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!
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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