Sunday, November 19, 2017

Guided Reading: Make It Fun!

If guided reading is an important part of your reading program, your kids will be spending a lot of
time at your table. This means that the time you spend in guided reading has to serve a lot of purposes: growing readers, of course, but not just growing readers at the skill level. Our goal is to create real readers: people who can and do read.

I'm just going to say it: if guided reading is boring, and kids don't feel excited, successful, or engaged, then we may be robbing our kids of the joy of reading.

Here are some things to think about to make sure that love fills your guided reading lessons!

1. Fake it till you make it.
Don't love guided reading? Fake it. If you're bored or disinterested, your kid are too. Be excited and value the work you're doing with kids. Joy and humor go a long way to grow readers.

2. Choose texts with kids in mind.
Those handy dandy leveled readers are awfully convenient, but they're usually not very exciting. I prefer to go with real, engaging texts that kids might actually enjoy and connect with. Scholastic's Book Wizard is a great place to hunt for reading levels.

Find a text you'd like to read with your kids, and then search for it here to find the guided reading level. Choose a book that's high interest for the kids in your group. Starting with a reading interest survey can help. You can find one in Rolling Out Reader's Workshop.

3. Celebrate!
Guided reading is tough work for kids. They're exploring strategies at levels that aren't easy. When kids use a strategy they haven't before, celebrate! When they reach a new level, celebrate! High fives, stickers, bookmarks, and little cheers are easy ways to show kids they've accomplished something and should be proud.

4. Use fun materials.
Depending on the age group and personality types you're working with, props can liven up your lesson and give kids something to look forward to. Some easy props are fun pointers (swizzle sticks are cheap and cute), and "reading glasses"(nothing too distracting or view-obstructing, of course!) are great for younger readers.

My kids also love using dry-erase boards and markers, and sticky notes in cute shapes! The Dollar Store is a great spot for livening up guided reading.

Honestly, though, you don't need to buy anything to make guided reading fun. If you bring joy to your work, it will shine through your lessons and your kids will love getting small group attention from you! It could be the happiest part of their day, because they feel special, successful, and engaged!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!

 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Guided Reading: How to Build Strategies

The purpose of guided reading is to build strategy use to support growing readers. We do this in a guided setting so we can introduce a strategy and help students practice it until they're able to do it on their own in their own reading.


In order to actually make this happen, it requires thoughtful planning and figuring out which strategies to introduce to students.

But it's not as hard as it seems! Once you've figured out which strategy to teach, here is how you can actually ensure that students acquire it and are able to use it in their own reading.

1.  Explicitly introduce it at the beginning of your lesson.
This can look like a little tiny minilesson. As in a minilesson, explicitly state what the strategy is and how to do it. Choose a chunk of text - it could be from the book you're about to read, a book you've read before with this group, or any short text. Model using the strategy in this text. Ask students if they understand and if they have questions.







2. Keep a record of strategies kids can use.

When you've already introduced a strategy, you'll want to keep a visual record so kids and refer to it in the future, during guided reading and other parts of the day.

I add the strategy on a little sentence strip into a pocket chart, so students will remember that's a strategy they are able to use. Have kids verbalize the strategy, too. The language needs to become theirs.

2. Set a purpose question that requires students to use the strategy.
I use my little dry-erase board to visually record what we are working on during the lesson. Then I provide students with post-its so they can try the strategy on their on during their reading. At the end of the lesson, we can add their post-its and have a discussion about how they used the strategy. 

3. During reading, prompt students to use the strategy.

As students are reading, prompt them to try the strategy out. Ask questions that guide them through using the strategy. If students are simply forgetting to use it, you can just ask, "What strategy are we working on?" and gesture towards the pocket chart and dry-erase board.

4. Close the lesson with a conversation about the strategy. 

Ask students how it went and if they were able to try it out. Think about how you'd like to continue with your next lesson. More practice? An increase in complexity? Different types of purpose questions? 

Over time, students will acquire strategies. Then you can bridge to their independent reading and have them practice it independently, at which point it will be part of their toolbox!

Once I've taught something whole-group or in guided reading, I add it to my Good Readers... chart so students can use the sentence starters to write their reading responses. It really helps to grow their independence! You can read more about this in Rolling Out Reader's Workshop.


Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).


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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Turkeys in Disguise! Library Contest & Book Project

You've probably seen turkeys in disguise all over the internet - they're a fun way to get kids to be creative and clever! We used this fun idea to get kids engaged in reading and in a school event!

We decided to host a Turkey in Disguise Library Contest! We posted signs around the school to let kids know about the contest.

The rules were that kids had to use the turkey template provided to disguise their turkey as a character from a book they enjoy.

They could have parental help (and many did - it's a great way to encourage kids and parents to work together on a fun task!).

Then we made a stack of turkey templates on cardstock (with an entry form on the back) and a flyer with the due date and directions.

And we were astounded by how adorable the entries were! So much that I wanted to share them with you on the blog!

















If you're interested in using this fun idea as a book project or as a contest, you can grab an editable version on TpT! It also includes the Gingerbread Man in Disguise, Disguise a Snowman, Disguise a Bunny, Pumpkin-in-Disguise, and Design a Bookmark! Keep kids engaged and creative all year!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Book-Projects-for-seasons-holidays-editable-3433625

 
 
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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading

Progress monitoring are buzz words in education. We monitor everything.

How long does it take Benny to read 100 words? How many multiplication facts does Carrie know? How many absences does Richard have? How frequently does Martha use her problem solving strategy?

The only issue with this is: what do we do with that information? What's the point? 

If we collect tons of data on our kids, and then do nothing with it, it was an absolute waste of time and paper.

That being said, there is a purpose to collecting data in guided reading. It can help us make good decisions about what skills and strategies to tackle, how to group our kids, and when they're ready to move up to a new level.

Here are some ways we can monitor students' progress in guided reading, along with the reason it's actually useful.






1. What to collect: reading level
One easy way to do this is on a monthly basis. I have a spreadsheet with each month across the top and students' names down the side. At the end of each month, I record the students' instructional reading level.

Why to collect it:
I look across the student's levels from the year and try to notice if there's been appropriate growth. If a student is making significantly less progress than his/her peers, I notice it and try to think about why that is. If a student is stuck on a level, I think about that too.



2. What to collect: anecdotal notes

To record anecdotal notes, I have an index card for each student. I stick them in the pocket of the plastic divider for that group when I'm not using them. During a lesson, I pull out the cards and have them in front of me, next to the lesson plan.

As students are reading and I'm checking in and prompting, I record notes about their reading behaviors. This might include notes about
- decoding skills kids used or didn't use
- use of comprehension strategies
- how much prompting I had to do
- notes about fluency

Why to collect it:
After a few lessons on a certain strategy, I can pull out the cards and see how my group is responding to the strategy. Do my notes show that they're using it well, and integrating it into their other strategies? Do my notes show a significant area of weakness that I can attack next? The notes are purposeful and help me plan for the future.




3. What to collect: reading behavior records
Reading behavior records incorporate a record of student decoding behaviors, a note about fluency, and a comprehension check. You can get a freebie form here on TPT, or get a form and analysis tools and explanations from Rolling Out Guided Reading.
Why to collect it:

These notes are more thorough than anecdotal notes. You record reading behaviors on about 100 words, and then check for comprehension using a scoring rubric. Using this data, you can decide whether it's time to move up a guided reading level or time to stay at the same level.





4. What to collect: Strategy Quick Check
I have a little system called QuickChecks that I use as an overview every so often to see how students are using a variety of strategies for decoding, fluency, and comprehension. I just check off the strategies I've seen students use effectively.


Why to collect it:
This will give you an overview of where students are. As students move up in reading levels, sometimes the reading behavior record doesn't provide you as much information. Thinking about what strategies students are able to use is a great way to monitor and plan for the future.

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!
 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Guided Reading: How Do I Know What to Teach?

This post is super important. It's probably one of the biggest questions I'm asked about guided
reading.  

How do I know what to teach? 

That's a pretty big deal. Guided reading is meant to be strategic and responsive to students' needs. If we're just throwing out random strategies, without thought as to whether students have already mastered them, or if they're ready for them, we're spinning our wheels and wasting our most precious commodity: time. So choosing a strategy to focus on for guided reading is pretty important. 

There are a few factors to consider when you're deciding what to teach in guided reading. 
*What strategies should students be able to demonstrate?
*What strategies are appropriate for the level of text?
*What strategies has this student mastered?
And a really important one:
*What is keeping this student from moving up a level?

This is where all of that record-keeping comes in. If you're planning your first guided reading lessons with a group, start with the initial assessment data that you collected. If you used my reading behavior records, great! If you used something else, great! Pull out the records you have for all the members of that group and lay them in front of you.
 
Also, print out my Good Readers strategy sheets from my Guided Reading Freebie or product. It's a good place to start and provides you an overview of common strategies for decoding and comprehension.

There are lots of other sources for reading strategies at each level, too. I found this great freebie on TPT, but in the past, I've referred to Fountas & Pinnel as well as Scholastic for these resources.

Then it's time to use your data!

Decoding Example: 
Frequently (but not always!), below level 18, students who are struggling to move on are struggling with decoding skills. Comprehension is always important, but it's not as common for students to be held back by comprehension at lower levels.
As you look across the assessment data for your group, think about this: what strategies are students using consistently across the group? 
If students are consistently reading sight words accurately, using initial sounds to decode, and rereading to clarify meaning, then that's not a place to start. You already know they can do these things without instruction. Instead, look at the errors they're making. If you see several errors across the group where students misread vowel teams, or leave the endings off of words, then start there.

Comprehension Example:
Once you get to a level 20, it's really a mixed bag. Students should have been comprehending prior to that, of course. But the level of complexity really increases and students have to apply increasingly complex strategies to understand. 

So again, look across the assessment data for your group. What strategies are students using consistently? If students are able to make reasonable predictions and identify genre, don't start there. Instead, start with something that's keeping kids from moving on. If students are struggling to analyze characters or make inferences about character feelings, then that's a good place to start. 

As you move forward in your lessons with students, you'll have more anecdotal notes and records to help you decide what to work on. Pay close attention to student reading behaviors and take good notes to maximize your instructional time!

I hope that helps! Please, I'd love to hear about your questions in the comments!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!
 

  
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
 
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Planning for Guided Reading

Planning for guided reading doesn't have to be stressful.
There are basically three things you're trying to do:

1. Preparing students to read a text with strategy.
2. Monitoring and prompting as students read, so they use the strategy.
3. Recording notes about how students applied the strategy and used it to comprehend. 

That's why the guided reading lesson plan is divided into three parts: Before Reading, During Reading, and After Reading.

To get started planning for a group, here's what you do.

1. Identify a focus for the group. At first, you're basing this decision on the notes and records you took during your initial assessment. You want to look across the reading behavior records for each student in that group and notice any patterns you can start with. Start small - give the kids and yourself a chance to feel successful!

For students who are at a 20 and above, it's not a bad idea to start with visualizing the text. Many kids don't even stop to process, and visualizing is a good strategy to help them realize that they are meant to understand what's happening in the text.

2. Once you've chosen your focus, fill out the strategy portion of your lesson plan. That is really important. I've seen a lot of guided reading lessons where teachers are just having kids read book after book and hoping that they're gaining strategies. They're not. You have to explicitly introduce the strategy, and honestly, you need to do a little minilesson too. Model what it looks like so students know what you're expecting of them. 

3. Then you choose a book. I know! You wait till step 3 to choose a book! But you can't choose an appropriate book until you've figured out what you want to teach! If I want kids to work on decoding words with vowel teams, I have to make sure I choose a book with opportunities for them to practice vowel teams, which means the book has to have a lot of vowel teams in it! If I want them to make inferences, I have to choose a book leaves enough unsaid for kids to practice this strategy. So choose carefully. Ensure that the book is in the instructional range for your group.

4. Read the book. Yup, you have to at least be a pretty skilled scanner. Pull out vocabulary that students might struggle with - no more than 5 words. If it's more than 5 words, you might have chosen a book that's too difficult. What structures or features are in the text that the kids should notice? Record those on your plan, too. 

5. Think about a good introduction for the book. A good introduction plants proper nouns and introduces kids to concepts or ideas that are present in the book, very briefly.

But as your students progress in levels, you don't want to give the whole text away in the introduction. Choose carefully what it is that you want to introduce.


6. Set your purpose question. I have a handy planning guide in my Rolling Out Guided Reading materials that aligns questions with strategies. A good purpose question has students practice the strategy you're teaching, so think about a question that requires students to use that strategy.


7. Record prompts that you can use during the lesson. How will you prompt students to use the strategy if they're not? Think of some short prompts you can use to support the strategy.


8. Leave the anecdotal notes space blank - this is where you record what students did during the lesson, to help you plan for next time. 


At first, planning for guided reading can feel a little daunting. If you want it to really reach your readers, it takes a little thought. But after you've done it for a while, it will start to feel more natural and will take you less time. Practice helps!

So now you're ready to plan. How do you know what to teach during guided reading? My next post will focus on that!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!
 



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading

If every time you head over to your table to do guided reading, you have to clear piles of junk off of
your table, let's just be honest: you're probably not going to be very consistent.

The purpose of having your space set up is to minimize transition time so you can maximize instructional time. Every minute wasted is precious: time is your most valuable and limited commodity!

There are a few things to consider when you're making sure your space is ready for guided reading every day.

Visibility
As you're making your plan for your classroom, you'll want to make sure that you select your guided reading (and small group) space carefully. Put yourself in the chair you'll be sitting in. Do you have visibility of your classroom? Are there nooks that students can sit in where you won't be able to see what's happening?

For safety reasons, and management reasons, too, you'll want to be able to see every part of your classroom, if at all possible. This minimizes the likelihood of disasters happening during guided reading.

Clear surface
If you have a guided reading table (a kidney table), then great! They're an excellent space because they are shaped to help you have visual access to each of your readers. But if you don't, you can use any table that works for you. I've done guided reading at rectangular tables, desks pushed together, and sitting on the carpet. You just want to make sure  that you can communicate with each student well. Have a consistent space, too - this helps your groups learn the routine.

Enough seats for the kids in each group
I've been in classrooms that are short on seats. For each lesson, the kids dragged their noisy chairs across the room, from their desks to the table. It contributes to the chaos of the transition and keeps the other kids from getting started on whatever it is they're supposed to be doing independently. 

Sometimes the school just doesn't provide enough chairs to have an extra six just sitting at your guided reading table all day. In that case, get creative! Make those cute crate seats or buy those little cubes from Target or Home Goods. I found really great kid-sized folding chairs at Wal-Mart. Whatever your budget, find a way to provide a dedicated spot for kids to sit in. It will simplify your transitions!

Access to tools students should use during guided reading
There are some things we want kids to use during guided reading. Whether this is comprehension strategy speaking stems, a word wall, or decoding tools, you want kids to have easy access to the tools they need to use to help themselves. If they have to turn around to see the chart on vowel teams, they probably won't really use it and you won't be building much of a habit.  


Don't have wall space? You can make a handy tools folder out of a file folder and the pages you want students to have access to. Glue them on and laminate. Then you can pull them out for each session.

Access to group materials
This is totally up to each teacher. Some people like to have their materials in baskets, and some use the vertical magazine holders. Some keep them in folders. The bottom line is: when you're starting a group, you don't want to spend three minutes digging around in a pile of stuff behind your table to find your guided reading book or your lesson plan. 

To keep myself organized, I used an organized guided reading binder (more on that next time) and a series of plastic vertical magazine file organizers behind my table. The lesson plan and my copy of the book went in the binder, along with the necessary reading behavior record forms. The materials for the kids (each kid had a folder with their guided reading book in the pocket) went in the vertical organizers. Each group had a different organizer. This helps me stay on top of my materials and start guided reading quickly each day.

Here's another tip: Have a set of pencils in a cup. Don't ask kids to bring pencils them. It's just a time-waster. Three kids arrive at the table with a pencil and two don't. The two who didn't have to go back and get one. It wastes your time and theirs, which is your most valuable commodity.

Instead, I buy  a pack of unique  pencils and put them in a pencil cup on my table. They are always sharpened and always available. And because they're special, it's to tell if someone had accidentally walked away with one of my guided reading pencils.


Keep teaching materials handy
I use a dry-erase board for minilessons, so I need to ensure that I have space for my dry-erase board, markers, and (except for those times I just use my hand) an eraser. I have a stack of little dry-erase boards (you can often find them at the Dollar Spot at Target) so each student could write on them, as well as post-its for student responses.

I organize most of these materials (including highlighters, dry-erase markers, post-its, and index cards) into a handy supply caddy that I found at Wal-Mart for a few dollars. 


What do you keep at your guided reading table?

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
 
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder

An organized binder is a happy binder. Sounds silly, but tell me I'm wrong! When your materials are tidy and labeled, doesn't it give you a sense of satisfaction, that all is right with the world?

It's best to have your binder organized long before you work with your groups. Trying to throw it together after the fact is stressful, messy, and will cause you to miss some opportunities for noticing what your students' needs are.  

Here's how I organize my guided reading binder.

You'll need...
  • Regular dividers
  • Plastic pocket dividers (my favorite thing)
  • A hole punch
  • A 3" binder
  • And rectangular post-its, if you want to use this strategy for grouping

First, I put in the plastic dividers. I have one for each group, and then I leave one or two for resource. These are the labels on my dividers:
*Group One
*Group Two
*Group Three
*Group Four
*Group Five
*Group Six (if needed)
*Data
*Planning Tools


On each group divider, I put post-its with the students' names who are in that group. I use post-its so it's easy to move kids from group to group.

In the pocket, I keep index cards with anecdotal notes about each student (more on that later). I also keep a copy of the book we're going to work on during the next lesson. For upper grades, this could be the same book over several days, because we might do a small section of text each day until we finish the book.

Behind each group tab, I put one regular divider for each student. That's where I keep the reading behavior records and Fiction/Nonfiction Quick Checks for each student. I also include their BOY & MOY assessment data for reference.

If a student changes groups, which they do frequently, I just take that whole stack of records and the divider tab and stick it behind the new group. I also change the student's post-it to the new group divider.


Behind the Data tab, I keep class data, such as the roster of all the student assessment data from BOY
and MOY, and the Guided Reading Levels for each month. It's helpful to look across and notice who has made good progress and who isn't moving. You can also keep results of reading assessments here, because they can give you insight on what strategies you might use as minilessons in the future.

Behind the Planning Tools section, I place regular two dividers. Before the dividers, I add in any planning reference tools, such as MSV coding, questioning, strategies, etc., that help me plan my lessons. Behind the first regular divider, I add a stack of blank lesson plans so I always have a copy when I'm ready to plan. Behind the second regular divider, I add a stack of blank reading behavior records.


Stay tuned next week to read about getting your space ready!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963

Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Guided Reading: What Are the Other Students Doing?

You're hard at work with a small group. Together, you're learning about the hibernation habits of bears. You're accessing background knowledge, synthesizing new learning, and making connections. The magic is happening! Students are engaged!

Suddenly, a student rises out of his seat. You see him from the corner of your eye. "Eddie," you think. "He knows better. I'm sure he won't come over here."

Like a shark, he slowly weaves around the desks. You attempt to make eye contact. "Sit down," your eyes say. "See three before me," they plead. Looming ever closer, he holds up the assignment he's working on and points. You shake your head from side to side. 

He moves to stand right behind the students you're working with. He holds up his paper and opens his mouth. You shake your head and gesture to his seat. He looks at you, uncomprehending.

You finally deign to open your mouth. "Sit down, Eddie," you say. "But I -" he starts. "Sit down, Eddie," you say again. "I am with a GROUP!" He looks at the kids at your table, confused, and decides it's in his interest to return to his seat. 

You look back at your group. What were you doing? Magic suspended. Womp-womp.

If this has happened to you, you're not alone. It's happened to all of us. The question is: will it keep happening? In order to maximize your guided reading time as well as the independent working time of your kids, rituals and routines are incredibly important! 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. What do you want students to accomplish during this time?

I wanted students to practice strategic reading in a book of their choice, so I adopted the reader's workshop model with daily independent reading.

Students read independently and respond to their reading in reader's notebooks, practicing various strategies that we had learned. You can learn more about this in my Rolling Out Reader's Workshop unit on TPT.

Others answer this question differently. Some teachers use a Daily 5 approach, where students practice reading and writing at five different stations. Others use more traditional reading centers, where students rotate through reading and writing skills. Think about what you want students to invest in, and decide what's best for your kids!

2. What requisite skills will students need to be independent during this time?

For my independent reading example, students needed to be able to:
* Choose an appropriate book
* Sustain attention to their reading
* Practice a strategy while reading
* Know what to do when they finished reading a book
* Respond to their reading in their notebooks

I spend about 5-6 weeks at the beginning of the school year, before I start guided reading, building these skills a little bit at a time. This time is well spent, because it will support my readers in being independent while I'm working with a group. 

3. What management strategies do I need to implement to help students be independent?
I recommend charting out 4-6 expectations for students. Make them clear and framed positively. For example, rather than stating, "Don't get out of your seat," say, "Stay in your seat." 
This is what my chart looked like. You'll notice the last point is pretty important!


One of my basic expectations for this time frame was that students will not use this time to go to the restroom, sharpen pencils, or get a drink of water. They are strategically building their reading skills, so nothing else is more important. (Of course, I made agreements with individual students if they had a medical condition or an emergency situation.)

4. What routines will be in place to support students' independence?
How will you start the time of independence,  how will you structure the time, and ho will you end it smoothly, so you can move into the next part of your day? 

A couple of things that have worked for me:

Post the schedule! 
If you have your schedule posted, you are more likely to honor it, and your kids will keep you honest! You can learn more about building your guided reading schedule here.



Start consistently.
At the beginning of independent reading, we'd chant the expectations on the chart above together. I'd write the kind of response kids were expected to write on the board. While I was doing that, I'd ask students to pull out their independent reading books and their reader's notebooks with a pencil. They left those on the side of their desk, ready for when they were supposed to write their response.

Use an auditory signal.
I used a little bell. Once kids were reading independently, I'd verbally call over my first group by stating the name of the group. "Group Two," I'd say, once. Group Two knew they had to grab their materials and move to the table calmly.
At the end of their session, I'd send them back to their seats and call, once, "Group One." They'd come to the table calmly as well. When there were about ten minutes left in independent reading, I'd ring my little bell, and students knew it was time to respond in their notebooks. They had until I was done with the group to finish writing the response they had been taught to do.

Have a check-in at the end.

Whether this is a rubric where kids self-evaluate the way they spent their independent working time, or a signal that they flash to show that they've been working continuously, it's important to check in with the kids at the end of each session to show that you value their independent work.
I frequently used the Kagan Fist of Five. It was an easy check-in. If students had done an incredible job during independent reading and followed the expectations to a T, they held up all five fingers. If they did none of the items on the chart, they held up zero fingers. 1-4 was a range of how many items they had successfully done during independent reading.

One other easy guided reading tip: Have a signal that guided reading is in progress. Some people wear a hat (not too distracting, please!) or have a lamp that they turn on to show that guided reading is happening and the group is not to be bothered for any reason. Others set up a small stuffed animal in a designated spot.

Whatever you try, keep it consistent! If you put out the Guided Reading Bear, and Sammy walks up to the table to ask you a question, and you answer it, you've undermined yourself and the bear. Now the bear means nothing! Teach it, and then hold yourself and your kids accountable for it, and it will work!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!

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Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).


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