When the morning work is done and students have finished getting settled in, the top of the learning day in an elementary school classroom often starts out with reading. There are a number of different types of reading that take place throughout the day. Each one focuses on a different skill set.
“Shared reading” might involve a small group of 4 or 5 students gathered around the carpet or a horseshoe table in the back of the room with the teacher. This would involve the teacher reading a picture book to the students, holding it up, and letting them see the pictures and make comments on the story. Students in this setting engage their listening skills and small group communication skills with their classmates while hearing a new story and relating it to that which they already know.
“Guided reading” would also take place at the horseshoe table with a small group of students and the teacher. In this setting, the teacher takes out a large plastic bag containing 5 or 6 of the same small books. There is also an instruction guide for the teacher to follow. It gives instructions for every aspect of the book. This includes asking question such as, “What do you see on the cover?” “Turn to page five and tell me what the new vocabulary words are and what you think they mean.” Instructions might also tell you to ask the students what the main idea of the story is, what do they think will happen at the end, and give details as to specific parts of the book. Students might also be asked to turn to a certain page and discuss the sound a certain word makes, such as the “oa” sound in “boat.” What other words can they think of that have this letter combination? Guided reading often involves a more in-depth approach than shared reading. Both types are necessary in a student’s learning and development of his or her analytical skills.
Independent reading will be another part of the day. Students keep books they are currently reading in their book bags or in bins that stay in the classroom. They read these books quietly at their desks. The teacher will come around periodically and have each student read to him or her. The teacher listens for fluency, how well each word is pronounced, and if the child can answer questions about the book to determine reading comprehension.
Running records is a separate part of the day. Similar to independent reading, the teacher will give the student a specific book to read to him or her. On a separate sheet of paper, the teacher keeps track of how many words were missed, if the child substituted one word for another, and if parts of the word were mispronounced. The teacher keeps track of running records throughout the year and can work with the student on specific areas that need improvement. Running records typically applies to first, second and third grade students. Older students have already obtained more of a grasp on language. Therefore, this exercise is not administered to them.
No matter what type of reading in which your students take part, they are sure to learn from the wide array of books available to them. Even when you sit at the reading rug and simply read them a story, they often sit attentive and curious, waiting to hear how the plot develops and how the story ends. Reading is a wonderful way to engage the class in a group activity, get their “thinking caps” on, and take them on a journey to another place and time.