I have been blogging recently about the modified Daily 5 program that I have implemented in my classroom. Along with the Daily 5 activities that my students complete each day, we are also introducing and explicitly teaching a variety of reading strategies from the CAFE (comprehension, accuracy, fluency, extending vocabulary) model.

Last week I blogged about how I had started individual conferences during reading time. I have been conducted Guided Reading sessions for the past seven years, so beginning the conferences is a learning experience and I am continually reflecting and refining my new Literacy Block structure.

I have had a few conversations with teachers about why I am not doing Guided Reading in my Literacy block at this stage. For some, it is a bit of a shock and it seems to be a controversial topic, given that Early Years training has dominated how Literacy has been taught for many years in Victoria. For this reason, I thought I would blog about the differences between Guided Reading and strategy groups.

Guided Strategy Groups

This week, I identified students who are working on the same goal and who would benefit from working in a small strategy group. I noted this in my CAFE recording folder and we’ve set up a meeting for next week. Running conferences and strategy groups requires a lot of organisation and careful planning, but when you know your students, it is all fairly straightforward to implement.

The main reason I am now running individual conferences and strategy groups is because I believe it targets individual needs better than Guided Reading. During strategy groups, the teacher is working on a specific goal with a small group of students, and all of these students have the same goal (eg. checking for understanding, blending and chunking words, pausing at punctuation etc). Traditionally children are placed in Guided Reading groups because of their reading level, not the reading strategies they use. This means you could have a group of students who are all reading around a certain (instructional) level but present with very different reading behaviours. (I understand and appreciate that Guided Reading groups are designed to be “fluid” and of course kids may move groups at various times during the year.)

Of course there are advantages to Guided Reading too, and students will benefit from reading teacher selected books at times. I am not saying I will never do Guided Reading again, but I like to constantly think about best practise. Knowing your students as learners is the most important aspect here, and as long as you use methods that are backed up by sound research, you are doing your job as an educator.

In no way am I trying to convince people they should be doing things “my” way. I am simply presenting my thoughts and experiences so you can make up your own mind about how you can best cater for the needs of your students. While the Early Years model was intended to meet the needs of individual learners (and it certainly does in many areas), my experience and research shows that there can be other ways to achieve this personalised learning approach.

Remember if you want to know more about the Daily5 and CAFÉ model I suggest you purchase and read the books. They really are a wealth of information and include research behind the benefits of these approaches.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

What are your thoughts on Guided Reading and Strategy Groups?

How do you run your Strategy Groups?

How do you cater for individual needs during Literacy?