Posts Tagged ‘guided reading’

Sign up sheets for students to choose books for literature circles on Harriet Tubman

Sign up sheets for students to choose books for literature circles on Harriet Tubman

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/

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We used a variety of materials with upper grade students in guided reading in Spring Grove, PA. Kids love reading short pieces of nonfiction text, such as those pictured here in this post. What materials have you found useful in working with guided reading with older kids?

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When I recently visited Red Lion and York schools in Pennsylvania,  I worked with upper grade teachers on guided reading. I modeled how to plan and teach guided reading lessons in many classrooms. What a great week it was! One question that often comes up is, “What texts should we use in guided reading in grades 3-6?”

Here are some of the kinds of texts I’ve used (be sure what you choose is on the instructional reading level of the children you’ll work with):
  • news magazine articles, such as National Geographic, Time for Kids, and Scholastic News
  • little books for guided reading from publishers such as Mondo, Benchmark Education, ETA Cuisenaire, Pacific Learning, and Okapi
  • leveled books that come with your core program
  • trade books
  • texts from the Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
  • short stories (see Janet Allen’s Read Aloud Anthology from Scholastic)
  • ballads or song lyrics
  • newspaper articles
  • informational text cut and pasted from the Internet
  • the first few chapters of a novel
I recommend you work together as a grade level team and/or across grade levels to build up files of resources you can use for guided reading with older students. The key is SHORT text. And something your students will be interested in.
Please let me know what some of your favorite resources are for guided reading in upper grades.

National Geographic Explorer- the Pathfinder edition is written for grades 4-5 and Pioneer is for grades 2-3

Leveled readers from a core reading program for grade 4

National Geographic Extreme Explorer is for struggling readers in grades 6-12

Time for Kids Exploring Nonfiction has cards in a set. There are two cards whose pictures look the same. One is written on-grade level, and the other is below-grade level. Sets are available for each grade level, K-8.

Guided reading book from Mondo

Trade books can be used for upper grade guided reading, too

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Three Little Wolves book with characters glove and sticky notes

During a 2nd grade guided reading lesson recently, a teacher and I focused on helping students think more deeply about characters and how they act. The teacher told me that they can tell what happened in the story, but have trouble identifying the problem and solution or moving beyond naming characters and setting. Sound familiar to anyone???

Book choice was very important in this lesson. We picked The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig. Children were familiar with the story of the 3 pigs, so there was a good comprehension scaffold. We began the lesson by talking about the kind of book this was. Children quickly identified it as fiction, and said it had animals that talk in it and that it was a made up story. However, when I asked them about what they’d think about in a fiction story, their faces went blank.
I pulled out my story elements glove for fiction, and just showed them the thumb that said characters. “Oh,” one of the children said. “It’s like our story map,” and pointed to a chart nearby that had been made with the class. How often this happens. We’ve taught something, but it seems like kids have never heard of it!
I told them I wanted them to think about the characters and what they did in the story today. Then they read several pages on their own and jotted down what they learned about the characters on sticky notes. We labeled one post-it note “pig” and the other “3 wolves.” I scaffolded them as they read on their own by asking them about what they had found out about a character. We used their notes to talk after reading. The sticky notes and scaffolding helped them pay attention to characters today. We will have to repeat this same idea in lessons multiple times before children “own” this strategy. But today was a good beginning.

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Working with upper grade teachers at Pleasant View, we decided to tackle deeper comprehension with a group of on-grade level 6th graders. The key was, “What text to choose to engage them in deeper thinking?” Text choice is everything in guided reading!

A great resource we used is Janet Allen’s Read Aloud Anthology from Scholastic. It is designed for read aloud, but we used it as short text for guided reading. The story we chose was called “The Escape.” It provided great opportunities for deeper thinking. I posted the question I wanted students to think about while reading on a small dry erase board. They read and took notes while I listened in to each and had a brief conversation with them about what they were thinking.

At the start of the lesson, these students told me they usually read and then stop at the end of a chapter or a story and think about what they read. By the end of the lesson, they told me, “Today I learned that when I think the whole time I’m reading, I understand a lot more.”

Guided reading in 6th grade? You bet!


Great resource for short text for guided reading in 6th grade


Our essential question for students to ponder while reading


I listen in to students read and have a conversation while others read on their own during guided reading

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While at Pleasant View Elementary, I also taught a group of 4th graders who were reading on a late 2nd grade/early 3rd grade level. The focus for the lesson was inferring about characters– something these students needed to practice with support. The teachers and I chose the book, The Magic Fish, because it had such strong characters. As I began the lesson, the children had heard of inference and said it was a kind of prediction.

I created a simple graphic organizer for them to use while reading. We talked about the main characters using the cover, title page, and what they already knew (their background knowledge). One student knew the story and had read the book in the past, so his schema was especially strong! But we were doing deeper comprehension work, so I wasn’t concerned.

After I introduced the book and told them how far I wanted them to read (about 1/2 the book), I asked each to choose a character and jot down on the organizer what they already knew about that character. Interestingly, the boys both chose the fisherman, and the girl in my group asked if she could think about the fisherman and the wife. Hallelujah! She differentiated for herself. I love when that happens! 

As the students read independently, I listened to each read and conferred with him/her for a few moments before moving to the next. I checked for their understanding and reminded them to jot down the words from the book that told them something about that character. If they made an inference (which they often did), I labeled it as such, and said, “You just inferred something about the character that wasn’t in the book.  Jot it down.” 

After they read, they shared their thinking with the group. They did a great job, especially considering that this lesson took place from 3-3:20 PM and the buses came at 3:25.  Teachers there told me that they think that adding the structure of the simple graphic organizer helped guide the children’s thinking and created an opportunity for success. That’s what guided reading is all about in my mind. Guiding students to the place where they can be successful readers with just a bit of support from the teacher.

Here are photos of what we did together:


A great book for inferring about characters


One student's thinking about two characters



Thinking about the fisherman


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Pleasant View Elementary School in Red Lion, PA

It was a beautiful autumn day in Red Lion, PA, where I had the privilege of working with wonderful teachers and their children in grades 3-6 today. The school was Pleasant View Elementary; the topic was guided reading.

It was my favorite kind of day– the kind where I work with kids!  The teachers and I worked together choosing a lesson focus, picking a text that was just right for the students, and planning a guided reading lesson. Then I taught the students in a small group while teachers observed, and we ended with debriefing– reflecting on the lesson and what both we and the children learned.

I got to teach three very different small groups today. We had a 3rd grade above-level reading group that read very well, but sometimes skipped words they’d never seen before. To guide them, we chose a text from the Internet about hamsters. Their class is getting a hamster, and the nonfiction text we chose was about getting a home for your hamster.

I showed students in this group how to highlight a new word they’d not seen before. (We used a highlighter pen, since they had a text printed from the Internet.) Then I showed them how to look carefully at the new word (usually a long word) and find the parts they know, covering up each part with their fingers after they’d read it, and then blending the parts together, using their fingers as needed. I modeled with a dry erase board and a few new words, as pictured. They helped me circle parts they knew.

When they began reading the article on their own, at first, some of them thought they knew all the words; but with guidance, they began highlighting words and trying to put the parts together. Their teacher told me that she was thinking that vocabulary was their need, but today she realized that both decoding and vocabulary were important for this group to focus on.

The students and I felt successful. They learned a lot about hamster habitats and are eager to read more tomorrow. More on the other lessons coming soon…


The lovely view outside of Pleasant View


The Pleasant View Crew- fabulous teachers!


Text from above-grade level guided reading


Some of the decoding we did together before reading

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