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chapter provides the research behind the use of guided reading centers and its
benefits in the classroom. When I began researching for scholarly material to
support my Master’s Research Project, I began by looking online at JSTOR and ERIC.

I searched many topics that all tied into guided reading such as effective
reading instruction, small group instruction, and ability grouping. From JSTOR
and ERIC I found many scholarly articles to support the ideas behind my
research. When reviewing the articles, I found it necessary to look at the
references in search for more research that would support my topic. Through
this process, I was able to locate other sources such as books. The material
will be split up into sections that focus on the positive concepts of using
guided reading centers in the classroom.

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Introduction of Guided
Reading Centers

According to the National Research
Council (2002), one in five children is estimated to have difficulty learning
to read in school; other researchers estimate that as many as 45% of our
children are having difficulty learning to read (National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development, 1999). It is evident that struggling readers
exist in every classroom. What can educators do to help children who are
experiencing difficulty in reading?

One particular research-based strategy,
guided reading, is an important “best practice” associated with today’s
balanced literacy instruction (Iaquinta, 2006). This best practice can be
extremely beneficial in advancing students who are reading below the level they
should be reading. Below is one definition of the term guided reading and what
it has to offer to students struggling to read.

Iaquinta (2006) contribute the following

Guided reading is a teaching approach
used with all readers, struggling or independent, that has three fundamental
purposes: to meet the varying instructional needs of all the students in the
classroom, enabling them to greatly expand their reading powers (Fountas &
Pinnell, 2001); to teach students to read increasingly difficult texts with
understanding and fluency; to construct meaning while using problem solving
strategies to figure out unfamiliar words that deal with complex sentence
structures, and understand concepts or ideas not previously encountered. (p.


Overall as Iaquinta (2006) shares, guided
reading provides the necessary opportunities for teachers to explicitly teach
reading strategies at the students’ individual levels. Guided reading
reinforces problem solving, comprehension, and decoding.

Small Group Instruction

         As mentioned above, guided reading
requires groups. These groups are often low in number with approximately 4-6
students in each group. This is a valuable way for teachers to effectively
assist the varying range of learners in the classroom. The researcher states,
“Small-group instruction is effective because teaching is focused precisely on
what the students need to learn next to move forward” (Iaquinta, 2006).

         During small group instruction, the
role of the teacher is extremely important. Teachers must know how to prompt
and guide students as they work to build their reading skills (Iaquinta, 2006).

Another important strategy that is effective through small group instruction
during guided reading is modeling. According to Rupley, Blair, and Nichols
(2009) modeling is a direct/explicit teaching strategy that effective teachers
use to help students conceptualize reading skills and strategies and how to
apply them. Students respond better when they have a model in place to guide
their learning of new skills and strategies.

Ability Grouping

Part of engaging in small group
instruction for guided reading means that the groups should be split in a way
to better direct your teaching to focus on the needs of the students. One way
to do this is to group your students by ability. In my research I have found
this to be a best fit for guided reading centers because the students reading
level base my groups.  Researcher Wall
(2004) contributes the following perspective,

The groups are formed flexibly according
to similar reading levels and demonstrated needs, and students are never
sentenced to a specific group for an indefinite, lengthy period. In a typical
lesson the teacher chooses a small group of students with similar reading
strengths and needs who are reading approximately the same level text. (p. 135)

guided reading centers, each group is split according to their reading level
but that does not mean students stay in the same group year round. These groups
are temporary and they are expected to change to accommodate the different
learning paths of each student as new levels are reached.

         Guided reading is the idea that
students learn best when they are provided strong instructional support to
extend themselves by reading texts that are on the edge of their learning – not
too easy but not too hard (Vygotsky, 1978). When students are grouped by
ability that means they are near the same reading level and can accomplish
similar tasks. The teacher’s goal is to strive to provide the most effective
instruction possible and to match the difficulty of the materials with the
student’s current abilities (Iaquinta, 2006). Students need material that will
push their abilities rather than limit or plateau what they can do. This is a
time where students need to feel confident and successful so it is important
for teachers to provide positive feedback that will accelerate student

Focused, Individualized

you have your small group decided based on ability, the teacher has the
opportunity to provide powerful teaching through guided reading. According to
Fountas & Pinnell (2010) guided reading offers small-group support and
explicit teaching to help students take on more challenging texts. Think about
it, most classroom have about 15-30 students which means it is impossible to
find a true fit for all students when it comes to reading a text. Guided
reading centers allow for groups of students who share the same levels with one
another to be engaged in more focused, individualized time with the teacher.

The teacher is able to support the differing needs of each student by creating
a context that supports learning. Within these guided reading groups, even more
differentiated instruction can occur because of the intentional teaching of
skilled teachers. (Lipp & Helfrich, 2016)

         Differentiated instruction is needed to
reach all of our students as we often teach a diverse group of students. According
to Fountas & Pinnell (2012) guided reading small group instruction allows
for a closer tailoring to individual strengths and needs. This is the beauty of
using guided reading centers. The teacher can focus on a small group of
children at one time while the rest of the class is working independently. Extra-individualized
support can be provided to the small group of children the teacher is working
with at that time. Teachers have the opportunity to listen closely as each
child reads. This provides teachers with a chance to gain knowledge about their
students through observing specific skills and reading behaviors (Lipp &
Helfrich, 2016).

Variety of Centers

         Through the use of guided reading
centers, teachers can establish a routine to have a variety of centers in place
during that block of reading time. In my own classroom we start off with whole
group phonics, then do two small group centers. One is engaging with the
teacher and the other is independent work. I want to focus more specifically on
the independent center for this section since the prior research has mostly been
on the teacher table center.

         Independent centers require students to
engage in work on their own without the teachers assistance. Researchers
Fountas & Pinnell (2001) contribute the following perspective,

The first agenda for the teacher is to
build a community of readers and writers in the classroom so the students are
engaged and independent in meaningful and productive language and literacy
opportunities while the teacher meets with small groups. (p. 37)

beginning guided reading centers where students will be working independently,
modeling should occur so students know exactly what is expected through the
routines you put in place. These independent centers can include a variety of
lessons that fit your students needs best. In my classroom we do a lot of
writing in journals, roll and write activities, and story writing. We also do a
lot of computer-based activities. In the third grade students take their state
tests using a computer because of this I think it is important for students to
get as much experience as possible on the computer so they are comfortable and
familiar with how to use one.

There are many ideas available for
teachers to use as resources for independent centers. Teachers can create
centers that relate to content instruction or simply have children read and
write independently (Richardson, 2009) Reading and writing tie closely together
and support one another in children’s development. Children need ample
opportunities to write expressively and to explore the meaningfulness of
writing independently.

These are the variety of centers I choose
to use in my classroom when doing guided reading centers. The time allotment
for guided reading centers is a short part of the day but by engaging in
centers so much more can be accomplished in that short amount of time. Each
experience at the variety of centers supports students as they work towards effectively
advancing their reading skills and abilities.

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