Guided Reading, Leveling and the Common Core

A few days ago the Kindergarten Goonies left a comment on my blog inviting me to comment on their blog post "No More Running Records!!! REALLY???? GR out the Door with Common Core!!!" Although I had not heard either one of those claims for myself  or heard interpretations of either one of those claims with the Common Core, I read their post and left a hearty reply.  I, too, invite you, to join in the conversation over at Kindergarten Goonies (don't let the name fool you).  In response to that blog post, here was my comment: 

Dear Kindergarten Goonies,
I admire your willingness to air your leveling issues out there for everyone to hear and be a part of. You are definitely not alone in your "struggle" with how leveling, guided reading and balanced literacy all fit into to the new standards. Since you asked me to comment, I will share my own opinions regarding your post. I do not think the Common Core is saying that guided reading should go away. I do think the standards and shifts of the common core would have more "balance" between guided reading, reading conferences and whole group read-alouds and think-alouds. I was just emailing back and forth last week with Jan Burkins, author of Preventing Misguided Reading and co-blogger at Thinktank for 21st Century Literacy. (I realize we all have our favorite researchers out there). I happen to agree with Burkins and Yaris that guided reading should be kept to text that is on the child's higher end of around 95% accuracy, and like Marie Clay would say, children should be doing most of the reading and strategy work in guided reading. For the times that we as guided reading teachers need to swoop in and assist, which shouldn't be very often, we need to provide scaffolded cues from least supportive instructional moves first before trying most supportive instructional moves, always giving students the opportunity to make the strategy move first. Students should be having lots and lots of reading success during guided reading and if students are guessing at every tricky word then we are either not cueing students to self-monitor when guessed words sound wrong and they keep reading anyway, or we are having them in books with too many tricky words, in other words, it's too hard for guided reading and more on their frustrational level. If you have to help/assist/swoop in  more than 5 times on one book per 100 words, than the book is too hard for guided reading. Guided reading is the time of day where we as teachers provide the least amount of reading support, it is their chance to prove to you that they can do it on their own *most* of the book but are not 100% independent with word work and strategy work. This notion of guided reading has not changed with the Common Core. What the Common Core has done, at least in grades 1 and up, however, is added the text complexity dimension, but the task of reading complex books, according to the common core, should be provided with the *most* amount of support, not the least amount of support like in Guided Reading. Therefore, students would be supported to read, comprehend and become proficient in complex texts through the support and modeling of the teacher through read-alouds/think-alouds, novel studies and teacher led literature circles. In most classrooms now, (and this is a broad generalization) most read-alouds/think-alouds and group novel studies diminish after the primary grades, and the Common Core would say we need to bring the balance of both guided reading and shared reading back through read-alouds of complex texts to at least a 50/50 split, where the 50% for guided reading is even split again between guided reading (small group instruction) and individual reading conferences (individual instruction) in all elementary grades where the focus of each is differentiated and flexible to meet the needs of the group or individual (i.e. where the common denominator of the group isn’t always around a level letter, but a strategy, a genre or those struggling with a particular text structure, for example). Burkins and Yaris would even say, and I love this, that with the dimension of text complexity, now there should not such thing as "too hard" of a text. They propose that it will all be hard and that the gradients should go something like, "sort of hard, really hard, super hard and diamond hard." Anyway, it's all food for thought and a great conversation nonetheless. Thanks for asking for my input. Jen

I invite you to jump into the conversation with your thoughts and comments! Isn't that what blogging is all about anyway?

Happy Friday! ~Jen
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Laura said...

Jen, I don't know that I could add any more to what you said, but I love this conversation, nonetheless. Thank goodness, we are all in this CCSS boat together and can share ideas and thoughts. Thanks, my friend!
Peace, Love, and First Grade

mary b. said...

I ditto what Laura wrote. I have nothing to add bc your reply is so well-thoughtout. I am heading over to Kindergarten Goonies to check out the post. And yes, the interchange of ideas is what blogging is about. Thanks for bringing this topic to your readers.

sbigham3 said...

Excellent synthesis Jen. I still scratch my head at the whole "leveling" issue even after all of these years. I don't understand why it's so difficult to grasp BALANCE.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jen and all those who made comments to the Kindergarten Goonies' post! Our post is geared towards primary grades. Where our first grade teachers feel frustrated is the fact that they can't see how the child is progressing by level. These teachers are used to E-J level or in some cases A-J level ratio. Now they are being asked to forget about the levels and teach strategy. I think that they would be okay with this if they did not find the below level, on level and advanced level in Reading Street so spread across the board. For example, they have a cluster of kiddos who read on an I but find "on level" too easy. So how do you teach strategy with a text that is too easy? Any suggestions?

Thanks for sharing with our colleagues Jen!
The Goonie Gals

Jennifer Jones said...

If you could tell me what the title of the text is that's too easy I can help answer that question. I also don't anyone is saying "forget about the levels"--where are you hearing or reading this in print?

Casey Nelson said...

Thanks so much for all that great info! I think I am getting the guided reading part down...but how on earth are we going to do the individual reading?? Do you have any ideas for that? I have been trying to pull out of my guided reading groups one kid to focus on...but then I feel like I am not getting to my kids one on one quick enough! Now that we have to get our kinders to a level D in NC, I am a little concerned for my babies who struggle more. Most of my class was there or higher last year, but for those who weren't quite at a B, it makes it even more essential to find ways to get them reading

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