Is guided reading appropriate for Junior grades?

To begin this blog I would just like to provide my readers with a little background information about the topic itself and the experience I have personally had with it.

Guided reading is defined as “an instructional context supporting each reader’s development of effective strategies for processing novel texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty” (Fountas & Pinell, 1996, p. 25). Throughout my experience in a classroom, I have really only seen guided reading in the primary grades. I am currently completing a practicum in a grade 6 class and there has been little if any work involving the teacher and a small group of students. With that being said, approximately 50% of this class goes to a separate ESL class almost everyday for language so I am unaware of what type of work they do while they are there.

My first practicum was in a grade 1/2 split and there were a lot of students who were still at the very early stages of learning to read. I think that this had a huge influence on how much my AT prioritized time for independent reading so that she could lead a small guided reading group. I also had a chance to read with some of the children who were at a lower level and found it very interesting to read one on one with them. I was able to see the strategies they used to try and “guess” what a word was by using the pictures and repeating previous words they had seen in the story. Many times when I had to correct the student on a word, the sentence they had said did not make sense at all. I realized that they were so focused on reading one word to the next that they were barely comprehending what was happening on each page and throughout the book.

Comparing this with my current practicum in a grade 6 class, I rarely have the opportunity to read one-on-one with students because they are mostly strong independent readers. Several times when I have been teaching other subjects such as science or religion, I will have students read paragraphs aloud to the entire class while everyone is following along. Typically the same students volunteer to read but occasionally I will call upon other students. As stated by Rasinki, Rikli and Johnston (2009) “Recent research has suggested that the issue of reading fluency goes beyond the primary grades.”. They have given many examples of students in junior and even intermediate grades that are still struggling with literacy at these ages. I think that we focus on literacy the most during the primary years, however this does not make it any less important in the older grades. There are always some students who are late at developing these skills and I think that many teachers will overlook this if they assume that students have already learned how to read when they were in early elementary schools. The results from the study done by Rasinki, Rikli & Johnston (2009), continued to reinstate how important reading fluency is in relationship to reading comprehension. Various grade levels were assessed and it was an important skill in all of these grades.

Something my current AT does do with her class ever so often is read aloud a novel to the class. She will read to them for 15 minutes and does not do it everyday. Many of the students are really excited about the book so they look forward to this time. Others appear to be in another world and focusing on something else during the quiet time. I think my AT believes that it is beneficial for the students to have a chance to actively listen, and whether or not they all do is really up to them. A couple of weeks ago my AT and I were in a workshop that introduced us to the Daily 5 and the implementation of that using Writer’s Notebook. Last week we decided to start this with the students and will continue to do so this upcoming week. Although it is late in the year, this is a new program that I believe many teachers are trying to start up with their students, therefore it may not be until next September that teachers are really able to begin it at the beginning of the school year.

The main difference between the way that my two AT’s worked with their students for literacy was that the grade 6’s appeared to be well beyond the point of requiring one-on-one guidance for the most part. There were of course a couple exceptions to this but these students all worked with an EA separately on their literacy work. The grade 1/2 students definitely needed the guided support at their reading level in order for them to continue improving their reading capacities. I also really liked how my AT in the grade 1/2 class still met with the students at all grade levels, even the high flyers! This made it so that no students felt lesser or greater than others in any way.

Personally I like the concept of guided reading groups in the classroom, however I definitely see the challenges that my current AT is facing fitting it into the classroom schedule with all of the other subject areas that need to be covered, as well as EQAO preparation starting. I think it is much more challenging for teachers of older grades to have guided reading on a regular basis and primary teachers make it a higher priority because the curriculum focuses on basic reading skills at those grade levels.

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With this being said, I would love for teachers of all grade levels to have the chance to devote as much time and effort to literacy but it is simply not possible with the current curriculum. Hopefully as time goes on there are more tools for teachers to more effectively be able to spend more time on reading, but also cover the rest of the subject areas.

 

Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (1996). Guided reading: Good first teaching for all children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Rasinki, T., Rikli, A., & Johnston, S. (2009). Reading Fluency: More Than Automaticity? More Than a Concern for the Primary Grades? Literacy Research and Instruction 48(4), 350-361.

 

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