Guided Reading

I feel like I'm always talking about the importance and fun associated with reading books to your child. But what do you do when your child wants to read to you? Or when your child brings home a book from school to read for homework? For many emergent and beginning readers you can follow a simple plan that includes basic before, during and after reading activities. In the classroom, I use this method to teach my guided reading groups.

In guided reading, teachers provide support to small groups of readers to teach reading strategies such as sounding out words (decoding) and comprehension. Students are placed in books at their instructional reading level, the level where they are making some errors but not so many errors that they can't understand or enjoy the story. Here's how you can apply a guided reading lesson at home.

Before Reading

The first thing you have to do is find an appropriate book. I could write an entire post on choosing a proper text (coming soon).  My son is an emergent reader, who is working on developing his concept of word. He has learned 10-15 sight words, which he can read in isolation (written on cards) as well as in text. So, I chose a very repetitive text with three word sentences. Two of the words in the sentence were sight words he knew and the third word was easy to figure out based on the picture. Repetitive texts with picture support are great for very early readers who think they "can't read" because it helps build their confidence as readers. They are learning to make connections between sight words they know and starting using beginning letters and pictures to figure out words they otherwise wouldn't recognize.

When I told my son that I was going to get him to read me a book, the first words out of his mouth were, "But unfortunately Mommy, I can't read." (Yes, somehow, unfortunately has become a staple in his everyday vocabulary). I replied with, "Of course you can." I started by showing him the front cover of the book.

Always introduce the book. I started by pointing to the title of the book and saying, "The book we are going to read today is called Lunch." Then ask a question to build your child's interest in the book and to build background knowledge. I said, "What are some things that you like to eat for lunch?" My son replied with, "beggie sticks." I'm really not making this up. In his classroom they have been learning about healthy snacks and every day he wants me to give him veggie sticks, which is pretty awesome, I think. Then he started saying things that were pictured on the front cover like bananas, apples and sandwiches.

Next, take a picture walk of the story. A picture walk is simply turning through the pages and looking at and talking about the pictures in the story.

I sometimes cover up the words so they are not a distraction for those kids who want to just jump right into reading. On each page, I asked, "What is she getting for lunch now?" My son would say whatever picture was on the page. In this case the girl was getting an apple. On this particular page he decided to cover up the words because I told him we were only going to look at the pictures.

During Reading

After introducing the story, building background knowledge and taking a picture walk, you are now ready to have your child actually read the story. Have your child use his/her finger to touch each word as you read the words on each page to practice concept of word (matching spoken words to text). You can read the story with your child (choral reading) or help your child as needed depending on your child's reading level. We read the story two times. The first time we read together and the second time my son read the story to me. For this lesson we really focused on using the pictures to help figure out the last word on the page. My son easily caught onto this and was quickly reading the story on his own.

Once my son knew the pattern to the story, he wanted to read really fast and skim his finger under the text. I did have to slow him down a few times so that he was touching each word as he said it and not just memorizing the pattern and looking at the picture for the last word.

After Reading

It's important to follow up the reading with some sort of activity that ties to the story to end the lesson. You can do a variety of things from retelling to finding words in the story to drawing a picture of something relating to the book. After we read the story, I closed the book and asked my son to tell me what the girl got for lunch in the story. He remembered everything except the pizza. Encourage your child to not look back in the book, this will get them thinking about paying attention to the story while they are reading. Later, I thought, I should have asked him to draw a picture of what the girl had on her tray or what his favorite lunch would be. Perhaps another time.