Recently I received an email from a 4th-grade teacher about using novels in guided reading. It’s a question I get quite a bit, so thought I’d share it here. Here’s the question and my reply:
QUESTION: I am an elementary teacher who is a tremendous fan of your work. My question is when working in guided reading groups in fourth grade, is it appropriate to read the same novel with each group? My lowest level group reads much slower and I don’t know if I will have time to finish it with them. What is your advice? It’s Sarah, Plain and Tall. Thank you in advance!
MY ANSWER: I would not use the same novel with each group. The purpose of small group instruction is to differentiate for students. Choose a book for small group that is at students’ instructional level. This means that each group is reading a different book. If you have the resources, you could try to find books that tie together in some way. But that is not necessary. The important thing is to teach the children, not to teach the book. As for Sarah, Plain and Tall, some children could read that book as an independent read. Others could read it in guided reading. For still others, it will be too hard and they will need too much support. It would be best to read aloud and discuss the book to the whole class, I think. Or read aloud some of it and leave it out for kids to finish on their own, if they’d like.
Another option is to use this book for some children in a literature discussion group. For more information on these, I like Harvey Daniels’ site (but it appears to being rebuilt at this time). Another source is www.litcircles.org. Yet another (for ELL students) is at http://www.eflliteraturecircles.com/