Bumping Up Guided Reading

At the beginning of October, I happened to read some tweets from Lisa Donohue about her shift in perspective on guided reading. Lisa is one of the many amazing educators that I follow on Twitter, but she’s also the author of numerous educational resources that I love, including 100 Minutes: the book that helped me revise my literacy block.

This year, Lisa moved from teaching Grade 3 to teaching Grade 6, and with this change, she also noticed the change in attitude from students when it came to guided reading. Like other Ontario educators, Lisa’s been grappling with the new Social Studies curriculum and the push for inquiry-based learning in the classroom. When she realized her students’ dislike for guided reading, she thought that she could help change their attitude by incorporating guided reading and inquiry. Lisa blogged about the amazing transformation here, and her post resonated with me so much, that I just had to consider this change as well.

As a primary teacher, I absolutely loved guided reading groups, as my students were so excited to come and read with me. They loved the book discussions, and they quickly saw their own growth as readers and thinkers. This small group instruction really impacted on them as learners, and seeing this impact, made me so eager to have my guided reading groups each day. When I started teaching junior grades though, things changed. Students hated guided reading. “Hate” is a very strong word that I dislike using, but this is the word that all of my students used. Regardless of reading ability, absolutely nobody wanted to come and read with me. It was a struggle to motivate the students, and as such, even with the small group intervention, I found the growth more limited. Students need to want to learn too!

This is what inspired me with Lisa’s approach. Students were applying their learning in real ways. They were moving beyond the book by looking at real world connections to their readings, and thinking and reflecting about these new connections. Our staff discussions on last year’s EQAO results highlighted the need to focus on developing “connection” and “synthesizing” skills, and an inquiry approach allows me to do both. So I gave it a try, and the results have been incredible!

Not only do I get a chance to read with the students and discuss the text (working on “summarizing” and “determining the main idea,” as connected to our current TLCP), but I also get to guide inquiry, encourage connections, and support synthesizing skills. Just today, my guided reading group read an article from the Grade 5 Nelson Literacy text on Liquids, Solids, and Gases. After doing a running record with each of the students, and discussing what the students learned from the text and what happened in it, I showed them the first 31 seconds of this Science video on solids, liquids, and gases.

When I stopped the video, I asked the students, which group of particles represented a solid, which group represented a liquid, and which group represented a gas. How did they know? Then this started a conversation about matter, and the students discussed their other wonders (photographed here). (Please note that I was using the Livescribe Pen to record this conversation, so my question notes are not complete. For privacy reasons though, I am unable to share the entire pencast. That’s why I decided on the photograph.)

2013-10-18_20-26-17After the students discussed their questions and were eager to find out more, I invited them to answer their questions via some research. Here’s a short video clip of the students engaged in the research. I love how they’re not just reading the information, but discussing it, critiquing it, and truly making sense of it. In my opinion, this is what inquiry’s all about!

I particularly love the feedback that my students shared today. They’re actually eager to come back to guided reading. Yeah! Success!

Thank you, Lisa, for inspiring me to “bump up” my teaching practices and make guided reading effective and engaging for all students. How do you approach guided reading in the junior grades? How could similar approaches be used in the primary grades? What are the benefits and/or drawbacks of this new approach? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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