A Model of Effective Teaching and Learning

We think that the best approach to specific skill learning in reading (as with most learning) goes like this. The learner needs an Explanation to get them going. Modelling is very motivating because the learner sees what it is they need to do and they get excited about the possibility of doing it!  Guided Practice gets them 'on the bike', actually experiencing what the required learning feels like. And then comes the stage where the learner needs to be allowed to go away and play around with the skill without having someone looking over their shoulder all the time. We call this Independent Practice - a necessary precursor to Fluency and one that is so often overlooked in today's hectic classroom. 

Where Do Our Junior School Guided Reading Lessons Fit into That?

Most teachers would say that they do their 'teaching' of reading in their guided reading session.

Our approach is slightly different and our 15 years of experience with this tells us that this is where we get fantastic gains in confidence, excitement and motivation from our readers.

We say that the Explicit Teaching (Explain, Model, Guided Practice) should occur in the your phonics lessons and your Shared Book lessons, and what everyone refers to as 'Guided Reading' lessons (small ability group lessons) should actually be the learners' Independent Practice. This is their opportunity to wrestle with the art of decoding without being micro managed. Our job is to carefully monitor if there is any transfer of the skills we have been teaching into this authentic reading context (today's book) and then make plans to address the needs that become evident.

Our '5 Bits' guided reading routine is not a free for all of random reading practice while the teacher looks on ... far from it. As you can see from the picture above it looks like any guided reading lesson you would expect to see. There is nothing gimmicky about the delivery. In fact when you see it in action you might think there is nothing that you aren't already doing. The difference comes from the way it is done. It provides you with a very tight structure to get you through that daily text in the 10 minutes you have with each group. There is a very careful balance between decoding practise and the reader being drawn into the fun, excitement and wonder of the story (such an important ingredient) while reducing teacher talk and allowing them to do the work.

Students love the routine. They know exactly what is going to happen. They know that on every page there are going to be the same five bits where they can experience SUCCESS.  They feel secure, confident and in charge of their reading. AND they make progress!

What about Guided Reading for the Upper School

In Stages 3-6 we suggested two different routines for the guided reading lesson.

Here the teacher introduces a new strategy, for example, unpacking sentences (Stage 3).
The teacher explains the strategy, models it, and then provides for lots of guided practice as the students grapple with the new cognitive expectations of unpacking the literal meaning of a sentence.

Once the teacher feels that the students have a working understanding of the strategy they introduce the second of our routines - The 5 Steps.

This provides the opportunity for Independent Practice of the new skill without scrutiny, judgment and correction. The teacher can collect data on the progress students are making and continue with Independent Practice routine in the next lesson or revert back to an explicit teaching lesson.

We think the ratio of Explicit Teaching to Independent practice should be 20% to 80%. It is important the the two routines are not blended in the one lesson.


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