This is the final post in my series on how to group your class for effective guided reading. You’ll find my original post which takes you through using The Simple View of Reading to organise your class into guided reading groups here.
In a nutshell children are organized into groups based on their strengths and weaknesses in comprehension and word recognition. This enables you to adapt your teaching style and focus your guided reading session in a more accurate way than grouping by national curriculum level, for example.
This post focuses on Group 4 – good word readers who struggle with their comprehension (bottom-right of The Simple View of Reading diagram).
First of all, we must refer to these children as “good word-readers”, not “good readers”. You’re not a good reader if your understanding is poor.
It’s important that we understand this, and that we help parents and children understand it too. I have often seen children labelled good readers and a sense of relief that they are now ‘free readers’.
Many of these children enjoy reading, but only out loud and to an adult (for praise); why would they choose to read their book, given a spare 20 minutes, if they don’t “get it”?
Remember, these children are good at word-reading; do we need to hear them read? It might be better to spend more time getting on with the discussion. And you might sometimes have a guided discussion where you read the text aloud, taking away the need for word reading entirely. Or have them pre-read, so you can get straight to the discussion.
There are MANY things that will help improve their comprehension , such as reading TO them, using wordless and almost wordless texts, using audiobooks, and bringing text to life via drama, role-play, toy-play, as well as – in some cases – doing all that we can to broaden possibly narrow life-experiences. Talk, talk, talk is crucial; we can use discussion in its many forms to bring about better understanding of texts read and heard.
Sometimes, with some texts (and some classes!), discussion to develop comprehension can work at whole class level – so long as we ensure that no-one is opting out, and it isn’t the same few contributors all the time.
Usually, it is more effective to discuss text in a small group; you can mould the session to the needs of the group more readily, children can’t opt out so easily, and won’t feel potentially embarrassed at voicing an opinion.
Or use a wordless text. I’m a genuine fan of Project X Origins for guided reading, as the texts are designed such that there is a lot to talk about in comparison to the amount of word-reading required – ideal for these sessions.
This group of children might have very supportive parents, who listen to them read regularly – hence the great word-reading skills. Obviously, we want those parents to talk to their children about their reading, and we sometimes send comprehension questions home to support this. This can work, but if it doesn’t, suggest this: after the child has read, have them close the book and explain what happened, what it was about.
My experience is that a surprising number of children – in all year groups – really struggle to do this, and if they can’t, nothing much else is going to work in comprehension, so the more they practice this memory-based recapping, the better.
Lindsay Pickton is an experienced independent Learning and Teaching Adviser, specialising in all aspects of primary literacy with a particular focus on raising standards in comprehension through effective guided reading and fostering the enjoyment of reading in children. Hear from Lindsay at a free event this term, focusing on how effective guided reading using Project X Origins can help you meet the higher standards of the new National Curriculum.