More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix, K-3

More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix, K-3

More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix, K-3

More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix, K-3


Is there too much emphasis on guided reading in primary classrooms? It's a question that many educators, like kindergarten teacher and literacy coach Cathy Mere, are starting to ask.

Guided reading provides opportunities to teach students the strategies they need to learn how to read increasingly challenging texts, but Cathy found that she needed to find other ways to help students gain independence. While maintaining guided reading as an important piece of their reading program, teachers need to offer students opportunities during the day to develop as readers, to learn to choose books, to find favorite genres and authors, and to talk about their reading. In More Than Guided Reading, Cathy shares her journey as she moved from focusing on guided reading as the center of her reading program to placing children at the heart of literacy learning- not only providing more time for students to discover their reading lives, but also shaping instruction to meet the needs of the diverse learners in her classroom.

By changing the structure of the day, Cathy found she was better able to adjust the support she was providing students, allowing time for whole-class focus lessons, conferences, and opportunities to share ideas, as well as reading from self-selected texts using the strategies, skills, and understandings acquired in reader's workshop. The focus lesson is the centerpiece of the workshop. It is often tied to a read-aloud and connected to learning from the previous day, helping to build skills, extend thinking, and develop independence over time.

This thoroughly practical text offers numerous sample lessons, questions for conferences, and ideas for revamping guided reading groups. It will help teachers tweak the mix of instructional components in their reading workshops, and provoke school-wide conversations about the place of guided reading in a complete literacy curriculum.


I first met Cathy Mere seven years ago while I was a district-level literacy coach. I was teaching a guided-reading lesson for first graders while being observed by a dozen literacy coaches and teachers. Cathy had heard about our literacy project and asked to participate. She was curious about finding a way to integrate her Reading Recovery knowledge with her classroom practices.

That first encounter is still vivid in my mind. What sticks with me are Cathy's questions, questions that resonate throughout this book:

What is the role of guided reading within a balanced literacy framework?
Do reading groups force us to teach to the middle ground, or is there a
way to tailor them to individual students' needs?

How do we teach readers as well as reading?

I still remember that first encounter because Cathy's questions were well crafted, designed to probe the deeper thinking behind my surface teaching. They all led back, one way or another, to the function of guided-reading groups in primary classrooms. That meeting was the start of many years of collaboration between us as literacy coaches in the Hilliard, Ohio, public schools. the longer I have known Cathy, the more I respect her. Our conversations push me to revise my thinking, just as her conversations with colleagues and with children extend their literacy learning.

Guided-reading groups have become the centerpiece of reading instruction in primary grades, and it is time to address what is gained and what is lost by their prominence. Through her attempts to address this issue in her classroom, Cathy's teaching has changed. She now devotes less time to guided reading, which frees her to extend conversations from read-aloud and focused lessons to individual or whole-group settings. This seamless instruction allows her to meet the needs of individual students outside of guided-reading groups. in this book we have the opportunity to meet Marcie, Tori, Billy, Emily, Tamarah, Kanna, and Nazarena as . . .

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