One of the areas of teaching that took me longest to get my head around when I was an NQT was Guided Reading. Somehow I couldn’t make it make sense in my head how to make it work. How did I keep the rest of the class on task while I was reading with one group? What were good activities for the rest? How on earth did carousel Guided Reading lessons even work?
As a leader and as a teacher, I have to be honest and say that carousel Guided Reading was always an area of contention and difficulty. Many times teachers would have activities in the Guided Reading sessions that, while related to reading in someways, really would be better under the heading of writing. These would includes activities such as spellings, handwriting practise, grammar practise and cloze passages not related to a text. The difficulties would come because other activities, such as comprehension answering, or summarising of a text would be considered to come under the Guided Reading heading.
When Ofsted published their research and findings about Guided Reading in their ‘Moving English Forward‘ publication in 2012, it became clear that even they found Guided Reading sessions potentially troubling. Their point was that the sessions could be useful, but only if they became more effective. One of the key issues about carousel Guided Reading sessions was that, the group doing Guided Reading with the teacher tended to make progress, but more often than not, the other groups were doing holding activities – and often not making progress!
Strangely (or perhaps, thankfully) the new 2014 National Curriculum actually helped in this matter, and has made some clarifications which you can use to help form the planning for your carousel Guided Reading sessions. The curriculum makes it clear that children are expected to become ‘independent, fluent and enthusiastic readers’ who are ‘able to read silently, with good understanding, inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words, and then discuss what they have read.’
So your key points for a carousel Guided Reading session are:
1. Every Guided Reading session should make children’s reading better.
2. Guided Reading activities must build towards children becoming independent, fluent readers who can read for sustained period of time.
3. Children should be taught to infer unfamiliar words from the context of the text.
4. Children should be able to discuss what they have read afterwards.
So, using these points as a starter, what would a good carousel Guided Reading session look like? Well, understandably it would very much depend on the reading ability of the children, but in general it could look like the following:
Group 1 – This group would be working with the teacher as per a normal Guided Reading session. Depending on the age range and ability range, they might either be reading as a group, being read to by the teacher, or discussing what they have already read.
Group 2 – This group would be completing tasks after having worked with the teacher. This could be, again depending on the age and ability level of the children, summarising what they have just read, answering comprehension questions about what they have just read or completing a cloze activity based on the text.
Group 3 – This group would be reading non-fiction texts, based around the topics that the children are studying across the curriculum, silently to themselves.
Group 4 – This group would be reading fiction texts, perhaps their school library book or levelled book, silently to themselves.
Group 5 – This group would be doing pre-reading of the Guided Reading text in preparation for the session with the teacher.
So, as you see, all of the groups would be involved in reading, whether through the actual act of reading or thinking about a text they have already read. To make the lesson even better, it would be an idea to have a particular question that you want all the children reading to themselves to be thinking about. Perhaps, for them to find 2 new words and infer the meaning, or perhaps to identify powerful emotion words. At the end of the lesson you can then check in with all groups and each group can give a mini plenary about what they have discovered.
These tips should help you plan your Guided Reading session in such a way that ensures that it is improving reading for all children. It is also worth going and observing other teachers doing Guided Reading in your school during your NQT time – especially the Literacy Co-ordinator. You can guarantee that you will pick up lots of tips and tricks this way too!
I’d love to hear about your experiences of Guided Reading. Any huge successes or disasters? Let me know in the comments below.
If you haven’t already, pop along and join the highly supportive Primary NQT Tribe on Facebook where there are lots of tips and tricks, and people to bounce ideas off. We’d love to have you!