I don’t think I’ve ever done Guided Reading ‘properly’. I’m pretty sure that I’ve helped children to become better readers but there’s always room for pedagogical improvement. During my earlier years of teaching, it was always one of those things that nobody I came across explained clearly and this irked me so I’m determined to work on it. Some principles to work from:
Children need to think hard about the text that they’re reading. The quality of the tasks and questions that we present to children will determine how hard children will have to think. Guided Reading at its least effective resulted in groups of children completing shallow tasks without having to think hard about what they’ve read. Effective guided reading involves high expectations of the thinking that children will do about what they’ve read.
Reading skills are not transferrable. Children can only predict and infer if they have sufficient domain knowledge. Once children can decode, we can help them to become skilled readers by building their word knowledge and their general knowledge. Guided Reading at its least effective assumed that if children could infer when reading one text, then they’d mastered that skill. Effective guided reading will seek to equip children with broad knowledge to comprehend a wide range of texts.
Small group discussions are worth creating. Working in smaller groups can give children a focus for reciprocal reading and the teacher can spend more quality time discussing the text with children. Reciprocal reading itself, although backed as effective in the York Reading for Meaning Project and in other studies, is worth analysing more closely. Children take on a roles which give them a focus while reading. This then helps to structure discussion around the text. The roles suggested are:
- Questioner: Thinks of questions to ask about the passage.
- Clarifier: Finds difficult words or ideas and looks for clues to explain them.
- Summariser: Uses own words to explain the key ideas.
- Predictor: Makes guesses about what the passage might be about or what might happen next.
My feeling is that there are aspects of it such as metacognition that are more effective than others.
Introducing texts is important, whether children are working alone or with an adult. Although children need to have experience at school of reading a text with minimal input from an adult, most of the time they’ll require at least a basic introduction to the text which could include:
- A brief summary of the text
- An explanation of the tier 2 words that they may not know the meaning of
- An explanation of any general knowledge that children might need to in order to understand the text
Children should read widely. There are countless high quality books from which to choose. Children do not necessarily need to read the whole book / novel. Summaries of key points can be provided so that children can start a book beyond the beginning. Once interest is piqued, we can encourage children to read bits not read in school.
On grouping children… The research on setting does not mean that ‘setting is ineffective’, rather we should find ways of making it effective if we choose to group children by ability. There are times when a fluid grouping of children, based on the type of scaffolding they need to achieve mastery, might be appropriate.
Over the next term, I hope to develop a model of how the application of these principles might look. Comments and suggestion most welcome!