Sometimes, when we are trying to solve a problem we place limitations on ourselves because of tradition. We don't "think outside of the box" because we have come to consider the box as somehow integral to the process. It helps to sometimes bring to the foreground and scrutinize the barriers that we place on ourselves. So, what is limiting our thinking about guided reading, the trickiest instructional context to shift to digital platforms?
While read aloud, shared reading, and even independent reading and conferences seem to translate to virtual spaces with less disruption to the model, guided reading remains the more challenging instructional context to teach over a computer.
In addition to the intrinsic challenge of teaching across cyberspace, the fact that probably no one else has your school district's exact model makes it harder to crowdsource the problems. I am endlessly amazed by all the different ways districts give shape to teaching in 2020 (and soon 2021).
In this blog, Hacks for Virtual Guided Reading, I explored some intuitive suggestions for navigating guided reading in virtual spaces, including a suggestion for how to listen to individual students read during virtual guided reading. I recently worked with a school where a teacher was really problem-solving how do just this thing, but she needed a different solution than the one I offered in the previous blog.
Her students all had access to district-provided laptops, so that eliminated one barrier that is present for some. In my conversation with the teacher, I realized that we were assuming some pre-virtual conditions that didn't necessarily have to apply. We found that adjusting away from those limitations helped us meet the goal of listening to students read instructional level texts, even though they weren't face to face.
Here were some of our assumptions:
As it turns out, none of these assumptions is requisite to guided reading instruction. Questioning all of the aforementioned beliefs, we developed a plan.
On Fridays, she is going to give her guided reading groups their texts via links placed on the school's virtual platform. Over the weekend, students will record themselves reading using either video, or simply audio. Students will send their teacher their recordings by Monday.
During the week, she will listen to a few student recordings each day, as she had done when guided reading was face-to-face, and take running records. If a student is having difficulty, she will check in with that student via whatever tool seems appropriate. When the group gets together to talk about the book, they can engage in some choral reading of the text and have conversations about it.
Again, there are things about this variation on the guided reading model that don't work as well as face-to-face guided reading. You may or may not find out how a child navigates a first-read in a text, although you may be able to specify that you want a first read in the directions. Either way, there are worse problems than a child practicing a text to sound good when they read it to you. If children see their recordings as something to practice and perfect, what we lose in cold-read data we gain in repeated readings practice and reading growth.
There remains a driving need to work with small groups in virtual spaces. While none of the creative solutions out there seem to be perfect, many of us are finding that a pandemic is a great time to embrace approximations and explore not being a perfectionist.
If you explore this model or some aspect of it, I would love to hear about what you figure out. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a comment on this post.
11/2/2020 05:33:44 am
It's funny how these assumptions, when written down and studied, are only barriers if we place them on ourselves. I think your solution here is a good one; the students can still read, and the teacher can still have individual conferring sessions.
11/2/2020 09:11:50 pm
My two favorite lines ...
Hello! I really like how you were able to come up with a solution for guided reading and running records, although it might not be face to face it sounds like it will work. Embracing the moment and making the best of it is definitely the way to go.
I have been using the "turn the volume down" for silent reading and then "turn the volume up" for the one reading to me. While this has worked to some degree, the students' ability to have multiple screens to see the text is the bigger problem. Split screen can be tricky for readers so they are stuck reading and rereading a page, thereby interrupting the free flow of the text to create optimum comprehension and enjoyment of the text. I agree that we have to forego the "perfect guided reading" lesson and make concessions. I am definitely going to try the protocol of having students read the text in its entirety beforehand resulting in a submission of a recording. This makes so much sense on so many fronts and like you said was "hiding in plain sight". Thank you for your common sense approach, Dr. Burkins!
Leave a Reply.
Dr. Jan Burkins is a full-time writer, consultant, and professional development provider.