Two things – firstly, this has nothing do with ICT, but I felt I wanted to blog about it as I love reading (and have done since I was a child) and the recent ukedchat discussion on guided reading made me more confident in what I am doing in my classroom.
Secondly, I agree with Michael Gove.
Wait, where are you going? COME BACK.
In 2011, Gove talked about the need to make reading a pleasurable, enjoyable experience. I agree with this. Reading is a wonderful thing; an activity that feeds the mind, nourishes creativity and allows imaginations to run wild. A life skill. Of course, the fundamentals of reading need to be in place, such as decoding of words and recognising and using punctuation, but now that I’m teaching a year 5 class, there are only one or two children who need support in this regard. The rest need help in finding authors, series and genres that they can get their teeth into. This is where guided reading comes in.
The children are grouped roughly by level, though we have also trialled a girls/boys only group. Each group has a guided reading session once a week. If they are not reading within a group then they have a menu of activities – follow up from their previous session; free choice; reading blogs and leaving comments, or dictionary/magpie based work.
When in our groups, we started the year off by loosely following the same format each lesson (see below). It is essentially unplanned, though obviously if there are any real key points or issues that I’d like the children to discuss, I can pose the question. I also prepared a bank of questions (linked to each AF, though not levelled) to stimulate discussion within each session, though the expectation was that the children would lead their groups. To begin with, it was very much adult-led; now though, the children do all the work, leaving the adult free to listen, make notes and interject if necessary.
Why has this change happened? I believe that the children are enjoying reading – this has been backed up by comments from parents at open evenings last week. And why are they enjoying reading? Again, this is just my belief based on my experience, but we now have a great bank of quality texts available for the children – some of the titles we have used are below.
I no longer use reading targets in my classroom. I don’t want the children to be bogged down with worrying how many steps they have to take before they are a level 4c. I don’t want the children to be on edge when discussing their books. Nor do I want them to be overly-worried about whether they are or are not deducing and inferring – instead, they can show me. If not, we talk about it.
When they leave my class, I want my children to have read widely and to be confident in asking questions and giving their opinions. I want them to know of different author that they like. I want them to enjoy reading.
This freer, ‘flipped’ guided reading session benefits the children, but also the teacher. I am free from planning 6 extensive guided reading sessions each week, and am instead able to make assessments on how the children are progressing based on their comments, questions and contributions. I can also try different things out – such as ‘silent debating‘, which I saw on Twitter through Miss Lud. Below is an example – a group reading the Hobbit were discussing who was to blame for the death of Smaug.
Of course, as Michael Rosen points out, whether Gove truly believes in what he says is undermined somewhat by his insistence on the SPAG testing. Gove’s own statement about enjoyment is also scuppered by his insistence on rigorous testing – show me a primary-aged child who say they enjoy being tested on anything, and I’ll show you a liar. Or maybe a creep. However, the point, taken on its own merit, is that reading is a skill, but is one that can be developed through enjoyment.
I do believe that if you give the children the right books, allow them time to discuss, ask and wonder, then you will see their enthusiasm grow. Make it enjoyable.