Guided reading is a common component of many classrooms nowadays, but is it working? I have seen many different formats for doing guided reading, and I feel that some work better than others.
I have been an advocate for guided reading in the classroom for many years. I was introduced to the idea in the late nineties and I used it effectively until I recently retired. When I began teaching, we used anthologies for reading. I found that these worked well for some children, but other really struggled with them. It wasn't until I learned about leveled materials that I realized that anthologies weren't the best because they had a wide range of levels in them. They had some interesting stories and the activities provided were used to teach some of the language skills and usage, but they didn't really meet the needs of the children that were emergent readers.
I did guided reading in my classroom for many years. I had it working quite well and then the school I was working in closed. I was surprised to find that it wasn't happening in all schools. When I moved to a new school I knew that I needed to get something happening in my classroom at least. A couple of different models were attempted by the staff in my first years at this school, but they weren't very effective.
In one scenario, the children were grouped by levels and then they were split up among the available adults for a guided reading time. Several classes were combined and a set time of the day was used for these groups. Although this can work, I found it quite frustrating as the groups were too big and the kids would come and go from my group without notice. It was difficult to establish some continuity, skill development and fluency with my groups.
In another scenario, only those who were struggling readers were taken for guided reading work. Although they required some small group or individual instruction to succeed, I found it frustrating that the others didn't get an opportunity to develop their skills in a similar manner. I also found that the pull out system meant that they missed more key concepts and skills from lessons being taught while they were out of the room.
Assessing my own students was a challenge in these scenarios. I would receive assessments from those leading the groups, but I didn't feel I really knew how they were doing myself and I wanted to be better able to share successes and concerns with parents. That is when I decided that I needed to create my own guided reading groups and come up with a plan that would allow me to work with all of them.
I tried to group them as best I could into manageable groups. Sometimes I would have 6 or 7 groups in order to make this work. I then created different types of activities or centers to have available for some of the groups while I was working with others. They could be ranging from letter/sound recognition to advanced novel studies.
I would then structure my language arts time so that I had room for 2 or 3 rotations during each session. I would make sure to work with my struggling groups daily, and with the other groups at least every second day. I would make sure to touch base with all of my groups at the beginning of each session so that they knew what they were to be working on and what the expectations were.
At my previous school, we used parent volunteers that we trained. They were able to take a couple of the groups and work with them at the same time as we were working with our groups. This really helped as we knew that all of the students would receive some support each day. (Note: I gave the more capable students to my volunteers and I worked with those that needed more explicit instruction.)
It is more difficult to get parents to volunteer now as many of them are working and not available to help out on a consistent basis.
I am retired, but I volunteer at my old school and work with guided reading groups. Last year, we implemented something different that seems to work better. This is closer to what I was doing in my own classroom.
One classroom at a time is supported. All the students are put into reading groups and teachers, support staff, and teacher volunteers lead the groups in guided reading studies. The Learning Assistance teacher also takes some of the more at risk students and gives them extra support at a different time of the day.
Every few weeks the students are assessed and the groups are adjusted accordingly.
This seems to be more effective and it makes it easier for teachers to schedule as well. All of their students are receiving instruction at the same time and there is communication happening about what is going on in the various groups.
These are just a few of my thoughts about guided reading. I would love to hear how this fits with your ideas of guided reading. Leave a comment below with ideas that you use to make guided reading work in your classroom.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts about guided reading with some tips and tricks for emergent readers as well as those who are advanced and ready for novels. I would love to hear some of yours as well.
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.