Article #46
O-O-Over and Over!
What We Do in Guided Reading
Cheryl M. Sigmon

In the primary 4-Blocks classroom, there is a guideline suggesting that teachers offer children approximately three days of grade-level material and two days of easier reading material weekly. Usually with the exception of the Book Club format, children are all reading from multiple copies of the same title. This is done for a number of reasons.

The principal reason that the materials alternate between grade-level and easier is that teachers are offering children the widest range of materials that they are able to read, given the proper amount of support, to which they can apply the skills and strategies that have been taught. For struggling children, reading the grade-level material is difficult. They are supported by a format that offers the scaffolding they need to navigate the text. Among those formats are partner reading, choral reading, echo reading, shared reading, small group reading, and playschool groups. The exposure to grade-level material is necessary for these students, especially when they are otherwise traumatized by the all too infrequent encounter with grade-level text on a standardized text. With 4-Blocks, these children will be accustomed to the grade-level material and will enjoy it with the other class members. They can be successful with the 4-Blocks approach.

Another important reason that the time is divided between three days at grade level and two days easier is to allow for time to read, re-read, and often re-read yet again the same material. For some teachers who traditionally have had students read the text once, complete an activity and/or discuss the text, answer questions, and then move on to the next piece, this concept of reading the same text for a second and a third time is not only new, but it is difficult. Some teachers might even wonder if the re-reading is not a waste of valuable time when there is so much ground to be covered throughout the school year.

Waste of time? No way! Actually, just the opposite might be true: that reading a text only once might be a waste of time, or certainly may not allow for the mileage that can be derived from the multiple readings. Understanding why kids need to read text a number of times is most important. Why do we read them "O-o-over and over?" (Anyone remember the old song with that lyric?) 
With material that students read and re-read for themselves ...

  • They re-read material to develop fluency. It's all in the practice as children become more familiar with the text and as they pay less and less attention to decoding.
  • They re-read material to allow students to apply different skills to the same text. Text can lend itself well to the application of any number of skills and strategies. We want students to understand that reading is, in fact, the application of a whole storehouse of what they have learned.
  • They re-read material so that students can enjoy and appreciate the text at different levels. On the first reading, they may comprehend very little while their attention is focused on decoding. As they read a second time, they may be focusing on certain skills that they have been directed to apply. Finally, on a third or maybe even a fourth reading, they begin to process at a much deeper level, hopefully with full comprehension.
With materials that teachers first read to students...
  • During the first reading, students may simply enjoy listening to the text. They will absorb the "gist" of the meaning and some of the vocabulary used.
  • The second reading, then, is when students will attempt to decode the text for themselves. The teacher has already helped to decode the text in the first read-aloud so that students will have a familiarity with the text as they begin to read it for the first time.
  • The third and fourth readings by the students will allow for the application of skills being acquired and for a deeper level of processing.
In preparation of having students re-read materials, teachers must spend adequate time explaining the concept of practice. Kids so easily understand the concept of practicing to become better at sports--standing at a free-throw line and shooting hoops sometimes for hours on end, because they know they'll be better free-throw shooters. They must come to understand that reading is similar. Practicing a piece of text will ensure that the reader will become more fluent and will process with a better understanding.
Here are the words of a teacher, Stacy, as she explains her re-reading trials:

"All three days with the same poem. That is the hardest thing for me to get used to in Primary--reading the same thing over and over. At first I thought I would lose my mind, but it really doesn't bore the kids. The first time when either I read it or we read it together, they actually seem to listen to the story and understand it a bit. Then when they read independently, with partners etc. the first time, they have such difficulty just decoding that they don't seem to realize it is the same text. Finally when we do some kind of shared reading the third day they seem to begin to put the pieces together and actually hear what they are reading. I don't read everything that many days. We just read a poem about words that was pretty easy, and after reading it twice, we had pretty much ‘wrung' all the comprehension out of it, but I am going to have them practice it again one day this week and perform it for the first grade for fluency." Stacy

Stacy's got the right idea. And so, we almost always read "o-o-over and over  again during our week in the Guided Reading Block. And, we just get better and better as we go!

4 Blocks Goodies