I’m a massive fan of teaching guided reading (in facct, besides Maths, it’s actually my favourite thing to teach).
Finding that book that just ignites the passion and love in a class is exceptional. I’m also incredibly lucky to work in a school where my opinion matters and they trust that what I’m teaching is correctly pitched and suitable for the year group.
Last year, I was incredibly lucky to get a half class set of Vi Spy by Maz Evans (who you all know I utterly adore) for my class and I think it’s the perfect book to start the year off with… and my class this year have just absolutely adored what we’ve read so far. It’s got them talking; it’s got them thinking; it’s got them hypothesising and predicting… and that to me is a total win.
I know I am certainly guilty of making guided reading lessons just about answering questions about the text. As an NQT, I relied heavily on those kinds of lessons. Back when I was an NQT, we had carousel guided reading and everyone was doing something different. About half way through last year, I was given the go-ahead to move to whole class reading (as a bit of a trial – it’s now been rolled out across the whole of school) and that change from groups to whole class had such a massive impact.
Since I’ve been doing whole class reading, I’ve tried to make activities a bit different, but still require children to do the thinking behind to use the skills they have. Do I still have some question answering lessons? Yes, because I think that skill is absolutely imperative. Kids need to be able to retrieve, infer and all those other skills… but they can also show off those skills in other ways.
I thought I’d share a lesson I’ve done recently and see if it inspires anyone!
I will say this idea is entirely stolen from my brilliant friend Alex’s book ‘Reading Recharged’ (which if you haven’t invested in, it is WELL WORTH it). What this task asks children to do is to put characters from the book you’re reading into a seating plan and then justify WHY they’ve sat certain characters in certain places.
I gave each child a blank seating plan and the list of characters to put at the table (if you know the story of Vi Spy, you’ll know there isn’t an ideal seating plan that works for these 6 characters)
We then spent a little bit of time discussing which characters should be sat away from each other and who it would be a good idea. I modelled on the board as I have a few children who need a starting point and then gave them 20 minutes.
A few of my kids found it SO frustrating that no matter where they put certain people, they were unhappy with their layout. One of my children must’ve had about 12 different combinations, but was unhappy with all of them. I had a discussion with him and told him that regardless of the combination, there would be something he was unhappy with.
A few of them just put anyone anywhere and then needed a prompt from me/their partner to say ‘ooh are you sure x sat next to y is a good idea?’ but the chat around the room was incredible.
Once they’d decided who was sitting where, I asked them to write me some sentences about WHY they had chosen to sit the characters in the seats. Again, I’d modelled this on the board and had sentence starters around for the children who needed them… but honestly, they ran away with it themselves! They loved the idea and it was so wonderful just to listen.
The thing I loved about this lesson was it was so simple to set up and yet there was so much learning, talking and discovering came from it. The children were actively using the book and trying to justify their reasons without realising that was what they were doing.
This is something that can be used for any text that has multiple characters (even better if you throw one in there to put a spanner in the works) and kids will run with it!
Thanks so much for stopping by! Go get yourself a copy of Alex’s book ‘Reading Recharged’ if you haven’t got it already to see this and other brilliant activities (this isn’t an ad, I promise)! Let me know your favourite guided reading lesson task in the comments/share with me on Twitter!