Beyond Basals: Using a Range of Texts for Guided Reading
Kulaga, Amy, Practically Primary
As a teacher entering the profession on the cusp of the National Curriculum, I wanted to know more about the ways I could prepare children for the literacies of today and tomorrow. When examining the draft of the Australian Curriculum: English, I was struck by the emphasis on quality literature, which the Board of Studies (2011) quantified as a range of literary and factual texts, everyday and community texts, and digital texts.
For my honours research, I worked with six competent readers in Year 4 to examine the use of extended texts during guided reading. These extended texts offered a plethora of learning opportunities that could not be covered sufficiently during a single guided reading episode alone. In order to facilitate the use of these texts, the guided reading episode was extended into three distinct phases (see Figure 1).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
I began by selecting and analysing two texts using a framework by Pinnell and Fountas (2006). The students had been learning about British Colonisation and Aboriginal culture, so I decided to take their learning further using extended texts with an Indigenous focus. My priority was selecting distinctly different texts in terms of genre, language features and structure, to provide students with a broad understanding of how texts are created to achieve their intended purpose. I selected Sand Swimmers by Narelle Oliver, a multimodal picture book, and Dust Echoes, multimodal digital dreamtime stories. Pinnell and Fountas' (2006) framework allowed me a thorough analysis of the text, subsequently supporting my design of the guided reading focus. These analyses are set out in Tables 1 and 2.
The Guided Reading Cycle
Once I had selected the texts, the students and I embarked on the journey of the guided reading cycle.
During Phase 1, the students were introduced to the text. Together, we engaged in a surface examination of the text and made predictions about what we expected to find on closer inspection. With each of the texts, this phase looked different. With Sand Swimmers, the students were able to use the cover, blurb and illustrations to inform their predictions. With Dust Echoes, however, the students had less information to work with.
During Phase 2, the students took the text home to read and examine it further. As they engaged with the text, I requested they complete an independent task, such as a written review, to encourage them to reflect upon their reading. This was a crucial part of the cycle as the time constraints of Phase 1 and the complexity of the texts prevented a deeper examination. Providing time for independent engagement allowed them to explore the text more fully, which facilitated a greater level of discussion during Phase 3.
During Phase 3, the students and I reconvened to share what we had found. Using Chamber's (1993) questioning schedule, we critically examined the text to identify the signiicant textual features, make judgements about the author's intentions, and reflect on the audience and purpose. From this phase, it was anticipated that students would gain a greater understanding of how texts are created by an author to achieve their intended purpose.
Reading challenges for children:
The children were genuinely engaged by the features of this text. As they explored it further, they become more aware of its complexity. Although the children were familiar with picture books, this text presented a challenge in the following ways:
* The text was blurred in genre, which made it difficult to classify.
* The multiple storylines made it difficult to pinpoint the author's message.
* The technical language used challenged their understanding of illustrated picture books.
At first I was very intimidated by my lack of control over the learning that was taking place. Although I facilitated the session, I was unable to anticipate and prepare for the actual discussion that took place. …