Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Guided Reading Dilemma

During my first year of teaching in a one-way dual language program, I had the ambitious goal of doing guided reading with all of my students in both languages.  I carefully assessed my students' levels in Spanish and English and then organized six Spanish groups and six English groups.  On Mondays and Tuesdays (Spanish days), I would meet with as many of my Spanish groups as possible and then on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I would try to meet with all of the students again in their English groups.  Crazy, loco, insane in the membrane!!!

My English groups did not necessarily mirror the Spanish groups.  This made for many complications when I would call groups.  Juan would come up with Valeria but then we would remember that he was only in her Spanish group but not her English group.  I ended up meeting with my highest groups so infrequently that we rarely finished a book in either language.  

Guided reading became one big headache!  

That spring and summer, I was working on my Masters in Reading.  The more I read, the more I was convinced that I needed to resolve my guided reading issues.  In order to do the kind of guided reading instruction that I was reading about in my classes, I felt that I needed to focus my small group instruction on one language.  

As I began my second year, I had a new plan.  Using my district's "Guidelines for On Level Reading Performance" (below), I examined my students' Spanish reading levels.  Any student who already met the Spanish expectation for the end of second grade became a candidate for small group instruction in English.  The rest of the students received small group instruction focused in Spanish.


Every six weeks, I would assess my students' levels in Spanish and rearrange my groups.  The Reading Specialist on my campus would assess my students' English levels and supply me with their results (see chart below).

By the end of the spring semester, 8 of the students were receiving small group instruction in English and 14 were receiving small group instruction in Spanish.  So...imagine my surprise when the Reading Specialist showed up at my classroom door in May to tell me that 15 of my 22 students had tested at the expected end of year level for monolingual English students.  

But I had only done small group guided reading with 8 of those 15!  What happened?  

Biliteracy transfer, my friend.  Biliteracy transfer!

The research from Dr. Kathy Escamilla's Project Literacy Squared says:  "Learning to read first in Spanish when combined with oral proficiency in English is the best predictor of success in English literacy for second language learners." 

Isn't it nice when we can actually see the research play out in our classroom?  While I was strategically working on developing reading strategies and behaviors in their native language, we were also building oral language in English during whole class instruction on English days (50% of our week).  That combination proved to accelerate my students' English levels even when I wasn't doing guided reading with them in that language.  

Please know that I share this info not to brag about my scores!!!  I still have so much to learn and want to do better.  However, I read many of your comments  regarding the challenges of guided reading in our Fountas & Pinnell Spanish Literacy Resources Giveaway and I wanted to share my experience.  I have seen this same data duplicated over and over again in the classrooms of other teachers that have tried out similar methods.  

What are other ways that you have simplified your guided reading and seen positive results?

10 comments:

  1. Guided reading is difficult for me too. I teach two languages and I try to do most of my reading in the weakest language. That works for me. But I still have a lot to improve on reading.

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    1. It is all about action research! Keep track of that data and see what works. I look forward to reading about your journey this year!

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  2. Nice work! I have a few years of data, just like that. Kids are amazing they way they learn. Love it!!!

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    1. Thanks, Beth! I would love to hear more about your experience. Please share that data!

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  3. Biliteracy transfer is the "magical", hard to explain, trust me on this one" topic that I spend my first conferences talking to parents about. I teach a dual language 90/10 program. Every part of my day but 45 minutes of GLAD is in Spanish which is the 2nd language for the majority of the class. I have to do a good job convincing these parents that their child will learn to read in English at close to the same rate as Spanish. And...at the end of the year when we test in English, they do not disappoint! Amazing!!

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  4. Tara,
    So does your campus test all of the dual language students in English at the end of the year and for state mandated tests (STAAR)as well?

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  5. My district teaches a 50/50 model and I'm curious to know what assessments in reading do you use to assess your students in reading in Spanish?

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    1. Christina, we have used a variety of assessments. Primarily, we used the EDL (Spanish DRA) and Rigby Spanish. I believe that Fountas and Pinnell now have a Spanish assessment as well.

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  6. Thank you for sharing! My campus is in its second year implementing a 50/50 Dual Language and guided reading as well. The transition has been slow. I am not sure why teachers are having an easier time accepting DL than guided reading. Moving slowly...

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  7. Thank you for sharing! My campus is in its second year implementing a 50/50 Dual Language and guided reading as well. The transition has been slow. I am not sure why teachers are having an easier time accepting DL than guided reading. Moving slowly...

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