This year guided reading is going to be a bit more challenging than it has in the pass. The tricky part about guided reading in first grade is that we cover so many levels. First graders come in around a level four and leave at a level 18. They of course fall somewhere above or below from there. This year, I have kids as low as a level 1 (think mid kinder) all the way up to a 20+. The challenge is that even the basic format of each of these levels looks so different. Sometimes it is hard to keep it all straight. I wanted to share what my early readers, levels 1-4, are going to be doing during this guided reading time. These sweet readers are going to need repeated exposure to phonics, but I also firmly believe that comprehension and reading strategies must go hand in hand. The twenty minutes that I get with these readers must be purposeful and so precisely used if I am going to help them make the growth that they need.
Sight Word Review-1 minute
To begin an early reading group lesson, I start with a sight word review. I pick 3 sight words that appear in the text, and we quickly write them, orally spell them, body spell them, and find them in the text. One of the most important things to know about sight words is that they do not follow typical patterns for spelling, so kids need constant exposure to them. I had heard once that the average child needs 40 exposures to sight words to recall them. Think about how hard it is for our struggling readers who need more than the average number of exposures.
Book Intro- Less than 5 minutes
Next, I introduce the book that we are reading to the students. I will have the students do a quick book walk with me, and I will introduce any words that I think might be tricky for the students. At this level, words that I might choose are words that are not cvc, known sight words, or have multiple syllables. I also use this time to build vocabulary with new words and introduce synonyms for any words that might be in our reading.
Teaching Point-2 minutes
Before students have had a chance to read the book, we have a little lesson. This sets the tone for what I want them to practice today as a reader. During our lesson, I model for the students what I want them to do as readers. For my early readers, I try to focus on self monitoring, using word strategies and phonics skills to solve unknown words, and practicing for fluency. For my early readers, I would say that 3 out of 5 lessons a week are phonics based lessons. How can we use what we know about letters to help us as readers? This teaching point is quick, lasting only a few minutes. It is merely modeling and planting the seeds of what good readers and thinkers do.
Reading the Text, 1:1 Conferences- 8-10 minutes
Next, I ask the students to read and reread the text while I listen and conference with them. During this time, I can help guide students based on individual needs. For my early readers, I am making notes about if they have left to right reading, one to one print matching, and sweep and return skills. I also begin to introduce self monitoring at this time, because it is such an important skill. I believe that the sooner kids can read something, process, and say "hey that doesn't make sense", they stronger a reader they will be. We also pair self monitoring with cross checking, does that look right, sound right, and make sense? During this time, I try to squeeze in 2 conferences. What I love about a reading conference though is that often times other first graders will listen in and they benefit from the lesson being taught.
Comprehension Lesson- 1 minute
After students have read and reread a book, we then move into a quick comprehension lesson. These lesson are quick, about 1 minute, and focus on retelling what we read, something that we noticed about the character, something that we learned from the book, or the main idea of the story. I firmly believe that even our early readers need to know that part of reading is understanding.
Word Work-3-5 Minutes
Finally, we end our lesson with a word work activity. During this time, we work on both sight words and a spelling pattern that we are learning about (like cvc words). We will practice spelling words, using sound boxes, identifying the missing letters, sort word patterns, and practicing, "If you can spell hat, then you can spell mat...cat...sat..." This work is so important to providing students with the repeated exposure to phonics that they need to both read and write. I try to change what we are doing every day so that students do not get bored.
Day 2 with a Text
Day 2 with a text looks similar to day 1 except that a few things have been removed to open up time for writing about a story. A day 2 lesson begins with a sight word review, followed by a teaching point and 1:1 conferences. After doing 1:1 conferences, we then do writing about the book.
Guided Writing-10 Minutes
On a second day of reading a book, I will have the students do guided writing in their reading journal. For guided writing, students might write some sentence about the book that I am dictating to them, or they might write their opinion about a text. When I am creating the sentence for the students to write, I try to integrate both the sight words and the phonics skill that we practiced the day before. This provides students with an authentic opportunity to practice what they are learning. Guided writing does take up a huge chunk of time, but is well worth the investment.
This is a basic break down of my early readers guided reading lesson. It is a jam packed 25 minutes, but in first grade, if students are still early readers, then they need this time and focused attention to move out of being an early reader.