Early in my teaching career, I realized the importance of small reading groups. I didn't really like having to follow the anthologies that were current at the time, because I found that they were varied in difficulty levels and that they created challenges for some children.
In the late nineties, we were introduced to leveled books and guided reading that made more sense. Since that time, I have fed my book addiction in the pursuit of finding materials that would engage my students and help them to love books and do more than just read the words on the pages. (I left several boxes of book sets at the school when I retired. I was a huge fan of the book bundles from Scholastic and garage sales.)
One of the challenges of doing guided reading, is being able to manage all the different reading levels in a classroom. I used to get parent volunteers and train them to work with my groups. I would give them the groups that were more capable and I would prepare the materials and structure the lessons for them. I would also have independent reading groups. I would work with the students that required more help. I would also have different center activities available for groups that I couldn't get to right away. There were so many different language activities available, it wasn't difficult to find ones to fit the various groups and abilities of my students. I created a rotation of activities so that I could keep track of which groups had done which activities.
In recent years, I have not always been able to use parent volunteers, so I needed to come up with ways to manage up to 7 different reading groups during a day. It was a juggling act, but because I had been doing rotations and centers for so long, I was familiar with how to structure the groups and knew what kinds of materials and activities I would need to make it happen.
I became pretty adept at creating centers and language activities that would engage the groups while I was working with others. I also started to add more and more language components to my guided reading lessons. The benefit of this was, the students got the lessons as they needed them and they were ready for them. Let's face it, not all kids are ready for the same concepts at the same time, so why teach them to the whole class at once!
Of course, there are some things that can be taught to everyone at the same time, and perhaps should be, but most times, concepts aren't fully understood if the children aren't ready for them yet.
I retired in June 2015, but I still volunteer at my last school. I have 6 different reading groups that I work with. Some groups are just learning to read, and others are advanced groups that are doing novel studies.
One of the things I enjoy about working with these groups, is being able to select my own materials and plan language activities for them. I don't just help the children decode the material and then do minimal work with the book, I help them to dig deeper into the meaning or use the book to teach language usage as well.
For example, I have a couple of groups of beginning readers working with speech bubbles and quotation marks. Normally, these ideas would not be introduced until much later, but the children are very excited about doing the activities and they are starting to notice the quotation marks in other books.
I enjoy creating guided reading study materials for chapter books. Kids love it when they finally get to the books with chapters. However, they often don't read very deeply and miss much of the rich detail and information that is in the book. Creating activities that make them stop and think and find evidence in the story allows for a better understanding of what the author is sharing.
Here are some guided reading studies for some of my students' favorite books and series. They are some of the books that I used with my groups last year and this fall. As the year goes on, I am sure that I will be creating more as I prepare for future groups and needs.
I know that many teachers teach guided reading, and everyone has their own techniques for making it work. These are just some thoughts from my experiences. I have met many teachers who are masters of reading and they have shared many experiences and resources throughout the years. There are many others that I have met on the internet, that I have collaborated with. I am in awe of what they are doing in classrooms today. Children are lucky to have them as their teachers.
I would love to hear more about what you do for guided reading in your classrooms.
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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.