There has been a lot of talk about Whole-Class Guided Reading; a reading lesson taught with a learning objective to the whole class at the same time.
Children’s work may be differentiated and activities varied, but the text would usually be the same for the whole class.
My views on this are mixed; I can see the purpose of it, however, to ensure children really engage with a text to develop their inference, analytical and evaluative skills at the correct level, there needs to be focused, small group Guided Reading sessions too.
Restructuring Guiding Reading
One way to organise this would be with a weekly guided reading session where all children have a 30-60 minute adult-led lesson (depending on age). While you tot up how many hours of the curriculum that would take up, I would like to share a way to organise Guided Reading which I have seen work in a few schools very effectively. It ensures that all children within a class get a quality, adult-led, Guided Reading session once a week, at the same time. Rethinking the way in which TAs are used in school is the most crucial part of this approach.
Positively Promoting Changes to Working Practice
Often ideas that involve change, especially change that is different from what schools have previously known, can cause a lot of debate and airing of feelings. TAs are traditionally assigned to a particular year group so you need to message clearly what you are doing and why you are doing it. Once the new structure is established it will be extremely successful, but, you will need everyone to be fully engaged, motivated, and to understand the purpose from the beginning. Ensuring that all staff understand the need for developing a love of reading and the importance of questioning is important, if this structure is to work. I have briefly broken down how the use of TAs for Guided Reading could work.
Using Teaching Assistants for Guided Reading
- Train teachers and TAs on Guided Reading and the types of questioning needed.
- Timetable 45 minutes per class to have four TAs and yourself in the classroom at the same time (one session per week for each year group).
- Implement a consistent assessment tracker.
- Organise children into five groups. One led by you, each of the others by a TA.
- Regularly review these groupings and review staff training regularly.
- Rotate adults 1/2 termly with the groups.
If it is well managed and well resourced in terms of CPD, then this way of teaching Guided Reading can massively impact on children’s attitude towards reading and their progress can excel. Setting it up will take some sort of organisational rejig (but you can usually find one person who loves timetables and enjoys these sorts of changes) but once in place, the effect on the children's love for reading can be explored, developed and embraced.
Many schools have adopted a similar approach for phonics streaming across Reception, KS1 and, where appropriate, KS2. My belief is simple but strong; if so much importance is put on decoding of texts then the same amount of importance should be put on understanding what is being decoded.
Often it is the time investment needed to plan effective Guided Reading that can demotivate teachers, but this way of organising Guided Reading does not need to be any more time consuming. In fact, this is where you can get creative.
Getting Creative with Guided Reading
Don't just use books
Wordless picture books, images, song lyrics, film clips and adverts are all ways of encouraging children to develop comprehension skills. Not only does this engage those children who are reluctant to read but it takes away barriers so all children can concentrated on analysing, deconstructing and evaluating at a deeper level. Having children in small groups will ensure the questioning is at the right level for the children so that their understanding will be more profound than in a whole class Guided Reading session.
This helps to encourage children to have ownership of their work by helping them to think about their own thought process during reading. Before Reciprocal Teaching can be used successfully by your children, you need to teach and make time for children to practice the four strategies of Reciprocal Teaching (summarising, questioning, predicting, clarifying). Using this in the structure above would ensure that children become equipped with the skills to develop independence in unpicking texts.
Encourage Children to Choose Their Own Books
As above, but with the added strand that children can choose a book, provided they explain the reasons for choosing the book (recommendation from a peer, reading the blurb, are fond of the author, etc). Incorporating reading for pleasure into Guided Reading adds another dimension and creates further value to a child’s learning.
To explore these ideas further have a look at Improving Reading and Writing through Visual Literacy. This brand new course is being run by Jo Gray, Literacy Specialist at One Education, and Rob Smith, creator of the Literacy Shed on 7 July at Holiday Inn, Manchester. Book before 31 May to save £20.