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Guided Reading: Seeing Spot Run is Not Enough

Mar 24, 2008
Reading instruction for children in early elementary has gone a long ways since the days of Dick and Jane. At least Dr. Gray's books from the early 30s of Dick, Jane, their parents, baby Sally and the crew of pets provided a beginning step for the basal reading instruction movement.

The books that then became a staple institutionalized reader for children were later criticized for their homogenized cultural images. The education institution as a whole was also challenged because this content of large class repetitive reading was not adequate. Later useful tools like phonics were used, and today we see a good assortment of teaching tools like Guided Reading that critically engages young students individually and challenges their reading and thoughts about reading.

The system of Guided Reading was created by doctorate professors Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas. They first collaborated and coauthored a book in 1996, which launched the guided practice.

Applying the Guided Process

Guided Reading is only part of the whole process of elementary reading instruction. It's shown success among many elementary educators. It's only part of the full spectrum of reading tools but its value is in the intimacy of the structure and teaching. The teaching is intimate because sessions are held in small groups, only 4 to 6 kids at a time.

The real purpose of all reading instruction is not just to get the children to go through the motions or reading, but to actually motivate them to read independently -- to realize the value and enjoyment of sponging up information from all kinds of word sources. Guided reading's aim is the same. The first step is to get them to think about what they are reading. Since they work is close proximity to the teacher the instruction can be portion off more one-on-one time.

When the groups are divided between 4-6 students, they are addressed with the material, one group at a time. Guided Reading prescribes materials on a leveled scale for different grade and skill levels. The teacher will first go through a pre-reading lesson priming the students with a sense of purpose for the sessions. It gives the teacher a little background on the student's skill and time to prepare the student for the material at hand.

During the reading sessions, the children will read the appropriate reading level material while the teacher observes them. After reading, the teacher asks them questions to bring their brain back into the story or lesson, and engages them in a dialog. Any gaps in the observed reading strategy can help build the mini-lesson to help counter the problems the teacher may have seen.

A variety of "learning centers" are available in the class to help the non-group members stay focused and on task with a learning project that also involves reading and word structure.
About the Author
Scholastic (http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/guidedreading/) provides teaching instruction such as the Guided Reading program. Scholastic started over a half century ago sponsoring student book publishing and reading advocacy. The author, Art Gib, is a freelance writer.
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