It sounds like you are working with a lot of students that are below grade level and probably in a title 1 school with many mandates, if I am not mistaken. In those situations, you have to do what is being asked of you.
I work with a gifted population, where most kids devour chapter books, advanced ones, like they are candy. I literally have three students that seem to be reading the normal "third grade stuff", but in my case Judy Moody books seems like baby books to my class. With that being said, guided reading does look very different in my class. In fact, it feels more like a book club meeting where the students drive the discussion and set of questions.
But for me, hands-down, it is the one on one conferences drive my instruction and help with growth for my students. It would be worth seeing if you could fit that into your schedule (I have a suggestion below).
Here are my suggestions for you:
~ Take one of the computer stations out of your rotations and create a real block for reading- 40 minutes. My son had 40 minutes for reading and 40 minutes for writing in kindergarten. He can easily read and comprehend chapter books at the 5th grade level in first grade. 20 minutes is not enough time to read. I wish I could find the research to support this, but I read somewhere that it takes something like 10 minutes to have all of your dendrites firing and focused for reading. It's just not enough. If you read my post on extrinsic rewards I wrote about the "test" benefits of independent reading time. Richard Allington's work, "What Works Best for Struggling Readers", provides in-depth research on correlating time reading daily to test scores. It's worth reading if you are new to the profession. With all my heart, I think you need to increase your reading time provided.
~ If you are required to meet with every student in a guided reading setting every day for 30 minutes- do that because it is required. However, if you have some freedom, try utilizing 2-3 of those 20 minute blocks between M-F to meet with students one-on-one instead of in a guided reading setting. This would mean your strongest readers meet with you 2-3 times a week, while other students still meet with you daily.
~ You might be interested in reading Pavleka's book on organizing guided reading. It's not my favorite, but it does include plans that include meeting daily with one group and less frequently with your stronger readers.
~ I am sure you read this, but just in case- I wrote a post on this last year, and you can find it above. It is titled- Guided Reading in the Upper Grade Classroom: Getting Started
I hope that helps! My next post is already set, but I am planning to post how our guided reading has evolved this year in a future post.
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