Silent Sam

By Tabatha Jean D'Agata
Illustrations by Geraldo Valério


  • connecting personal experiences with a story
  • reading and following conversation
  • reading with expression
  • understanding third person singular verb endings
  • following a longer story

Supportive Text Features:

  • familiar words and concepts
  • narrative sentence and text form
  • consistent placement of text
  • pictures support and extend the story
  • humor used to engage the reader

Essential Components of Reading Instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency, comprehension strategies

High-frequency Words: has, a, the, is, to, makes, he, for, his, but, you, are, no, into, looks, at, on, who, be

Getting Ready to Read

  1. Introduce the concept and vocabulary by asking open-ended questions:
    • How do you teach a pet to do tricks?
    • What kinds of birds make good pets?
    • Have you ever heard a parrot talk? Tell me how you might teach a parrot to talk.
  2. Connect children’s past experiences with the book vocabulary:
    • Call children’s attention to the title. Read: “Silent Sam.”
    • Ask them to predict what they would expect to see happen in the story.
    • Show the back cover and read the copy. Ask children to think about what Gus will have to do to teach Sam to talk.
    • Have children suggest some words they might read in the story.
    • Give children the book and have them look at the pictures. Ask them to tell what the boy in the book is doing.
  3. Remind children of the strategies they know and can use with unfamiliar words:
    • Ask them, “What will you do if you come to a word you don’t know?”
    • Encourage children to say the beginning sound of an unknown word and read on, returning to the word after completing the sentence.
    • Suggest that children also think about what they know about pet birds. Then encourage them to choose a word that would make sense in the sentence.
  4. Be aware of the following book and text features:
    • The book contains numerous high-frequency words and many other familiar words.
    • The story is written in narrative form. Quotation marks indicate what the characters say.
    • The sentences vary but they are simple constructions.
    • Several third person singular verbs are used: wants, says, makes, plays, sings, cheers, shouts, decides, kicks, knocks, rushes, looks, asks.
    • Ellipses are used to designate a continuation in the text.
    • The pictures extend the story and lead to a humorous ending.

Reading the Book

  1. Set a purpose by telling children to read about Gus and his parrot, Sam.

  2. Have children read the first few pages quietly, but out loud. Each child should be reading at his or her own pace. Children should not read in chorus. Listen to children as they read by leaning close or bending down beside each child. When you hear them reading fluently, tell them to begin reading silently.

  3. Look for these reading behaviors during children’s first reading:
    • Have they begun to cross-check, using a variety of strategies, and to self correct?
    • Do they rely less on pictures and more on print when reading?
    • Do they have a growing sight vocabulary?
    • Do they use beginning, middle, and ending sounds to read unknown words?
    • Are they monitoring meaning and rereading when they lose meaning?
    • Do they easily move from one line of text to the next when making a return sweep?
    • Have they started to use punctuation to gain meaning and as a key to reading dialogue?
    • Do they make more accurate predictions?
    • Can they connect the text to past experiences?
  4. As children read, suggest reading strategies if they are struggling: “Try saying the beginning of the word. Try looking at the picture for help.” Encourage children to take a guess or read past the unknown word. Suggest rereading the sentence so the context is used to unlock the word.

  5. Possible teaching points to address based on your observations:
    • Review how to find a known part in an unknown word.
    • Show children how to use analogies to move from the known to the unknown when encountering new words.
    • Work with suffixes and prefixes.
    • Review using grammar (syntax) to unlock words by considering the sentence structure or parts of speech in the sentence.
    • Explore the story grammar—characters, setting, problem, and so on.
    • Review how to determine what is important in a picture or sentence.
    • Model asking questions or making “I wonder . . .” statements to extend comprehension.
    • Review using punctuation marks to guide the meaning-making process. Point out the use of quotation marks, commas, and question marks in dialogue and the exclamation point on page 16.
    • Work with the third person verb endings “-s” and “-es.”
    • Point out the series commas and use of use of an ellipsis on page 6.
    • Model how to revisit the text to find specific examples or ideas in the story.

After the First Reading

  1. Have children compare their predictions with what actually happened in the story.

  2. Talk about the process Gus uses to get Sam to talk. Discuss why the parrot ignores Gus and remains silent.

  3. Explore the humor of the story. Discuss the ending and why it makes us laugh.

  4. Encourage children to practice reading the dialogue with appropriate expression.

  5. Connect the story with children’s experiences with their own pets and trying to teach them new behaviors.

Second Reading

  1. Have children reread the book silently or to a partner.

  2. This is a time for assessment. While they are reading, watch what children do and what they use from the teaching time. Alternatively, you might take a running record on one child as an assessment of the child’s reading behavior.

Cross-Curricular Activities

Art: Show children pictures of several parrots so children understand the variety of coloration possible. Then let children draw their own parrots. Extend the activity by showing children how to draw speech bubbles near their parrots and add some words their parrots might say.

Music: Page 10 of the story says “Gus sings his name for Sam.” Invite children to give their ideas about how Gus does this. Encourage them to make up a song Gus might sing to Sam to help Sam learn to say “Gus.”

Science: Investigate why parrots can learn to speak while other birds cannot. Then ask children if parrots can learn any language or just English. After children make a preliminary decision, help them use what they have learned to find support for their decision. Children may wish to change their decision after evaluating their information.

Math: Using a clock with moveable hands or a large clock drawn on the chalkboard, have children point the hands to a specific time and then tell whether Sam should talk or be quiet at that time. If they say Sam should talk, elicit ideas about what he might say. For example, at 7:30 in the morning, Sam might say, “I’m hungry.” For 9:00 in the evening, children might say Sam should be quiet.

Social Studies: Birds are now the second most popular pet in the United States, but parrots need special care. Help children learn about the special needs of parrots. You may also wish to organize a class or school project to “adopt” one or more parrots. Information about parrot adoption can be found on the Internet at A listing of bird adoption organizations around the country can be found at

Writing: Have children write a conversation between Gus and Sam using quotation marks, commas, and other punctuation marks appropriately.

Guided Reading with
Sam el silencioso

Guided Reading™: F        DRA: 10        Intervention: 10
24 pages, 146 words

The directions given for the introduction, first reading, and second reading of the English edition can be used with the Spanish edition of the book. To read the book successfully, children need the same kinds of support as their English-speaking classmates. Second language learners often benefit from acting out new words, seeing pictures, and talking about them using concrete examples.

The Spanish edition has many familiar words. Children may be unfamiliar with the way dialogue is indicated and how question marks are used in written Spanish. Dashes are used to indicate dialogue and question marks and exclamation points are used at both the beginning and end of a sentence. The marks appear “upside down” at the beginning of each sentence and “right side up” at the end. Also call attention to the sentence on page 2 that reads, “El loro se llama Sam.” Help children understand that the parrot’s name is Sam but that possession is expressed differently in Spanish and English.

The book language used may differ from children’s oral language. Comparing any differences will help children read and understand the story. Also help children understand that we often speak differently than we write, and that both ways of using language are important.


About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 1 - 1

Reading Level:

Grades 1 - 1


Animal/Biodiversity/Plant Adaptations, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican Interest, Families, Childhood Experiences and Memories, How To, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit


Emergent English, Emergent Dual Language, Teachers College Reading Assessment Kit for Grades K-2: Add-On Pack, Bebop English Guided Reading Level H, Bebop Latin American English Grades PreK-2, Bebop Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, Dual Language Levels D-I Collection, Latin American Collection English 6PK, Multicultural Collection 10, Multicultural Collection 12, Multicultural Collection 13, Multicultural Collection 14, Multicultural Collection 15, Multicultural Collection 11, Multicultural Collection 16, Teachers College Reading Assessment Kit for Grades K-2: Library, Reading Recovery Bebop Books collection, Bebop English Fiction

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