I was filling in for a 3rd grade teacher, who needed to attend an assessment meeting on behalf of one of her students. When I walked in, she had me start the third of four rotations. She uses the Daily 5 framework in her classroom, so students not meeting with me were engaged in tasks such as reading to self or working on writing.
Our goals for guided reading: Expression; fluency; decoding; self-correcting. A tall order!
The group coming to me was reading a Time Warp Trio title. The students seemed motivated to dig back into this authentic text.
Not having taught guided reading in some time (I have been a principal for seven years now), I relied on what I know now – the Ongoing Cycle of Responsive Teaching:
I started the group by modeling what strong expression and accurate reading looks and sounds like. After I read a page aloud, I asked the students to tell me what I did well.
Student A: “Your voice went up and down.”
Me: “What do you mean?
Student B: “When there was a question mark at the end of a sentence, your voice went up at the end.”
I could have very well told the students that this is what readers do, to change the pitch of their voice based on the type of sentence. But I decided to let them arrive at this conclusion. In this manner, they own the learning and have a better chance to apply it to their own reading.
Instead of having the students each read aloud a page from our common text, I asked the group to read the next two pages silently and identify a part where expression was needed to best understand what the author was trying to convey. They read without a peep for the next couple of minutes.
When we were ready to share, I didn’t have them simply point to the line that evoked strong expression. Each student was encouraged to read aloud the text that demanded a specific tone and pitch. If we felt that the student read the part with accurate expression, we gave him or her a thumbs up. If there were corrections to be made, I briefly pointed out how they could improve, but only after I noticed what they did well.
All of this occurred while the other students were working independently. We got through two groups in my brief time there. While I asked one group to read the rest of the chapter independently, I met with another group that still needed some scaffolding. While the scaffolded group was working independently, I snuck a few minutes back to meet with the first group and check their understanding of the remainder of their reading.
Teaching is a very complex task. I have no doubt that it is one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs out there. Yet I feel that we can sometimes make our positions more difficult than necessary. By setting up a structured system, such as the Daily 5, during our literacy instruction, we give ourselves the opportunities for specific and tailored teaching for those students that need our support the most.