For sure one of the hardest parts of guided reading is the classroom management piece. After all you are giving a small group your undivided attention while the rest of the class is working at stations independently. That’s quite a bit going on in a small space with lots of people!
However, you’ve marched on confident your group can handle the independence. You’ve set up learning centers, explained them to your students, and begun pulling guided reading groups. But, it’s just not working. Kids interrupt you, stray from the tasks at hand, and generally fritter away valuable learning time.
Almost all of us have lived this scenario. I know I did for too many years before I realized what I wasn’t doing. That is I wasn’t explicitly teaching my students the procedure for work station time. If I said, “Go to your stations quietly,” I thought they would know what I meant, or if they didn’t I simply told them. Big mistake!
What’s a teacher to do? The answer is to begin anew with explicit expectations, modeling, and practice.
- Teach the work station procedures explicitly. This means students must be taught where stations are, how to handle the materials, what to do in the station, how to transition, what to do if they have a question. They need to be told what to do in every possible situation that could arise while you’re working with a small group. This can be done during mini lessons.
- Teach class the skill, strategy, or procedure; model it using a student, have the whole class practice, observe them. Repeat until every child can follow the expectation independently. This is the key to teaching explicitly. Students need to know how this time looks, feels, and sounds. They need to experience it, receive feedback, and try again until they’re on target.
- Reflect with your class on why a skill, strategy, or procedure is important. This helps them see why they’re spending time on it.
- Wait until everyone in your class can accept responsibility and knows how to use it before adding another station. Patience is a virtue.
- Create charts with your students to show what the expectations are for transitions and stations. Here are some based on the Daily 5. Even if you don’t use the Daily 5, these will give you some ideas. http://imgarcade.com/word-work-daily-5-anchor-chart.html
- Allow your students to learn the routines and become proficient in following them before starting guided reading groups. Most experts say this takes several weeks. You decide if every student must show they can work productively for the entire guided reading time before you start your groups or if you’ll begin when they can work productively for part of that time. The longer they can stay on task and learn, they better your groups will run.
To learn more and see these practices in action, look below at one of the videos from Jenna.