We have been preparing for this day since day 1 and we were ready… or so I thought! At approximately 10:00 am on Monday, the wheels came off! It was time to implement the guided reading groups that I had planned for. Detail, by detail… I was ready. I had created the flexible groups with much attention being paid to the zones of proximal development. I pulled engaging books while thinking about the interest level of the students. I created lesson plans with these specific children in mind. The children were prepared. The Reader’s Workshop is up and running. We practiced the guided reading routines last week. This wasn’t my first time at this rodeo, I was prepared! The students knew their jobs! So what happened?
This year, I have a revolving door. I have 5 kiddos who are leaving during Reader’s Workshop, at rotating times to get the much needed help from our Reading Recovery teachers. (Did you hear the angels sing when I said ‘Reading Recovery’? You should have because the Reading Recovery teachers hold the keys that help struggling readers unlock their reading success.) So imagine this: We begin our workshop, kids are off and doing their job beautifully. I head to the Guided Reading table with my first group awaiting my arrival and ready to go! We begin. While introducing the book, I scan the room, on the sly, to see if the children are engaged and, YES, everyone is on task. So far, so good. Then the door opens, 2 Reading Recovery kids return, tap the shoulders of the two who are to go next (the ones who are in my group at the time…) and out the door they go…. No disruptions. Everyone is doing their job. This routine continues, but as we continue… I am quickly unraveling… I hadn’t accounted for so many leaving at awkward times. Not one group had been completed without someone leaving. The flow of the workshop is fine at a glance, however, my instruction feels disjointed. This is driving me nuts and I watch for the kids to become distracted during group. That doesn’t seem to be happening. The children are reading their little hearts out. Why am I feeling so frazzled? I tell myself, “Be patient.” I know the first day or two can be tricky, but the kids are doing what has been asked. The last group I notice is having a particular difficult time with the book that has been selected. Oh my Goodness… how could I have misjudged this. I was way off. The children continued to plug away and give it their best shot using their reading strategies.
The morning finally ended. I reflected during my 10 minute lunch and realized, in my frazzled state, I had given the struggling group the wrong book! Bless their little reading hearts. So, I went in for a visit with the reading teachers during my planning time. I expressed my huge flop of a morning. I needed to talk this thing out. I took a closer look at my groups and the order of the groups. I did some slight adjusting and thanked them for their flexibility and helpfulness. (These experts are quick to listen, willing to assist in any way and most importantly, wonderful sounding boards.)
Following our day, ( and by the way, the kids seemed great the whole way!) I headed into the classroom, to make some adjustments. 1. Hone the order of the groups to ensure there are no interruptions of the guided reading group at hand. 2. Create one additional group. Yes, it’s more work but it is what is best for kids. No more than 4 in a group if possible. This sets the stage for better instruction and better learning! 3. (This one is essential, but incredibly difficult.) Start our Reader’s Workshop earlier to minimize distractions. That means read the 1st Read Aloud (our community builder) the best I possibly can to get their attention and get everyone into the current of learning. After that, we need to make hay. Get moving through calendar and lunch count. Take a bit more time with the Morning Message, as it sets so many important notes for the day. (We range from quick community builders to introducing new concepts.) We already have our morning bathroom break under 3:30 minutes so I can’t ask for more there. When we re-enter the classroom, following the break, we need to slip right into our Reader’s Workshop.
So after I changed the material tubs and prepared for the next day, the frustration was still there, but rewarded by the thinking and planning to make tomorrow a better day. I have never had a first day of Guided Reading with this type of result. If I need to rehash it tomorrow, so be it. Frustration or not, I do know it is essential these children have the best possible introduction to reading. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.