A few years ago, I was asked to reflect on my teaching and determine what my super strength was. I discovered that I actually have two things that I became known for during my teaching career. I am going to share one of them with you today. I will share the other one in a future post.
My first super strength was teaching guided reading programs in my classroom.
Many of my colleagues taught guided reading with the help of others, be it parent volunteers, educational assistants, or a rotation of teachers in a cohort. I have done all three during my career, but there were several times when there weren't enough people to cover all the classes/students, so I did my class separately. Sometimes I had as many as 7 groups depending on the range of reading levels in my class.
This was a challenge, but over the years I developed some strategies and resources that made it work. Today I would like to share some of this with you. Please note: I am basing this on a grade 2 or 3 classroom as most of my teaching career was with a grade 2/3 split class.
In a grade 1 class, there would be some variations as many of the children are still focusing on building phonemic awareness and letter recognition skills.
Before you begin, it is important to have an idea of what your students are able to do. It will require some assessment, be it formal or informal. Sometimes it may also take some time to develop a relationship with them so they feel comfortable sharing what they know. You can also look at assessments from previous years, although I usually choose to do my own assessments. It is also a good thing to remember that levels can drop a bit after a long break.
1.It is important to know what the reading levels are in your classroom. Obviously, this can be a time intensive task if you are doing formal levelling for your students. Instead, I select a variety of books from my levelled book bins and I do an informal assessment with the kids while others are working on some independent work.
2. Once I have had a chance to read with all my students, I look at the levels and see what are some possible groupings I can make. I will often group 2 or 3 levels together if they are similar. If the levels are very low, or the students need a lot of extra work with sounds, phonemic awareness, letter recognition, etc. I try to keep the groups very small (maximum 4). Other groups may have up to 6 in them. It is important that you think about the time available for instruction as well, because too many groups will not work well in a regular class time table.
The size of the groups is often dependent on resources as well. I found that most sets of books only had 6 copies, so to avoid sharing materials, 6 was usually the maximum size of the group.
3. Once the groups are determined, it is time to figure out a rotation plan that will work so that all of the groups can receive instruction and support during the week. Ideally, reading should be a part of each day, but sometimes this is not possible. Whenever you are able to do reading groups, the groups that are needing the most help should be scheduled in for direct support. The other groups should be on a rotation to make sure they are given some direct support as well. This is very important. The more capable groups need support as well.
While one group is getting direct instruction, it is important that the other groups know what they are to do. This could be reading, responding to reading, language activities, centers, listening activities or other language related activities.
4. Before starting the reading group sessions, it is necessary to make sure that you go over the expectations for groups that are working independently or in small group activities. Direct teaching of the different types of activities will be needed so that the groups can function well without disruptions and interruptions.
5. To make sure that the rotations work well and you are organized for each group requires some planning. Creating a flow chart or grid with the different groups and the different activities helps. It is also useful in case of a situation when you are away and someone else needs to run the groups.
6. Gathering the necessary materials and having them set up ahead of time will also make the rotations more successful. Setting up baskets with the materials for each guided reading group ensures that you aren't hunting for things during the direct instruction. Other areas also need to have the necessary equipment and materials ready before the reading time begins.
7. Once you have your groups set, your materials ready, and your rotations prepared, it is time to get started.
If you are looking for materials to use during your guided reading rotations, check out my TeachersPayTeachers store. I have a guided reading category, sight word category, and literacy category with materials that can work for reading groups.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you are looking for more ideas or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. I wish you much success with your guided reading program.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.