An important time to support struggling readers is during guided reading. However, just because you are doing guided reading does not necessarily mean that you are supporting your struggling readers. Here are six common guided reading mistakes you might be making.
- You are using books that are too difficult. If the books that are being used during guided reading time are too difficult for students to read, guided reading isn’t really happening. Why not? If the book is too difficult, the teacher is doing most of the reading, and the teacher is the one who is practicing reading, not the student.
- You are using books that are too easy. Students must be matched with books that are on their instructional level. Books that are too easy provide few opportunities for students to learn something about reading. Intervention should focus on skills students are lacking.
- You work harder than the students. During guided reading, who is working harder? You or the student? Did the student have to stop multiple times to decode words? Did you have to tell the student different strategies to try, or did the student have the strategies memorized? Did you have to tell the student many words in the text? At the end of the session, do you feel totally drained? During guided reading, the students are reading and practicing skills you have demonstrated. They can only do that if the text is “just right.”
- You aren’t looking and listening. During guided reading, look and listen to find out how the students are reacting to the session. Do they seem bored? Are they frustrated? Are they constantly looking to you for help? Can they read with some fluency, or are they reading word to word because there are too many words that they do not know? Students should not be frustrated at this time. This is the one time in the day when they should be reading books that they can read quite well, but with just a bit of challenge.
- The session lasts too long. If students are having a difficult time reading the book, and the session is half an hour, that is half an hour when students have plenty of opportunities to convince themselves that they will never become proficient readers. The guided reading session should be long enough so that students can practice reading and get immediate support from you regarding what they need to fix and what they are doing well. Sessions should be around 15-20 minutes. Ten minute sessions can even be quite successful.
- You aren’t taking notes while students read. The notes are a reminder of what students are doing well and where they are still struggling. If you do not take notes, you will most likely forget what you saw and heard. Notes can be simple observations or could be as formal as a running record. Use the notes to plan future lessons. In this way, you know that you are tailoring guided reading sessions based on what students need and not skills that you have to cover.
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