Over the years, I have experimented with a variety of different assessment tools and strategies for improving my students' reading.
Some worked and some didn't. Some were extremely time consuming, some weren't extensive enough. Eventually, after some tweaking and input from my work colleagues, I have developed a set of Guided Reading and Conferencing documents that work for me and my students. I have seen some fabulous results in the process as well - which lets face it, is the whole point behind these conferences!
What is Guided Reading?
The term 'Guided Reading' can mean multiple things to teachers, depending on your experiences and the education system to which you belong to. Essentially, Guided Reading is when you work closely with a small group of children who have similar reading abilities and therefore, reading goals. I try to limit my groups to no more than 6 children to keep it more intimate and special. The children adore this time with their teacher. It is an opportunity for them to show me what they can do and to learn in a more focused and targeted way.
How do I set up Guided Reading?
Create your groups
Firstly, you will need to divide your grade into groups according to their reading levels. They don't all have to be on the same reading level, however group them as closely as you can.
I usually have around 5-6 groups all up. Give each group a name. This year, we studied an integrated topic on Sea Life so I decided to go for a Sea Life theme and named all my groups different sea animals. You could name them colours (Red Group, Green Group), numbers (Group, 1, 2 etc) or choose a theme of your own.
Set up a Guided Reading folder, binder or book.
This will be your bible for the entire year. We are all different and some things that work for some, may not work for others. For me, a bound book works! I can add pages to it if I choose. I don't have to worry about heavy folders or plastic pockets and taking documents out. I can just get straight to it.
Guided Reading Assessment Book
Inside my book is the following:
-Reading Groups List (Group names and their levels as well as the students in each group)
-Weekly Overview Sheet (Plans and resources needed)
-Guided Reading Group Observation Notes or Checklist Templates - I print lots! and double sided.
Weekly Overview Cover Page
I divide this book into sections for each of my groups and I have a cover page for each. Then I laminate the group cover sheet so that it works as a divider. I place the blank notes and checklist templates in behind each cover page.
Group Cover Page (also used a divider)
Plan your activities
Next, you will need to have an idea about what you would like each group to focus on. I have such a spread of reading abilities in my class. I have one student who is working on alphabet sounds and getting her mouth ready to sound out words and then I have my extension group who are reading PM Benchmark level 30+ and who are essentially just working on comprehension, fluency and expression. This is why it is so important to target your teaching accordingly and I find that these sessions are the best way to do it.
I use my Weekly Overview Sheets to record all this information so I can see what my week will look like at a glance.
Get your resources ready for the week
Once you have planned your focus for each group, you will need to get the books and resources ready that you will be using with them. Your resources will vary according to your group abilities.
I have a few drawers filled with my Guided Reading resources. It contains things like:
I get all my book sets ready for the week that I will be reading with each group as well.
Your Guided Reading Session
Once the majority of your class have begun working on their Independent tasks - whether it be Independent Reading, Buddy Reading or other literacy related activities, bring your group to the mat (or Guided Reading Table).
Use a Visual to ensure the other children know you are busy
I like to wear my Ladybug Headband at this point as it symbolises that I am busy and working with a group of students. When I wear this headband, my students know not to interrupt me - I am invisible! Haha!
These sessions give you an opportunity to listen to the children read and model good reading habits. You can choose to conduct 'Round Robin Reading' which is when each student has a turn to read as the group follows along, reading with their eyes - OR you can pair them up and they can read aloud to their buddy or read in their heads 'back to back' (with their backs touching).
Most of the time, I will use class sets of levelled books in my sessions so each child has the same book. PM books are my favourites :P
With my Emergent Readers, I like to just look at the pictures first. We pretend we are 'picture detectives' and go through every page together and talk about what is happening. This is the perfect time to immerse the children in the language and the vocab of the book. It will then assist them with decoding the more challenging topic words.
As the children read, I am giving lots of positive feedback and encouragement. When they Self Correct, I ALWAYS comment on how fantastic it was that they realised they made a mistake and went back to re-read. When they slip up I stop them and ask, 'Did that make sense?' 'What else could go there that makes sense?'
For you more competent readers, my focus is usually on comprehension. We might be using sticky notes to 'leave tracks' or we might be making connections or inferences. In these sessions, we talk about the strategies (I use my comprehension posters as a visual) and then we practise using them together.
While the children are reading, I am recording some notes about what they are doing and what they need to work on.
Guided Reading Group Observations Notes Template
Give your students a goal
Once each child has had an opportunity to read, I will then give them a Reading Goal to work on. This is usually one that I have already planned for them but sometimes, it might be one that I just decided on then based on the way they read to me. (I use my Reading Goal Reminder Sips for this.) These goals are pre-printed and then stapled into their take home diaries so that they can show their parents and practise their reading goal at home as well.
Reading Goal Reminder Slips
Reading Goal Reminder Slips
My Guided Reading Sessions usually take 10-15 minutes per group and I would only get through one (two at the most) a day. Once I have finished with one group, I usually then complete an Individual Reading Conference with a different student.