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January 9, 2015 Support Your Guided Reading With Baggy Books By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    After winter break, my kids' light bulbs aren’t just on — they are super bright! All of the reading skills that I taught before the holidays seem to come together — after the break my sweet kids are now beginning readers! One of the ways that I encourage the beginning reader is by letting them show off their new skills at home with their parents. This can be tricky because over the years I have discovered a lot of problems with getting books to my students' houses intact. I found the best solution to be "baggy" books."

    Below are some FAQ about baggy books and the answers to get you on the right track.

    What is a Baggy Book?
    A baggy book is simply a book in a bag that the student takes home and reads to his or her parents.

    What Level Book do I Send Home?
    There are three levels of books for readers: 

    • Independent level — student can read independently without any trouble.

    • Instructional level — student can read most of the book, but needs a little assistance with some of the skills in the book.

    • Frustration level — it’s just too hard for the student’s current level of skill.

    A lot of students bring home baggy books from their classroom, but there is often little knowledge about how they encourage reading in the beginning reader. The baggy book should be read at home. It should be on the student's independent reading level, but right above their instructional reading level. This is where the teacher’s level of knowledge comes into play.

    Guided Science Cover Bob Books Little Readers

    Where do I get the Books to Send Home?

    I buy guided level reading books from catalogs. These are the cheapest and easiest way to build a baggy book library. Little Readers, A Season of Sight Words, and Bob Books are all good, but the Science Readers are the ones that I use the most because I find that they are of higher interest to my students.

    Different Baggy Book optionsWhat Books Should I Consider as Baggy Books?
    There is a small range of books to narrow in on for each child, so teachers need a wide range of reading levels in their baggy book library. In the early elementary classroom there are a few things that you need to know when using baggy books:

    • Teachers need to know the difference between sets of books that work on phonics and sets of books that work on sight words. Many of the “phonics” baggy books that I have purchased through the year aren’t true phonics readers. The teacher needs to know which skill each book really works on.

    • Find a way to point out sight words to parents in the baggy books. I call sight words “fishy words” in my classroom. I mark the “fishy words” by drawing a fish under the sight words. This helps indicate to the parent that they should not try to help their child sound out this word. This is explained in the parent letter that I put in each of the baggy book bags (see next question).

    How Can I Help Parents Understand What to do With the Baggy Book?
    This is the easy part because it’s all about communication! Copy this helpful list of hints and put one copy in each bag for the parents to reference.

    baggy Book Tips Baggy Book Tips

    What Can I do to Encourage the Use of Baggy Books?

    When I begin baggy books, I make little bags of Book Worms (gummy worms) with this poem stapled to the bag, and hand them out. Throughout the year, I sometimes will announce that everyone who turns in their baggy book that particular week will get a surprise. Those students receive a bookmark or other small book-related trinket from my local dollar store in their next baggy. I have also been known to buy a class set of $1 books from the Scholastic Reading Club, and give everyone a book to keep as an incentive for returning my baggy books.

    How do I Manage Baggy Books?
    I make a spreadsheet (pictured below) with all of my students' names along the side and all the titles listed across the top. I fill in the grid with the date that the book was sent home with the student so that they don't get the same book twice during the year. This is a larger document because I have been buying baggy books for many years, so I have mine organized by the different series that I own. The students return their baggy books to me on Mondays. I give new ones out on Tuesdays in their take-home notebooks. This gives me an afternoon to make sure that I get everyone an appropriate baggy book to read the next week. You can choose any day to have students turn in their baggy book, but I always try to make sure that they have an appropriately leveled book to read over the weekend.

    baggy Book checkout list

    How do I Assess When a Child Needs a Different Level Book?
    This is when the notes that I take during guided reading come in handy. If a student is doing well in guided reading, then I may bump them up one level the following week. I make sure that when the child returns that baggy book, I spend a few minutes with that child and have them read that book with me. This is up to a teacher's discretion as well as knowing their students.

    Do you have other questions about baggy books? If so, leave them in the comment section below and I will do my best to answer them for you.

    Find me (dad2ella) on Twitter and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next week when we will plan a fun Groundhog Day of learning!


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