As a parent, you may recall how reading instruction worked in elementary school. If your experience was anything like mine (and I hope I don’t date myself here) you had a hardcover book (anthology) with a collection of stories that everyone read together as a class. I can specifically remember opening to a page and having each student take turns reading a line or two out loud to the class. If you were really crafty, you could figure out which line would be yours based on the number of students in front of you and then zone out until your turn. I have always loved to read, but this type of reading in school wasn’t my inspiration.
Reading instruction today looks very different (thank goodness!). If you were to peek into an elementary classroom during the reading block, you would most likely see a teacher with a small group of 4-6 students working closely at a table while the other students worked in small groups of 3-4 at literacy centers. The students with the teacher are getting direct instruction individualized to their needs as readers. The students at literacy centers are working cooperatively on various literacy tasks such as making words with magnetic letters, listening to a story on CD, or partner reading familiar books to increase fluency. This is what Guided Reading looks like.
Guided Reading began its roots in New Zealand classrooms and was made popular here by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, two Reading Recovery teachers. At the heart of Guided Reading is the ability to work with small groups of students and select texts specifically based on their needs and strengths as readers. “Inherent in the concept of guided reading is the idea that students learn best when they are provided strong instructional support to extend themselves by reading texts that are just on the edge of their learning – not too easy but not too hard” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012).
Although the teaching of Guided Reading can be complex and teachers make instructional decisions based on how students interact with a text daily, here is the typical structure of a Guided Reading lesson:
Structure of a Guided Reading Lesson:
Selection of a Text:
The teacher selects a text that will be just right to support new learning for the group – at the instructional level.
Introduction to the Text:
The teacher introduces the text to scaffold the reading but leaves some problem solving for the readers to do.
Reading the Text:
Students read the entire text softly or silently. If students are reading orally, the teacher may interact briefly to teach for, prompt, or reinforce strategic actions.
Discussion of the Text:
The teacher invites students to discuss the text, guiding the discussion and lifting the students’ comprehension.
The teacher makes explicit teaching points, grounded in the text, and directed toward expanding the students’ systems of strategic actions
The teacher provides explicit teaching to help students become flexible and efficient in solving words.
If further work with the meaning is needed, students extend their understanding of the text through writing and/or drawing.
As you can see, reading instruction today is very different from reading instruction in the past and it benefits readers tremendously. Readers can actually engage with text that they can read with support while learning new things daily (instead of waiting to read two lines at a time). We would love to hear the questions you have as parents and caregivers…what do you think about Guided Reading?
This information comes from a 2012 article by Fountas and Pinnell “Guided Reading: The Romance and the Reality” and can be found here: http://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingMaterials/FountasPinnell_revdReadingTeacherArticle12_2012.pdf