Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs Part III

Continuing with our primer about Colchester School District’s various literacy programs, let’s chat a bit about guided reading, particularly as it is done at Union Memorial School and Porters Point School. (Part I of this primer can be found here, and Part II of this primer can be found here. Our July post about emergent literacy and our August article about the Title I program are also relevant to this primer.)

Guided reading, at its essence, involves encouraging students to independently read books—that they have selected themselves—using various strategies for reading and comprehension. Our schools’ approach to teaching reading in the first and second grade classrooms is based upon the Readers’ Workshop model. Some key points about Readers’ Workshop are as follows:

* It provides a lot of time for students to actively read, allowing them to progress at their own pace while allowing teachers to work with individual students as well as with small groups;
* After receiving instruction in how to choose “good fit” books, students may self-select them, and they may also often choose where they sit to read and to whom they read, which helps to empower and motivate them, thus promoting their success;
* It integrates a number of important reading practices that are helpful to the students (reading aloud, shared reading, and so on); and
* Teachers may offer students the option of exploring literacy through a variety of ways, such as through websites and online games, art, storytelling, music, and so on.

The basic structure of Readers’ Workshop consists of a mini-lesson, independent reading, and teaching sharing/closing.

The focus of the mini-lesson, which is geared for the entire class, is upon something that will benefit all students regardless of their reading level. Since “one-size-fits-all” instruction on its own is not effective, instruction is tailored to meet specific student needs.

Following the mini-lesson, students read independently while the teacher meets with individual students or with small guided reading groups for conferences in order to help students apply the content of the mini-lessons to their own reading. Please note that, as part of the Readers’ Workshop format, the students are not necessarily grouped according to ability; the groups are designed to meet specific student needs—such as fluency and comprehension—and thus they are quite flexible. This approach to teaching reading can look significantly different from reading groups in schools many years ago.

Many classrooms incorporate a component into the model in which students read aloud to one another, and this, too, is flexible; students sometimes read to those who are interested in the same subject areas and at other times read to someone at the same reading level. This component, too, allows opportunity for the classroom teacher to conference with the students.

The workshop culminates with the sharing component (often called the Sharing Circle), which is an essential part of Readers’ Workshop that allows students to share what they discovered as the result of the day’s reading lesson. During this time, students discuss their reading process with one another and share their reading challenges and successes. This not only helps to further solidify what the students have learned but also allows them to demonstrate their understanding of their reading to their peers.

Readers’ Workshop has been in place here for a number of years. In 2010, some of our teachers participated in a workshop led by literacy consultant Leah Mermelstein in order to further their understanding of how to best implement the program into their classrooms.

This article just scratches the surface of guiding reading; it is a vast subject that also encompasses professional resources available to teachers, instructional strategies, and so much more. If you would like more information about guiding reading, please contact Union Memorial School at (802) 264-5959 or Porters Point School at (802) 264-5920.

Please stay tuned for future discussions about literacy at CSD!

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