Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time for a Name Change?

I am huge a fan of differentiating instruction in order to provide our young friends (a.k.a., students who have not graduated from high school) with relevant, engaging and challenging lessons.  So, naturally, I am advocate of guided reading. However, it seems some of my Top-Notch Teaching Teammates (and I mean that sincerely) have convinced themselves that guided reading can only be about reading a leveled book.

Sample conversation:
TNT Teammate: He's a level K.  We're doing guided reading with a level K book.
Mrs. RWTS: So what are you working on with him?
TNT Teammate: The level K book.  We're working on the story at level K.
Mrs. RWTS: <hopefully rephrasing> What specific needs will you focus on addressing with the young friend while using the level K book?
TNT Teammate: Ummm...making sure he understands the level K book? <stated like a question as Stellar Colleague is feeling unsure of herself now>

Never mind that our young friends have some struggles with decoding and might need some work on building strategies for figuring out those unknown words.  Or even, <gasp!>, some explicit and direct phonics instruction.  Some of our friends can say the words on a page with remarkable accuracy and come away with good comprehension, but those friends might also sound like the Economics teacher on Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Ya think those friends might need a little work on reading with expression?  And, some of our young friends sound like we do when we read aloud (c'mon, you know you're a performer when you read aloud).  Even with sounding so great and reading accurately - are you ready for this? - they aren't comprehending.  And therefore, folks, I would have to say these friends are not really reading.  Because isn't the entire point of reading text to make meaning, to understand the author's message, to comprehend?!?!? Whew - take a deep breath.

I'm wondering if my TNT Teammates are so wrapped up in the idea that they have to "do guided reading" that they are losing sight of the big picture?  Said picture being one in which we paint ourselves guiding our young friends to become more strategic readers who can comprehend increasingly challenging text.  

So, folks, perhaps the time has come for a name change.  Should we be looking at our "guided reading" time as more of a "needs-based literacy group" time? Would something as simple as a name change help our TNT Teammates see the big picture, feel enabled to do more than "just read the leveled book," and base their instructional decisions on specific student needs rather than a mere level?  If the answer is yes, then perhaps it is time for Guided Reading to stand in line at the local Social Security office.

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