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Simple Starts

Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom

Simple Starts is the getting-started guide to creating the classroom of your dreams—and your readers’. Get going with 40 teaching strategies plus reflection rubrics, anchor charts, and more.

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“You can do this!
You can help kids fall in love with reading.
You can fill your classroom with piles of amazing books kids will be itching to get their hands on.
You can find stretches of time every single day during which kids read books they care about.
You can observe, respond, and interact with your readers in powerful and meaningful ways.
You can make it happen, starting today.”
—Kari Yates

You don’t become an amazing reading teacher all at once. Someone shows you where to begin. Someone who has taught every kind of reader and coached teachers just like you. Someone like Kari Yates. Simple Starts is Kari’s getting-started guide to creating the reading classroom of your dreams—and your students’. Teacher to teacher, she distills research and best practice into essentials that help you:

  • Engage readers with books they’ll love
  • Provide kids the time for reading and discussion
  • Nurture independence through choice
  • Guide students’ growth and yours by asking “What’s next?”

Conversational, practical, and inspirational, Simple Starts is filled with teaching strategies, quick reflection charts, example anchor charts, and teacher know-how from thirty years in classrooms and schools.

“What’s next is simple,” writes Kari Yates. “You don’t have to know everything about books or reading. You just need to follow a few simple steps.” With Kari and Simple Starts you’ll do it. So come on in! Your kids are counting on you, and it’s time to bravely begin.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


Introduction: Let’s do this. It’s simple to start.
1. Make Room for Reading! Simple Starting Points to Get You Going
Starting Point 1.1: Nurture the Love of Books and Reading
Starting Point 1.2: Find and Fiercely Protect Scheduled Time for Daily Independent Reading
2. Create Spaces That Help Readers Flourish
Starting Point 2.1: Arrange Workspaces with Flexibility in Mind
Starting Point 2.2: Build Community by Creating a Classroom Gathering Place
Starting Point 2.3: Prepare an Accessible, Appealing Space for Your Library
Starting Point 2.4: Use Anchor Charts to Strengthen Learning
3. Bring Out the Best in Your Readers
Starting Point 3.1: Build Positive Relationships with and Among Your Students
Starting Point 3.2: Teach Expectations with Patience and Consistency
4. Provide Choice to Build Engaged and Joyful Readers
Starting Point 4.1: Give Kids Choice About What, Where, and How They Read
Starting Point 4.2: Cultivate Engaged, Joyful Reading Habits for All
Starting Point 4.3: Stand Back and Observe
5. Build Efficient Classroom Library Routines
Starting Point 5.1: Teach Students to Treat Books with Respect and Care
Starting Point 5.2: Establish When the Library Is Open for Business and When It Is Not
Starting Point 5.3: Teach Students to Find What They’re Looking For
6. Teach Purposeful Strategies for Finding Great Books
Starting Point 6.1: Deepen Your Own Understanding of the Choices Readers Make
Starting Point 6.2: Help Students Develop Skills for Finding Books They Can Read
Starting Point 6.3: Help Students Develop Skills for Finding Books They Want to Read
7. Deliver Clean, Focused Whole-Group Instruction
Starting Point 7.1: Use a Minilesson Format for Whole Group Instruction
Starting Point 7.2: Gather Your Class for a Few Minutes of Strategic Reflection
8. Provide Smart, Purposeful Small-Group Instruction
Starting Point 8.1: Make Small-Group Work an Extension of Your Teaching, Not Something Separate
Starting Point 8.2: Keep the Group Size Small and the Time Frame Short
Starting Point 8.3: Create Flexible and Fluid Groups
Starting Point 8.4: Stick to One Powerful Teaching Point That Can Transfer to Independent Reading
Starting Point 8.5: Spend Most of the Time Listening to Students Read
Starting Point 8.6: Give the Rest of the Students Authentic Tasks
9. Leverage the Power of Conferring: Get to Know and Support Your Readers
Starting Point 9.1: Recognize and Commit to the Power of One-to-One Conferences
Starting Point 9.2: Set an Inviting and Respectful Tone
Starting Point 9.3: Follow a Predictable Format
Starting Point 9.4: Create a Conferring Routine That Works
10. Talk About Reading: Support, Share, and Expand the Love of Reading Through Conversation
Starting Point 10.1: Fine-Tune Your Teacher Language to Support Deeper Thinking and Conversation
Starting Point 10.2: Make Turn-and-Talk a Classroom Staple
Starting Point 10.3: Make Partner Conversation About Books and Reading a Daily Routine
11. Teach Comprehension Strategies
Starting Point 11.1: Recognize Three Simple Truths About Effective Strategy Instruction
Starting Point 11.2: Identify Specific Strategies Proficient Readers Use
Starting Point 11.3: Use Annotation Tools to Help Strengthen Comprehension
Starting Point 11.4: Keep Strategy Instruction in Perspective
12. Inform Your Teaching Through Daily Assessment
Starting Point 12.1: Recognize that Formative Assessment Is the Key to Smart Instructional Decisions
Starting Point 12.2: Adopt “What Next?” Thinking: Identify Strengths and Next Steps
Starting Point 12.3: Harvest Formative Assessment Data from Tools You’re Already Using
Starting Point 12.4: Try New Assessment Tools
Conclusion: Some Courage for the Journey


Companion Resources