I talked before about the difficulties of making the independent groups in guided reading effective and a few years ago, as Literacy leader and a teacher in Year One this proved to be a bit of a deal breaker and I decided to make a change. We basically abandoned the independent groups altogether in Year One classes and instead the GR group worked out of class with the teacher whilst the TA did some shared reading or story time. This had two big advantages – the GR group was so much more focused without the interruptions and noise of the other groups and we were really struggling to have some daily story time that wasn’t a few snatched minutes at the end of the day – so a twenty minute dedicated shared reading time was a big bonus. The children started to really miss having time in the book corner to share books with friends so we allocated time in the day for each group to have their book corner time. All of this made a big contribution as well to our ‘reading for pleasure’ agenda. I still think this approach can be really worthwhile for Reception and Year One children who cannot yet work independently at reading tasks.
Another GR alternative which I think really benefits the older children is a whole class approach to reading. I came across some fantastic ideas and resources for this on www.mrspteach.com blog and have since introduced this approach for Year 6 on the three mornings a week they are in sets. The advantages of this are the AF’s or whatever assessment criteria you are using can be taught explicitly and modelled which they really need in Key Stage Two. There is enough time for a focused written response from children too. Some schools do this as a dedicated hour long session, for us we do this for our three sets mornings for half an hour and then when they are back as a whole class on the other two days they return to normal guided reading groups with the carousel of activities.
Finally, a different way of approaching the guided group can be to try ‘reciprocal teaching’. This was devised by Palinscar and Brown (1984) as an intervention in small groups to improve comprehension skills for those children who were competent decoders but poor comprehenders. The key skills explicitly taught and used are:
- making predictions
- clarifying what has been read
As the children become confident in having a dialogue around the text under these headings the teacher moves from extensive leading and modelling to standing back more and instead facilitating the discussion amongst the children in the group. The idea is as the children hear the ‘thinking out loud’ of the comprehension processes they can then use these effectively for themselves.
Would love to hear of any alternatives to GR that have worked for other people?