Guided reading supports students in becoming more confident independent readers because it is the teaching practice when teachers can show students how to read as well as support them as they are reading independently. Implementing guided reading into your teaching will give you the opportunity and the space to observe students as they read and process new texts. These observations will help you determine the strategies that need to be taught to the whole class as well as to each guided reading group. In terms of the students, guided reading gives them the space to successfully read for meaning (rather than only decoding the text) while practicing skills and strategies.
It is important to use a book multiple times with a guided reading group so that students can practice the skill or strategy taught, have additional time to consider the meaning of the text, and have exposure to new vocabulary words multiple times. Repeated readings help kids develop confidence when reading and give them the opportunity to understand the text better. Below are some ideas to consider when planning the second and third guided reading sessions:
The students have already read the book and have an understanding of what the text is about, so for the second session, I like to begin by making connections to the text. These can be in the form of text-to-text, text-to-self, or text-to-world connections. This can be a quick part of the session where you hear what background knowledge the students are drawing on when making connections. If students are struggling to make connections to the text, asking them “What did you notice about the book we read yesterday?” can help start the process as they make connections.
Review the Comprehension Strategy
Review the comprehension strategy that you taught in the first session so that students know exactly what they are trying-out when they read independently. You can even ask one or two of the students to explain the strategy to the group! It is important to review the strategy and not assume that the students remember it. From your observations of the students’ reading during the first session, you may decide to review the strategy in a slightly different manner so that you are further supporting their understanding and implementation of the strategy.
Re-read the Book
Re-reading supports and develops fluency so it is important to have the students read the book more than once to become comfortable decoding the text as well as reading with expression. For the second session, you can have the students whisper read independently or read silently and listen in to each student’s reading, just as you did for the first session. For the third session, you can consider having the students read in partnerships. Again, it is important that the students read the whole text – they should not be popcorn reading! Just as in the first session, you should circulate around to each student in order to provide necessary support or reteach as needed.
I like to have the students complete a pre-planned follow-up activity after the second or third session so that they can do some deep thinking about the book that they read. This is work that they can complete independently at their seats or they can stay together as a group to complete the work – however it works for you. For the follow-up work, I suggest having writing be a part of it. Some ideas include: drawing and writing about their favorite part of the book, illustrating the vocabulary words in the text, drawing and writing about a favorite character in the book, or drawing and writing an additional scene or alternate ending to the book, etc. Once the students complete their work, I like to have them come together and share their work so that there is closure. If it is not possible to come together as a group, I would try to check-in with each student as I am collecting their work. One suggestion is to display the students’ guided reading work in the classroom so that it has a wider audience and does not just sit in a folder.
Teaching Guided Reading During COVID
Guided reading has been one teaching practice that has been challenging to implement during COVID because of social distancing. This is a practice that has actually been working well when taught in a remote format, such as Google Meet or Zoom. If your students are all in-person, consider how you can configure the classroom so that students who are at similar reading levels are sitting near one another. For example, I have a student who teaches guided reading with the kids sitting at their desks and she puts their seats in the shape of a square. When teaching guided reading, she turns two students’ desks so that all four students are facing each other. She then sits on the outside of the square when teaching the lesson and rotates around the square when supporting the students. By keeping the groups to three or four students, she is able to continue to include guided reading into her teaching. My suggestion is to be creative with the space you have and how you can arrange the students while still adhering to the social distancing guidelines.
*Photo: A written response to the book Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend.