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Elementary Teachers Guide the Way for Young Readers
Personalized reading instruction is a staple of the district’s early literacy program, where teachers throughout the elementary level use the guided reading approach to help students improve their fluency and comprehension skills.
Working with small groups, teachers can identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses and target individual needs. Groups are formed based on reading levels, and students will read the same book together as the teacher asks questions about character development, conflict, plot and more.
Birch Lane Elementary School fourth grade teacher Colleen McCree said that the goal of guided reading is to help students progress to the next level. During a small group lesson, Ms. McCree will have each child read a passage of the book to her, which helps her analyze their reading fluency. With her follow-up questions, she can determine how well they are comprehending the different elements of a story.
Recently, her students were reading realistic fiction books because she said the stories are relatable to the students. Ms. McCree asked her students to use inferencing to try and predict what would happen next in the story.
McKenna Elementary School reading teacher Bridget Fielder visits second and fourth grade classrooms throughout the week to provide additional support, so she and the classroom teacher can each meet with a small group at the same time. One of her fourth grade groups in Amy Agovino’s class recently read “Charming Ella,” a fiction fantasy book that allowed them to make connections to well-known fairy tales.
Ms. Fielder said she uses guided reading instruction as an opportunity to help students build their vocabulary. When they come across a word they don’t know, she teaches them to use context clues and pictures to determine its meaning.
“Guided reading provides more one-on-one time between student and teacher,” she said. “It gives them more individualized attention, to help move them to the next level.”
Robert Sollazzo, a fifth grade teacher at East Lake Elementary School, said he looks for the “teachable moments” when working with students individually. By just listening to a child read for a few minutes, he can find out a lot about his or her reading abilities, and what skills need to be further developed.
Students keep sticky notes handy, so they can jot down their thoughts when reading a book, whether it is a question they have about a plot point or an example of a story element that the teacher asked them to find. Mr. Sollazzo asked one of his groups to find idioms and then use clues from the story to determine the meaning.
As small group instruction goes on, other students in the class read their independent books silently. Children learn to find their “just right” books which match their reading level and are of a genre and a topic of interest. They can select their books from the classroom, school or public library, or bring one from home. The skills they learn in guided reading are used during independent time to successfully read and comprehend their personally selected books.