Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guiding Readers- Chapter 6

This chapter will be hosted by Sabra and her blog, Teaching with a Touch of Twang. Sabra has been following along and posting throughout the entire book study and I have really learned a lot from her posts. I am glad that we were amble to meet through the book study and I hope that you can all jump on over to her blog and see what she is saying about Chapter 6- Guiding Fluent Readers. 


Lori has emailed her answers to the last few questions I sent her from the survey at the beginning of the book study. I am loving that she is so dedicated to helping us learn through the process of this book study. 

Me: Is it always best to group by ability, or should we try to sometimes have groups of "mixed ability"?

Lori: In small group, aka guided, reading, we generally group by common need rather than ability. That seems like a bit of a fine distinction, but there may be variations in the abilities of students who have the same learning goals. That said, unless we're working with students one-on-one, we're always going to have a range of abilities in a group.

The common need that brings a small group together may be based on the difficulty (e.g., level) of a text or it may be based on a specific reading strategy . Sometimes teachers like to work with students at a range of reading levels that have the same specific need - reading with expression and fluency, for example, or drawing inferences.  

But it's been my experience that students at roughly the same reading level often have the same strategic needs, especially in early grades. At higher grades, we might see more diversity within the same level, and choose to sometimes broaden the range of the group in order to focus on a particular strategy or skill.  Let's not forget also, that one of the advantages of working with small groups of only four or six students is that it's possible to assess and attend to specific individual issues as well as those of the group.  
An effective classoom will always incorporate a variety of grouping structures. Some groups are large, some are groups of four or two, depending on the purpose. We sometimes group by interest, sometimes by student choice, sometimes by teacher selection and sometimes totally randomly, depending on the purpose and function of the group. I find that I can differentiate reading instruction most effectively and efficiently, when my groups are structured around common needs or learning goals. When students experience many different grouping structures, needs-based reading instruction for a short 18-minutes at a time is just one more classroom experience.

Me: What did you find the hardest part if using GR in your classroom the first year you used it? 

Management!   I didn't have any systems in place so I felt I was always running around in circles.  I spent so much time organizing centers and other independent learning activities (which the kids often completed in less time than it took me to prepare them!) that my lessons were pretty much off the cuff.  When I first read of the management system in Daily 5, it was a light bulb going off in my head!  Of course, I've simplified my system even more - in independent learning, the students are reading, writing or completing the "must-do" follow-up from their lesson.  But I love the D5 steps to muscle memory.

In addition to simplifying the independent learning component, I've simplified my grouping schedule into a two day cycle.  That way, if we miss a day of guided reading, or I choose not to schedule GR every day, I simply use the Day 1-Day 2 schedule.  I haven't really discussed this in my book, because I wanted to focus on the teaching piece, but here are some examples:

Four groups (A-D, weakest to strongest), three GR cycles a day.  If I have two cycles a day, I adapt accordingly.  There's method in my madness of which groups are scheduled when (e.g., I try to see the weakest group every day and always in the middle slot), but I can go into that another time.

Four Groups: this has been updated as there was a mistake!! (July 10th)

Me: If you could only give one piece of advice to a teacher just starting to use guided reading, what would it be?
Lori: Get your independent learning structures in place before trying to start small group instruction.  It may take 6-8 weeks, but it's worth the time spent.  During that time, you are still teaching and assessing, but more through large group and individual instruction.  Then start with one group - usually the most needy (except in Kindergarten, where I suggest to start with the most advanced). 

And then, make the best use of your own time by "frontloading" your small group reading plans, using a planner such as the three day cycle in my book.

NEWS!! Lori has agreed to answer any more questions people may have at this point if the book study. So if something has come up please leave a comment below or email me at

I will be emailing the questions off to Lori on July 12th so make sure you get your questions in while you can!
(Not all questions will be able to be answered, so I apologize if advance if yours is not.)

I have been seeing all sorts of great guided reading freebies and products on TPT and Teacher's Notebook that my fellow bloggers have created. Would people be interested is having a linky party to share your guided reading freebies and products for sale?  Please leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts. 

7 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

Sabra said...

I'm so glad we were able to meet also! I am loving this book study and am so thankful you invited me to join. Thanks for all the love!

Teaching with a Touch of Twang

Sarah Paul said...

This is an awesome post! Thank you! I've been doing guided reading groups for a while, but every year I feel like I need a refresher and I have something (many things) new to learn. I especially loved the last part. I totally agree, you have to have those independent structures down before beginning small groups. I used to not spend enough time training my students and making sure they were confident with routines and procedures. I paid for it! It makes such a big difference when you use those first weeks wisely!
Sarah's First Grade Snippets

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

nikki8 said...

After reading this chapter, my question is when do you use book clubs/lit. circles and when do you use the guided reading format described with fluent readers?

nikki8 said...

And I feel like an idiot, but I don't understand the group schedule she posted.

Lori Jamison Rog said...

It's not you, NikkiB! Something didn't come out right on the two-day cycle posted for four groups. Day 1 should be Group B, Group A, Group D. Day 2 should be Group B, Group A, Group C. In this way, I see Groups A and B every Guided Reading Day, and Groups C and D on alternate Days.

I like to put the weakest group, A, in the middle, so they only have twenty minutes of independence at a time.

I hope this clarifies things a little.

Beth said...

@ Lori and Nikki- I will fix it right must not have come through on the email!

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