Blog Archive

Saturday 11 July 2020

Guided Reading - there's more to it then just decoding key words!

All new vocab is stored for approximately two seconds before it needs to be rehearsed to be retained. This leads to barriers if you wish to present to students a complex piece of text, containing an abundance of new vocabulary, unless you have a plan for how to tackle it. That is where guided reading comes in; "Guided reading is an instructional approach designed to help students build an effective system for processing increasingly challenging texts over time" (@MrHand_, Twitter 2020).

At primary level, it is done in small groups of students (4-6) and benefits from the learners being near the teacher. The readers then receive immediate feedback on their interpretations of the text and the students are primarily responsible for reading. At secondary level, it has evolved into whole class practice, through carefully structured tasks where the teacher focuses on vocabulary as well as extended text. To develop students confidence with vocabulary it is important to:

1. Ensure all key words are shared at the start of the lesson, and built on throughout the lesson with definitions, concrete examples and even challenges of 'what it is not'.
2. Complex words are broken into parts so their context or origin is discussed.
3. Retrieval activities and quizzes are regularly used, include concept mapping, to encourage students to revisit the vocabulary.

'Say it again, say it better' is an excellent tool to use in this scenario ( In this example, students have to reframe answers to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary for the lesson to then progress. It can form a great hinge point in the lesson. It is also important to consider the 3 Tier Hierarchy of vocabulary when planning. Plan which words we need to teach. Which tier 2 and 3 words do students need to read, comprehend and remember? Which key words are intriguing? Which are important? Which are compulsory to the students making progress?

"Word rich students, come from word rich classrooms which are designed around word rich curriculums" (Alex Quigley, Closing the Vocabulary Gap). He argues that vocabulary is one of the most important factors in academic performance. This is why we at Mangotsfield have redesigned our curriculums to be knowledge rich and culturally broad, to allow those students who are 'word poor' to become 'word rich'. 

So what practical strategies can we explore? 

In Geography, we have designed our new KS3 curriculum to include more frequent opportunities for students to engage in intriguing non-fiction challenging texts. We are using a set format that allows the text to be the central focal point of the work, but 'guides' student through its content using specific questions, as shown below.
These are best printed on A3, to ensure students can truly focus on the text centralised. Most importantly, the directed questions go in order of the text and include an arrow that links to the specific section the question is asking for reflection on. This allows for students to avoid misconceptions or confusion over which part of the text they are exploring. 

In is also important to ensure that students engage with key words presented at the start of the lesson. Presenting students with the opportunity to record both important and impressive words, allows them to build their own word bank that can be referred back to at their own discretion during extended writing tasks. 

For fiction based texts, the Guided Reading spinner is an interesting approach to take. Whilst the questions appear fairly standard on the example opposite, they can be made more specific based on the chosen text and also randomly generated in class to provide a more spontaneous period of discussion (or with the use of a Kagan Structure such as All Stand Consensus or Numbered Heads Together). 

As always, if you are interested in any further reading can I recommend the following two blog posts:
1. A discussion by Alex Quigley on why its important to train teachers on how to deliver vocabulary.
2. An interesting post by David Didau on the important of teaching to Tier 3 vocabulary and its importance in academic success.

1 comment:

  1. This is really clear and helpful and has given me some very usable ideas. I'm pleased to discover that I've been using "Say it again, better" for several years without realising it was an official technique!