By W. Gus LeBlanc,


Montello Elementary School

Teaching children to read has long been the primary instructional responsibility of elementary schools. The first of the three Rs has referred to reading since the days of the one-room classroom. The process of teaching reading has changed in many ways over the years but it still continues to involve a mentor helping a student learn the complex skill of finding meaning in symbols.

During the past three or four years in the Lewiston schools, many teachers have adopted Guided Reading as an instructional strategy. Guided Reading uses small-group and one-on-one settings to give students guided practice under the direct supervision of the classroom teacher. First, each student’s instructional reading level is identified; this is the level at which a student can read with 90% accuracy, but still needs teacher support to master the skills necessary to read independently. The teacher’s role is to support students’ use of specific strategies that help them learn to decode unfamiliar words successfully.

Students read books that are determined to be at the correct degree of difficulty for them. As a student’s skills improve, the child is introduced to more difficult books under the watchful eye of the teacher. The one-on-one support of the teacher provides instruction that meets the needs of each individual child.

Research supports Guided Reading as a successful teaching practice. Many Montello teachers who use Guided Reading also report consistent success and student progress. When students learn strategies that help them decode new words, they are able to read more difficult books. Having mastered this skill, readers then become independent problem solvers capable of significantly broadening their reading experiences.

Guided Reading can work for all students, not just for those in mainstream classrooms. Two special education teachers at Montello School use Guided Reading with their children and report high levels of success.

Jane Carver has been a successful special-education teacher for 16 years. Teaching in a self-contained classroom with students of varied skill levels, she sees her students benefit from the one-on-one and group support provided by Guided Reading. Carver reports that Guided Reading helps her students develop independent skills and the confidence they need to move toward reading without direct support. She says, “I haven’t seen progress like this in years; they just seem to grow as readers so much faster using Guided Reading.”

Melissa Trider is in her second year as a resource room teacher at Montello School. She prefers Guided Reading over some of the traditional teaching strategies. She says the variety of reading material that Guided Reading allows her to use helps to maintain high student interest. Students in Trider’s classroom can readily identify the different reading strategies they have learned. Trider explains: “We have a lot of fun with the strategies in the classroom. The students like to tell me what strategy other students are using. It shows they know and understand how to use the strategies effectively.”

Carver and Trider both agree that their children enjoy the process of learning to read. The large selection of books helps the process stay fresh. They see their students becoming independent readers at a rapid pace. When asked if they plan to continue using Guided Reading or if they plan to revert to prior practices, they both agree: “I would never go back.”

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