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The purpose of the research paper will be to investigate the different theoretical frameworks and research that exists on guided reading programs and how this new practice of learning is important in early education.
The research paper will also focus on the different levels of instruction that were used before guided reading programs were introduced as well as research evidence on whether these programs have been effective in implementing classroom strategies.
Guided reading programs are defined as the structured and practical reading approaches that are used to match the diverse needs of the individual readers within a classroom setting. The purpose of guided reading is to ensure that each child’s reading needs are met according to their different levels of intellectual development.
Guided reading programs are usually used in small group settings to provide the instructor with an opportunity to tailor direct reading instructions that will meet each student’s specific needs.
The main techniques used in guided reading include modeling course material to suit individual needs as well as the use of voice and visual prompts to coach the students on how they can be able to think about the reading process and what strategies best suit them when they are reading.
The goal of guided reading is to help students become independent readers who can make sense of vocabularies and texts by themselves without any assistance or help from instructors or teachers (Schulman & Payne, 2000).
Guided reading in early education programs has been viewed to be important as it helps children to learn how to read during their formative childhood years. Guided reading ensures that children in the early education programs are able to read whole texts on their own without any assistance from their teachers.
Students in the early development programs are also taught on how to solve complex vocabularies and texts by using strategies they have learnt.
The small group setting that is used in guided reading programs is important in early childhood programs as it ensures that the individual needs of the student have been met based on the pace of their reading ability. The small group settings also allow for some flexibility in terms of ongoing assessment of the student’s skills and strategies (Schulman & Payne, 2000).
The Process of Guided Reading
The process of guided reading involves first identifying and assessing the child’s reading abilities. This is seen as an important step as it will enable the instructor to determine the child’s reading abilities and strategies. Once the level of reading has been determined the next step will be to form guided reading groups where children with the same reading abilities are placed in a similar group.
These groups however change throughout the school year as the children acquire new approaches and strategies that are meant to enable them achieve reading success. Once the groups have been selected, the teacher or instructor selects the appropriate text and introduces it to each group.
The literature selection should reflect the varied interests and reading abilities of the children within that group as well as their reading strategies. The text selection should also involve level challenges that will enable the children to develop and apply problem solving strategies to the text.
The children are then allowed to read the text for themselves without any assistance from the instructor and other members of the group. The purpose of the instructor during this stage is to observe the children as they read and also provide assistance when needed (Orlando, 2010).
After they complete their independent reading, the children are then given the opportunity to talk about the book with other group members. The children share their views and insights on what they have read and through this discussion, the teacher can be able to help the students explore the contents of the text selection by looking at the vocabulary, punctuation and context of the selected book.
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The teacher uses this time to explain any texts that might have proved difficult to understand or comprehend as well as answer any questions posed by the students. After the discussion stage is complete, the instructor’s next task is to list the strategies that were used in the groups during the reading exercise. This is drawn from their observations of the children during the independent reading stage (Orlando, 2010).
Once they identify the reading strategies, the next step will be to other problem solving techniques that can be used in helping the children to overcome reading challenges. This will involve the instructor revisiting the various parts of the literature selection that were challenging to the students.
This will allow them to devise the appropriate reading strategies that will be used in dealing with these challenges in future as well as help them further their understanding of the text selection. Once this is done the instructor should highlight the new reading strategies on a list that the student’s can access when they are reading on their own.
The instructor should also have the children re-read the text especially in the areas that they experienced difficulty by guiding and supporting them during this exercise. They should then observe the students and assess their use of the various reading strategies to determine whether they are ready to move to another guided reading group (Orlando, 2010).
Researchers have noted that children in their early years encounter a variety of challenges when trying to understand reading texts. It has been estimated that one in three children experiences difficulty during the reading process. Because of the complex nature of the reading process, children in the early education programs require continuous support to develop their literacy and comprehension skills.
In recognizing the diverse nature of children’s reading abilities, prior reading experiences are key in determining an individual’s student’s reading needs. Guided reading programs have been viewed to provide appropriate teaching strategies that support the reading practices of children within the early education programs (Orlando, 2010).
The past fifteen years have seen an unprecedented focus in early reading especially within the early education programs. Educational researchers and educators have placed a lot of emphasis on early reading as they view it to be an important building block in gaining educational knowledge. These researchers have placed a lot of emphasis on teaching children to read proficiently once they enter the school environment.
Teaching children to read within the early education programs has been seen as a fundamental activity that is meant to prepare their intellectual capacity based on the instructor’s assessment of their literacy levels.
Children enter the school environment with different levels of knowledge and reading abilities and it therefore becomes important for teachers to assess their individual competencies before they begin any learning activities (Tyner, 2009).
While some educators have viewed guided reading groups to be inappropriate in early childhood education programs, others have viewed these groups to be important in improving the children’s reading capabilities.
These educators have argued that early education children deserve the same educational opportunities that have been accorded to the older children in guided reading groups. They have viewed guided reading to be an important approach in literacy education as the instructors are able to address the individual needs of the student (Tyner, 2009).
Guided reading involves the selection of text by the instructor or teacher based on the student’s reading ability. The instructor introduces the text to the students and allows them to read on their own after which they initiate discussions or talks about their understanding of the text.
The discussion of the text before, during and after the reading is usually an important aspect in the guided reading approach as it determines the level of understanding that each student has of the text that is being read. The role of the instructor during the guided reading program is to enhance the students understanding through active participation in the reading exercise (Iaquinta, 2006).
This method of reading has been viewed to be in contrast with the traditional method of reading that involves checking and testing the comprehension skills of the student after the text has been read. Dowhower (1999, cited by Biddulph, 2002) notes guided reading programs are approaches that can be used to deal with this confusion as they help the instructor to focus on the aspect of teaching individual student’s to read.
For the effective use of guided reading programs, instructors and educators need to understand the underlying theoretical frameworks that the program is based on and how different researchers have supported this form of reading over the traditional reading programs (Biddulph, 2002).
The theories that support guided reading in early education programs are both complex and varied in nature. Braunger and Lewis (1998, cited by Biddulph, 2002) have identified “thirteen core understandings of learning to read” which all have a basis in research and theory. However the research paper will only focus on six of these understandings that provide a theoretical framework for guided reading in early education programs.
The first understanding of reading is that it is a construction of meaning from written text. Clay, Pressley, Braunger and Lewis who are all researchers point out that reading is an active, cognitive and affective process where readers build their own understanding through the text’s message (Biddulph, 2002).
Dowhower (1999, cited by Biddulph, 2002) highlights the fact that text content and teaching of reading strategies has become a rare phenomenon in most classrooms. Most instructors view the use of discussions and clarification to be the major strategies in teaching students to read. Dowhower notes that more strategies need to be used in enhancing the oral fluency and comprehension of students.
Examples of some of the strategies that can be used in guided reading include generating visual images of the text, activating background knowledge of the student’s reading of the text, self-questioning, self-monitoring and correcting, cross-checking, predicting and summarizing, confirmation, learning to repair faulty comprehension, making inferences, analyzing the text for structure and grammar, distinguishing important information from the text and monitoring oral fluency, comprehension skills.
These strategies according to Dowhower are more than likely to be used by students during their reading and text discussion sessions (Iaquinta, 2006).
The other theoretical understanding of guided reading programs is that the background knowledge and experience of the student is important to the reading process. Prior reading experience has been viewed by many educational researchers to be crucial in the reading process and it is usually explained within the context of the schema theory.
The theory explains how making sense of things occurs and how the knowledge is stored and organized in the part of the brain known as the schemata. The schemata structures allow the reader to create a connection between new information and information already stored within these structures. When readers experience new information, they are likely to link that information with any prior knowledge they had (Biddulph, 2002).
Instructors who use the guided reading sessions are required to consider the extent to which their students have prior experience to the text that is being read. It therefore becomes important for the teachers to develop an awareness of the range of background information that the students come with to school.
Guided reading ensures that the instructors develop this awareness that will be important in determining the knowledge levels of the students. This awareness will ensure that the students who have a match between their schema and the selected text can be able to advance to the next level of reading (Tyner, 2009).
The next understanding of the guided reading approach is that social interaction is important for students who are learning to read. The interaction with other students during the learning process is an essential component of the reading exercise. Classrooms studies conducted by Guthrie et al in 1995 (cited by Biddulph, 2002) have shown that social interaction is strongly related to the student’s ability to read.
Social interaction will increase the literacy of students and guided reading ensures this by affording the students with group discussions and group work during the reading exercises. The instructors will have to facilitate the guided reading discussions to ensure that the students derive the appropriate meanings and explanations from the discussions of the reading texts.
Such understanding provides support to guided reading because this form of reading is basically a carefully managed social occurrence. The instructor under this approach works to ensure that the student’s literacy development is achieved through social interactions with members that have the same reading abilities.
The fourth understanding of the theoretical framework for guided reading is that “engaging in the reading task is a key to successfully learning how to read”. When students want to read, they will successfully do so provided they have the necessary support and authentic purpose to read the text (Biddulph, 2002).
According to Cambourne (1998, cited by Biddulph, 2002), reading activities were successful if they actively engaged the learners, if they promoted collaboration and independence and if the learners learned what the teachers considered to be important.
Guided reading programs ensure that the learning process will be successful as these programs place a lot of emphasis on the meaning and purpose of the reading exercise.
The small groups that are used in guided reading sessions ensure that each student participates fully in the reading exercise increasing their self-evaluation, self- reliance and social interaction skills. The guided reading program is designed to ensure that the reading exercises are beneficial to the students and after the exercises are over, they are able to advance to the next level of reading.
The fifth understanding of the reading process is that “students learn successful reading strategies in the context of real reading”. To gain some meaning from reading texts, students need to learn the appropriate strategies that will be used to gain useful information from the literature selection.
Pressley (1998, cited by Biddulph, 2002) has argued that substantial evidence exists that shows students comprehending texts actively through the use of reading strategies such as mental or visual images, prediction, self-questioning, clarification and summarization. Guided programs incorporate the use of such reading strategies to enhance the comprehension skills of students.
The reading and comprehension strategies are usually modeled by teachers based on their assessment of the student’s reading ability. Students are encouraged to use these strategies in the guided reading programs before, during and after they finish reading the selected text.
The sixth understanding of reading is that it involves complex thinking where a variety of skills are used to make sense of the selected literature Braunger and Lewis have identified four cueing systems that are used in complex thinking which are pragmatic (social context), semantic (meaning), syntactic (structural) and grapho-phonic (alphabetic and sound symbols).
All of these cuing systems operate in unison during the thinking process. Guided reading programs ensure that students are able to use all four of these cueing systems during their reading sessions. Complex thinking during the guided reading programs enables students to develop a firm command of the basic skills and strategies that are need in comprehension of the text as well as the ability to derive meaning from the texts (Iaquinta, 2006).
Different Levels of Reading Instruction
The text leveling system was one of the first levels of instruction to be used in the United States during the1970s. The theory underlying the text leveling system was the use of literature such as text books in programs that required readers to use multiple sources of information to enable them understand words and texts that were unknown to them.
The text leveling system gave way to the reading recovery program as more schools began using textbooks in their teaching and learning structures. The reading recovery programs began in the 1980s in most US schools and they were seen to be an improvement to the text leveling system.
The reading recovery programs incorporated four dimensions in text reading which included book and print features, content themes and ideas, language and literary elements and text structure (Neuman & Dickson, 2006).
These four dimensions were meant to improve the reading levels of students within elementary schools in the US. However, these four dimensions were not assessed separately but they were combined through the use of a single score that did not provide any indication as to whether the individual’s scoring weights had been calculated for all the four dimensions.
The guided reading levels which were introduced by the founder of the reading recovery program, Marie clay, emerged in the early 90s These instruction programs were sent to be an extension of reading recovery programs as the four dimensions used in the recovery programs were extended to include criteria such as vocabulary and sentence complexity.
The vocabulary criteria incorporated mono syllabic and multisyllabic words and sentence complexity dealt with aspects such as the length of the word or text, punctuation and embedded clauses. The reading recovery programs and guided reading levels have been used by many educational publishers and teachers in many school texts (Neuman & Dickson, 2006).
After the recovery reading programs and guided reading groups become more prominent in schools, reading programs were developed to meet the different reading needs of students. These reading programs included basal or grade level reading programs, developmental reading assessment; Fountas Pinnell guided reading, accelerated reader programs and the Lexile framework.
The basal reading programs are the most commonly used instruction programs in the US education system. The basal or grade level reading program provides the framework for the reading program without providing the complete text (Tyner, 2009).
Children who learn under the basal reading program are categorized into three groups which are below average, average and above grade average. Children who fall into either of these groups are offered a one level book per week for their reading exercises after which the instructor assesses their reading capabilities to determine whether they can be moved to the next group or not.
Basal group reading reinforces the group’s comprehension of the selected text as well as their word study focus. The other level of reading is the Fountas Pinnell guided reading level which was developed by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
This system of reading incorporates the use of the alphabet to rate books within certain grade levels. This means that children in the first grade will not be limited to first grade books or books that are meant for level one reader’s (Morin, 2010).
The child’s reading level under this system will be analyzed by giving the child a book they have never read before. The instructor will monitor the child as they read this book to make a record of the reading mistakes they have made as well as the reading strategies that the child has used during the reading exercise.
The teacher will then calculate the child’s grade level through the use of the record. The developmental reading assessment (DRA) program incorporates the use of a benchmark book to determine the reading skills of the children (Morin, 2010).
The DRA is basically a kit of leveled books and standardized tests that are used to measure the oral accuracy of students as well as their comprehension and fluency in reading. The scores that are allocated to the different grade levels include significantly below, below, near, at or above grade level.
Once the appropriate grade has been selected, the corresponding text selection is numerically leveled on a scale of 1 to 80 based on the grade levels. The Lexile framework is most commonly used in the end of year academic tests where the results of the reading test have been completed and compiled (Morin, 2010).
The Lexile framework is usually determined once the child has completed a standardized reading test. The results of the test are then measured and the student’s grade level is determined by placing the results within a range of 200 to 1700.
The most common lexile reading framework is the scholastic reading inventory (SRI) test. The accelerated reader program is mostly a computer based reading program that incorporates the use of reading software to test the students on their reading skills. The quizzes are usually based on texts that the students have read through the guided reading program or on their own (Morin, 2010).
Conclusions and Recommendations
The research paper has focused on guided reading programs, the guided reading process and the various theoretical works that exist on the topic. The research has also looked at the various researchers that have supported guided reading programs over the scaffolding reading and learning approaches.
The research has shown that guided reading is an important approach useful to teachers in developing the student’s literacy levels. Instructors who understand the theoretical frameworks that underlie guided reading approaches can be able to effectively use these programs to teach students how to read for themselves.
Guided reading is beneficial for students as it reinforces their problem solving skills as well as their comprehension skills. It also improves their oral fluency skills as they understand the selected text.
Guided reading programs are therefore important in ensuring that students involved in reading activities understand the selected texts before they can move on to the next grade levels.
The recommendation for this research paper will therefore be to adopt guided reading programs for the early education childhood programs to ensure that the children in these programs are able to acquire reading and comprehensions skills that will ensure their progression to the other grade levels in the learning process.
Instructors in early education programs should also be trained on how to conduct guided reading programs to achieve effectiveness and optimum results.
Biddulph, J. (2002). Guided reading: grounded in theoretical understandings. New Zealand: Learning Media Limited.
Iaquinta, A. (2006). Guided reading: a research-based response to the challenges of early reading instruction. Early Childhood Journal, Vol.33, No.6, pp 413-418.
Morin, A. (2010). 5 leveled reading programs you should know about: decoding the different reading program levels. Web.
Neuman, S.B., & Dickinson, D.K. (2006). Handbook of early literacy research, Volume 2. New York: The Guilford Press.
Orlando, K.L. (2010). The cornerstones to early literacy: childhood experiences that promote learning in reading, writing and oral language. Ontario, Canada: Pembroke Publishers.
Schulman, M.B., & Payne, C.D. (2000). Guided reading: making it work. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Tyner, B. (2009). Small-group reading instruction. Oklahoma, US: International Reading Association.