To start guided reading groups I initially complete running records and comprehension checks on each student. I then use this information along with anecdotal notes from their prior teachers to create groups of 5-6 students in leveled groups. These groups are flexible so if a student excels or falls behind I can swap them with another one thereby moving students throughout the year to keep them reading at their just right levels. As soon as they get to a level 38/40 I no longer meet with them twice a week, but rather have them work as a small independent group responding in writing to book questions as a center task. These groups are not leveled, but are differentiated groups so that students can create strong discourse groups and peer teachers. The focus is on discourse and written response with evidence.
I open each guided reading group meeting with running records. I use a separate passage so that we can get a good read on the predictions for the lesson and a focus for the lesson. Today we are going to introduce a new book and use prediction, clues and evidence in text to determine the main idea of the text. Every group comes to the reading table with their materials - this group is getting a new book today so they come only with their reading response journals.
Here is an explanation of the purpose for my guided reading book choices:
They are welcomed and I pass out the text we are going to read "How Many Days to America" and share that we can learn alot from a book by the cover and choice of words that authors use to introduce it to the readers.
I model my thinking by saying "The title says they are coming to America, and the author added the words "A Thanksgiving Story". That gives me a connection to the early explorers of America and their Thanksgiving celebration that they had survived the winter" I go on to model how hints can lead me to wonder information about what will happen in the story and say, "This makes me wonder if these people will make it to America and then have a similar celebration?"
I ask students at the table what facts and inferences they can make from the front cover. As they respond with answers such as sadness, nationality, number of people on the boat, days, or clothing - and make predictions I ask them to share the evidence or source on the page that supports this inference.
We then turn the book over to the back cover and I have them read the excerpt and review with me. I ask - "Why do you think the author chose this line from the book for the back cover explanation?" and take student responses.
I then ask what is meant by the words "knows no season or race, but is for everyone all year 'round" and take responses looking for students to identify that we can be thankful and have a celebration any day and for any special reason.
I also want them to identify that it is book for any race or ethnicity - I am going to teach as part of this book lesson how the illustrator adjusts the skin colors and hair styles to match those of many races throughout the book - so I ask them what nationality the people in the pictures could be? I again ask what evidence they can find to support their different nationality choices and am looking for support such as clothing, skin color, hair, facial features. and ask "what would readers need from the author to be sure of the nationality of the characters?" I write these on my white board with the evidence for each below because I want to narrow down their choices as we review a little further in the story.
I introduce a final text component question and ask students why the writer put the apostrophe in the word " 'round "? (the authors use of this text structure comes up again in the story so I need them to build an understanding of why italics are used) I take responses and add that italics are also used to signal unfamiliar or important words in a story.
I ask students to open their books to the title page. On this page the author placed a picture of a sunny village with palm trees - I ask how does this evidence help readers understand where the characters are from? We narrow down our nationality chart as they determine the people are from a tropical place.
I'm always looking for ways to combine their reading with their writing so I explain that authors and illustrators write with the purpose of helping their readers to picture or connect with the events in their stories.
There are only a few words that I review with students that I feel will help with their understanding and vocabulary knowledge ( I try to limit it to between 3-6 per book - see my reflection for the reasoning for this and the selection strategy for words chosen).
I review the vocabulary words with them in this lesson but you could also give them as a take-away dictionary or context clue assignment. I plan on coming back to them as we read to scaffold the understanding of their meaning and use.
We talk about what multi-meanings they could have and which meaning would be most closely related to the theme of the story. example would be harbor - hold onto (harbor resentment towards someone) or a place a ship docks
I have students come up with simple definitions and pictures for each and write them in their journals - this helps them to remember the words we will come back to and gives them a reference should they read them and not know their meanings in context.
In that we have longer discussions of the books on our initial book walks and students have not responded in writing to a question yet, we do not do a group discussions on the first day. If time, you can do a "cold read" running record on students here to determine their abilities and fluency with the text and to establish their focus areas for running records on the subsequent meeting days.
If time is shorter, I introduce the book by sharing that this is a story of a family who is forced to flee their homes because soldiers are driving them out of their country. We have heard other stories and some of your families have faced war or leaving their countries to move to a new, unfamiliar place. Think how difficult it would be to leave your other family members, your friends, your toys and home behind.
I ask students to turn and talk and share their connections to this text event with each other and we do a short share out. I then tell them that they are going to get the opportunity to read a part of the book and to respond to more questions on how the family feels about what is happening to them, and to continue to evaluate the authors purpose for the words and style of writing he chose.
I have students take out their journals and review the reading requirements, questions worksheet and expectations with them.
I them pass out Post-it notes and explain the chart purpose by sharing that good readers question text as they read. I tell them that they will write the questions they think about as they read on the Post-it notes and the page/ paragraph numbers where they wondered about the story. They will then place them on the My Text Questions chart so that when we meet again we can review and discuss what they are thinking together. This will help us to get a better understanding of the events and character interactions of the story. I have them use Post-it notes because I want them to repeat this questioning strategy with other books and articles they read. I have found that when they apply them to their books the pages ripped so we now use a worksheet for this.