What do I do when my reading group gets “stuck” on a level?
Sometimes, you just can’t avoid getting stuck. Teach enough children and odds are you are probably going to teach a group of children who get stuck. What’s a teacher to do? Just as one could get a truck or car out of the mud, reading groups can get unstuck too.
When a group bogs down to a complete stop, when they are no longer successful reading more difficult texts, the first thing the teacher should do is to determine the point of difficulty. Asking questions such as the following will help offer some insight into the issue. Consider things such as:
· What’s holding the children back?
· Where do they lose the meaning?
o Is it because they have to pause for unknown words?
o Are they confident in sight word knowledge?
o Are they confident in word work?
o Can they make generalizations from one word to another?
o Are they fast and fluent in sounds of letters?
o Are they able to follow the story line…What the characters are saying and doing?
o Are they confident in their understanding and reading of the structure of the words, phrases, and sentences? (Are they confident in the structure of how the English language flows in the sentences and fluent in their reading of it?)
Steps to Take:
After carefully considering the answers to the above questions. Begin to “rock it out”. Here are some suggestions:
1. Rock it Out. Put the group in reverse. Try to get back to the level where the group is confident, where they are on solid ground.
For example, if the group “bogged down” at a text level “I” and struggled to move forward because of their knowledge of words and how they worked, perhaps the group needs to move down to a text level D or G.
Remember that it’s not just about the level of the “book”. It’s about the behaviors the child needs to have under control in order to be successful reading the book and processing the text.
2. Add Traction. Put some things in the child’s repertoire that will build solid traction.
Select a few books at a lower level, making certain to incorporate the specific knowledge (word work, sight word, comprehension strategies, structure, fluency, etc.) appropriate for that level. Repeat the back- forward-process as long as the group is making progress. Try a few books at a D or G, then try another book at an I. Try a few books at a G/H and then try another book at an I.
3. Accelerate Gradually. The reading group should accelerate gradually while the teacher continues to pay special attention to the area of concern. It’s very important to accelerate. Be careful not to instruct the children at the lower levels indefinitely or they will remain stuck.
4. Pull it Out. If the teacher intentionally teaches for the area of concern and provides instruction on that area before the guided reading lesson, during the guided reading lesson, and after the guided reading lesson, it’s like the group has a recovery strap attached to them. The instructional level is low enough that the work is “easy” allowing the teacher the opportunity to instruct the children in the group without putting too much tension on any one component.