Guided Reading and Literacy Learning Stations Part 3: Stations and Grouping

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This is part 3 in my series about Guided Reading and Literacy Learning Stations. In Part 2 I focused on creating a classroom community and making preparations for stations by going over procedures in depth – introducing 1 or 2 at a time.

Today I will focus on two other steps: 1) Deciding on what types of stations would be beneficial, and 2) Deciding on how you will be grouping  your students for small group teacher instruction.

Stations should:

  1. Be differentiated and engaging to allow for different abilities and learning styles.
  2. Have signs and anchor charts for each one. The anchor charts serve a dual purpose: To introduce your expectations of their behavior and procedures for the station, and to remind students while actually working at the station.
  3. Address the 5 areas of literacy: Phonemic Awareness (K-2), Phonics, Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Fluency.

Click on the link for my list of Literacy Stations Ideas. While I always advise teachers to start easy and begin with activities that require little preparation (listening center, smartboard, boxed activities, computer station), I hope you will gradually work toward more rigorous, differentiated activities that suit the learning needs of your students.

One station I think is critical is a silent reading / library / magic carpet reading center. Students need to practice the strategies you have been teaching. Here are my suggestions on having an organized classroom library.

Mrs. Seely’s Classroom Library

  • Organize books in baskets by topic, author, and/or level. Young students are not very good about putting books on shelves like in a school or public library, so baskets provide a good structure. It also helps students know where to return a book. Label each basket with the topic (and clip art picture for PreK, KG, 1st) such as: friends, fairy tales, plants, dogs, machines, fish, Clifford, Dr. Seuss, poetry, riddles, insects. Some baskets should have books by level (sorted by Fountas and Pinnell guided reading letters or AR levels).
  • A basket for familiar books is also essential (whether it is ones read by the teacher, or by students in guided reading). You want students to enjoy books, but if all they are doing is looking at pictures they are missing the chance to gain confidence and fluency provided by reading familiar books.
  • Provide comfortable seating at this station (carpet squares, bean bag, big pillows). If you don’t have room for seating like this, then try placing a basket of books at each group of desks. Rotate the basket each day. When students are finished with work, they have a selection of books at their disposal without having to leave their seats!
  • Teach children how to select a book that is right for them (see Daily 5), how to silent read, how to look for words they know, how to partner read, how to take care of the book, how to put it back in the basket.
  • Some of your baskets could hold both fiction and non-fiction books on the same topic (such as plants, ocean, weather). This will help when you are studying that topic in social studies or science.

Another critical station can address both phonics and vocabulary. Word work is important and your station provides the perfect opportunity to practice skills you have taught in whole or small group – and to provide varied levels of the same skill for different students. This can be done via matching, sorting or game formats using letter tiles or magnets, word cards, pocket charts, white boards, and metal trays. Be careful not to just let this be a spelling practice station.

Grouping Students

There are different methods for grouping students for your small group instruction.

  1. By strategy need: Students are grouped with others who need help with the same skill. (such as hearing onsets-rimes, breaking words apart, letter names, letter-sound correspondence, cvc work, vowel pairs, comprehension skills, and more —  often using Literacy First or DIBELS  data).
  2. By instructional level: Use data from Running Records or other assessments to determine students ability to accurately read text. Text reading accuracy of 95-100% indicates an independent level; 90-04% indicates instructional level; and below 90% indicates frustration level text. Think about it in this way:  If a child is missing more than 10% of the words, then it is considered too hard — there are too many challenges making it frustrating. If the child is missing less than 5% of the words, then it is considered too easy. But between 5 and 10% means there are some strategies a child is missing, but not so many to be overly challenging or hard. It must be “just right.” This is my preferred method for grouping KG-2nd grade (and maybe 3rd grade) students because it enables me to work on strategies for text reading as well as word work and writing – all within the context of a book.
  3. For intermediate students, you may want to group students by book interest to form Literature Circles. Interest to read a particular book can be a strong motivator to read, no matter their apparent ability. The teacher would provide multiple copies of 4-5 different books. Students sign up for the book they want to read (1st and 2nd choice) and form the groups that way. The focus each meeting is more driven by comprehension, word analysis, and critical thinking strategies.

What is the ideal size of your small group? Actually, no more than 4. This might mean you have to form more than 5-6 groups to accommodate all of the students in your class. This calls for creative scheduling – but always make it a point to work with your lowest on a daily basis. Your higher students could meet with you 2-3 times weekly, while doing some independent work on the other days. If you have an adult paraprofessional / tutor / volunteer available, they can help with monitoring stations such as word work and familiar reading, or hosting a small group.

The assessment needed to determine grouping (for options 1 and 2) will take place within your first 6 weeks of school. Refer to my handout: Guided Reading: The first 6 weeks of school  which summarizes most of the talking points in this blog.

Next:  Different types of rotations systems for literacy stations — the pros and cons of each.

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