According the EngageNY, “Guided Reading and Accountable Independent Reading (GRAIR) is additional literacy time within the school day where teachers can work with students in developmentally appropriate groupings to meet their individual needs. This is an opportunity for the favorite traditional read aloud work, literacy based centers, and immersion in text, where teachers can facilitate student choice from existing leveled libraries based on interest, availability, and readability. The purpose of this time is to build independent, interested, and capable readers.” Check out a guided reading lesson in action here!
Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell said it best, “there is an important difference between implementing parts of a guided reading lesson and using guided reading to bring readers from where they are to as far as the teaching can take them in a given school year” (2012, p. 268). I had the structure of guided reading down but I struggled to identify what my students truly needed to move them to the next level as readers. I knew I had to change something and it was time to think about my current practice.
I began by deepening my understanding of guided reading and embracing that “the goal of guided reading is to teach the reader, not the text,” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012, p. 280). With the work of Fountas and Pinnell, I thought differently about how I assessed my students and how I collected data. I learned how to use informal running records to analyzing my students miscues, identify their strengths and weaknesses and “assess the effects of yesterday’s teaching” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012, p. 275). I began to choose texts that provided my students with opportunities to practice the skills they needed to grow as readers. I no longer chose a book because of its reading level and then decided what I was going to teach from it.
I am still learning the art of guided reading and find great interest in supporting other educators with their practice. Together we focus on assessment practices, supporting students to think about, within and beyond the text, and the role of facilitative talk to develop readers. It is clear that this type of work is challenging and takes time to develop. In 2007, research explored the complexities and the development of levels of (teachers) expertise in guided reading. The research revealed,
“achieving a high level of expertise in guided reading is not easy. It takes time and usually the support of a coach or staff developer...it is fairly easy to take on the basic structure of guided reading, for example, the structure of the lesson...Teaching for strategic actions and “on your feet” interaction with students is much more challenging. See Figure” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012, p. 282).
If you’re ready to reflect on your current practice and grow as a teacher of reading, Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell’s article, Guided Reading, The Romance and the Reality is a great place to start. It will validate your current effective teaching practices and provide you with a starting point to reflect on your current practice. Begin your journey to make changes that will positively impact your students and foster your growth as an educator.
Bryk, A., Kerbow, D., Pinnell, G.S., Rodgers, E., Hung, C., Scharer, P.L., et al. (2007). Measuring change in the instructional practices of literacy teachers. Unpublished manuscript
Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G. (2012, December). Guided Reading The Romance and the Reality. The Reading Teacher, 268-284.
About the Author: Kelly Wetzler is part of the Integrated Education Services Team at Erie 2 - Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES as a Staff Development Specialist with a focus in elementary education and is embedded with the Pine Valley CSD as a Curriculum Coordinator. Prior to coming to BOCES, Kelly was a primary classroom teacher with a passion for student centered learning. Follow Kelly on twitter @kellywetzler or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org