A recommendation- take a look at this out new and free to download from the CLPE. These new progress and assessment scales are well worth a look particularly in terms of getting a bit of a fresh perspective on writing and reading development separate from new curriculum / interim assessment/ life after levels stresses. The CLPE are great for working from a research basis in their recommendations and giving practical ideas for how to teach and encourage literacy skills. The scales describe what a reader/ writer at the various stages of development look like and suggestions for teaching at each of those stages.From beginning reader or writer through to developing, fluent and independent. It also gives some key principles underpinned by well-evidenced research.
These are some that I thought were particularly significant/ useful if you haven’t got the time to read the full thing!
- Learning to read and writer are interdependent processes, making links between both helps both.
- Comprehension taught from the earliest years in school makes a significant difference to children’s effectiveness as readers.
- Teacher’s knowledge of high quality literature (both classic and contemporary) is crucial enabling teachers to make personalised and meaningful recommendations.
- Children use fundamentally different processes to identify words as they make progress in learning to read ( not just phonics!- yes i said it!)
- It is really important to write publicly alongside older children ( see my previous post on writing journals and teachers as writers in the classroom on this). Research shows children make progress in writing when their teachers engage in writing themselves, sharing experience and expertise with their classes.
- As children become more independent they need to have regular opportunities, ideally daily, for extended writing including self directed writing.
- Digital texts have a key role to play in school reading and writing and keyboard skills should be taught as well as handwriting skills. ( I think the curriculum is going to have to embrace multimodality in a much bigger way soon.)
And lastly, I couldn’t leave this one out in the current climate-
‘High stakes accountability testing has consistently been demonstrated to undermine teaching and learning, this is particularly true for low-acheiving students.’
Amen to that.
Does anyone else feel like this?! Guided reading can feel so hard to get right at times. Mainly because of the 24 children supposedly working independently at reading tasks but more often that not doing anything other than that. And even if they are engaging with the independent activity, the quality of work they produce is often nowhere near as good as normal as the children are often aware that they might just be doing a ‘holding activity’ rather than something more substantial. Plus, its a real challenge to plan for the differing ability levels who will be doing the independent carousel of activities meaning open ended tasks are usually the best / only option.
So, with these difficulties in mind, I am going to be blogging on guided reading over the next few weeks thinking about what a good GR session should actually look like as well as some possible alternatives to the traditional GR model.
To begin with – a run down on the guided group itself:
This is a group of approx 6 children of similar reading ability working with the teacher reading a text that is at instructional level – ie 90-95% difficulty (in simple terms this means for every 10 words or so they read only 1 incorrectly – you can be more precise by taking a running record – maybe that’s for another post entirely! )This is all based around Vygotsky and his ‘zone of proximal development’ which basically means a teacher is able to successfully move a child into a slightly more challenging zone of learning by working alongside them and coaching/ scaffolding to allow this to happen. Therefore the text is just a bit harder than what they might read independently. Marie Clay puts this a slightly different way as strengthening ‘the nearly known’.
The three part approach to the guided reading session:
1. Starting off with the book introduction, strategy recap and general ‘debugging’ by the teacher in order to allow for a successful first reading attempt of the text. At the early stages this will include the adult reading the title but also ‘walking through’ the text with the group preparing them for any challenging sounds or sight words, highlighting some characters or story plot as appropriate etc. The strategy recap will involve revising what different strategies the children could use when they encounter a difficult word and how they might know if that strategy has worked or may be about modelling expression or fluency. The teacher will also introduce the focus for that session (e.g decoding / inference) in child friendly terms.
2.The children all read their copy of the text at the same time in a quiet reading voice! The teacher has to move around the group listening in to the individual reading rather than the children taking it in turns to read out loud. That way everyone gets maximum reading time and can read at their own pace.
3.The teacher then gathers everyone’s attention as a group together again to pick up on any elements of the reading that might be worth modelling or going over again as a group and to work on the focus area of reading. If this is at the decoding level its often useful to have some magnetic letters ready for children to practise quickly building some words containing the digraph or whatever it is they have encountered in the text and are looking at. Sound boxes can also work well. This third bit of the reading time can finish with a little round up / plenary of what you have been focusing on in your reading time and some things to remember from that or look out for the next time they read.
- It’s very difficult to do this well if you haven’t been able to plan this in advance and look at the text beforehand!
- Pick your text for the group carefully. Don’t plan to focus on inference and then inadvertently choose a text that doesn’t actually provide much for the children to infer!
- Your reading ability groups need to be fluid, it is highly likely as children progress in their reading at different rates that your groups will change during the course of the year more than once.
- Work out a time efficient method for your ongoing informal record keeping from the GR sessions. Ideally some quick notes with dates for each child related to the AF’s or whatever reading assessment approach your school uses is the best. Ticks against descriptors don’t really give enough information but as always the big challenge is time. Running records and other reading assessments or tracking of progress through book bands can also be kept together with these notes in a reading file for your class.