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.