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Although reading comes natural to most of us adults, it is in fact a cognitive process where the individual tries to interpret and elicit meaning from text (Wikipedia, 2011). Reading is not that simple, especially for struggling readers or for beginning readers. Teachers make reading more difficult or easier for children depending on the methods which they use. Guided reading can occur within the classroom where the teacher will help and guide a small group of students through reading.
What is Guided-Reading?
Through guided reading, the teacher helps the children to comprehend the meaning of the text, as well as to read fluently. Guided reading ensures that the readers will be provided with books which are appropriate to their level ; not too easy but not too difficult. According to Saskatoon Public Schools, books should be chosen in such a way that students are able to read approximately 90% of it (Saskatoon Public schools, 2009). This encourages students to read as they do not need to worry about a large number of difficulties which they encounter. Therefore, the teacher needs to start from what the children already know. As the Zone of proximal development shows, the teacher is a bridge between what the students already know and their potential to learn (Vygotsky, 1978). Through guided reading, children will start from simple texts, and gradually increase to more complex ones. Through this approach, children will be scaffolded with 'instructions in the five key areas of reading; phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension'(Schirmer.B.R, & Schaffer. L. 2010).
Guided reading is also used to "promote independent reading by helping students develop effective reading skills and strategies, fluency and confidence"(Holly. J. n.d). By implementing reading strategies which children are practicing in groups, they will be able to read new text which they`ve never encountered before. During a guided reading session, the teacher will also help them to figure out the meaning of the text, even if they do not understand each word. S/he will guide them how to 'deal with difficult sentence structure, and understand new concepts or ideas' (U.A. cited in What is guided reading?)
Integrating Guided Reading Approach in class
In my class, I would integrate this approach to reading because it enables the teacher to sit with a small group of children and hear them read, while helping them with any difficulties they might encounter. This facilitates the teacher in identifying the strengths and weakness of the individuals and understands their learning styles better. In other words, having a small group enables the teacher to give individual attention to the readers. Having the children all of the same reading level makes the pupils feel comfortable to share their opinions and read in front of others in the group. Guided reading facilitates the teacher to identify any individual progress of the children, and helps the teacher decide if the child should stay within the same group or move towards another level. Apart from reading, the teacher and the readers will become 'engaged in a meaningful conversation' about the text (U.A. cited in What is Guided Reading?), therefore encouraging more oracy skills.
Guided Reading is not always plain sailing, but it provides challenges, mostly for the teachers. Even though the group will be made up of a small number of children, the teacher still needs to manage the group well and make sure that everyone is following what they are doing. I as a student teacher with few experience, might find it difficult at first to identify the difficulties and reading abilities of the children. Hence, finding it difficult to match the reading text to their abilities. When thinking about guided reading, a question which frequently comes to mind is about what are the other children in class going to do, while I will be guiding children through a guided reading session. As I have said in my issue 4 post, in Malta this is quite difficult due to large number of children in class under the supervision of only one teacher. The teacher also needs to be sure that the classroom library is well supplied with books of different levels and of various genres to meet the interest of all students.
Another challenge which teachers might face is that they have to keep updating their assessment as this should be ongoing for every student (Fountas.I.C). Blackall `s Guided Reading Checklist, can be very useful to set the objectives for each group and assess each student (Blackall.S, 2002).
Implementation in class
First of all, before starting a guided reading session, I will choose a book which interests the children, try to link it with the weekly theme if possible, and which is of a level appropriate for the readers in the group. I will arrange the desks in the form of a circle, or prepare a mat on the floor for children to sit on in a comfortable environment. I might decorate the area according to the theme or ask the children themselves to bring something related to the book which we`ll be reading.
The activities which will be implemented depends not only on the reading abilities of the children but also on their age. With young children, the guided reading session should not be very long, due to the children`s short concentration span. The activities should also be simple and motivating. With older children, one may afford to have sessions which are a bit longer and with more complex activities.
I will group children in small groups of five or six persons, who are mainly all of the same reading abilities. I will show pupils the book, read to them the author, illustrator, and the title. While showing them the front and back cover of the book, I will ask them to predict what the story is going to be about and to help them linking it to any background knowledge of the story which they might have.
Cumbria Literacy Team suggest strategy check. This is done by reviewing and recalling some of the reading strategies (Cumbria Literacy Team, 2002). For example: they might review some letter sounds or letter names, or even read out some words prepared on flashcards, which are going to be used frequently throughout the text using the look-and-say method.
I will then allow the time for children to read while guiding each one of them when encountering any difficulties. For children to understand the meaning of a particular word or phrase, I will find another similar word or phrase having the same meaning. This will help the children in understanding what they are reading. Praising children boosts their motivation to keep trying and increase their enjoyment of reading. I will also encourage children to ask each other about phrases which they might not understand, so that there will get help from their peers as well.
When the children are very young, they can read the word, cover it with their hands and retell it (Cited in Guided Reading). This website also suggests that if children are a bit older, they can use sticky notes. On the sticky notes, they will write words which they did not understand or points of interest, to be then shared with a friend or amongst the group.
Every now and then I will ask children about the main characters of the story, the setting, what is happening, and so on. High and Low order questions will be asked depending on the age and level of the children. This will encourage the children to share ideas and communicate verbally within the group. When possible, reference to direct and indirect experiences from their lives can be made and linked to the story. While listening to each child reading, I, as a teacher will be on the lookout for fluency, correct pronunciation, and reading strategies used.
To conclude the session, a short activity can be done. If they are very young, they can draw something which they liked in the story. They can also match flashcards with words which they`ve encountered during the story to pictures. If they are a bit older, they can write a short paragraph about the story, or they can narrate part the story in their own words to a friend in the group.
By the end of the session, I will fill out a check list where I will check if I have met my objectives, and list down few points about each child in the group. This will help me remember any difficulties each person is encountering or any improvements being done. This will determine whether a child remains in the same group or be transferred in another group which meets his/her abilities more.
Guided Reading enables the teacher to give individual attention to students, and listen to all of them read. If children do not read at home, at least they will be provided with the opportunity to dedicate some time to reading in class. It also helps the teacher and children to combine various reading strategies and oracy together. After a guided-reading session, teachers may suggest other books which pupils can read in their free time.