Is 20 minutes enough time?

This year, I have noticed an increase in my questioning of our literacy structures. I have become torn between the expectations from my district and the beliefs that I have for my students. I noticed the change last year, but my feelings about what is best for my students is changing rapidly as the year goes on.

Guided Reading…

The Fountas and Pinnell website defines guided reading as “ a teaching approach designed to help individual readers build an effective system for processing a variety of increasingly challenging texts over time.”

“Guided reading is not an exercise to practice reading skills. It is research-based, professionally energized, highly targeted, scaffolded reading instruction that propels all students toward confident, independent reading of high quality grade level books across a diverse array of literature and informational genres. Reading well means reading with deep, high quality comprehension and gaining maximum insight or knowledge from each source.” Fountas and Pinnell

The website continues to discuss how Guided Reading and Common Core components are aligned and the Ten Text Characteristics of Guided Reading –> Genre/Form, Text Structure, Content, Themes and Ideas, Language and Literary Features, Sentence Complexity, Vocabulary, Words, Illustrations, Book and Print Features.

My county has a structure for Guided Reading(GR) during the literacy block and the responsibilities of both the teacher and the students.Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 12.44.57 PM.png

But over the past couple weeks I have started to notice that I am having a difficult time following the guidelines and the GR always leads to more discoveries.

Look at the 20 minute guided reading lesson that took place:

  • Minute 1:
    • I hand out the book “Looking Down”. The cover of the book is a hot air balloon without any people in the basket.
  • Minute 2:
    • I pose the question “What do you see on the front cover?”. Most of the students could not answer that the picture was a hot air balloon.
  • Minute 4:
    • I describe what a hot air balloon is, how the balloon works, look at different pictures of hot air balloons on the iPad, making sure that the photographs have people and show how high the balloon can go into the sky. The students ask a couple more questions, but then I encourage the students to take a picture walk.
  • Minute 9:
    • We look through the text, seeing houses from above, a school, a playground, the city, a field. We then get to the page with a river, most students call it a lake or the ocean (those photographs come later on). We discuss how the picture is a river, look at the beginning sound (oh yes, that is the objective of the lesson – using the beginning sound to match the photograph) and then I try to quickly explain how a lake, river and ocean are connected.
  • Minute 15:
    • We finish the picture walk and then I ask the students to start reading. One of the boys stops on the page with the field and asks what the little white things are in the photograph.fullsizerender
  • Minute 17:
    • We discuss that the field has hay bales and those are all over the photograph. Then the questions about hay bales start… Where do they come from? How big are they? What are they for? Why are they all over the field? etc.
  • Minute 19:
    • I am googling photographs of hay bales. Trying to quickly show and descirbe to the group what is in the picture.
  • Minute 20:
    • The iPad bell rings to rotate to a new center. I turn off the iPad quickly end the lesson and we pack up.

As they leave to go to their next center, I am overcome by guilt that they did not get their full Guided Reading lesson, but rather an inquiry into new vocabulary and information. But this was not the time was that type of lesson.

I reflect on my teaching constantly and I try to think about ways to make my students time in school meaningful and deliberate, but how can I encourage inquiry learning and still continue the required guided reading. I feel that I am torn between guided reading structure and the inquiry structure that my students are yearning for.

If I read into the guided reading definition from Fountas and Pinnell “Reading well means reading with deep, high quality comprehension and gaining maximum insight or knowledge from each source.” Then I need to structure my lessons to give my students that opportunity in their independent centers. I am thinking about ways to structure their independent time so they can research about the difference of a river, lake and ocean, they can find out more about hay bales and they are in charge of their learning.

Stay tuned to see what comes from this idea, but for now I will continue to walk the line between guided reading and inquiry learning.


6 thoughts on “Is 20 minutes enough time?

  1. susanedu450 October 12, 2016 / 5:54 pm

    Hi I would like to add my two cents as I like what you are doing as it gives them visuals to see and therefore will make more connects in the long run. I guess the students may be teaching you a new way to see things and therefore they will love reading. As your are adding to their vocabulary as I see it in a totally different way so don’t feel guilty as all children learn differently. I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences as I think you are teaching also with your gut. I have heard that never steers you wrong 😉


  2. rachaelhyaduck October 12, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    I found this post to be very thought provoking. As a future educator, the issue of time is something that has been covered in the majority of my teaching class. I also find myself wondering if there is actually enough time in each class session to create a meaningful learning experience for my future students. For example, in a teaching history course, my professor stated that a lecture for a 55-minute class should be between 7 and 10 minutes. That just seems like it is not enough time to get the message across. So I can understand your frustrations about trying to accomplish a guided reading within a specific time frame. I also really like inquiry learning but how does a teacher allow for their students to constantly ask questions when there is a task that needs to be accomplished? I feel like your solutions of giving them time to research the elements in the guided reading sounds very helpful and would hopefully help move the reading along faster. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. leighahall October 16, 2016 / 2:23 pm

    I also found the post to be thought provoking. I can appreciate how you reflect on your teaching to make experiences better and more personalized for your students. However, I also think you did a great lesson! You did a wonderful job addressing there questions and building both background and vocabulary knowledge. They would have likely had limited comprehension at best if you had not done these things. I think you are bumping up into issues if you try to stick to a framework. The framework is good, but sometimes it won’t always be what you need. I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about at all!


  4. thomasunc October 22, 2016 / 10:52 am

    I concur with the above comments. I love the format of this post and the links.

    You are facing the problems most teachers face. I feel like this most every day. Do I go with the student or go with the curriculum? I think your lesson sounds great, you went with student questions because they were important to understanding the text. Maybe a solution to your internal conflict would be to redo the lesson. Now that you have set context and built schema, students may now focus on the text and the reading process. This is complex work. Good luck. Keep asking questions.


  5. ckllit17 October 23, 2016 / 10:43 pm

    Thank you for the encouraging words. I am excited about the growth that the students are making and agree that the framework does not always work. It is a great idea to redo the lesson after the schema has been built. The students will be able to access the lesson with more background knowledge.


  6. dezvillalobos November 30, 2016 / 5:14 pm

    I think this is a dilemma that all teachers face, but it is usually in the context of teaching for a test versus meaningful learning. I also think that good teachers do what you are doing right now and think of a solution. I feel like you made the right decision; your students wouldn’t have gotten the most out of the reading had you not stopped to make sure that they understood all aspects of the reading like hay bales. It is often hard to anticipate what students will have questions about in any subject, but perhaps tackling the obvious ones with a light homework assignment the day before could help streamline the process? Anyways I am sure what ever you decide on will be good.


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