Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reading Rotations {Guided Reading Series 2}

I have to be honest and tell you that I think guided reading is one of the hardest things to do as a teacher. Every degree and certification area I have involves literacy of some kind. Even my doctoral dissertation is focused upon literacy. I think it is safe to say that literacy is pretty important to me.

That being said, even with an undergraduate degree in language arts, I don't feel like I really got a handle on teaching guided reading until last year. It was my eleventh year in the classroom. Yes, I will fully admit I fumbled through teaching reading in small groups for TEN YEARS before I feel like I finally got it right. And just because what I am not doing works for me doesn't mean it is the end all, be all way to do it. 

Part of the issue is that during my student teaching, my cooperating teachers didn't use small groups, so I never had it modeled for me at all. I was expected to use small groups when I taught 2nd grade but I look back on those years and cringe because I had no idea what I was doing! When I moved down to third grade, I had a huge class (30 kids) with a ton of behavior problems. Trying to teach in small groups was almost impossible (even though I knew it was necessary since 13 of those students came to me at a kindergarten level). 

Last year I had a much smaller class (9 less bodies than the year before!) and not nearly as many behavior problems. I was determined to make small groups work better for me. And interestingly enough, I have a big class now (26) and we were in groups the second week of school! I had so much more confidence in my own ability to teach these way that we just rolled it out and the kids have never looked back. 

Last year I had 5 rotations (teacher, vocabulary, spelling, Lexia and listening). I had three groups and they rotated throughout the stations every day. Each group had listening once and vocabulary once, everything else they had twice a week. 

This year we have a separate time built into our day for interventions and that is when we use Lexia. My reading rotations now are teacher, word work, vocabulary, SSR and partner reading. The students work in partner reading once they have finished their weekly vocabulary foldable. 

Teacher Group: I meet with each group 3 times over the course of our 8 day reading schedule. We reread our anchor text (basal story), work with a paired text for close reading, review vocabulary and phonics skills and work with leveled readers during this group. The groups meet for about 25 minutes.

Word Work: The students work with their weekly grammar skill during this time. With our first story, my student teacher ran this group. Knowing however, that I won't always have an extra pair of hands, for the currently weekly story, we made short videos using the Clips app on iPad to "flip" these lessons so the students still get me teaching it but I don't have to be sitting in front of them (thank you 1:1 iPads!). 

Vocabulary: We select 5 key vocabulary words from the weekly story and put them onto a vocabulary foldable. The students practice their dictionary skills by looking up the words, discussing the words with a partner and then completing the vocabulary foldable including a picture. 

Partner Reading: Generally it takes 2 sessions to finish the vocabulary foldable when kiddos first start using them. My highest group may get done with it in one session. Having the Partner Reading station allows them to share books and have a discussion about reading with a partner. I just got a wicked bundle of Text Sets from a Donor's Choose project that will be utilized in this station too.

SSR: Pretty self-explanatory :) 

I have never had the luxury of having two full weeks to teach a story before so I am loving our 8-day rotation. Day 1 and 8 are whole group and testing days. Day 2-7 are all small group. I see the same groups on odd days or even days. We have two rotations each of those days. One day the kids see me and then read independently and the other day they are doing vocabulary or partner reading and word work. 

The time I have at the small group table is so incredibly precious to me. I look back at years when I didn't have a firm handle on small group teaching and I cringe a little. There are many variations of stations you could use, as long as they aren't busy work and are helping your students grow, do what works for you and them! 

I can't imagine not teaching with these rotations now that I have perfected them. They have really been a game changer in terms of helping me be a better teacher and providing my students with the individualized attention they need. 


  1. Thanks for sharing. Small groups have been the hardest part of teaching. I always like to see what others are doing.

  2. I have read your blog for years now. I found you in 2012 when I was going laid off due to reduction in force and rehired to teach 6th grade at a school in year 5 program improvement. I was miserable and was so inspired by your grit and determination to be a positive force in your students' lives.

    My question is, when do your students practice the reading skills they will be tested on, comparing and contrasting, main idea, etc.? I've never done Daily 5, because that is the time when my students do skill practice. We do not have a basal adopted just unit asssessments based on passages. However, half my class is below
    Reading level and I know word work would benefit them, but I also want to make sure hey have practice with the skill.

    1. I just reread post 1. My new question would be how do you make the story accessible to your lowest readers?

    2. We practice those main reading skills during teacher time. In the 8 day rotation I am currently using, each group has small group time 3 of those days. Each of those days we focus on a different text but the same skill. My new school just adopted Journeys. So far, I really like it because it has the anchor text (basal story), a close reading paired text (in a separate consumable book that they can actually mark up the text in) and the leveled readers.

      On day 1, it is all teacher directed. It is the only day we do 100% whole group. We introduce the vocabulary and the strategy and read aloud the anchor text to the kiddos while they follow along. Over the next two weeks, in that rotation, every time they sit at the teacher table, they focus on those different texts mentioned before but all with the same strategy. The story we are currently working on, we are focused on drawing conclusions and each of our reading passages has something to do with drawing conclusions.

      As for making the story accessible to my low readers: I am adamant that EVERY child be exposed to grade level text. The state tests sure don't care if the kids are below grade level, right? So depending upon the group, I provide different levels of support. My lowest group (all of whom are at a K level), we echo read everything (I read it, they follow along and read it back to me). This allows them to engage with the story even if it is well above level (the anchor text and close read text are grade level).

      Hope this helps :)

      I am going to post a follow-up to this post because there is so much more I want to say and share about it and didn't realize how much it was on my heart until I wrote it.

    3. Thank you it does! We do not have a common core aligned reading program. We have a pacing guide with standards, topics and assessments. I have everything from middle of kinder to third grade level readers this year, and I completely agree they should be exposed to that rich text. Looking forward to hearing more!