It’s a good thing that Fridays only come once a week because they are exhausting! Friday in my CT’s class means an early lunch, swimming and, if the kids are good, Fun Friday Free Time! Fortunately for me, I have experienced a Friday before so I sort of knew what to expect when I went to school today. Rather than give the play by play of my day as I tend to like to do, today I have decided just to focus on my small group lesson: Guided Reading using the story Desert Journals.
Today was the first time that I officially was given a group to work with =D I did guided reading with the Brown reading group during Literacy. My CT switched up the groups last minute and in doing so switch up the book that I would be covering as well. Luckily for me, the book that she decided to have the Brown group read was one that she had used with the Navy Blue group earlier in the week and I observed for part of the time while they were reading. Thus, I had an idea about what sort of questions to ask the students while we were reading.
The Brown group consisted of five boys and one girl; one of the boys is notorious for not paying attention and distracting others. I had them all sit in a circle and I sat next to the boy who gets very distracted so I could keep an eye on him. Overall, I think the group did extremely well, especially since the book was at a higher reading level than they are used to. When we were “getting our knowledge ready” the students were able to correctly identify what they thought the book Desert Journals was going to be about. I was very impressed when one boy said he thought that it might be about coastal deserts; upon further inquiry I found out that he had heard the term on a TV show once. This illustrated to me that these students were able to make connections between what they were learning in school and everyday life. As per the usual progression that the students do when they do guided reading, we went on to the glossary. I wanted to have the students take turns reading the words in the glossary and the definitions but I had to alter my plans when it became very obvious that I was starting to lose them to other distractions in the room. So after reading a few of the words that I thought would be the most beneficial to go over, we started reading.
Leading the guided reading group was much different than observing it and although overall I think it went well, there are definitely things that I would change if I were to lead this group (or any group) again. Beforehand, though, I want to make a quick side observation. As I said before, earlier this week I had the opportunity to observe my CT as she led a group of students through this book during guided reading—an experience that I think was very beneficial for me on multiple levels. Not only did this give me an opportunity to see what types of questions my CT was asking the students it also gave me an opportunity to see her guided reading teaching style. I found that at the beginning of my guided reading session, I was trying to mimic what I had seen my CT do but by the end I realized that what worked for was not necessarily working as well for me. This was a good lesson for me—it can useful to use tricks and techniques that I learn from others but that does not mean that I need to put aside all of my own tricks and techniques, they can work well as well!
Keeping this in mind, I will bring my focus back to the Guided Reading. The first thing that I would change in the future would be the way that I go about reading the glossary terms. I would probably go through all of the terms ahead of time and pick out the most important ones and have the students read those and then I would read the remaining terms. I would also try to find a way to keep the students engaged while the other students are reading definitions—perhaps by writing the words and then a very short (1-2 word definition) on the board and at the end I would have the students draw lines between the words and their definitions…just a thought!
I decided to employ a technique that I learned either in a methods course or in one of my pracs in my group. I had them “popcorn” read—after one student finished reading a page, he/she would say “popcorn” and then another students name. The kids really liked this approach and I think it worked very well with these particular kids. In the future, however, I might need to use this technique with caution because I could see how this type of reading could expose a lot about the social groups in the classroom. I told the students that they had to “popcorn” someone who hadn’t already read but even this can be hurtful if the students are sensitive, especially if they are last in the group to be called on to read. So although I really like this method, it is one that needs to be used with caution.
I still need to work on the appropriate times to ask questions and to determine how much time a student should allowed to keep talking once he/she gets off topic. I try to ask a lot questions while reading to make sure the students are following along but sometimes I am afraid that this breaks the flow of the story and might actually make their comprehension weaker… In the future, I guess maybe I would go through and read the book and come up one or two questions for each page but then decide, depending on the group, when to ask them. With regards to letting students keep talking- I had a student who was talking about ice deserts but then he gradually got to talking about mountains and ice and then winter and the time he saw snow and I was not sure how to interrupt him politely to get him to stop talking so we could get back on track. I think I need to work more on my teacher voice so that when I do interrupt I sound confident and in control, and then I will politely ask him/her to finish up so we can get back on topic and thank him/her for sharing. I guess this is probably something that comes with more experience…. I hope!
Other than these few things, I was quite please with my first small group lesson. The kids were great and they were interested in what we were reading! I came up with one strategy that seemed to work really well to keep them from looking around the classroom. I told them that sometimes when I have trouble paying attention to the story, I put my finger on the words and follow along as the reader is reading out loud. As soon as I said this, all but one of the students put their finger on the page and followed along! I don’t know if it would have worked for the whole time, but it definitely did the trick for a while!
Okay, well that went on for longer than I thought! I’ll try to be less wordy in the next post but I hope that gives you a little insight on what teaching a guided reading group in Australia is like!
Until next time,