I enjoy working with small groups of students, especially students in grades K-2. I love seeing their excitement for learning to read. I am proud to be a guided reading teacher and I have been implementing guided reading for years.
From what the author’s say, I am a conventional guided reading teacher. I summarize the text before the students read it. I pre-teach vocabulary and words that might by tricky for students. Sometimes I am talking so much, we run out of time and students don’t get to finish their reading. I prompt students when they pause at a difficult part and I have said to students “get your mouth ready”, and “does that make sense?” (These two phrases do not lead readers to be independent.) I now realize that I do too much of the work by talking at length and providing direct instruction. Students sit on the other side of the kidney-shaped table and wait for me to give them permission to think, speak and read. I follow the dialogue in the teacher’s manual as I introduce the text to students. I follow the dialogue right up to where the teacher manual says “Now turn back to the beginning and read how the turtle solves the problem.”
Okay. I admit. I’ve been doing it wrong for years. However, I have not damaged any students in the process. I’ve just given them too much support and it was taking them longer to move to the next level and read increasingly difficult text independently. After reading Who’s doing the work? I’ve seen the error of my ways and I plan to modify my instruction.
Chapter 4, in Who’s doing the work?, describes Next Generation Guided Reading. Guided reading is the third instructional context along the gradual release of responsibility model. During Next Generation Guided Reading, students do ALL the work. They read independently and apply the strategies they have been taught during Read Aloud and Shared Reading. The teacher sits to the side of the student and observes students reading, taking notes in a running record or anecdotal notes about the student’s reading process. The teacher notes teaching points to revisit with the student at a later time. While the student is reading, the teacher facilitates by asking open-ended questions like “what do you know?” or ‘how will you figure out what this book is about?” These facilitative questions prime students to think on their own and problem-solve difficult text. This leads students to be independent readers. During Guided Reading the teacher is looking for strengths in the reading process and stopping inefficiencies before they become permanent behaviors.
The author’s say:
It is critically important to allow students to puzzle through their struggles and make decisions about how to solve problems without prompting. (90)
I often jump in too early to “help” students. I was operating under the assumption that I was scaffolding the learning for students. That the scaffolding is was providing would help students along the way and lead them to be stronger, independent readers. When I listened to students read, I would prompt them with “does that make sense?” or “do the letters match the sounds?” I thought I was helping them to internalize the strategies. But I was actually carrying them. I was catching the mistakes and asking the questions. I was doing most of the talking and deciding for the students what’s important about the reading process (taken from Burkins & Yaris). During guided reading I need to step back and let students try strategies for themselves. The main undertaking of guided reading is students reading independently and the teacher observing the students with the reading process. This is where students can show me how they read. They can show me how they apply the strategies independently and they can show me how they can integrate print and meaning. My instruction is going to be more powerful and efficient now!
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