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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guiding Readers - Chapter 1

Everyone who knows me that I LOVE to read! I am always reading something. What better thing to do over the summer than join a bunch of fellow teachers in a book study!!

Today I am joining up with Thinking of Teaching to co-host a portion of the Guiding Readers Book Study. Now this is my first time of 1) Co-hosting and 2) Participating.... so be nice, leave me lots of comments, and don't forget... you think I am awesome. (Hey! That's what the boys would say!) =)


"Guided reading is not about levels.... is about supporting students as they develop strategic approaches to develop meaning."  I love this quote at the beginning of the chapter. In my school, our reading program is extremely structured. It is heavily workbook based. It is scripted. There is little room for flexibility or adaptation.

The curriculum that is used in my district is heavily workbook based and scripted. We do not break out into small groups for guided reading but rather have this time together as a class. The mini-schedule on page 17 is very close to what we do.

Let's just say.... this method isn't very effective. 

Why do I say it is ineffective? I am teaching one level, one set of vocabulary, one strategy to a group of 25 students with unique needs. My highest readers are bored to tears and usually rushing ahead on the countless worksheets our district requires to be completed rather than reading with me, my lowest readers do not have the knowledge to fully comprehend nor are they ready for the vocabulary or strategy presented. They end up causing a lot of trouble during this time. Then there are a few in the middle that this works for and they are struggling too as there are so many distractions.

This isn't just my classroom. It is all the classrooms using this text. We pass children around from room to room hoping they will be better behaved for another teacher. They aren't. It is a sad state of affairs and could be so much better!

They key to guided reading is regular, consistently scheduled sessions. We all know how our students love routines! In addition, each guided reading session has a "must do" (Chapter 2) that supports the student in independent practice.

This chapter had a lot of similarities to Daily 5 (there are other book suggestions as well). It discussed the importance of setting up independent reading routines and building stamina prior to starting guided reading (small group) sessions. There was also discussion on finding the "just right" level for books to use in these session. This is known as the Instructional Level. I loved the metaphor of standing on tip-toes to describe the "just right" activity for this level.

Independent Level
98%-100% Accuracy with thorough comprehension
Instructional Level
95%-98% with basic comprehension
Frustration Level
Below 95% with inadequate comprehension

This supports my earlier statements about my classroom environment. I believe if I could break them up into levels we could see some growth and progress. The first step would be to set learning goals for each level. Then finding the right level material to use. Next, one needs to remember to foster the read-writing connection. There is a lot more about this in Chapter 2!

There was so much to read in this chapter but I don't want to give it all away. I want you to read it as well and share your own thoughts and conclusions. 

*Define Guided Reading.
* What does guided reading look like in your classroom? 
*Is it successful? Why or why not?
* What is your schedule for guided reading?
*How do you choose and level readers for use with your students?
*How do you foster the reading-writing connection?

I visited Stenhouse Publishers and was able to preview the entire book online for free!! So it is not to late to add to your summer reading list and join in on the fun! Sorry but Amazon does not carry this book. I know weird, right?

I can't wait to hear what your thoughts are on Chapter 1!

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At June 21, 2012 at 7:20 AM , Blogger Sabra said...


LOVED the comparison about "just right" books! After reading Ch. 1 I also felt that what was happening in my class could have some improvement but that I was doing some things right (like Reader's Workshop - connecting their reading and their writing). I was a long term sub at a school that did SFA and I can completely understand your frustration! Thanks so much for a wonderful chapter review! This is my first co-hosting and book study too, so I'm in the same boat when we get to Ch. 6, haha! You did fantastic! And you're AWESOME!

Teaching with a Touch of Twang

At June 21, 2012 at 7:44 AM , Blogger Heather Mathews said...

OK, I'm in. I'll try to get through chapt one today online as I wait for the book to come!


At June 21, 2012 at 7:45 AM , Blogger Laura said...

In our county, everyone assesses each child in the fall, places them in a reading group, uses small trade books with the reading groups (in my class, they get to put the little books in their personal book boxes to reread at Read to Self and Buddy Reading time as I use Daily Five). We preview the text, read by ourselves (or for emergent readers as a group), talk about strategies to solve the 1-3 words they don't know, reread independently (while I listen to individuals), discuss (comprehension questions I make up). Then we get white boards and practice writing (small words, word families, eventually dictated sentences). They get to make stars for themselves when they can correctly write the sentence ("Give yourself a star if you remembered to put a period at the end. Give yourself another star if you started with an uppercase letter...."). I teach Kindergarten and my groups at the beginning of the year range from kids learning their letters to kids who can read at the second grade level. It is a big spread so I can see how your district's plan misses a lot of kids.

At June 21, 2012 at 8:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize now my guided groups do not include much writing. I really need to think about that next school year.

At June 21, 2012 at 9:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a recent college grad and love reading eveyone's ideas as to how they incorperate guided reading into their day. Thanks so much!

I have started a blog of my own if you would like to come show it some love!


At June 21, 2012 at 3:24 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

I am disappointed to hear about the reading program used in your school. What a way to stifle you as a teacher and your students as readers. I led a training today for new teachers to our district and we focused on the Essentials of Teaching Reading through Reader's Workshop. We spent a lot of time talking about Guided Reading.
Our teachers (Grades 1-5) administer a beginning of the year DRA2 to all of our students to identify their instructional reading level (based on engagement, fluency and comprehension) This is where we start to form our groups, but as GR takes place, groups are fluid and change. We are fortunate to have texts in each classroom that are already leveled using Fountas and Pinnell leveling system. We also have a book room that houses additional leveled text. We use the Continuum of Literacy Learning to set goals for each of our groups based on the ways of thinking that can be developed with that level of text.
We have also been working a lot this year on writing in response to reading. Our GR lesson framework is set up to end with an extension of the text that the children do in writing. Our current framework is simliar to the one identified in Chapter 2 (but we will get there later)
Sounds like an easy enough plan to follow, right? Well not exactly. guided reading continues to be a struggle for the teachers at my school (maybe it is the time it takes to plan for so many individualized lessons) and as their Literacy Coach, I am determined to use this book as a way to begin to make it more manageable and practical for them.

At June 21, 2012 at 3:59 PM , Blogger MG said...

Thanks for sharing about Stenhouse Publishers's free preview. I just read through the first two chapters. Here are my two favorite things from chapter 1:
1) The tip-toe analogy.
2) The need to model how to have a conversation about literature.


At June 21, 2012 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Beth said...


This is a great post! For your first book study co-hosting you did a fabulous job! I hope you keep posting as we go along. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and seeing the similarities in our posts.

I think this book is going to be an eye opener for a lot of people, and hopefully school districts. I can't even imagine being as scripted as it sounds like you, that must be awful!! Do you think you will be able to implement guided reading into other curriculum areas and still maintain the scripted program that you are mandated?

Do forget to link up to the linky party and send other people over to link up their posts too.
Thinking of Teaching

At June 21, 2012 at 7:00 PM , Blogger Amanda said...


I felt sorry to hear about your struggles at your school. Students (especially my 3rd graders) are very social people. I have seen the benefits of having small group time to interact with a book on their level and those that are not with me benefit from working their centers. I liked that in the text, the author says that everything the kids do in small groups need to have a purpose. Teachers have to keep this in the forefront of their minds.

At June 21, 2012 at 7:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been teaching for 25 years now and guided reading has always been my style. At the beginning of the year, I assess each student and group them accordingly. (Last year I had six reading groups!) Each child works on skills and reading text that is appropriate to their reading ability. Not in a textbook, but using novels. During the year, each child makes tremendous growth....even my advanced readers.
My advice...get out of the basal reader if your district will allow it. If nothing else, enrich your textbook with other tradebooks throughout the year.

At June 21, 2012 at 7:29 PM , Blogger Think, Wonder, and Teach said...

I live in a very rural are that is struggling to meet NCLB for a multitude of reasons. We have an extremely high poverty, ESL, & ESS rate. We have an extremely high turn over rate for our students. This makes it difficult to teach but being on warning with NCLB requires us to teach to the script. No room for latitude. No room for creativity. Everyone is on edge.

As I am still a student teacher, I am still learning and not responsible for my students but my heart does break for them. I want there to be a better way. I know there has to be a better way! And so while these students may never see/have the advantages of my knowledge my future students will!

At June 22, 2012 at 4:27 PM , Blogger Debbie said...

Thanks for letting us know about this book and the preview to read it online. I am also at a low income district with ELLs using a scripted direct instruction program for Lang. Arts, but I am soooo lucky to have a principal who lets us do what we "think is best for our program", so I try to do guided reading groups as well as the whole group lessons. It's crazy as there is not enough time, but how can you NOT differentiate in this way?

At June 23, 2012 at 7:58 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

I am not an elementary teacher, so I am just learning of this frustration (teaching everyone the same thing). That would be difficult. I teach high school, and I allow my students to choose their own words, define them, and practice writing them. That works soooo much better.

Thanks for the information, from a non-elementary teacher!

Lauralee, Switching Classrooms.


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