Organizing guided reading groups can be a time consuming task. Pulling book sets at the appropriate level for your students, determining skills you plan to work on, assessing students to make sure they’re in the right group…it can be really overwhelming when your teaching life is busy. So what can be done to lift the load? How can we get the most out of the 20 minute small group time?
Once you’ve pulled the books you plan to use, the next step is to pull the materials you’ll use in conjunction with your books. But how do you streamline this process? You could spend hours combing Pinterest and TPT for materials to use each week. However, the best solution is to build a guided reading binder with dividers for each reading skill you teach as you find them. Keeping a variety of ways to practice reading skills on hand makes it so much easier to vary your instruction. Agree? Another way that I’ve made it easier for myself is to create folders on my desktop by skill/standard too. These work well when I want to project an activity on the Smartboard. As I see/create new activities, I print a copy for my binder and save it to the folder. The key with guided reading is that students get practice reading and working with text at their reading level and with skillwork whether it’s word building, fluency, or comprehension. I look at guided reading as the “We Do” part of the teaching sequence that follows a gradual release philosophy.
- Critical Elements of Classroom and Small Group Instruction Promote Reading Success in All Children
- The Power of Small Group Instruction
- When You Need Small Group Instruction
- Differentiation and Acceleration through Small Group Reading Instruction
LITERATURE CIRCLES/BOOK CLUBS
Another great option for your readers is to set up literature circles or book clubs. I would recommend this option for second grade and up, and again, this will take modeling for your students to work in them without disruption. With these small groups, you’ll start with a book set or novel. The group will pair and read together, spend time working as a group on skills based upon the text, and may create a culminating project once the book is completed. Some teachers use novel studies for these, but you can also assign specific roles to your students following reciprocal teaching. In my store, you can find Book Clubs Made Easy which follows this approach. It works with any text and comes in both PDF and Digital. This post explains more about using book clubs and literature circles. I highly recommend using Literature Circles/Book Clubs with upper elementary and middle school. One option you have when using them is to float from group to group for small group work. When trained, older students can run their own group.
In your teaching cycles, literacy workstations can be used for independent practice and assessment. Ideally, it’s good to tie your workstations to the standards you’re teaching. You can center your stations around key literacy skills such as word work/vocabulary, fluency, writing, and comprehension. Through each, you can work your standards in.
One important thing to keep in mind with stations is that you must remove any disruption to the routine. Kids can’t wonder what to do or look at their station as play time. They must produce something, and they must know exactly where to go and what to do. You might use a rotations board to make the assignments. The editable powerpoint to the right is what I’ve shared with my teachers as an option. It is projected on the smartboard during small group rotations and includes up to four rotations and up to 5 tasks. The teacher can choose the option that fits his/her schedule. Once set up, you could use the same schedule/learning partners as long as your partners get along.
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
If your students are developing fluency, one effective and research based resource you can and should use are reader’s theater scripts. Students work in teams to read and practice their parts and through repeated reading, students gain fluency. But, there’s more… Reader’s theater can also be used to work on comprehension too. I love using partner plays just to increase the amount of reading, and all of my partner plays include before, during, and after reading activities. My friend, Erin from Mrs. Beers Language Arts Classroom also has developed reader’s theater scripts that include the same. You can check out her site [HERE]. I’ve used both with my reading groups and in my stations for upper elementary. The kids love them.
In the primary grades, you can use them too. For the primary grades (1-3), I developed a series with a seasonal flair and on topics kids enjoy. The main character is Sam (my son’s name) and his dog, Max (my first dog’s name 😀). The plays are on topics such as birthdays, camping, going to the beach, parades, school, and more.
Certainly, there are many ways to work your ELA block, but the most important take away I’d like for you to get is that small group instruction matters. You will always win by meeting your students where they are and by stretching them without frustration. We all get kids with gaps. It’s important for us to be the detective and determine where the gaps are and fill them. When there are no gaps, then it’s up to us to extend and push to the next level.
- LITERACY WORKSTATIONS AT WORK
- HOW MAKING BOOKS IN THE CLASSROOM HELPS LEARNING STICK
- MAKING READER’S WORKSHOP WORK FOR YOU
- FIVE WAYS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR GUIDED READING BLOCK
- MAKING THE MOMENTS COUNT: HOW TO SCHEDULE YOUR ELA BLOCK