Best Practices Leveraging Guided Reading Mode

Students work on CommonLit reading lesson.

The best tool for reading comprehension

As a right-brained English teacher, I did not jump for joy when it came to grading and analyzing data. Although I knew that data-driven instruction was really valuable, spending hours grading and analyzing student performance trends was not my ideal use of a Sunday. Effective feedback experts know that “when feedback isn’t timely, students are disengaged and demotivated.”

This is exactly why the assignment report feature on CommonLit is invaluable. It makes it really easy to analyze student performance with a quick turnaround, especially because all of our multiple-choice questions are graded instantly. Instead of spending hours poring over student data just to find the trends yourself, our assignment reports allow you to view trends immediately so that you can spend time where you really need it: identifying informed next steps and planning for differentiated instruction.

For a good introduction to Assignment Reports, watch this quick “Show Me How” video:

Now that you know more about navigating Assignment Reports, let’s take a closer look at how you can leverage Guided Reading Mode data to inform your instruction. There is so much you can do with Guided Reading Mode data that we’ll save the assessment questions for a later post.

Video explaining how to use Guiding Questions with a CommonLit text.
This is what Guided Reading Mode looks like for a student!

We’ll start by looking at the data for a class of students who just read Ralph Fletcher’s “Funeral.” I’m going to explain the short story below to help frame some of the data analysis you’ll see later in the post, but you may choose to check out “Funeral” before reading on.

Ralph, our protagonist, is moving away from home, so his friends have a “funeral” for him to say their goodbyes. The “funeral” is quite touching, and the boys reflect upon the great times that they have spent together. As the story ends, Ralph realizes how much he appreciates his friends, but simultaneously, he learns that he is ready to move on with his life.

Students who struggle with this text typically misinterpret the story as a literal funeral instead of a symbolic gesture. They may also think that Ralph’s friends are having a “funeral” because they’re mad at him or dislike him because he’s moving.

Below, we’re going to take a look at the Guided Reading Mode data for “Funeral.” Throughout the rest of this post, I’ll show you some ways that I would break down this data, as well as some strategies for revisiting this text with students who struggled.

Guiding Reading mode student data for text "Funeral."

Looking at this data, there are three different areas I would address. The majority of my students made two or more attempts at answering question number 3. I’d review the question to determine what part of the text is confusing students. I would also think about why that part of the text is so tricky for kids. Have they experienced this vocabulary? Is the text structure confusing? Is there something ambiguous that students made inferences around without looking for evidence?

I also notice that a handful of students made two or more attempts at answering question number 2, so I’m going to review this question in a small group. Finally, I notice that two of my students — Jennifer and Sebastian — struggled with the whole text, so I’m going to have individual conferences with each of them. Let’s take a closer look at how to handle each of these situations:

One-on-One Reading Conferences

First, I want to start by thinking about the two students who really struggled with the whole text. They are struggling with the guided questions or the text complexity, so they need a swift intervention.

Guiding Reading Mode student data for text "Funeral" highlighting three student's names.

If I’m lucky, I can leverage a resource like a co-teacher or after-school time to meet with these students. Otherwise, I would run reading conferences with Jennifer and Sebastian while the rest of the class does an activity, like independent reading.

I would likely hypothesize, after rereading the guiding questions, which skill I could teach them at the beginning of the reteach. This way, they could hold onto and practice the skill throughout the lesson, so that there’s some kind of foundation to add onto. I would also come to this conference prepared with scaffolding questions for each Guiding Question by asking myself: If they don’t get THIS, then what could I ask them?

Once Jennifer and Sebastian grasp the figurative nature of the “funeral” in the story, they will be able to read the text with an increased understanding. Depending on their ability level, they may need additional support with vocabulary, identifying main ideas, and finding key details.

Small Group Reteach

The next data point I notice is the four students who had a breakdown in understanding on guiding question #2: Brian, Eric, Gabriela, and Keesha. (Since Jennifer and Sebastian had more severe misunderstandings I chose to provide a more individualized level of support for them).

Guiding Reading Mode student data for text "Funeral" with "Guiding Question 2" column highlighted. 

Working with a small group can easily be accomplished during the beginning or end of class while the remainder of the students completes a warm-up or reflection activity. I would take this section of the text and run a close-reading.

I notice that with this particular question the group needs to really read carefully because the question asks students which answer does “NOT” apply:

Pop out of "Guiding Question 2" column with reading question highlighted. 

Now I can help students who either misread the question or did not understand the nature of the “funeral” his friends hosted for him. They need to find evidence from the text that the funeral was funny, heart-felt, and honest (all positive) to understand that it was NOT mean (a negative). Students who did not fully understand that the funeral was a nice gesture may have misinterpreted it as something negative because funerals are usually “bad” on a more literal level.

Running a Whole Group Reteach

Guiding Reading Mode student data for text "Funeral" with "Guiding Question 3" column highlighted.

Question #3 was clearly a difficult one for most of my students. By hovering over the question I can take a closer look at where my students got confused.

Pop out of "Guiding Question 3" column with reading question highlighted. 

This is a tough question because the text does not explicitly tell the reader how Ralph feels, and students will have to look very closely at the text to draw this inference. In the text, the character was able to move on because his friends got to say a proper good-bye.

I would run a close-reading of the most relevant paragraphs:

Text relating to "Guiding Question 3" highlighted. 

By the end of this reteach activity, students need to understand that option A is the correct answer because Ralph accepts his move. When Ralph states at the end of the story that he “stood up and stepped into [his] new life, whatever that might be,” he is clearly not bored (option B) or angry (option C). Students may infer that he optimistically moves into his future, though he makes no comment about “seeing his friends again soon” (option D).

As we read through this section, students will identify key terms and look closely for evidence of Ralph’s emotions. It may help to use the process of elimination. For example, I would help students break down the sentence “Usually I hated it… but this time it felt different” to drive home the idea that he does not feel angry about his move (eliminating option C from the question).

Using the Guided Reading Mode data gives me the opportunity to delve deeper into the text with the whole class since I see how many students got tripped up. Even though a few students got the answer correct, they will still benefit from participating in the close-reading activity. These students can even serve as tutors during turn-and-talks.

Final Thoughts

Use the three examples above to guide you through addressing data from Guided Reading Mode with your students.

Get into the habit of giving immediate feedback from the guided reading data and your students will quickly start rereading and close-reading texts on their own. Close-reading is a really good strategy to help students break down specific portions of a text and delve deeper into the nuances of complex language. It’s a useful strategy for teaching all genres, not just fiction.

Teach and revisit a text after using the Guided Reading Mode data to figure out your next steps.

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