Most teachers hope that their students will learn to love reading and become independent readers. Many of these teachers also know that guided reading instruction is the key to ensuring that their students are learning the skills necessary to become good readers. During guided reading, teachers expect that engagement occurs within Cambourne’s Conditions for Learning (immersion, demonstration, expectation, responsibility, employment, approximation, and response). Though guided reading is only a small part of a Balanced Literacy Program, its components and tools that support it, information provided by researchers and theorists, and its ability to meet the diverse needs of all students prove that reading instruction revolves around guided reading instruction.
Guided reading is only one component of a balanced literacy program, along with shared reading, independent reading, reading aloud, writing, and other activities. Through guided reading, teachers show children how to read and continue to provide support during reading. This type of interaction within each student’s zone of proximal development, according to Vygotsky, is the key to learning. Children learn when they receive the correct social support from others, which guiding reading provides. Teachers work with small groups of students and teach them strategies to use when processing new and challenging texts. Students apply these new strategies and those they have previously acquired to new texts and soon begin to read fluently and independently. These steps of guided reading also go along nicely with Bruner’s scaffolding process leading to independence. Therefore, it is guided reading as part of a balanced literacy program that leads to independent reading and builds the reading process (Fountas & Pinnell).
Many types of texts should be used during guided reading to facilitate student interest and to accomplish an intended purpose. Commercial books (big books, little books, basal readers, textbooks), trade books (children’s literature), and other books (magazines, newspapers) all work well with guided reading (Opitz & Ford). These texts are often leveled by such criteria as length, vocabulary, appearance and placement of print, complexity of concepts, degree of predictability, and illustrations. Books are leveled so teachers can further understand the reading process and how to best teach it. In this way, teachers can assess students’ progress within a certain level and move him or her among groups according to ability level (Rog & Burton).
Guided reading lessons may differ somewhat among emergent, early, early fluent and fluent readers. However, most levels are fairly similar. When planning a guided reading lesson, the teacher needs to first decide what the lesson focus will be and then select books based on student interest and focus. During the first part of an emergent reader lesson, the teacher begins by practicing previously learned strategies with the students. Students then choral read a familiar book. The teacher should be doing a Running Record during this reading. After the story, students provide a retelling. Skill and strategy instruction is addressed next. The teacher uses various activities such as Elkonin words, sentence puzzles, magnetic letters, dry erase boards, etc. to practice skills and strategies.
Next, the teacher selects a new book and discusses the title, author, and main idea. Students make predictions about the story and predict and locate words. Next is the first reading of the new book. It is a choral reading involving pointing to words, scaffolded strategy prompts, discussing the story, and discussing strategy and word analysis during the reading. The second reading of the new book is a fluent choral reading with no pointing, but the teacher serves as a model for the fluent reading. The teacher notes strategies during these readings, also. For further practice, students write sentences and draw pictures related to what they have read. Integrating the reading curriculum with different types of language can help the development of reading. These types of language, as determined by Halliday, serve many functions and are instructional, regulatory, interactional, personal, imaginative, heuristic, and informative. Heuristic language, such as students’ asking “Why?”, is often observed during a guided reading book discussion. Informative language is used during students’ retelling of story events.
Running Records are based on the work of Marie Clay and Kenneth Goodman, who founded the idea that it is essential to closely observe students’ reading behaviors in order to decipher why they are making errors during reading. Running Records play a huge role in the selection of books used during guided reading. Teachers select appropriate books to be used for guided reading instruction by analyzing information about a student’s ability to search for and use cues from the meaning, structure, and visual and phonological information, and also the student’s use of strategies such as monitoring, searching, and self correction (Clay). Running Records also help teachers group students according to their ability levels. Grouping provides more individualized instruction in the skill areas that need further practice (Dupree).
Strategy and skill instruction during guided reading is an essential component of the process. Students need to learn strategies that will help them become better readers. Depending on the genre of the text, readers will use different strategies when reading (Rosenblatt). These strategies include directionality, one-to-one match, locating known and unknown words; using meaning, structure, and visual cues; cross-checking and self-correcting; and self-monitoring. Skills students may acquire are recognizing high frequency words; blends and digraphs; and vowels. Invented spelling during writing is also helpful when used in synchrony with reading instruction. Students not only become better spellers, but also better able to decode what they are reading (Cunningham). Incorporating all of these strategies and skills into guided reading lessons ensures that students are learning exactly what is needed to further their reading development.
When students are reading, they not only need to be reading for fluency and accuracy, but also for comprehension. Comprehending a text involves an ongoing transaction between the reader and text (Rosenblatt). The five comprehension subprocesses include microprocesses, integrative processes, macroprocesses, elaborative processes, and metacognitive processes. During the microprocesses, students will be able to chunk ideas into phrases as they read fluently. The teacher can accomplish this by providing opportunity for choral reading and modeling how to chunk texts through activities such as sentence strips. Integrative processes allow readers to make connections and inferences among the words they are reading. Teachers should use focused reading and ask questions throughout the text to assure there is comprehension at this level. The macroprocesses include organizing and summarizing what is being read by identifying beginning, middle, and ending story elements. Teachers can use graphic organizers to accomplish this, as well as oral and written retellings and Word Walls. During the elaborative processes, readers relate what they have read to their own lives and other previously read literature. They make predictions about the text, connect what they’re reading to prior knowledge, and identify with characters. This can be accomplished through watching a video about the author, viewing fact sheets about the topic, discussing favorite characters, engaging in Grand Conversations, and writing in reading logs. Lastly, the metacognitive processes allow readers to monitor their comprehension and use problem-solving strategies to read and write effectively. The teacher can assure this occurs by modeling think alouds and strategies for students to use.
Cambourne’s four dimensions of learning and teaching support guided reading. First, explicit instruction involves demonstration with a high level of teacher and student interactions. It also involves teaching less observable concepts and strategies. Basically, the reader becomes aware of exactly why he or she is reading the book and develops ideas about his or her personal tastes after reading the book. Systematic instruction involves planning ahead of time, detailed lesson plans, and knowing exactly why the lesson is being taught and its purpose. Using mindful instruction during guided reading is most likely to guarantee that students will use the skills they have acquired. It involves encouraging metacognition in students. When students are able to think about their own thinking processes, they are more likely to be open to new perspectives that enable them to use reading strategies and skills more effectively. Lastly, contextualized instruction makes sense and is less complicated for the learner to understand. This type of instruction should help students understand that reading can give them power and control. Guided reading activities should be meaningful and comparable to activities faced in the real world.
Research shows that the most effective schools for teaching reading are doing a few things that stand above the rest. Effective schools and teachers provide ample time for small group reading instruction. These small group occurrences should be formed based on reading ability and should be a collaborative instruction effort from Title I, reading resource, special education, regular classroom teachers, etc. Providing time for independent reading of books of choice and authentic texts is also quite effective. Phonics and skill and strategy instruction is most effective when done during the reading of texts that children read on a daily basis, rather than instruction done in isolation. The best comprehension practices involve asking higher-level questions and using a balanced set of instructional tools. Communication with parents is also beneficial during reading instruction. When parents are informed of what is occurring during guided reading, they are more likely to be involved with their child’s reading progress. Overall, it is known that spending a great deal of time on reading is most effective for student learning. Therefore, teachers should strive to spend as much time as possible on reading, especially guided reading instruction (Taylor).
Guided reading is designed to meet the diverse needs of all learners in the classroom. Students are reading and writing at many different levels in a single classroom (Rowe, Fitch, and Bass). Because of this, teachers should make accommodations for all ability levels within the classroom by grouping the students as to ensure that they will have successful reading experiences. Teachers should also strive to select texts that are interesting to all groups of students within a classroom.
Guided reading can be easily incorporated into a successful reading program. Its components and tools that support it, information provided by researchers and theorists, and its ability to meet the diverse needs of all students make obvious the success teachers and students can experience with reading. Everything students know how to do independently has once been taught to them, such as in the case of reading. Without guided reading instruction, how else would students learn to read independently? Thus, guided reading truly is the heart of reading instruction. Works Cited
Classroom notes on Halliday, Cambourne, Vygotsky, Rosenblatt, and Bruner
Cunningham, Patricia M. and James W. (1992). “Making Words: Enhancing the invented spelling-decoding connection”. (22).
Dupree, Helen. Iverssen, Sandra. (1994). “Monitoring and Evaluating Children’s Reading”. (31-39).
Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. S. (1996). “What is guided reading?” (77-86).
Opitz, M. F. & Ford, M. P. (2001). “Texts” (Chapter Three). (28-48).
Pinnel, Gay Su. (1985). “Ways to Look at the Functions of Children’s Language”. (146-147).
Rog, L. & Burton, W. (2001/2002). “Matching texts with readers: Leveling early reading materials for assessment and instruction. (248-356).
Rowe, Fitch, Bass. (2001). “Power, Identity, and Instructional Stance in Writers’ Workshop”. (154, 159).