Guided Reading

Part-to-Whole Phonics versus Whole-to-Part Phonics
Making Guided Reading Work

Guiding Reading Manuals

Many schools today are using Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell’s Guided Reading program.  I recently purchased their method books: Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children and Word Maters: Teaching Phonics and Spelling in the Reading/Writing Classroom. They are published by Heinemann.  I studied them when I was public school teacher, but fortunately was never required to teach that method.

Guided Reading + Blend Phonics = Reading Success!

Although I personally feel that school districts requiring Guided Reading instruction are not using the best approach to teaching reading and spelling, I also understand that teachers are required to use whatever method their district requires. In order to help those teachers, I will explain how that adding a few minutes of daily Blend Phonics to their teaching can help them make sure that ALL their students learn the systematic, sequential phonics they need to be superior readers, accurate spellers, and competent writers. Blend Phonics is now available in paperback. There is now a book of 62 Blend Phonics Lessons and Stories Available.

Shared Reading and Trade Books

I have no criticism of Shared Reading or the use of trade books. In fact, I very much enjoy reading them with my students. I am not opposed to decodable text, but do not consider them absolutely necessary. Many decodable texts offer little advantage over predictable text because they are loaded with pictures and sight-words that encourage whole-word guessing: They are actually “hybrids.” Once students have mastered Hazel Loring’s Blend Phonics, they will be fully ready to benefit from shared and independent reading of the rich children’s literature – without any need for strictly controlled vocabulary. Students who are taught Blend Phonics in their Guided Reading classroom, will score very high on their Running Records and standard reading assessments.

Requirements & Procedures 

Nothing is required but a chalkboard, white-board,  overhead, or perhaps one of the new Smart Boards. I do NOT use phonics worksheets and other paraphernalia often associated with systematic, sequential phonics. The procedures are very simple and easy to follow:

I write the words on the board following the blend phonics procedure: b+a = ba, ba+t=bat. Directional guidance is built into the program. We teach letter names and the sounds the letters represent at the same time. Each words is used in an oral sentence to make sure the neural connections from sight to sound to meaning are secure, with the connections operating in reverse for composition. The students write all the words in a wide-lined spiral notebook. Pencil grip and letter formation (preferably cursive) is taught with great care. Each word is spelled orally after it has been written. I say the letter names as I write the words so the students learn to sound out, understand, and spell all the words.

Note: The program is designed to be completed during the first four months of first grade. It can be taught to kindergarten in a year. It serves well for remediation for any age. It is perfect for RTI Tier II, and III for older students and Tier I for beginning students.

Total Recall of Alphabet

I cannot emphasize too much the importance of “total recall” of the alphabet. Here are some helpful materials I have developed to help teachers and parents teach Alphabet Fluency. Students in kindergarten should be able to rapidly write the alphabet from memory in alphabetical order and identify the letters by name out of order.

Phonovisual Charts

For teaching the sound-to-symbol correspondences to automaticty, nothing beats the  comprehensive, yet inexpensive, Phonovisual Charts. They have a proven track record in American classrooms since their first publication in 1942. Although not absolutely necessary, they form a powerful adjunct to effective reading instruction with Blend Phonics. I have published a Detailed Analysis of the Phonovisual Charts and a YouTube Training Video. You can read the 1960 Phonovisual Manual from the Internet Archive Library.

Recommendations for Parents 

While this blog is basically addressing teachers and administrators who are required to implement Guided Reading instruction, parents can do much to assure that their children will learn to read well, even in unfortunate situations where Guided Reading is not being supplemented with a strong systematic, sequential phonics program.

1. Read to your children daily from the rich treasures of our English language. To develop comprehension skills, let me recommend Dr. George González’ Totally Integrated Language Arts Program. High level comprehension skills can be developed even before the children are able to read by listening to stories and discussion the stories using Dr. González´Eight Comprehension Powers.

2. Make absolutely sure your children develop “total recall of the alphabet.” They should be able to identify the letters in upper and lower case print (and cursive) write the letters in order fluently and legibly, and copy words effortlessly.

3. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes everyday to teach your children Hazel Loring’s 1980 Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics for First Grade. Even if the teacher at school is supplementing Guided Reading with a good phonics program, Blend Phonics taught at home will eliminate any possibility that your child might slip through the cracks. Blend Phonics is so easy to teach that anyone can teach  it correctly the very first time without any formal training beside what is offered in the Blend Phonics pamphlet.

4.  On July 3, 2014 I published a paperback edition Florence Akin’s 1913 Word Mastery: Phonics for the First Three Grades. It is one of the most effective phonics programs ever published.

5.  Be sure and teach your children good pencil grip and letter formation. If your school does not have a formal handwriting program (many do not), you can supplement with several commercial programs that are available. Good handwriting is the essential foundation for good reading and composition. My Shortcut to Manuscript is an excellent program that is very easy to teach. My Direct Path to Cursive has proven very successful with many students.

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