Sticking to a 30 minute Reading Recovery Lesson

Today marks my second day at home after schools in New York closed due to COVID-19. I am still in disbelief about what is going on in our world. I have decided to provide a little self-care by catching up on some writing that has been in the works.  I hope that you and your families stay healthy and that you remember to provide yourself with some extra self-care during this stressful time.  

When I first became a Reading Recovery teacher I struggled with completing lessons in a timely manner. Honestly, at times, I still struggle with keeping to a 30 minute lesson. When I notice that my lessons are becoming too long I have learned to ask myself a few questions to get back on track.

Am I teaching from strengths?

Always, always, always teach from the child’s strengths. Linking new tasks to what is known or lifting what is partially known will make learning so much easier for our students.  We have to remember not to prompt the child to use information that they don’t know or prompt for actions that they have never demonstrated before. When I take the time to analyze my running records thoroughly and complete my notes on my lesson records, I am able to have a better grasp on what my students can do independently.  One of the many joys of Reading Recovery is that there is no lock-step plan so we don’t need to waste time teaching the child what they already know.  Knowing the strengths of the student we are working with will save us time by giving us insight as to when we should support the child or when we should hold back and let the child do the work on their own.

Am I spending too much time on isolated letter/word work?

Most of our lesson time should be spent in the context of continuous text.  Isolated letter and word work should be a relatively small portion of our lesson. Keeping a timer set for just a few minutes right at our easel can help to keep us on track.  You might be surprised at how quickly time flies up at the easel.

Am I being responsive?

Sometimes we think we are being responsive but we are actually either being too supportive or we aren’t offering the student the right types of support for fast, efficient, effective problem-solving.  When looking at lesson records and analyzing running records chose a few priority behaviors.  Plan how you will go about working with the child to gain control over the behaviors.  If things aren’t going as planned, when teaching for the targeted behaviors, don’t be afraid to follow the child and make the needed adjustments. We don’t know what is going on in the child’s head so sometimes we make incorrect assumptions and we need to be open to that fact.  The child will benefit most from a teacher who is willing to be flexible and make necessary shifts in his/her teaching when necessary.

Am I providing clear and memorable examples?

Be picky about interrupting a student’s reading to teach.  When teaching the student provide memorable, clear examples and use concise language.   Through careful book selection, provide the child with a few opportunities to try out what they have learned. The child needs to take over the learning process and work independently and strategically.  We can expect that with new learning the child will be slow at first but that’s okay. Give him/her the time they need to problem-solve without interruption. As the child has repeated successes with problem-solving we will see the process speed up. Along with providing time to problem-solve we also have to provide time and require the child to do their own checking.  That means no head nodding or confirmations of any kind from the teacher (which can be so hard not to do!).

Am I paying attention to fluency?

Insist on fluent reading from the very beginning. Familiar reads should sound “easy”.  We lose a lot of precious time if familiar reads are disfluent.  The more we let our students sound word by word and slow the more ingrained that type of reading will be.  I once had the opportunity to see Reading Recovery Trainer James Schnugg talk about teaching for fluency even in levels 1’s & 2’s.  You can teach students to:

  • start tracking with their eyes (just make sure they keep their eyes on text)
  • group 2-3 words together
  • listen to how their reading sounds.

Am I making it easy?

While we want to work toward rapid progression through book levels, we also want to make sure that the child has particular behaviors in place before moving to a more complex text. For example, I probably would not want to move my student into a new level if they are not consistently using some visual information to search, monitor, self-correct, or confirm.  It is important to remember to use a variety of texts and publishers at a particular level. There is a wide range of complexity in one level and books from various publishers offer different challenges.  Our students need to be flexible enough to handle these various challenges.  It is normal for the reading and problem-solving to slow down a bit when moving up levels but we have to notice when we have made a mistake if the reading sounds just plain hard.  Our job is to make reading “easy” so we have to stay out of the “not known enough” zone.

Am I taking the time to deeply analyze running records?

We have a lot of responsibilities during our day but we can not lose sight of the deep analyzing and thorough planning that is needed for our student to accelerate their learning.   Analyzing our running records, reviewing our lesson records, and updating predictions of progress will help us make our day to day decisions.  Though these things take time it will save us and our student’s time in the long run.

When analyzing running records look at the following behaviors:

  • monitoring
  • self-correcting
  • appeals/tolds
  • searching
  • rereading
  • taking words apart

After we fill in the top portion of the running record about what patterns we noticed we can plan for the next steps and even jot down some prompting language for our next lesson on post-it notes.

Am I seeing the student daily?

Make sure to see each child EVERY DAY!! When we miss lessons with the child the teaching and learning becomes fragmented. The running record becomes slower as there is more time between the first and second read. We lose sight of what the child can and can not do.  The child’s overall progress slows down.

Am I talking too much?

When we talk too much we:

  • waste our child’s precious time to read/write/learn
  • unintentionally cause confusions
  • steal opportunities to problem-solve, monitor, self-correct, confirm

Our goal should be to say less so that the child puts in the maximum amount of effort.  At a Reading Recovery professional development session we laughed at some of the ways that we kept ourselves from talking – physically covering our mouth, writing “be quiet” notes to ourselves on the top of our lesson records or on post-its.

In Summary

Don’t forget about the power of recording lessons to take a more detailed look at where we might be losing time.  I still use my timer during every lesson to gauge where I should be in my lesson.  If we find that our lessons are running significantly over it is important that we take steps to fix the problem.  Asking ourselves a few questions can help us to get back on track.


If you enjoyed this post you might also be interested in:

Deeply Analyzing Tolds is a Game Changer

Setting Students up for Fluent Reading

Helping Our Students Become Efficient, Capable, and Competent Writers

Are We Providing Scaffolds or Swooping in for the Rescue?


4 thoughts on “Sticking to a 30 minute Reading Recovery Lesson

    1. Hi Monique!
      Thank you for your kind comment. We are so happy that you find our articles useful. We hope that all is well with you and that you are staying healthy in this crazy time of COVID-19.
      Rhonda & Gen


  1. Richelle Coniff

    I’m wondering how someone may structure a Reading Recovery lesson in live lessons. I have 2 families that are willing to meet with me in Google Meet. Is it appropriate to try and do RR lessons? If you’ve tried it, can you share some of your ideas?


    1. Hi Richelle! We are following RRCNA’s guideline to not provide virtual Reading Recovery lessons. I think if you have some families that are willing to meet virtually you could provide lessons that are similar to Reading Recovery/Guided Reading lessons. Currently, I have not done any live lessons. Here are some links to resources that have helped me to think about how I will support my students while we are away from school.
      Thank you for stopping by our blog and stay healthy!
      Rhonda & Gen


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