Lots of people ask what I think about Guided Reading and how I do it so I am writing this blog. (for you really Mr Tidd!)
I like guided reading - I have been teaching for 10 years. For 8 of those years I hated the process, I hated the amount of time it took me to plan, I hated how long it took me to mark and I found some of the activities pointless. I used a carousel (I still do) with activities such as handwriting, write a letter to the author or character, find 10 verbs etc. All valid activities in their own right, but are they valid in a session set aside for reading? No! Now after a long time disliking it I have grown to value the process as an aid for teaching reading.
In the new literacy curriculum there are two 'dimensions' to reading; word reading and comprehension. I believe that guided reading should primarily be for the latter. Other reading strategies need to be implemented for word reading/decoding and it would be nigh on impossible to teach this for 1 session per week of 20 mins. (In fact I think it is impossible for you to teach anything effectively in 20 mins per day slots see my post Literacy Skills Killed in Isolation)
However, I do feel a 20 - 30 minute slot each day is long enough for pupils to practise and perfect their reading skills. The children are reading for at least 4 out of the 5 sessions. We need to trust the children to work independently and rigourously without the need for 'timefillers, such as handwriting and diary writing.
The process I follow is pretty simple and follows 3 steps, which is also advocated by the Literacy Shed's very own John Murray author of 'Reading Explorers, you can visit his website here.
The 3 steps are as follows:
Pre Read - a chance for the children to read the focus text through independently. To ensure that they are reading it and not just staring at the text for 20 minutes. I give the children one or two discussion questions such as: What was Charlie's relationship with his father like?
How do we know that Mary felt lonely?
How does the author build tension in paragraph 4?
The children do not need to write anything down but will need to have an answer ready for the guided session the next day. Many of my class use a post it note and jot down evidence - sticking the post it on the extract or correct page of the book.
Pre read planning time for each group 1 -2 mins, marking time 0 mins.
Guided Read - a guided read with the teacher, with lower ability I listen to children read but by the time the children come to me in year 5 as long as they are above 3b they read in silence, I am interested in their comprehension during this session and not their mechanical reading.
Before reading, we discuss the focus question from the previous day.
I prepare approx 4-5 questions for discussion beforehand, when using Bug Club or Reading explorer schemes, these are done for you.
I ask the children a question, often I will direct them to a section of the text where they need to read, depending on the length of the text. As they have read it the previous day this takes a short amount of time. I ask children to jot down EVIDENCE on their whiteboards before answering the question. This way i can quickly assess who has found the correct answer without the need of each child answering, after a brief discussion we move on. I may ask why do you think the author used this word instead of that word? If we come to an unfamiliar word we discuss it. I do not plan these, it is off the cuff.
Guided read planning time for each group 5 - 10 mins depending on length of text. Marking time 0 minutes.
This is generally one of 3 activities. The first is read a section of the book leading up to the next focus point in the book - if it is a book rather than an extract.
The second is answer questions based on the discussions during the guided read. Again they need to read the focus text, for the 3rd time, this time however they should understand the whole text including advance vocabulary, due to the discussion. Children write down these answers in their guided reading books.
The third activity is to have a discussion on the text coming up with their own questions for discussion based on blooms or AF stems.
Planning time for each group - depending on the activity or depending if you have questions from scheme or if you have to make up the questions 0 - 10 mins. Marking time 5 mins per book if written answers.
So for these 3 core steps - total planning time for all 5 groups = 62 mins plus time to generate questions.
Total Marking time = 100 mins per week if all groups answer 5 questions and it takes 20 mins to mark each group of 6.
Well that is the 3 steps - but hang on there are 5 days.
There are a range of options for these. In a perfect world I would allow the children to read for pleasure on one of the days and on the other read non fiction texts based on the topic answering general key questions based on blooms or AF's both of these take no planning or marking.
However in my school the children are mainly EAL and although they are relatively good readers with good comprehension, their answering of reading test papers needs to be improved, therefore the two days in my class after the core steps is based on comprehension.
The children complete a comprehension independently on the 4th day.
I use comprehensions from Rising Stars 'Cracking Comprehensions' or 'First News Comprehensions.'
I use these specifically because the answer sheets give exemplar answers with levels e.g. a level 3 reader may have but x but a level 4 reader would have put y. This is important because the children complete them independently on day 4 and then on day 5 the children go through their answers with the TA, who has the answers. The children discuss the exemplars and each others answers deciding which level their own answers deserve.
Amount of planning time? 0 amount of marking time 0 although I do check progress regularly in the books.
So that is my Guided Reading week. Does it engender a love of reading? Probably not, but remember this is not the only teaching of reading I do, this is just one part of it. This is the part where the children practise and hone their skills. During the week we have opportunities for reading for pleasure, I read novels aloud to the children daily, we share novels and extracts in Literacy lessons and in topic lessons.
Someone questioned this approach on twitter recently asking what happened if a day was missed, for a school trip or a bank holiday? Simple - you just do it the next day. I number the days 1 - 5 not Monday to Friday.
(I apologise if there are spelling or grammar errors in this blog, it is rushed, I have a thousand jobs to do before the new term and my new job starts tomorrow - if you spot one you can tell me on firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comments are also gratefully received.