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Guided Reading - Rubbish in the River

An overview of how guided reading lessons are conducted in my school using the Key Links range

'Rubbish in the River' by Jill Eggleton raises young students' awareness of environmental issues in an engaging and relatable way. For this book, I used the same structure I use with all our other books in our reading lessons.

In my school, we have three 30-minute reading lessons per book which are divided into:

  • Lesson 1 - Topic introduction, choral reading and book discussion

  • Lesson 2 - Sequential (guided) reading, Think, Pair & Share and topic activity

  • Lesson 3 - Buddy reading, book review and word/phonics decoding strategy focus

Lesson 1

So for this new book, 'Rubbish in the River', I started off introducing the book in our first 30-minute lesson with my reading groups in P3. I showed the cover and asked students what did they think the book was about. In all four of my groups from classes 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D, students had some basic understanding of what rubbish was and how to dispose of it ("paper, plastic" and 'in the bin").

We then choral read the book in unison, stopping on each page to ask and answer the preview questions. These preview questions can be found within the teacher guidelines listed on the right-hand side of each double page. These guidelines are invaluable. Instead of having to generate a bank of questions in a formal lesson plan, the questions are all there, linked to the text and easy to read immediately without the need to consult a separate lesson plan.

These guidelines also save an enormous amount of planning time and teachers can make just-in-time decisions as to the suitability of the questions depending on the student ability. For instance, some questions may need rephrasing or extra clarification for ESL students like mine, but that's no problem. I may not ask all the questions either as I don't want to slow down the reading momentum and pace too much, impeding the students' enjoyment of the book.

So the first lesson's choral reading time often takes a good 10-15 minutes of preview questions, answers and brief discussions, allowing student voice and active group listening. The word attack strategy poster 'Good Readers Can...' is used to support students to decode unfamiliar words (poster can be found here). Once the 16-page book is choral read once, then we choral read again straight through with no interruptions so students get more used to the syntax and flow.

During our first lesson with any new book, I like to add activities that will give students more context and background for the book they're studying. With 'Rubbish in the River', I assigned students a collection of books on Epic so they could learn more about environmental issues and how to recycle rubbish. In the plenary at the end of the lesson, students showed they later knew a lot more about these issues compared with their knowledge at the beginning of the lesson.

Lesson 2

For this lesson, the 12 students in each group were split into smaller groups of 3-4 to undertake guided reading sequentially, one page at a time. In Lesson 1, I tend to arrange the students as boy-girl-boy-girl to ensure they're all focussed on the book and group discussion (I put their name tags on stools before they come in). However, in Lesson 2, I usually put the students in groups with their friends to promote a convivial reading atmosphere and students invariably end up in same sex groups.

I also try to arrange for a more able student in each small group to be the 'Little Teacher' to help guide and direct the other students. That 'Little Teacher' will start off and lead the reading. When students finish reading the book sequentially, another student starts reading and becomes the 'Little Teacher' and so on. This is peer teaching which has been proven to improve student learning. I find that students really enjoy being 'Little Teachers' too!

If some students have finished their group sequential reading early, I ask them to read again individually or in any way they want to do it. I find that students usually elect to choral read in their small groups, having fun adding their own intonation and expression.

For the Think, Pair & Share activity, I will have written a topic or book-based question on the board for students to consider. So for this activity I'll gather the whole student group together and explain the question, asking them to think of a response, tell their partner and share with the group. I'll hare write their responses on the board at the same time.

Table showing shared writing contributions arising from a Think, Pair, Share question and prompt

For the 'Rubbish in the River' book, I had some wonderfully considered responses for my main question (see picture above). I'm just showing one group-class contribution here, but all groups provided a similar level of ideas. I was really excited to see how they were getting the message about environmental pollution, as well as sharing it with each other. We read out the table contents together to review our shared writing.

Lesson 3

Students were put into pairs to read the whole book to each other in turn: one student to read the book, the other to listen and help decode or make corrections; then swop over. Sometimes in Lesson 3 with other books, I also add 'Popcorn Reading' where I use a maraca to direct individual students to read - it certainly wakes the students up and keeps them on their toes!

In this particular lesson, I organised pictures of various recycling bins and asked students to put the different wrappers into the recycling bins. This had followed an activity where students had first identified those wrappers and said whether the food they were used for were countable or uncountable nouns (handily linked to the current unit on food in their textbook so students could make connections).

Every single student understandably thought that sweet wrappers and crisp packets were plastic or metal and thought they should go into the corresponding recycling bins. I explained to them that these wrappers may look like plastic or metal, but in fact they should go into the paper recycling bin. The students looked quite mind-blown!

As always, we undertake word and phonic identification and decoding activities in our last lesson with the book. Our focus with 'Rubbish in the River' was the 'ou' (as in cloud, ground) and 'ow' (down, now) sounds. I asked students to find words using these sounds in the book, wrote them on the board (see right) and elicited more examples to write them into a table. Student then looked at extra words on the Bitsboard app and practiced them until the end of the lesson, followed by a quick plenary before they went.

I love the Key Links books as I derive so much enjoyment reading and teaching the books. They have so much wonderful content that you can get your teeth into. I think my enthusiasm is contagious and the students love them too, resulting in a positive reading environment in our school. We alternate our books to be fiction and non-fiction so students get a range of texts to expand their minds. Check out the Key Links range and more details about Jill Eggleton here.

Anyway, here's how I conduct my reading lessons, I hope some of the strategies have been useful!

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