Guided Reading – Inspiring a love of reading, not stamping it out!

I began this academic year with a revelation about Guided Reading – I didn’t like teaching it. I love reading, as an adult I read whenever I can (although not as often as I’d like) but I did not like teaching Guided Reading! My previous school had a policy that all the children needed to complete 2 written comprehensions a week as well as reading book extracts (no complete books) and although I tried my best to inspire children through a variety of text types and authors the lessons were often very dry. Upon beginning a new school, and now having more freedom, I began to consider what I could do to inspire a love of reading. Alongside my quandaries I happened upon a question Ian Addison (@IanAddison) was asking on Twitter about whether children show progress during Guided Reading session.

My new school has worked very hard over the last few years to encourage a positive view of reading; buying a wider range of books to interest a wider range of children, ensuring they have easy access and opportunities to enjoy reading. This has had a great impact on the class, when I ask them to name favourite books/authors all can, they talk happily about books and are desperate not to miss their library day if they’re off sick! So again, there was even more pressure to continue this excitement for reading and I began exploring the realms of Twitter for a new approach.

As luck would have it, Stephen Connor (@StephenConnor7) replied to my Tweet. He began reviewing his own Guided Reading practise the previous year, again wanting to inspire a love of books rather than spending hours planning and assessing something that may well turn all children away from reading for life. His model adopted a flipped learning approach, something that once again I wanted to trial in my classroom, putting the children in the lead.

Please take the time to read his original blogpost here.

The plan

The children are already in their Guided Reading groups and I have 6 groups grouped roughly by levels (I do consciously have a lower group which is entirely boys with similar interests in an attempt to inspire them through specific book choices). My school timetables 20 minutes of Guided Reading each day 5 days a week so each group will read with me, from the same text, once each week (once every 6 weeks one of the groups won’t read to me). What makes this different from any other Guided Reading session I hear you ask?

Stephen has broken down the reading group session into 3 specific variations:

  1. When you start a new book
  2. Continuing to read the book
  3. Finishing the book

For each of these there is a plan with certain cues to direct discussion – again things that you will already do but with a pre-designed proforma it allows simple recording, and minimal teacher input whilst the children still get maximum output.

An example of the prompts when you start a new story are:

  • Introduce new book. Look at cover; what could it be about? Read blurb and take predictions.
  • Read start of next chapter independently or in pairs. Listen to children independently.
  • Discuss what has happened so far. What do we know about characters? Discuss likes/dislikes about characters.
  • Identify use of language that children feel is effective. Why? What is good about it?

 

An example of the prompts when you are continuing a new story are:

  • Discuss homework reading and review what has happened.
  • Children to identify new or unknown words. Work together to find meaning
  • Read start of next chapter independently or in pairs. Listen to children independently.
  • Questions

Now this last part is the exciting part. Where a lot of teachers, and myself previously, would spend hours planning specific questions to meet the AFs and therefore reading ahead in each book for each group so that you can think of appropriate things to ask. The idea here is that the  children think of discussion points which they would like to ask/discuss with the group. Now, this obviously isn’t something they’ll be able to do independently at first but what better why to encourage children to think deeply about a book than them discussing their own ideas and opinions with their peers. Whilst developing these skills Stephen has created a set of stand alone questions which can model appropriate questions about texts e.g. Imagine you are one of the characters – what are you thinking? or Describe the feelings of a character – how has the author made you think they feel like that? These can also be used if you need to ensure breadth of questioning to meet all the AFs.

Finally, an example of the prompts when you have finished a book are:

  • Discuss homework reading and review what has happened.
  • Children to identify new or unknown words. Work together to find meaning.
  • Discuss book as a whole. Children to identify favourite parts, what they didn’t like etc. Would they recommend the book to others?
  • Children to complete book review to be kept in GR folder. **If not finished during guided reading time, to be completed as homework**

 

Now this is an example of what I’m doing for 1 day a week with each group. So what are the other 5 groups doing whilst I’m doing this? Well, one day a week is our library slot which gives the children an opportunity to browse a range of books, pick new ones to borrow or just sit quietly and read a book of their choice in the comfort of the library. Through the rest of the week the children have a range of activities to do but I do not tell them when to do them or how long to spend on them. With the children being year 5 I feel they need to be developing independence and time management skills to begin to prepare them for secondary school so they have to take responsibility for completing their own tasks.

The tasks they have to complete are:

  1. Complete homework reading – depending on the ability of the group the length can vary but I usually aim for around 1 chapter. Each week they read a day later than the week before e.g. if they read on Mon this week, it’ll be Tues next week so they have to be at the correct place in the story by then ready to fill me in on the details.
  2. Add to their vocab book – each week they have to add at least one word a week into their vocab book which they have found in a reading book and needed to look up in order to be sure of its definition (we then use these books in class when we’re writing). Again this needs to be completed by their reading time as we then share our words with each other and add them to our own books if we deem it necessary. This also allows me to see the words which children aren’t confident at defining – sometimes this can be really surprising!
  3. Complete a written task or ‘text activity’ – the children have an activity log sheet which I adapted from one I found on TES. I don’t care which tasks they complete in which order as long as they complete one a week. They complete these in a book which is collected in each Friday for me to mark and monitor them completing the tasks.
  4. Independent reading – anything from their own library books, to magazines and newspapers (this will be extended to reading blogs via flipboard in the future but I’m still working on getting this set up).

 

At the moment it is early days to measure the impact that this change of design has. I know that I don’t get groans about Guided Reading anymore and that over the course of just one half term the children have become much better at organising themselves to get the right things completed by the right days. I have made some progress with discussion of texts but the children can still need some persuading to go beyond simple answers and currently they still prefer to tell me their thoughts rather than sharing them with each other and continuing/questioning their peers. I may begin to challenge this by including some controversial ideas where the children may think differently.

I would love to hear if anyone else organises their Guided Reading in a similar way or any other effective ideas for encouraging a love of reading whilst teaching the range of skills the children need to access material across the curriculum. With that I’ll leave you once again with Ian’s question – could someone see progress in your Guided Reading lessons?

7 Comments [Add Yours]

  • Andrew Currie

    November 16, 2013 6:24 pm Reply

    We are currently trialling something very similar with more discussion less questioning. After a frank and open discussion with the children about their views of guided reading it was clear they detested the 'reading around' and the stopping to ask questions which they obviously knew the answer to. So now we are doing a lot more discussion based and the children love it. A few issues we are working through : Planning - how detailed does it need to be? Often our discussions are child led and so we write plans that may be largely ignored ... a waste of time. Ensuring progression: As with you it is early days so we are waiting with bated breath to see what impact this has on levels. I hope it is positive as I don't think I could face a return to the 'old ways' ! Final point of this long and meandering comment !Have you done much with your kids on reciprocal teaching , am training my kids in this and they are really enjoying the challenge.
  • Ben Waldram

    November 19, 2013 10:03 pm Reply

    Great post, good link to Stephen's too. Desperate to try something new with my Y3... Like these ideas.
  • Fiona Tonissen

    February 18, 2014 9:50 am Reply

    Great post! I really despised Guided Reading until the end of last year when I introduced Guided Reading Reciprocal Teaching. Each group did 'Guided Reading' at the same time, but given that they all had clearly defined roles, they were equally accountable for the reading,comprehension,questioning and defining. This meant I was able to read with a different group each day and we always had a whole class discussion about what was happening in each group's text. The conversations about the texts were amazing - I purposely picked the groups and their texts based on ability, but also interests and reading preference. I love reading with my groups!
    • Jimbo

      April 18, 2016 5:38 am Reply

      And I was just wonrdeing about that too!
  • tamanna

    April 12, 2015 4:03 pm Reply

    Great Ideas! Just started on a new teaching position to teach years 5/6 class. A lot of things needed to be done to structure the class, however having to read this 'Guided Reading' topic, a few creative ideas came to my mind and which gave me a lot of strength to give it a go.

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