The student is given a LOT of help in learning, practicing, and applying the strategies with sidebar comments and instructive sequences. Think About the Strategies segments start and end each article. Completed graphic organizers in the first articles become examples for the students to complete in later articles. In fact, most of the things a student is asked to do are modeled in the first article in each unit.
There are other aspects of the program worth noting - most found in the Student Book. Developing Vocabulary covers word roots, using a thesaurus, synonyms, and much more. There are also numerous vocabulary sidebar notes throughout the articles. Fluency sections encourage students to develop expression and phrasing in a variety of oral reading situations (poetry, drama, etc.). Reading in the Real World gives students the opportunity to apply the unit reading strategies to a practical text and respond to questions designed to engage higher level thinking skills. Connecting to the Real World provides extension activities and resources that enable students to transfer their learning and satisfy their curiosity. Assessments (available only in the Teacher Edition) are reproducible and include a pretest, a posttest, and comprehension tests for each unit. All answer keys are provided in the TG.
The Teacher Guide is designed as a wraparound (i.e. reduced student pages with teacher helps "around the edges") companion to the text. An introductory overview section cites research and explains the various aspects of the program along with correlation to state standards. There are detailed lesson plans for each unit. Paralleling the instruction and modeling in the text are scripted teaching segments that provide additional instruction. There are suggested answers for all questions and reading skill response requests. The Vocabulary, Fluency, Reading in Real World and Connecting to the Real World sections receive special attention in the TG. Included with the TG is a Fluency CD which allows students needing extra help with the reading fluency assignments to listen to the fluency model and then practice reading along with it. The TG does reference a product that we do not offer - Transparency & Blackline Masters.
Much more multi-faceted and involved than most of our reading comprehension programs (usually supplements), this series will provide a wealth of information and give students a set of comprehensive tools (i.e. strategies) for handling any reading assignment or testing situation. I think there would be value in using only the Student Book but there might be accompanying frustration with the lack of answers in a few instances. If your goal is a self-directed study, then the Student Book alone gives you a lot to work with. If your goal is a teacher/student interactive study, then the biggest lack in using only the Student Book would be missing the richness of the teacher support material and the lack of assessments (if that's important to you).
Student books are 229 - 278 pgs, pb. Teacher guides are spiral-bound with hard back covers and tabbed dividers. ~ Janice