“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – H. E. Luccock
As teachers of reading, we are like the directors of a symphony. The movements are unique and flow at varying tempos. All are beautiful and build with proper direction. Our students are depending on us to deliver that proper direction – the kind that meets their unique developmental needs and helps them grow. Guided reading instruction provides us with the opportunity to do just that – meet the individual needs of our developing readers and create a flowing symphony. The problem often is that we have to keep the symphony going throughout the room – not just in the group with which we are working. So while we are leading our carefully crafted skill group, what are the other students doing?
To keep all of the kids engaged, we need to provide activities that are flexible, open-ended, and provide a little choice. Here are a few Must Do and May Do activities to keep the other learners focused and learning while they wait for their skill group time with us:
- Pick – Stick – Read – Pick a comfy spot and read the books in your book basket. You can read the pictures, read the words, or retell the story.
- Buddy Read – Read with a friend.
- Punctuation Hunt – Take a book and look for specific punctuation. How many exclamation points can you find?
- Create a Comic Strip – Create a character and make a comic strip story with a beginning, middle, and end.
- Research – Pick a topic – find and list facts about it.
- Write the Room – Put on a pair of sunglasses and focus on finding words around the room. Write as many as you can and practice reading them.
- Rhyme Time – Look for rhymes in poems, work with word families, or write poetry.
- Word Work – For example: Make as many words as possible with these letters: i e h t r ( I, it, he, hi, hit, the, their, etc…).
- Make Words – Write sight words or spelling words in fun ways. Rainbow words (Write the word and outline it in a variety of colors.), Build a word (R – RE – REA – READ – READE – READER), write the words in shaving cream, on a sand tray, with playdough, or watercolors.
- Newspaper Hunt – Find sight words in the newspaper and circle them.
- Listen to Reading – Use books on CD’s or check out some sites like Tumblebooks, Starfall, or Storyline Online.
- Word Sorts – Sort words by beginning or ending sounds, vowel sounds, or word families.
- Journal Writing – Write about a topic of your choice and illustrate to extend the written expression.
- Penmanship Practice – Practice handwriting skills.
- Book Making – Have materials available for students to create their own books.
- Puppet Retelling – Have ready-made puppets available or put out card stock, popsicle sticks, scissors, tape and other items to create puppets.
- Card Making – Provide paper, envelopes, markers, stickers, and other art materials to create cards.
- Create a Character – Create a protagonist or an antagonist and describe his/her character traits.
These are just a few activities that can be put into place to keep the rest of the students focused and learning while you are leading a skill group. Create one or two “Must Do” activities – the teacher’s choice. When those are completed with quality, students have a variety of activities available that they “May Do” – the student’s choice. Children are empowered and are more engaged when working on a task that they have chosen. Setting clear expectations and guidelines before guided reading begins is vital for a successful literacy time. Practice together and show what successful guided reading stations will look like and demonstrate examples of quality work and responsible behavior. Make it clear whether you may or may not be interrupted during your group instruction time. It takes purposeful planning, practice, and communication to help the orchestra come together. A little work on the front end will help the entire class work together to create a guided reading symphony.
Here is a great link to keep the literacy ideas flowing: http://blog.fountasandpinnell.com/category/Daily-Lit-Bit
Want to fine tune your Guided Reading instruction? Check out our upcoming guided reading professional development opportunity here.