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The missing manual on guided reading instruction
on August 31, 2010
There are lots of books available on The Big Picture of guided reading, the language arts block, and reading workshops. Very few of them are helpful when it comes giving detailed advice about what to say and do with kids during your actual guided reading lessons. Jennifer Serravallo's new book is the kind of book I have been looking for since I started teaching because I always felt like my guided reading instruction could be better. I have a strong feeling that this book will be sitting in the little pile that I always keep by my side throughout the year.
"Teaching Reading in Small Groups" is about how to form guided reading groups, how to pinpoint your instruction to match your readers' needs, and basically, how to help your kids be better readers. The author spends a good deal of time showing you how to coach kids during guided reading lessons. She is of the mind that your lessons should be brief and to the point, and you should get your kids practicing what you taught them immediately. She is a big believer in teaching kids how to be strategic readers (so am I). Snapshots of her dialogue are presented as exemplars throughout the book. I found these examples to be just right in terms of their depth and relevance. In addition to learning Serravallo's approach to leading comprehension strategy lessons, you also get a great chapter on teaching engagement with reading, tips for improving book clubs at all grade levels, and some useful methods for teaching fluency in small groups. I know that all of this stuff sounds familiar, but no other book that I'm aware of presents this information in such an exemplary way. Serravallo just shines when it comes to showing you HOW to do expert guided reading lessons with small groups and individual readers. (I would also like to mention that the author stays on topic, sounds convincing and knowledgeable without being supercilious, and is quite down-to-earth overall, which is much more than what I have come to expect from Heinemann books.)
Please note that this book is not a primer on reading comprehension strategies or an introduction to reading workshops. Teachers who have some experience with guided reading and teaching reading comprehension and are looking for ways to improve will benefit the most from this book. If you are a new teacher you could learn a lot from this book too, but I would encourage you to come back to it after you have gone through a general text on guided reading (something by Fountas & Pinnell) as well as a good book on comprehension strategies like "Comprehension Process Instruction" or "Explaining Reading".