Learn to Let Students Apply Reading Strategies During Guided Reading

Guided reading is a small group opportunity to support readers as they apply known reading strategies. David Hornsby, in A Closer Look at Guided Reading (2000), describes guided reading as a time when “the teacher helps the children use strategies they already know so that they are able to read an unfamiliar text independently, with success.” Those reading strategies have been modeled and demonstrated during whole class read-aloud and shared reading. During guided reading, the intentional use of wait time by the teacher encourages the use of reading strategies. When children are developing as readers, the use of reading strategies is slower and less automatic, meaning students require more time for processing.  Teachers who wait when students make an error, rather than immediately giving a correct word or automatically prompting a strategy to try, provide students the opportunity to self-monitor and self-correct.  This is when learning to be a strategic reader occurs. Since the goal in guided reading is for students to become strategic readers, another effective teacher practice is noticing and naming the student’s use of reading strategies (Johnston, 2004).  Even if the reading strategy didn’t lead to the “correct” word or meaning necessarily, we notice what students are attempting as they read, what they attempt as they initiate and predict text, or what they attempt when meaning breaks down. By noticing and naming the reading strategies they are using, or attempting, rather than focusing on what they aren’t doing, readers view themselves as self-initiators and problem-solvers, rather than becoming dependent on the teacher or other students to suggest a strategy. This is a layer of what Johnston refers to as “agency.” And, as teachers have other students in the small group offer ideas on how they problem-solved, students learn varied reading strategies from each other. Using these two simple, yet powerful practices in guided reading provides the perfect opportunity for furthering student’s development as strategic readers.