If you’re a primary teacher, you’ve probably taught or are planning to teach a few lessons on Communities or Community Helpers. As you teach reading and help students explore these fun topics, you’ll probably include firefighters (close to my heart), police officers and doctors on the list. You may also add construction workers, crossing guards, and, yes—teachers!
Guided Reading Instructor = Community Helper
That’s right – be sure to include yourself in that lesson! Believe me: If you teach Guided Reading, you are definitely a community helper, in more ways than one! Whether you teach school in a rural setting, a small town, or in a huge metropolis, I hope you appreciate the workers who serve your community in such important ways. As citizens, we owe a big shout-out to all those unsung heroes who work so hard at their occupations every day. This post centers around that theme.
How does Guided Reading relate to the topic of community helpers? Oh, my teacher friend, there are some definite similarities! In our occupation as educators—and especially in our task of teaching children to read—we use aspects of all these heroic occupations!
Read on to learn how to…
Teach Reading Like a Guided Reading Hero!
When the morning bell rings to signal the start of the school day, you don’t slide down a pole and jump into a fire truck. You do, however, begin the very important job of rescuing the kiddos in your classroom from the dangers of illiteracy. Does it sound like a stretch to compare our job of classroom instruction to these other helping careers?
Let’s have some fun in a lighthearted but informative look at the various hats we wear while we teach reading using a Guided Reading approach!
First, it’s your job to pay attention to the reading struggles your students are experiencing. During Guided Reading, you’re providing differentiated instruction to address areas of struggle you’ve uncovered. Just how do you discover and address those issues?
1. Pre-Assess, Assess, and Re-Assess —
(Diagnose Like a Doctor)
You may not be a doctor, but as an educator you’ve made your share of diagnoses! From the reading assessments you administer, you mine data and analyze the results to diagnose reading struggles. So, put on your stethoscope, grab that assessment tool, and assess that student!
- Screening assessments completed early in the year are the first step you use to establish a baseline and identify students who may require additional support. Your early intervention can mean the difference in getting those students the additional instructional support or intervention they need.
- A diagnostic assessment following the initial screening can help you evaluate the reading skills of a struggling student. These assessments are great tools to help you determine how to move forward to intervene and address specific needs.
- Progress monitoring assessments, such as running records, serve to inform your instruction and assist you with leveling students. The information they provide is invaluable to you as you teach reading!
- Finally, outcome assessments help you determine the reading proficiency of your students in relation to your school or district’s educational criteria. Since the data you gather from outcome assessments can reveal areas where review or reinforcement is needed, these types of assessments serve as a kind of “check-up” for your students and for you.
Your “treatment plan” for a struggling student can include direct, one-to-one teaching as well as strategy groups to intervene and rescue.
The alarm has sounded! That’s where you put on your fireman hat and…
2. Intervene with Differentiated Instruction
(Rescue Like a Firefighter)
Although there are no literal flames or floods involved as you teach reading, you still rescue kids from hotspots and lift them up when they’re in over their heads! The phonics, decoding and comprehension strategies you share in “rapid response” to readers’ struggles can get them out of the danger zone and back on the road to reading fluency.
Guided Reading groups allow you to provide direct, one-to-one corrective instruction and intervention when needed. Use assessment data and anecdotal notes to identify needs; then address them with quick, strategic instruction or strategy groups.
Assemble these strategy groups as needed to help clusters of students who share a common struggle with a certain strategy or concept. Use these temporary groups to provide targeted, explicit instruction that “lifts them out of the danger zone” and helps them master necessary skills.
Move students out of trouble spots through differentiated, one-to-one instruction in Guided Reading and through focused, specific coaching in temporary strategy groups.
3. Maintain a Safe, Peaceful Learning Environment with a Behavior Management Plan (Keep Order Like a Police Officer)
If you’re familiar with Simply Skilled in Second, you’ve probably heard me repeat my mantra: Consistency is key when it comes to Guided Reading! Part of that consistency involves maintaining order within your classroom by implementing a consistent behavior management plan.
You may not wear a badge, but you’re responsible for keeping the peace within the learning community of your classroom. When they experience a sense of order, safety and consistency, your students will thrive and learn.
It is possible to have an effective behavior management plan in your classroom, without having to raise your voice or play “bad cop.” There are strategies you can use to maintain calm in your classroom and improve your relationships with your students and their parents. The key is to be intentional, and—say it with me: “consistent!”
My new Guided Reading That Works Professional Development workshop contains an entire lesson about how to implement an effective behavior management plan. You’ll discover practical, creative ways to calm chaos, ensure a safe and peaceful learning environment, and improve your relationships with students and parents. Check out Guided Reading That Works!
4. Give Students a Strong Foundation and Scaffold Them to Promote Progress (Build Like a Construction Worker)
Guided Reading allows you to scaffold your students, providing them with the skills and strategies they need for reading success. Even without a hard hat, if you teach reading using a Guided Reading approach, you work with scaffolding every day!
Through scaffolding you provide support for students as they build the foundational skills they need to for reading fluency. Just as a skyscraper is built level-by-level, brick-by-brick on a solid foundation, the kiddos in your classroom need your help to build a solid foundation of reading literacy. Best of all, you’re building independent readers!
As you teach reading, work with each student to ensure they have the skills and strategies they need.
Break your reading instruction into manageable steps by:
- Direct, one-to one instruction during Guided Reading – Address trouble spots. Share quick, direct teaching on specific strategies the student needs to review.
- Building on prior knowledge – Add to the knowledge, principles and vocabulary the student already possesses.
- Vocabulary and Word Work – Teach the student the word-attack skills and higher-level sight words they need to master.
- Modeling of decoding skills and reading/comprehension strategies – As you teach reading, model the use of the skills and strategies you share with students.
Most importantly, instructional scaffolding involves a gradual release of responsibility. Use scaffolding in your Guided Reading instruction to help elevate your students to the level of independent, fluent readers. Through your careful guidance, a struggling reader can become a fluent reader and a student who reads to learn!
5. Level Students and Move Them Ahead as They Grow (Keep Things Moving Like a Crossing Guard)
As an educator you serve as a kind of crossing guard or traffic cop, preventing back-ups on the road to fluency! Leveled reading groups are the key to providing the differentiated instruction individual students need. They’re the crosswalks to keep students moving forward on their literacy journey.
The key to a streamlined Guided Reading framework is the appropriate grouping of students by instructional reading level. Frequent monitoring and assessment allow you to appropriately place your students into ability-based Guided Reading small groups. In addition, they allow you the flexibility to move them ahead when they’re ready to advance to a higher level.
You serve as the Guided Reading “crossing guard” for your students.
How do you keep those little readers moving forward and point them in the right direction? It takes strategy. However; with planning and preparation you can implement a rigorous, streamlined Guided Reading approach in your classroom. No neon orange vest required!
Start by pre-assessing your students to identify their instructional reading level. Assess your students frequently, using running records and other progress monitoring assessments. Then level and group readers appropriately. Finally, enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your students thrive and reach their reading goals!
I’ve talked a lot about using assessments to monitor students’ progress. A running record is one of the quickest, most effective assessment tools that’s available in your instructional toolbox. For tips on using running records, check out my previous post, 7 Important Things You Can Learn From Running Records.
Caution: Readers Crossing!
One other quick take on the “Crossing Guard” metaphor! In addition to the broad overview of leveled reading groups. let’s drill down to a more “street-level” view. You are literally directing traffic in your classroom when you plan your small group rotations!
Here’s where an effective “traffic-control” strategy is needed. Assign each student to the appropriate level group, then carefully plan your weekly Guided Reading rotation schedule. Next, execute well-planned literacy stations that will engage the other students in stimulating, engaging learning activities. Add an effective and consistent behavior management plan, and you’ve got a clear roadmap to Guided Reading success!
(Quick note: My GUIDED READING THAT WORKS Professional Development workshop has a detailed video lesson where I dive deep, showing how I plan Guided Reading rotations. Be sure to check it out!)
Finally…Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound: Educate Young Readers Like the Super Teacher You Are!
A multitude of job descriptions combine to make that one all-encompassing title that describes you: Teacher. Yet these words may sum it up even more precisely: a community worker and a hero—that’s what you are.
Keep up the good work; and be encouraged by this reminder:
All the hard work is worth it. You are making a difference in your community and in our world. Thank you!
Teach your kiddos all about community helpers! Click here to get my Community Workers lesson plan for levels F/G through P/Q. This “Teach Its” lesson plan for busy teachers includes DETAILED step-by-step 3-day lesson plans, instructional guides, leveled texts, &discussion prompts. There’s also structured scaffolded word work, as well as sight word instruction, guided writing activities to support comprehension and MORE!