Guiding Reading: 3 Things I Did Wrong

Summer is in full force for me but the lines between summer vacation and school are very blurred.  Anyone else find this to be true?  My brain is filled with reflection, summer reading, and preparations for the upcoming year.  I am currently reading Creating Cultures of Thinking, Reading Reflex, Summer Reading, and Small Group Reading Instruction (by Beverly Tyner).   All of these books are bringing about some new learning for me and helping me to reflect on old and current practices.
As I read Beverly Tyner's book on a differentiated teaching model for small group, I started thinking how different my current reading groups are to the ones I conducted when I first started teaching.  This reflection led me to realize that there were quite a number of things I did THEN that I would not do NOW.



1. Timing
I remember my small group phonics lessons lasted FOREVER! The efficient, quick, systematic lesson would be all planned out.  Materials would be ready.  And the kids just did not master the skill to the level I thought they should.  So what would I do?  Spend more time on it.  And where did this time come?  It would get stolen from the actual reading of book.  This was not time well spent.  They needed to be reading.
My solution: I started setting a timer for myself.  The phonics lesson would end when the timer went off and we would just revisit the skill the next day.

2. Book levels
There have been a few years in my career where I was very unclear about the books that I needed to use in my guided reading groups.  We have had some basal reader books and I have had some intervention program books.  But looking back, I know these books did not always match the reading level of the student. I now know that these are tools within my toolbox but the need of my student must come before the resources in front of me. 
My solution: I search for the instructional level text that will continue to push that group of learners.  Sometimes this is a book from the leveled book room, a basal guided reading book, a decodable reader, a passage, or a poem.

3. Sight Words
The districts that I have worked in have never had a set group of sight words that need to be mastered by each grade level; therefore, I used the words from the basal program or intervention program that were recommended.  This did not work out well for me.  The gaps were clear and students were at such varying levels of sight word mastery.
My solution:  My building created a document combining many sight words lists.  We can pre-assess our students and support them on a more individual basis.  No more gaps (hopefully).

As I have come to understand reading, learning to read, and the little young brains that I work with, my practices have changed and evolved.  I like the routine that I have right now.  But Ron Ritchhart explains that, "...some might argue that understanding can never be fully complete and absolute."  I know for certain that my routine and practices will change as my understanding continues to grow.






11 comments

  1. what a great post, Em! I love how you told where you made a mistake and gave the solution. Those timers are crucial in guided reading. My mentee was using them for her conferring minutes, too, so she could make herself accountable to reading with all kids in the group!
    Great stuff, thanks for sharing!
    Michelle

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    1. Michelle! What a great idea. I have not thought about a timer for conferencing. I think this would be so helpful because it can be so hard to get through all the kids that I need to meet with. Thank you!

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  2. I really need to start using a timer for mini-lessons! I love the reflective nature of this post :)

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    1. Thanks so much!! Oh my goodness!! I hear ya! MIni lessons can so easily turn into long lessons!!

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    2. I am new to using mini lessons. Do you have an example or any suggestions? Books ,etc

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    3. Hi Levitta,
      My groups are 30 minutes and chuck full of mini lessons in the 5 big ideas. Here is one post that I wrote up that may help with some mini lesson ideas. If not, please feel free to email me! emhutchison@gmail.com
      http://curiousfirsties.blogspot.com/2015/01/guided-reading-format-second-look.html

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  3. Great post! I would love to see a break down of what your guided reading time looks like! :)

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    1. Hi Brittney! I know that guided reading time looks a little different for everyone and it looks a little different for me each year. But...here is what I have done...http://curiousfirsties.blogspot.com/2015/01/guided-reading-format-second-look.html

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  4. Great post! I would love to see a break down of what your guided reading time looks like! :)

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  5. Sight words drive me nutty! Our reading curriculum has a list that I don't like (words like "oh") because it doesn't make my kiddos readers. I give them the required ones, but supplement with words they need. HeidiSongs has been such a blessing in this regard. I've had mini lessons get away from me too, especially with my lower groups. We use the timer many times throughout the day, so this would be helpful.

    Amanda

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  6. Great post, Em ! I have to say that I'm learn to allow myself not to direct teach one day a week. Instead, I let students bring a favorite book from their classroom for fluency practice. They love it and I learn a lot about their learning in return. I user sight words as my student goal for grades 1-3 this year and was happy to see them pass it at 85% mastery.,.fluency shows up again !

    Wendy

    Ms. Ds Literacy Lab

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