The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 1 - Page 52

Content Contributions


Two Instructional Strategies, One Goal: Who Does it Best?

The most effective strategy for teaching reading seems to change throughout the years. Should teachers implement skills-based small groups to help students master reading goals? Or should teachers focus on individualized conferring to support differentiation? Differing opinions about guided reading versus reading conferences during a reader’s workshop model begs the question, “Which strategy does it best?” When implemented effectively, growth occurs in students from both types of instruction, but which strategy truly shows the most growth? Which type of strategy shows the most growth in comprehension and fluency? And which strategy allows the teacher to gain the most information about his/her students’ reading behaviors and skills? Every teacher's ultimate goal is for students to comprehend reading independently.

What do the experts say?

Allington and Gabriel (2012) advocate for these six elements to empower students to become independent readers:

● student choice in reading

● accuracy in reading

● student understanding of reading

● meaningful written responses

● discussion among peers about reading and writing, and

● being able to hear precise reading in order for effective reading instruction

These elements can all be met during reading conferences where students are choosing their own text at their reading abilities, being able to discuss their text in a meaningful way, and listening to an adult read with them. Allington and Gabriel (2012) state that these elements promote student motivation and empowerment. These elements improve comprehension for meaning, rather than support reading for assessment purposes.

Calkins (2010) discusses the importance and the resounding impact conferences have for students becoming independent readers in order to make meaning of their reading. Calkins (2010) states, “…there must be a place to teach young readers to apply all that they learn from those times when we lead work on shared texts (p. 60).” This quotation is a simple explanation as to why reading conferences are such an integral part of reader’s workshop. Calkins (2010) discusses the necessity of reading conferences to be opportunities for the teacher to find new teaching, whether that new teaching looks like reviewing strategies that have yet to be mastered by the student or strategies that will take the reader deeper into the text.

Fountas and Pinnell (2012) argue that guided reading instruction has nudged reading instruction to “focus on a deeper understanding of how readers build effective processing systems over time and an examination of the critical role of texts and expert teaching in the process.” If implemented effectively, guided reading can have a great impact on readers’ abilities to identify the processes they are using while reading, as well as understand the importance of their choice in the text they read. The other major component of guided reading is the teacher’s ability to implement effective instruction that focuses on guiding students to deeper meaning of their text.

Guided reading requires students to be engaged with a text that allows the student to read proficiently, at their ability level, with the text carefully and purposefully selected by the teacher, along with the supportive teaching that takes place during guided reading time (2012). This form of instruction allows students to be reading proficiently at their own processing rate, on a daily basis. This form of instruction can greatly impact reading comprehension and fluency because students are working at their own ability levels, which in turn allows them to feel successful and motivated to keep working on their reading skills and strategies and grow as readers.

Fountas and Pinnell (2012) contend that guided reading has its own place in all types of reading instruction. Guided reading should not be the main reading instruction, it “must be only one component of a comprehensive, high-quality literacy effort…” (p. 281). The authors also have the opinion that “guided reading provides small-group instruction that allows for a closer tailoring to