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What is Guided Reading? (Part 5: Discuss the story)

   The six steps of a guided reading lesson:

   1. Assess each student’s reading level

   2. Select a book for the group

   3. Provide students with an overview or a book introduction

   4. Have all students read the book (with help from the teacher)   

   5. Discuss the story

   6. Do one or two follow-up teaching points

Michele Dufresne

In my previous posts, I talked about assessing students to help you make decisions about creating leveled groups for guided reading and selecting a book for the group, planning the book introduction, and supporting the students as they read the new book. Here I will discuss the next step – discussing the story following the reading.

After your students read a new book, engage them in conversation about the story. This should not involve yes or no answers! Instead, you should try to encourage them to explain their understanding of the story. For example, you can ask them what they thought about the book or what their favorite part was. Good questions will show your students that the point of this activity is comprehension – not simply reading the words correctly.

Fountas and Pinnell, in their book Teaching for Comprehension and Fluency, outline three categories of comprehension that can guide you as you plan your follow-up discussion with a group of students. Below you will find three categories with examples of what you might ask to encourage discussion among your students.

Thinking within the text

Lead the students in a discussion that helps them recall important information, summarize, or retell parts of the story. Help them notice any interesting vocabulary the author uses. You might ask:

• What happened at the beginning/middle/end of the story?

• What was a character like at the beginning of the story? How did he/she change?

• What was the problem in the story? How was it solved? 

Thinking beyond the text

Help the students make predictions about what will happen. Help them make connections to personal experiences or other books that they have read, and have them consider a character's motivation or feelings. You might ask:

• What do you think might happen next?

• Have you ever experienced something similar to the character in this story?

• How do you think the character felt when that happened?

Thinking about the text

Have your students analyze and critique the writing for ideas, style, and accuracy. You might ask:

• Did the author use any interesting language or words to help you picture something in the story?

• Did the character seem real to you? Why? How did the author make the character seem real?

• Do you think the information in the book is accurate? Why or why not? 

If you create questions using these three key areas, you will be encouraging your students to make personal connections, inferences, and analyses. Students will learn to synthesis ideas by putting together information from the text and their own background knowledge. This will foster new understandings for your students and promote authentic book discussions.

In my next post, I will go over the final piece of a successful guided reading lesson.

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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