Thinking of ditching guided reading groups

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by meglucy, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. meglucy

    meglucy Companion

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    Dec 27, 2012

    Am I nuts? Nothing like 2 weeks off to make me rethink how I do things!

    Background: I teach first grade. Class size: 25. About 8 are reading way above grade level (level M+). About 12 are at level I (what is expected for END of first grade). The other 5 hover at or just below grade level for this time of year.

    This is how my literacy block looks now:

    Handwriting (entry task--15 min)

    Morning meeting (20 min)

    Phonics (20 min): mini lesson and short worksheet

    Reading mini lesson (whole group)--15 min.

    Literacy rotations (60 min total): Students are broken into 4 groups of 6. We rotate stations every 15 minutes. Stations are: leveled guided reading group with me --> reading response journals (written response to what we just read in small group) ---> literacy centers (phonics games/listen to books/computers/etc. ----> read to self (silent reading books of choice).

    Teacher read aloud (10-15 min.)

    Writing mini lesson (15 min)

    Independent writing/conferencing (25 min)

    Share/debrief (5 min)



    So ... it all goes fine, but I don't feel like they're getting enough "read to self" time (15 min.) And since I'm with the guided reading group during the rotations, I'm not available to help students with their reading response journals. Independent workers do a great job, but struggling learners are, well, struggling with that piece.
    I'm also not there to supervise with the literacy centers. The kids usually do fine with it, but I'm wondering if there's a better way.


    What if the literacy block looked like this instead?

    Handwriting entry task (15 min.)

    Morning meeting (20 min)

    Reading mini lesson (15 min.)

    Status of the class (5 min)--what are you reading today?/distribute leveled books

    Read to self (30 min). Students read self-selected good-fit books as well as leveled books assigned to them. Meanwhile, I bop around to 4 or 5 students each day to hear them read/check comprehension/reinforce strategies. I keep anecdotal notes on each child and do running records, as needed.

    Read aloud 10 min.(model/think aloud about today's reading strategy or focus)

    Model writing a reading response in my journal based on the book we just read aloud (5-10 min.)

    Students write in reading response journals based on book they read during read to self time (15-20 min.)

    Share reading response journal with a partner, then buddy read from our poetry notebooks (includes poems, songs, reading passages/short stories) 10 min.

    Phonics mini lesson (10 min.)

    Literacy centers/phonics practice (15 min.)

    Writer's workshop (40 min)
    -mini lesson
    -independent writing
    -share


    Anyone still with me?

    Does anyone NOT do guided reading groups? I think if I don't, my high readers can really stretch themselves with more challenging, self-selected books. And I can spend more one-on-one time with my struggling readers. In addition to conferencing with them a couple times a week during read to self time, I would gravitate toward them during the buddy reading time and reading response journal time.

    What am I not thinking through here? Thanks!!
     
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  3. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Dec 27, 2012

    Since you asked...my concerns are:

    1. 30 minutes seems like a REALLY long time to have 1st graders sitting and reading independently. Are you sure that your students can actually do this, and how much will they be getting out of it? I especially worry about your struggling readers here, who likely won't actually read and will just look at pictures/stare at the book during this time. I know some teachers feel that looking at pictures is valuable- but for 30 minutes replacing actual instruction? I'm not convinced. I also think that most kids at that age would simply not be able to attend that long, even if they were higher readers. 15 minutes for this (in your original schedule) sounds just right.

    2. How will you replace the differentiated instruction that your kids get from groups? I understand your frustration with not being able to monitor the other centers. I have the same problem with my "lows" really struggling. However, it doesn't sound like you'd be giving them much instruction in your 2nd scenario (you mention just pulling them to read or helping them with in class activities- not really doing small group lessons).
    3. What does your admin say? I'd for sure run it by them. I know in my current school and my previous school we were required to do guided reading. I would think at best you may be able to get rid of the centers and find some way for the students to still be doing other activities while you do guided reading. In my last school the kids had a "menu" of things they were allowed to work on while the teacher pulled guided reading groups. In this school we are required to do centers.
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Dec 28, 2012

    So, first of all congrats in being on level! Just as background info, can I ask if most students started lower and progressed with your system? If so, I'd be hesitant to change too much because what you have is working. BUT, some modification for sake of continuous improvement may not be awful.

    More specifically, I might start to look more heavily into doing some comprehension assessment and instruction in small group - it seems that most kids are reading fairly fluently, and progressing with phonics/phonemic awareness with whole group instruction. I'm assuming vocab is on level with most kids too?

    I would be hesitant to replace guided instruction (of any kind) with independent work (of any kind), especially for 30 minutes. Independent/silent reading can be good, especially if you have independent learners who are motivated and academically engaged, but they also may have time to read independently at home. Would the best use of those 30 minutes, then, to be actively engaged with kids, taking it to the next level?

    So, I guess to recap, here are my main thoughts:

    1) If it ain't broke...

    2) I probably wouldn't chose independent reading over guided instruction, provided you think most kids will have the opportunity to read independently during other times of the day (e.g., at home).

    3) I would start to look at your assessment data with comprehension and consider whether guided instruction might instead focus on comprehension

    4) Some experimentation is good, as is a focus on continuous improvement. Just keep a close eye on your data - formal and informal - and if things slip with your change (e.g., you notice rate of fluency growth slows), readjust before going too long.

    Congrats on things going well!
     
  5. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Dec 28, 2012

    I'm also a first grade teacher, but I can't imagine ditching reading groups because I've never had a group where almost everyone was on or above grade level (kudos to you!).

    But if I did have a group like that, I might consider shortening the time that the highest group meets with me and giving the lower groups an extra 5 - 10 minutes each.

    Even though our kids can do so much, i do have to remind myself they ARE still first graders and it can be hard for even the most advanced kids to sit for 30 minutes straight without much teacher interaction.

    Once the students have their word accuracy down, I start to focus heavily on story comprehension, something that I've found a lot of even the most advanced readers, can struggle with. For instance, my highest group are reading on the same level of a 3rd quarter second grader, but we still meet for 20 minutes each day to discuss the days reading. I really feel like they get so much out of it and I'm preparing them for those unfortunate standardized tests.

    Typically here's how advanced reading group goes -

    * 5 minutes of whisper reading the day's story so I can hear if anyone got stuck on any of the words

    * 15 minutes of story discussion in which we discuss the independent work I gave the kids, draw conclusions about a character's motivation, discuss the sequence of events, predict future events, discuss what would happen if one event was changed on the story's timeline (i sometimes springboard this into a creative writing assignment for the following day), identify the rising actions and climax of the story (i purposely use "big" words so it won't be the first time they're hearing them when they get to 3rd and 4th), summuarizing events, etc. The kids are also really good at not only answering my questions but posing questions to the group (ie: Why did Mary's daddy have to go away? Did he die?) Note: We don't do ALL of that at one time. I have a goal in mind like, "Today we're going to focus on asking questions" and I let the kids lead as much as possible while acting as a facilitator to keep them on task

    5 Minutes of previewing tomorrow's reading whatever I'm going to have the kids read the following day, we preview the text together and discuss it. The kids look at the pictures and skim the words. I have the kids identify and we discuss unusual vocabulary or text features (I have one book that is about an Asian family who use many Chinese words, so I show the kids how to look at the English to Chinese translations in the index of the book)

    If you're still feeling unsure about groups, can you talk to your school reading specialist for advice?
     
  6. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Dec 28, 2012

    Believe it or not, you have come very close to describing my 2nd grade classroom fro 2001 thru 2008. It worked so well that I resisted doing what the district kept telling me I should be doing.

    In our district, doing anything like this would get you fired today...

    Steve
     
  7. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 28, 2012

    I taught grade 2 for 8 years and now in third year in 3rd..I've never used guided reading groups. My school follows a readingworkshop format: mini lesson, give it a try, independent reading with conferring, share. Kids do build up stamina for reading longer stretches of time. I believe a few 1st grade classrooms might do guided reading, but most of the building does the workshop approach as I described.
     
  8. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Dec 28, 2012

    I do small reading groups and can't imagine not doing them, but I certainly do not have the number of high-level readers as you do. Maybe it's your hour stretch of rotations that's killing things. I do a modified version of The Daily 5, so I do a mini-lesson, then a D5 rotation. The rotation is 20-25 minutes long, and those not in my reading group are working on word work, reading with a partner, or self reading. There's a whole lot of reading that goes on in my classroom. Maybe you should try meeting less with the highs, more with the strugglers, and add some mini-lessons in-between your rotations.
     
  9. ahodge79

    ahodge79 Companion

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    Jan 8, 2013

    check out the Daily Five
     
  10. meglucy

    meglucy Companion

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    Jan 15, 2013

    Thanks so much for everyone's valuable feedback. Just wanted to report back ...

    I've been following my new plan for a couple of weeks now and I love it! I already feel like I'm getting to know my students better as readers, and it's nice to let the noise level go above a whisper during word work/literacy station time (more fun for all of us).

    I keep a mini composition book for each child in a narrow basket and rotate through them, conferring with 4 students a day during read to self time (sometimes more during other times). After I conference, I put that child's comp book in the back so it's lined up, waiting for our next visit together (an idea I adapted from a colleague). I take notes in the comp books about fluency, accuracy, comprehension, etc. Sometimes I think of a book the child might like to read next based on our conversation and I jot it down in the mini comp book.

    We read to self for 20 minutes at a time, which is just right for my group. FYI: there are other times when we buddy read, do readers theater, read across the curriculum, etc.

    Anyhow, just wanted to share. Thanks again for all the thoughtful responses. I took everything into consideration.
     
  11. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Jan 15, 2013

    So glad it is working for you and your students!
     
  12. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Jan 15, 2013

    I'm so glad you are enjoying your new format! I've always done guided reading groups, but I think with your organizational system you will easily be able to meet with all of your students to ensure they receive the instruction they need! By the way, I LOVE your system with the composition books!
     
  13. massteacher

    massteacher Companion

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    Jan 19, 2013


    How long do you spend conferring with each child? 5 minutes each? Are they able to get through a good fit book within that timeframe, and during read to self do your students all focus on good fit books or do they have a choice of reading anything from the classroom library? I was thinking of ditching 1 guided reading book and conferring with them individually during that timeframe because together we don't get anything done because they are distracted by eachother.
     
  14. meglucy

    meglucy Companion

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    Jan 21, 2013

    MissScrimmage: I can't take the credit for the mini composition book idea for note taking. A colleague of mine came up with it (or maybe she got it from someone else). Yes, it's brilliant.
    MassTeacher: Yes, I spend about 5 minutes with each student. The students have a mix of books in their bags. Just right books I have chosen for them from our guided reading materials; just right books they have chosen for themselves and other books they've chosen from our classroom book nook that may or not be good fits. When I confer with the students, I usually have them read one of the guided reading books. Depending on the level, we can get through it and discuss it in 5 minutes. For my highest readers, I have them read a couple of pages from the chapter book they're reading and check their comprehension, work on expression/fluency, etc. Hope that helps!
     

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