Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guiding Readers - Lori Jamison Rog

A second inquiry project with which I've been involved over the past month is observing the 40-minute guided reading lesson that makes up our Early Literacy Intervention program for Grade 1s and working with other educators to discuss how guided reading in the classroom can be more closely aligned with what happens as part of the intervention program.  Around the same time as this project started, a book arrived in the mail: Guiding Readers by Lori Jamison Rog.  (Yep, that's the author of The Write Genre, for anyone asking "Where have I heard that name before?")

This year, I've adopted some of the suggestions from The Daily Five program to answer the question of "What is the rest of the class doing?" while I do guided reading.  It's working.  Oh, it's working.  Now that I have time to sit and work with a focused small group at the back of the room while the others are occupied with their literacy boxes, I'm working to fine-tune and make the most of what happens in that precious 20 minutes.

Why include a post about guided reading on a blog about technology?  Because (hold onto your seats, folks), I believe there are areas of learning where 21st-century tech is not required.  The passion and individualized response of a teacher beats any technology I've ever seen when it comes to literacy instruction.  Douglas Reeves, one of the current gurus of best practices in education, quips that, "technology is the servant, not the master, of education."  In this case, I'm inclined to agree.

When I read in The Daily Five about having students simply sit and read for 20 minutes, I'll admit I was skeptical that a 6-year-old could do that. But, we started with two minutes and worked our way up, adding and subtracting a minute a day until we had built the stamina and muscle memory needed to make it work.  In a recent ASCD newsletter, Reeves goes on to passionately proclaim:
"Perhaps one of the most important 21st century skills that teachers can impart is that of focus-devoted concentration to a task."
I think concentration is the key word there.  I can take my students to the computer lab, show them a new game that reinforces a concept, and they all appear to be focused, but there's something in that glazed-over zombie-like look in their eyes as they sit there, expressionless, clicking the mouse that I just can't call concentration.  (Think: Who or what is in control?)

That said, when we power up the LCD projector and display student work using the document camera, then there's a definite focus in the room.  When we use digital photos and video to capture student learning, there's excitement there, too.  I completely believe there is a place for technology in every classroom (that's why I started this blog!), but I also believe there are times to hold back, simplify, and remember Reeves' master/servant analogy.

Now, back to guided reading for a bit.  Talk about engagement!  We discussed in our inquiry sessions the concept of "Bottoms Up!"--that is, books that have children leaning out of their seats with excitement, ready to grab the book from the teacher's hand.  Rog writes: "Just-right texts for guided reading should have students standing on their tippy toes" (p. 12) (i.e. --exerting a bit of effort, but not toppling over).  Put those two together and you can see how there's hardly room to focus on anything else.

Another great quote from Guiding Readers? "Books are leveled, not children." (p. 13)  A running record does not tell the whole story.  In order for students to be engaged in learning, the content needs to be accessible.  There is an art to choosing the right texts for the right groups that involves knowing the child's interests, background and worldview that tells you whether a book is just right for them.  There is an onus on the teacher to make the whole experience as engaging as possible and book choice is usually where you hook 'em or lose 'em.

I read the whole book yesterday, sitting on the back deck in the sun.  I had my iPad beside me for googling and notetaking.  I was making shopping lists of simple materials to buy to enhance my guided reading lessons, looking up web resources mentioned in the book, and even crafting bits of parent communication for my next classroom newsletter.  Not to mention, I was sticky-noting up a storm.  Here's what the text looked like by the time I was through with it:

I would give this book a solid 4 stars out of 5.  There's nothing earth-shattering in here, but I like the way the book is organized and there are many new ideas on how to teach certain concepts in guided reading lessons.  I also like that the focus is on how to "make the magic happen" in the 18 minutes you've got in a typical classroom.  Since I'm teaching Grade 1, I did gloss over a few chapters on teaching older, more sophisticated readers, but there appeared to be good stuff in there, too.

For immediate access to a bunch of Lori Jamison Rog's work, download an ebook.  Guiding Readers is available for preview in its entirety on Stenhouse's website.  You can also visit Lori's website.  Scroll right to the bottom of the books page to access some quality (free) articles.

This posting is also posted on my Wired Like That education blog.

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