Updated: Sep 7, 2019
When we wanted to implement a school-based guided reading programme, we first of all went to other schools to view best practice. Our Advisory Teacher from the EDB NET Section also came in and give us much-needed advice. I was left in no doubt that it would be a mammoth job and three years later I'll still refining the programme, but it's so worth it. Lessons have been fun for me as well as for my students.
After a couple of pilot lessons were held, observed and evaluated, we launched the new programme with a new intake of P1 students in 2017-2018. To match students to book levels ensuring they would be in their appropriate ability groups, we undertook running records as levelled assessments (GorillaPD has a course on it - see my other blogpost).
Each class was then divided into three ability groups with a different teacher responsible for each group. Each teacher planned for their own group too.
We've had some environment changes (sometimes I was a little squashed like in this photo!), but now we've been set up in the school library for over a year where there's enough room for all three teachers and their respective groups to conduct lessons.
In the beginning we encountered some problems in that we didn't have enough books, or the books we had selected overlapped with each other in the Scheme of Work (SOW). However, by the second year of the reading programme in 2018-2019, more books had been bought and improved SOWs mapped out. Review, evaluation and refinement have been ongoing all throughout to promote best practice.
Regarding the books, at first we used various publisher series such as PM, Sails and Scholastic, but by the second year of the programme we'd discovered how great the Key Links range was and have stuck to that ever since. We're now in our third year of the reading programme and more books have been added so our P3 students have fresh new books to excite and engage them.
Our lessons are 35 minutes' long and each year group has two lessons a week. After some experimentation, we found that three lessons spent on each book was best. It kept the students motivated and interested in the books, by the fourth lesson they would want to move on.
This year, unit plans have been created for the whole of Key Stage 1 (P1, P2 and P3) which are linked to units from the students' English textbook. This gives even more learning connections for the students and tighter learning objectives for the teachers to plan towards.
Each lesson follows a step-by-step routine advocated by international educational consultant and Key Links author, Jill Eggleton (as seen below). A mixture of fiction and non-fiction books have been selected and students are very animated about the content, relating it to their own lives, making links with and adding to vocabulary seen in their English textbooks.
Each Key Links book has teachers' guide notes down the right-hand side of the page in the form of 'Focus Panels' (see pic below and follow this link to see a sample range of titles). This saves a ton of time on lesson planning as recommended comprehension questions, print concepts, flow and fluency practice, letter and word recognition, and focus questions are all covered.
Teachers can just read these Focus Panels out. Older and more able students can also read them where they can think of possible answers. We tend to use the 'Preview' panel for our first lesson; the 'View' for the second lesson and 'Review' for our third and final lesson.
It's imperative that each student has their own copy of the book to read so they can finger-track or eye-track text, turn pages and engage with the content more. We have always ordered our books from Kiwik International bookshop in Tsim Sha Tsui, who have been absolutely wonderful. There have been many times where they have let me thumb through various Key Link book copies and other resources, providing me with sweets which always went down a treat!
There are still refinements to be made to the programme, especially with the environment and storage issues. But as we embark on a new P3 reading programme, I'm quite excited as we will introduce an EDB 'Seed' project called PuppeTech into one of the groups.
Our school-based reading programme has certainly kept me on my toes and has been demanding at times, but seeing the progress made in the students' reading abilities, reflected in their reading level assessments, makes it all worthwhile; never mind the joy on their faces when I unveil a new book to read.