Reading is perhaps the most important life-skill we can teach to children and not just from the point of view of increased literacy rates (as much as they are to be desired). Storytelling gives us the opportunity to guide pupils through a brand new world, where school desks are replaced with spaceship consoles or a raft to a desert island. It allows them to explore the minds of some of the literary greats and allows teachers the opportunity to point out the sights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells, that they encounter along the way.
So what is the best way to do guided reading for children?
Currently, there are two main techniques employed in UK schools for teacher-led reading. These are the carousel method and the whole-class method.
Under the carousel method, a teacher spends a reading lesson each day with a portion of their class whilst the rest of the group do some other task related to their learning. The next day, the teacher will move to another section of their learning group, and so on until the entire class has completed the guided-reading exercise.
The whole-class method, as its name suggests, is an alternative approach wherein the entire class gets to experience the same reading journey as a single unit.
The benefits of whole-class reading sessions are manifold.
Under the carousel system, each child gets a single session of reading instruction each week – let’s call it 45 minutes. The rest of the time they are sat behind their school desk engaged in another activity whilst the next group go on a guided journey through a fantastic book. Under whole-class reading, those same kids get a 400% increase in their instructed reading lessons for the week. Losing out on the sessions spent sat on a children's school chair is no loss either. Whether they were covering spelling, phonics or any other aspect of their linguistic development, guided-reading can help to develop them automatically.
It also creates a sense of community within the class, meaning that pupils at every level of attainment are able to become immersed in great literature and are able to contribute to the discussion surrounding it. We feel that literature should be for everyone, regardless of age or ability, and whole-class reading promotes that, giving all pupils the opportunity to weigh in with their opinions, so that a given text can be addressed from all angles.
Whether you prefer whole-class reading, or carousel guided-reading really makes no difference, as one is not fundamentally better than another. All that matters – and every teacher will already know this – is getting kids to read in the first place!