Creating guided reading groups is a dynamic process that you must always examine critically. The reading records you keep enable you to make informed decisions about effective grouping. To help you create dynamic groups, consider the following:
- Select books for your students based on their reading abilities and needs rather than following a prescriptively defined list of ordered books. It is unlikely that any two students will read the same series of books in the same order over the school year. As a result, you have eliminated the practice where lower-level students "follow" the higher-level ones through a series.
- Involve students in many different kinds of groups – some based on instructional needs (guided reading) and some based on interest or content studies (literature study).
- Use both heterogeneous and homogenous groups.
- Consider the role of genre as a factor in students' reading abilities. Give them experience applying their processing systems to a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts.
- Make sure that students are reading at their instructional level and making maximum use of independent reading time. Students are protected from struggling or waiting for your help because they are reading at a level that fosters learning; furthermore, they are receiving frequent guided reading lessons that make independent reading more productive.
- Avoid "round robin" reading in which everyone takes turns reading aloud. This awkward process––agonizing for both the highly capable students who must wait for their slower peers and the less experienced students who are embarrassed to read in front of their peers––slows down instruction and gives grouping a bad name. Instead, make sure that each student reads the whole text or a unified part of the text silently and independently.
- Reinforce new learning across contexts – guided reading, independent reading, and literature study. Students are learning how to do something they can apply in other contexts. Use many short texts to give a range of reading opportunities and develop your students' flexibility as readers.
Your attention to dynamic grouping in guided reading will ensure that your students get the most out of their instructional time with you.
From Guiding Readers and Writers. by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.