Thischapter provides the research behind the use of guided reading centers and itsbenefits in the classroom. When I began researching for scholarly material tosupport my Master’s Research Project, I began by looking online at JSTOR and ERIC.I searched many topics that all tied into guided reading such as effectivereading instruction, small group instruction, and ability grouping. From JSTORand ERIC I found many scholarly articles to support the ideas behind myresearch. When reviewing the articles, I found it necessary to look at thereferences in search for more research that would support my topic.
Throughthis process, I was able to locate other sources such as books. The materialwill be split up into sections that focus on the positive concepts of usingguided reading centers in the classroom.Introduction of GuidedReading CentersAccording to the National ResearchCouncil (2002), one in five children is estimated to have difficulty learningto read in school; other researchers estimate that as many as 45% of ourchildren are having difficulty learning to read (National Institute of ChildHealth and Human Development, 1999).
It is evident that struggling readersexist in every classroom. What can educators do to help children who areexperiencing difficulty in reading?One particular research-based strategy,guided reading, is an important “best practice” associated with today’sbalanced literacy instruction (Iaquinta, 2006). This best practice can beextremely beneficial in advancing students who are reading below the level theyshould be reading. Below is one definition of the term guided reading and whatit has to offer to students struggling to read. Iaquinta (2006) contribute the followingperspective,Guided reading is a teaching approachused with all readers, struggling or independent, that has three fundamentalpurposes: to meet the varying instructional needs of all the students in theclassroom, enabling them to greatly expand their reading powers (Fountas &Pinnell, 2001); to teach students to read increasingly difficult texts withunderstanding and fluency; to construct meaning while using problem solvingstrategies to figure out unfamiliar words that deal with complex sentencestructures, and understand concepts or ideas not previously encountered. (p.414)Overall as Iaquinta (2006) shares, guidedreading provides the necessary opportunities for teachers to explicitly teachreading strategies at the students’ individual levels. Guided readingreinforces problem solving, comprehension, and decoding.
Small Group Instruction As mentioned above, guided readingrequires groups. These groups are often low in number with approximately 4-6students in each group. This is a valuable way for teachers to effectivelyassist the varying range of learners in the classroom.
The researcher states,”Small-group instruction is effective because teaching is focused precisely onwhat the students need to learn next to move forward” (Iaquinta, 2006). During small group instruction, therole of the teacher is extremely important. Teachers must know how to promptand guide students as they work to build their reading skills (Iaquinta, 2006).Another important strategy that is effective through small group instructionduring guided reading is modeling. According to Rupley, Blair, and Nichols(2009) modeling is a direct/explicit teaching strategy that effective teachersuse to help students conceptualize reading skills and strategies and how toapply them.
Students respond better when they have a model in place to guidetheir learning of new skills and strategies. Ability Grouping Part of engaging in small groupinstruction for guided reading means that the groups should be split in a wayto better direct your teaching to focus on the needs of the students. One wayto do this is to group your students by ability.
In my research I have foundthis to be a best fit for guided reading centers because the students readinglevel base my groups. Researcher Wall(2004) contributes the following perspective,The groups are formed flexibly accordingto similar reading levels and demonstrated needs, and students are neversentenced to a specific group for an indefinite, lengthy period. In a typicallesson the teacher chooses a small group of students with similar readingstrengths and needs who are reading approximately the same level text. (p. 135)Duringguided reading centers, each group is split according to their reading levelbut that does not mean students stay in the same group year round. These groupsare temporary and they are expected to change to accommodate the differentlearning paths of each student as new levels are reached. Guided reading is the idea thatstudents learn best when they are provided strong instructional support toextend themselves by reading texts that are on the edge of their learning – nottoo easy but not too hard (Vygotsky, 1978). When students are grouped byability that means they are near the same reading level and can accomplishsimilar tasks.
The teacher’s goal is to strive to provide the most effectiveinstruction possible and to match the difficulty of the materials with thestudent’s current abilities (Iaquinta, 2006). Students need material that willpush their abilities rather than limit or plateau what they can do. This is atime where students need to feel confident and successful so it is importantfor teachers to provide positive feedback that will accelerate studentlearning. Focused, IndividualizedTime Onceyou have your small group decided based on ability, the teacher has theopportunity to provide powerful teaching through guided reading. According toFountas & Pinnell (2010) guided reading offers small-group support andexplicit teaching to help students take on more challenging texts. Think aboutit, most classroom have about 15-30 students which means it is impossible tofind a true fit for all students when it comes to reading a text.
Guidedreading centers allow for groups of students who share the same levels with oneanother to be engaged in more focused, individualized time with the teacher.The teacher is able to support the differing needs of each student by creatinga context that supports learning. Within these guided reading groups, even moredifferentiated instruction can occur because of the intentional teaching ofskilled teachers. (Lipp & Helfrich, 2016) Differentiated instruction is needed toreach all of our students as we often teach a diverse group of students. Accordingto Fountas & Pinnell (2012) guided reading small group instruction allowsfor a closer tailoring to individual strengths and needs.
This is the beauty ofusing guided reading centers. The teacher can focus on a small group ofchildren at one time while the rest of the class is working independently. Extra-individualizedsupport can be provided to the small group of children the teacher is workingwith at that time. Teachers have the opportunity to listen closely as eachchild reads.
This provides teachers with a chance to gain knowledge about theirstudents through observing specific skills and reading behaviors (Lipp , 2016). Variety of Centers Through the use of guided readingcenters, teachers can establish a routine to have a variety of centers in placeduring that block of reading time. In my own classroom we start off with wholegroup phonics, then do two small group centers. One is engaging with theteacher and the other is independent work. I want to focus more specifically onthe independent center for this section since the prior research has mostly beenon the teacher table center.
Independent centers require students toengage in work on their own without the teachers assistance. ResearchersFountas & Pinnell (2001) contribute the following perspective, The first agenda for the teacher is tobuild a community of readers and writers in the classroom so the students areengaged and independent in meaningful and productive language and literacyopportunities while the teacher meets with small groups. (p. 37)Beforebeginning guided reading centers where students will be working independently,modeling should occur so students know exactly what is expected through theroutines you put in place. These independent centers can include a variety oflessons that fit your students needs best. In my classroom we do a lot ofwriting in journals, roll and write activities, and story writing. We also do alot of computer-based activities.
In the third grade students take their statetests using a computer because of this I think it is important for students toget as much experience as possible on the computer so they are comfortable andfamiliar with how to use one. There are many ideas available forteachers to use as resources for independent centers. Teachers can createcenters that relate to content instruction or simply have children read andwrite independently (Richardson, 2009) Reading and writing tie closely togetherand support one another in children’s development.
Children need ampleopportunities to write expressively and to explore the meaningfulness ofwriting independently. These are the variety of centers I chooseto use in my classroom when doing guided reading centers. The time allotmentfor guided reading centers is a short part of the day but by engaging incenters so much more can be accomplished in that short amount of time. Eachexperience at the variety of centers supports students as they work towards effectivelyadvancing their reading skills and abilities.