Does that make sense to you? That’s a tried and true prompt I ask my students as they work to decode so they can find meaning in text. I guess the real question that is on the lips of every teacher is how can we support struggling readers when there is a myriad of reasons as to why they struggle? Or, at least at our last professional development day this was a hot topic for exploration.
It seems to us like there are two leading reading profiles that are particularly challenging to us:
- There are students who comprehend beautifully but can’t read aloud. We know that we have to approximate pronunciation from time to time. We do believe that meaning should be the primary focus for learning how to read… but don’t we have to teach students to read fluently so they have confidence to say the words correctly? Absolutely!
- There are students who read beautifully they sound amazing. When they finish they can give a basic retelling, but that’s it. These readers miss major points concerning multiple characters, and nuanced meanings, and often times cannot fluently connect pages in a text to summarize and predict and then go back and confirm and/or revise.
Building a repertoire of instructional moves allows us to follow the students to the teacher’s goals. We build the context through student needs and adjust our instructional style to make it relevant to the goals.
Guided reading is the continuous observation of developing readers and within the small group children are part of a community sharing and connecting ideas- it is an ongoing conversation. These are groups that they return to again and again to develop and grow as readers who question, discuss, connect, reread for new understanding and explore shared text.
Strategy lessons are a place for troubleshooting; a time to focus on a specific strategy within their independent text and that makes a difference. There is an expectation at an independent level that children can do the work that a reader needs to do.
- One way to use this is to take a challenging teaching point like summarizing and use the independent book as the vehicle for your instruction. The benefit to this is that children don’t have to negotiate meaning they can concentrate on the skill. We provide a strategy to troubleshoot the skill.
- Another way is to assess their independent level and push their thinking within the level so that we can gather formative data on how the reader is progressing with minimal scaffolds.
Thinking about all of this as a kind of toolbox for instructional approaches – doesn’t it make sense to provide instruction through different approaches. It seems more intuitive to offer instruction through:
Guided Reading – When we are trying to assess and know the reader, to build and grow ideas, and to be social around a text. Our focus is always on comprehension through teaching points and strategic actions. It offers teachers a chance to understand what the reader needs so they can progress to the next level of understanding.
Strategy Lesson – When we already have a sense of the reader and we want to push them to greater autonomy. We do this through strategic fix ups and monitoring for level of skills. It offers teachers a chance work in a highly focused way for less time and allows the reader opportunities to practice with more independence
Does that make sense to you? Intentional teaching is driven by meaning. Teaching is a delicate balance of intention and instructional choices. On that note, we thought you would enjoy this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhoos1oY404