There has been quite a lot of talk about Whole Class Guided Reading recently. Before I give my views on why I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing only Whole Class Guided Reading, I want to first point out that this is only one of many opinions on the matter, however it is one I share with a few other Literacy Consultants I have spoken to.
Secondly, I want to recommend a blogger who feels strongly about Whole Class Guided Reading as a successful approach. I know you are probably wondering why I would recommend a blogger if I don’t believe Whole Class Guided Reading is the sole way in which Guided Reading should be taught but I do think Mrs P has some very good ideas which I believe you will all find useful.
I will briefly give my take on what Whole Class Guided Reading is. It is just that. A reading lesson is taught with a learning objective to the whole class at the same time. Their work may be differentiated and activities varied but the text would usually be the same for the whole class.
My views on this are mixed in that I can see the purpose of it, however, to ensure children really engage with a text and answer questions to develop their comprehension, inference, analytical and evaluative skills at a level right for the child, there needs to be focused, small group Guided Reading sessions too.
One way in which to organise this would be to do 1-2 sessions of Whole Class Guided Reading (which could be the text you are using in Literacy lessons) but I would want to balance this with 1 session a week where all children have a focused, small group Guided Read. I can see you now, thinking about how many hours of the curriculum that would take up, but, before you continue with the dangerous thought process that will take you to that deep, dark place of reoccurring weekly timetable nightmares, I would like to suggest a way to organise Guided Reading which I have seen work in a school very effectively. It ensures all children within one class get a quality, adult led, small group Guided Reading session once a week at the same time!
By rethinking the ways in which TAs are used within schools is the most crucial part to this structure. Once it is established it will be extremely successful but you will need everyone to understand the purpose of why you are doing it from the beginning (to help encourage children to enjoy reading and develop their skills).
Often TAs asigned to a particular Year and often class teachers will have something they really need their TA to do so you need to be clear in your message when you set this up. Often ideas that involve change, especially change that is different to what they have previously known, can cause a lot of debate and airing of feelings within a close knit school. For your school it may be that this is just not worth the upheaval, challenges and organisation that it requires for your staff and that’s fine BUT before you allow your school to make that decision, if it is the right way for the children in your school to progress, to engage in reading and develop their skills for life then it may be something that is at least worth considering.
So, I have briefly broken down how the use of TAs for Guided Reading could work.
Step 1: Training TAs on Guided Reading and the types of questioning needed.
Step 2: Timetabling 30-45 mins per class to have 4 TA’s and yourself in the classroom at the same time. (One session a week for each year group).
Step 3: Sort consistent assessment trackers
Step 4: Organise children into 5 groups. One led by you, each of the others by a TA
Step 5: regularly review groupings. (And review staff training often).
Step 6: rotate adults 1/2 termly with groups.
I have first hand experience of hearing how the use of TAs in this way was outstanding from Ofsted in 2015 and, whilst I don’t agree with Ofsted on everything, I agree here. If it is well managed and well commited to in terms of CPD, then this way of teaching Guided Reading can massively impact the children’s attitude towards reading and their progress can excel.
Most schools have moved on from the time where your TA is in the classroom at 1pm to help you finish the beautiful, eye-catching display so you don’t have to stay until 5pm. This means some TAs will have a heavy timetable of support groups, but, in the long run, organising Guided Reading this way will help reduce the intervention support needed within reading comprehension. Setting it up will take some sort of organisational rejig but you can usually find one person who loves timetables within a school and is known as a timetable ‘king’ or ‘Queen’ who enjoys these sorts of changes and tackles them as if they had just been asked to complete a 3 piece jigsaw puzzle is found in Early Years. (If you want an example timetable please leave a comment and I will email this to you.)
If your school do still utilise TAs for tasks such as displays, laminating and tidying whilst children are in the classroom please remember that yes these are important tasks but it should not be at the expense of missed opportunities for learning, and more importantly for developing a life long passion for reading.
I will continue blogging about ways to teach Guided Reading in the next few posts. These will look at ideas within lessons such as using video and wordless picture books, but I am delivering training on writing tomorrow so I need to stop blogging and I need to get organised.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Jo Gray and published with kind permission.