Thursday, January 6, 2011

Professional Resolution: Learn More About Guided Reading

Since my very first day in my very first classroom, I have been gung-ho about reading workshop. I have always been adamant about children choosing books they are interested in and dedicating large chunks of time to independent reading. I delivered the bulk of my instruction through whole group mini lessons and one-on-one conferences. Though I dabbled with book clubs, guided reading and strategy groups were foreign. Very simply put, I didn’t know about teaching this way so therefore, my students were never privy to the benefits of focused small group instruction.

My work as a staff developer has given me many occasions to reflect and think about my days as a classroom teacher. Looking back, I have come to recognize that without small group instruction, I was missing an important opportunity to guide my students to greater proficiency. Clearly, there was a gaping hole in my teaching repertoire which has sent me on a quest to right my wrong. It is my goal to learn everything I can about small group instruction, specifically guided reading.

Since embarking on this quest, I have attended workshops and read books on this topic. Recently I finished Guided Reading (amazon affiliate link) by Fountas and Pinnell and over the summer I read Teaching Reading in Small Groups  (amazon affiliate link) by Jenn Serravallo and Preventing Misguided Reading (amazon affiliate link) by Jan Miller Burkins and Melody Croft. At this point, I feel like I have a sound theoretical knowledge of what small group instruction entails. What I need now is a better understanding of the practical implications of small group instruction. I am boggled and stymied by questions like how long should it take? If it goes on for thirty minutes, is that too long? When I pull up alongside students in guided reading groups to do a running record, is it okay if I don’t get to each student in the group? Do I need to take a running record of every student every time? If I don’t listen to a child read aloud and simply have a conversation about the text, is that okay? What is the best way to embed word study into a guided reading group? Proportionately speaking, how much time should the introduction to the text take?

The list goes on and on and that is why I have resolved to investigate these questions through my own independent study of this important teaching structure. I invite you to join me on my quest and encourage you to share your questions and answers to mine. I am very eager to hear stories from the trenches so that I can begin to piece together the guided reading puzzle. This blog will be the first in a series of forthcoming blogs that will reveal my learning process and thinking about this important teaching structure. I do hope that you join me and share your thinking. When it comes to guided reading, what would you like to learn more about?


Miss Jordan said...

Hi Kim,

I teach Grade Two in Victoria, Australia. I have been teaching for seven years, and I have conducted Guided Reading sessions practically every day of those seven years! :)

Small group instruction is a great way to identify individual students' strengths and weaknesses. I find it is particularly useful for weaker students, and also youngers students who are just learning to read.

It is interesting that we are both at a kind of crossroads in our thinking about teaching students to read. I am starting to question whether Guided Reading is the only/best way to teach reading. Perhaps because it is the only way I have taught reading and I feel like a change would be nice, I am starting to think about other ways to instruct my young students. I definitely see a place for Guided Reading and value it's place in my literacy lessons. But with my stronger readers, I am thinking that reading conferences or another strategy might stimulate their minds and expand their learning further.

You asked quite a few questions in your post about Guided Reading, and I would be happy to respond to further posts you publish about the topic. Basically, we follow this structure in our reading hour:

Whole class focus - a story/game on the interactive whiteboard.

Learning centres - students are in 5 ability-based reading groups. Each day I do Guided Reading with 1 group and the other groups each complete an activity (computers, iPod, word game etc). Students rotate around each activity during the week and I have a different group for Guided Reading each day.

Share time - Students share their activities, comment on something interesting, discuss a reading strategy etc.

I look forward to reading your blog in the future!

Kelly Jordan

Kim Yaris said...

Thank you, Kelly, for responding! You bring up a point that I have been discussing with a lot of teachers, especially being that I work with many intermediate teachers: when students attain a certain level of proficiency, is guided reading the most effective structure for their needs? I have heard myself say on many occasions, "I see guided reading as a primary structure and strategy groups increasingly more effective with older kids," as if my belief is that guided reading isn't needed for more proficient readers. That said, I DO believe, though, that more proficient readers in second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, are still learning to read. There is still much that they need to be taught in order to move onto the next level. For me, it becomes a question of how often do they need guided instruction to fill this need and help support their quest to progress to the next level?

As far as our strugglers go, I'm right there with you believing that guided reading is THE way to go. It just makes complete sense.

On another note, some of my colleagues are very interested in your ipod center. What do your students do during that time? Are they listening to books on tape?

Thank you, again, Kelly for responding. I've got several other blogs about guided reading waiting in the wind and I can't wait to for your input!

Miss Jordan said...

Hi again Kim,

I agree with your thoughts about Guided Reading. It seems we believe Guided Reading is great for our weaker students and we wish to challenge and extend our more capable students. I have been thinking about trying the Daily Five this year. I've ordered the books and I'm doing a little bit of research about that at the moment.

In regards to iPods, they are a very popular learning centre activity every week! I have an iPod touch in my classroom, with a headphone splitter which allows five students to access each iPod. Using iTunes, I find various activites (some are free, some have a very small cost). Examples include:
- listening to stories (StoryHome is a good iTunes resource)
- watching a video clip
- origami instructions
- watching/listening to songs
- watching instruction videos (the HowCast series is great).

After the students have listened/watched, they complete a relevant follow up activity that I have made. They might sequence the story correctly, complete comprehension questions, make the origami objects etc.

I guess the iPod touch is like a more modern version of the old "listening posts" which I used to use.

I'm not sure if you've seen my blog, but here is the address:


Patti said...

Just scanning through some things and read the blog on small group instruction. i started trying out strategy groups last year after reading the Cafe book for the first time. Of course I didn't get too far but it was a start. This year things have felt hodge podge, but here it is January and I think I found something that is valuable , informative and necessary in my roo. I think in time it will guide me better in the small group instruction., But right now I am excited about the possiblities of getting the best bang for my buck.. I have waited to introduce read to someone since I really feel it takes a lot of reading /strategy savy to really be able to coach a peer. I wanted to wait and build stronger strategic independant readers. Well , like I said it's been a hodge podge year, and even the strategy instruction hasn't been solid. So I began read to someone in December- going throught the steps , establishing procedures. We visited another 2nd grade who had been doing it since september so they could be our peer mentors. I visited around to listen in on the collaboration and made some interesting discoveries about what was productive and what needed further instruction. One thing rang out clear. Certain children just suggested the same strategy i.e. chunk it up- when it even if the word was a word without chunks- read.
I came back from Christmas with the thought of using my ESL push in time to refresh the kids on REad to Soemone procedures and to take it another step.
The ESL teacher sits in with me and helps demo a coaching strategy -mostly decoding stuff- and then we visit around the room to observe what the kids are doing and coach them on the coaching.
Boy has this been great. I'm seeing how important this read to soemone isIf they are with a partner, most times, they must be accountable for using strategies, processing information , monitoring. i feel like I am conferencing with 2 readers at once, getting a really good feel for what mini lesson needs to follow and can pop in and out of several partnerships in 20 minutes, while the other ESL teacher doees the same.
we quickly compare notes, I jot down what we need to address and fit it in the nxt day. I am covering ALOT more ground with a lot more kids, that I haven't been able to do up to this point. I like this!
Can you tell I am excited. I think I see a light in this years tunnel-FINALLY that will help me get to some of the places I want to go with these kids.
Just thought i'd share.
Patti, Grade 2

cindi said...

Hi Kim,

I just stumbled onto your blog from a link on twitter and am feeling exactly the same way as you with guided reading. My district spent the money this past summer to get us all a Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking kits to find the reading levels of our students, but then I felt a little like "now what?"

I have read both books from "The Sisters" and feel like they are on to something as well. This is my second year implementing Daily 5 and it really works well with my 2nd grade students.

I like the idea of the CAFE strategies but still have questions about how often to meet with strategy groups as opposed to guided reading groups. I would love to hear more about what others are doing.

Kim Yaris said...

Hi Cindi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Your sentiment about the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking kits echoes a sentiment that I hear often when I go into schools. We recognize a good idea when we see it; however, we don't always think through the implementation process. At $250 a pop, it's too large an investment to make to do nothing with information about students' levels,but "now what" MUST be addressed. For sure guided reading is a part of the answer to the now what, but as you can see through the questions we are exploring in this blog series, while widely used, we teachers still have TONS of questions about it. We want to do it with consistency and fidelty, but until we have good conversations with our colleagues, we work in isolation behind the closed doors of our classrooms.

Several of my study group colleagues use the Daily Five as their model for literacy instruction. Now that you've brought it up, I'm going to urge them to guest blog and maybe we can a conversation going about that too!

Nice to make your acquaintance and hope to hear from you again!

Dr. Michele Dufresne said...

Hi Kim,

Glad you like the series on What is Guided Reading? I read through the responses to your blog and find it very interesting to see what teachers are thinking. I feel strongly that Guided Reading is extremely important all the way up the grade levels. No matter how proficient the reader is, students need to have an opportunity to work in a small group with students reading a book at their instructional level; and they need to be guided through that reading. Instruction will shift over time with the skill of the students.


Kim Yaris said...

Thanks Michele for your comments! As you can see we're really on a quest to understand guided reading and its implications. My study group and I spent a lot of time at our last meeting talking about guided reading for the intermediate grades. We agree, we think that kids need guided instruction at their instructional level all the way up through. What we're realizing, however, is that we're just not sure WHAT kids need. We're finding the Fountas and Pinnell continuum to be a godsend in the way of answering some of those questions but we also realize that if our intermediate guided reading instruction is to get better, we've got a lot of studying to do!
Thanks for sharing!