This past week, was both eye-opening and frustrating. On Wednesday, we had a teacher from another school district come to our campus to show us how to conduct guided reading groups. This teacher has trained personally with Jan Richardson, who wrote the book The Next Step in Guided Reading, so I would consider her an expert on the subject.

My frustration came when I tried to video the session. I really wanted to have the session on video in order to place on this site, but also so that I could go back and view as I needed to. Unfortunately, she talked extremely quietly so the video is unusable. I was also a bit frustrated because I don't feel that I was able to get everything out of the training that the other teachers did. The training was held in my classroom and used my students. Therefore, I was trying to manage the children in addition to trying to watch and learn. Not only did I have to make sure the children were entertained, but I also had to leave at one point to take the children to the bus. 

Despite all of this, I felt that the training was beneficial. There were a few things that the trainer did with one of the groups of students that I had been wanting to see. I have always taught in the upper grades where the children could already read, so I was interested to see some of the methods used for children who are still learning to read. For example, we were shown how to use "sound boxes" and the analogy chart. When you use sound boxes, you simply give the children a word and they write each letter in a box. Simple enough.
I really liked the analogy chart though,  and think that it will be great for many of my children, not just my struggling readers. The analogy chart is just a t-chart graphic organizer. At the top of each column you write a word with a certain sound or spelling pattern. Then you give the students a word. They must choose which column the word belongs in based on which sound or spelling pattern the word is most like. For example, you may have the words "oil" and "snow" at the top of your two columns. Then the teacher may give the students the word "moist." "Moist" would go in the "oil" column because it follows the "oi" spelling pattern.

Even though I wasn't able to video the training, I was really pleased with what I got out of the training. I think that I learned a few new good strategies that I can employ with my students
Last week was spring break, and, as you can see, I spent a lot of time adding new things to this site. Unfortunately, there is still a lot to go...and I keep thinking of other things I need to add!

I'm also excited about our guided reading training on Wednesday. This will be the make up training for the one we missed almost a month ago due to snow. I'm excited to learn new strategies to use in my guided reading groups. I really want to understand the guided reading process, and hope to refine my skills with the new knowledge I gain in the training on Wednesday. I'm also excited to see an "expert" at work!

I also hope that I'll be able to video the training on Wednesday. I hope that I'll receive permission to place the video on this site so that all of you can also benefit from training.
In my last post, I mentioned my plan to spend some time concentrating on vocabulary prior to reading the book during my small group times. Here’s what I learned.

First, I normally do 10 vocabulary words per book. This is primarily because most of the books have 10 vocabulary words already in place for teachers to work on. I only have about 15-20 minutes per group, and it took most of the students at least half of that time to get the words copied onto their cards. Then we spent time discussing each word and writing the definitions on the back of the index cards for each word. I believe that only one of the groups actually finished in the time allotted.  For some groups, we meet every day or 4 days per week. For the rest of my groups, we only meet twice per week. If we continued writing vocabulary words on the second day, then all of my group time for a full week for some groups was spent just writing the definitions for vocabulary words. I’m not quite sure that this is the best use of my group time.

I do feel that vocabulary development is especially important for my students. About 75% of the students on my campus fall in the low SES range, so they come to school lacking the home experiences that help to develop good vocabularies. However, I’m not so sure that I need to spend all of my group time for an entire week working on writing the definitions. One solution is to cut the number of vocabulary words that we do each week by half. Another solution is to continue to simply discuss the vocabulary words prior to reading the book as I was doing before. I’m not really sure what the best option is at this point, but know that I need to include it somehow.

I also continue to struggle with the idea of guided writing and how much time should be spent on this activity. During one week earlier in the semester, I spent a considerable amount of time writing summaries with the students. I recently had to have the students complete a writing sample, and was very impressed the samples that I received. They were considerably better than the samples that I had received during the first semester, so I am quite positive that had we not written these summaries together the quality would not have been as good on these samples.

It seems as if the main issue I am having with the guided reading process at this point is the issue of time. I really wish I had 30-45 minutes to spend with each group on a daily basis, but this is not the reality. In the meantime, I will keep working with groups and refining my strategies until I find just the right formula for my students and me.

    Meet Marti

    Marti is 3rd grade ELA, Reading, and Social Studies teacher at Willow Bend Elementary. She has been in education for the past 15 years. In addition to teaching 3rd grade, Marti has also taught 4th grade and has been the instructional technology specialist at her campus. This is her first year to use the guided reading method in her classroom.


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