Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thinking About Pacing: Blog #2 in the Guided Reading Series

One of the issues I am perplexed by in guided reading is pacing. I recently had the experience of planning and executing a guided reading session for a group of Level N fourth grade readers. (Click here to see the plan verbatim). Going into the lesson, I wanted to make sure to balance the amount of time I spent teaching and talking with the amount of time students actually spent reading. In the introduction, we previewed the book. I briefly touched upon and taught compound words in context, and I taught students how to notice figurative language and think about how understanding figurative language contributes to meaning making. Afterward, I asked the students to read the story, and as they did, I pulled alongside each member of the group (there were four students) and listened to them read a bit and talked to them about their interpretation of the text. At the end, we came back together, talked, and I sent them back to the large group. All of that took thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes.

To me, thirty minutes seems a bit long. If all of my groups take this long, I am never going to have time to meet with all of my groups and there certainly won’t be enough time to see my strugglers as often as I know they should be seen. I am nervous that if I don’t pace my guided groups correctly, I am not going to meet the needs of the readers in my room.

This experience leaves me with a lot of questions:

  • How can I reign in the length of my group but maintain the quality of the meeting?
  • Is it imperative to check in with each group member while they are reading independently?
  • During the time that I am pulling alongside readers, is it like a conference? Am I doing too much by supporting meaning making? How do you make time for running records and comprehension support?
  • How do I know if the introduction is too long?
  • Is the objective of guided reading for students to finish the selected text in one day or is it okay to continue the same story on another day? (I’m especially confused by this.)

I NEED to hear from the masses. Do you share similar concerns and questions? How have you reconciled these issues in your guided reading instruction?


Patti said...

Isn't time always the question. I am so happy to hear you ask these questions because they always plague me. I especially love the people who come in and suggest that you can do it all in 15 minutes, if you have a large class and many groups. I have been doing guided reading groups for years and usually only have a twenty minute window. As a result, I always feel frustrated, and incompetent. How do all these experts do it in twenty? That's why I can't figure out how people are also keeping running records. I think if you have 20 minutes and can use it like you did, it is time well spent. I think one of the answers for me sometimes is to break up what I do into 2 sessions. I also usually do not get to every child in the group due to time constraints. However when we do come back together, I often have them do a quick run and talk before the group share. That gives me an opportunity to key into the readers I missed and see what they have to say.
The longer I work, the more I see practical and educational value in revisiting the same text...even if it's a quick book, if there are a few things we need to teach from it . Sometimes in second grade the word work alone will take 10 minutes. The teaching of a concept or strategy can also take several minutes even if it is a revisit. So for me it’s a definite YES for more than one day on one text. It is perfectly fine and sometimes necessary.

Robin said...

After reading your blog, I was compelled to share some thoughts with you!! I truly think that one of the reasons we struggle with guided reading is that it initially was a small group instruction used to teach the reading processing to beginning and emergent readers. Then we realized, it has a place in our 3,4,5 classrooms but how and for who?? As a support teacher who works almost exclusively with small groups, I have also struggled to find how to meet my student's needs using guided reading.

In response to your blog (and Leah's) shouldn't pacing be different in a 1st and 4th grade classroom?? Although we do not want a Guided Reading lesson to go much beyond 30 minutes, isn't it realistic that an introduction to a 4th graders on a Level N should take longer than to 1st graders on a Level E?? Perhaps you could have done either compound words or figurative language in your intro. Also, ideally "word work" such as compound words is done at the end of the lesson. Not that this would have saved time!

My thoughts on some of your questions.

I think you maintain the quality of the meeting by setting your goals carefully and keeping them to a limit. Is figurative language, compound words, listening to students read and supporting meaning too much to accomplish in one group?? I have found when I focus on one or two things, it is easier to achieve my goals. I think Leah's thoughts on planning are also a piece. However knowing you, planning is something you did very carefully!!

In the DVD that accompanies Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency the teacher does not check in with her students when they are reading "Seedfolks." It appears that these students are 4th or 5th graders. When you listen to a student whisper read, it should be a time to check for process, possibly do a running record and support reading actions . Maybe this is why whisper reading can be done less with students who have achieved more success with the process. I think checking for comprehension comes during the conversation after the reading. Also, checking for comprehension can be done during a reading conference.

Again to quote F & P in Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency "the goal of is to teach the reader, not just get them through the book. This means you are helping readers learn to do something with this text that they will be able to do while processing other text." Although we want them to "finish" the text, if our goal is to teach the reader, does it really matter whether they finish the text in one sitting or more?? Having a 40 minute block of time for my students, 30 of which is actually working time, I often have to use the same book for one than one session to get through all the components of the guided reading lesson.