My mind is still racing after Sunday night's #1stchat about best practices in Reader's Workshop It was a fast-paced, thought-provoking discussion that kept me up way past my bedtime! For whatever reason, the thing that is stuck in my mind is the amount of time I spend with each group during my small group instruction.
I feel very strongly that the time I spend with a group should be kept to 7-9 minutes so that our focus remains one just ONE strategy, skill, or teaching point. Yes, I might address additional points as needed (or if it happens to come up in the conversation,) but I try to set out with just one concept in mind.
When I am meeting with a guided reading group, I have pulled children together based on text complexity and similar needs, based on reading material. I typically have a goal or strategy in mind as we begin, but if something else comes up in the midst of our discussion or reading, I go with it. But I always try to stick with one Most Valuable Teaching Point (MVTP.) In my mind, I am always thinking about what I can do to help these readers move forward with what they need right now. My guiding question is always this...Is what I'm teaching something the reader needs in order to move on with his or her reading life... or is it something they just need to make it through this book?
When I am meeting with a strategy group, I have pulled children together based on a particular skill or strategy that they are all practicing or need to learn. I am concise and direct about my teaching of that ONE point. Yes, readers use multiple strategies simultaneously (and often without thinking about it,) so we'll do the same in our group meeting. I am quick to point out when my readers have internalized these skills and use them without consciously thinking about it.
When I am conferring with an individual, I am using what I know about the individual to plan my conference. Much of what I do depends on that reader, at that moment, with that book. But it is about so much more than that! We do set goals together and talk about what the child is reading. Many times, these conferences reinforce good fit book choices and building our reading lives. I also like to have a book in mind for that reader that I can hand to him/her before we finish our chat. Not only does this help me ensure that the child has good fit books, but it also builds the relationship between readers (myself included!)
No matter the format, I always keep in mind that my ultimate goal is to foster their love of reading and build their reading life. Ultimately, this is what drives my instruction.
I've had many conversations and read many resources that advise spending 20-30 minutes with each small group. I cannot imagine doing this! Brain research tells us that the amount of time a student can attend to a particular task is roughly the same as his age. So that means I've wasted 12-24 minutes if I am meeting with groups for that long! By keeping my small group and individual instruction to those shorter snippets of time, I don't overwhelm my students with way too much information. It also allows them more time to practice the skills we're working on.
That's where my brain is right now. I have a few more thoughts beginning to form, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I'm curious to know how your thoughts differ (or mirror) mine on this topic!