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Running head: ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS

ESL Literacy and Guided Reading for Young Learners


Michael J. Edwards
Thongsook College

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS


Abstract
Guided reading is an approach to literacy instruction that is gaining traction in early childhood
development programs. As for English language learners, the youngest group tends to lose out
on quality when they are taken out of language arts programs. Therefore, guided reading is
presumed to provide plenty of academically geared tasks that make up for this dynamic. The
literature review covers common techniques and methods in guided reading. Criticisms of
leveled instruction, and its structural focus are presented. However, guided reading is found to
be beneficial for young learners in a wide range of scenarios.

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS

Guided Reading for Young Learners and ESL Literacy


There are a few well-known methods and techniques in English language literacy that
seem to follow one theme: independent reading. Among the most common of these are sustained
silent reading and free voluntary reading (Krashen, 2004). Programs following the simple
procedures in these methods are shown to promote further interest and engagement in other texts
in later years. Due to these findings, any bottom-up approaches in second language literacy that
include components of grammatical emphasis are criticized heavily. However, contrasting
approaches to facilitating literacy development are beginning to gain a lot of credibility for their
value in young learners second language classrooms (Irujo, 2007). For instance, guided reading
is well-known for its benefits when weighed against measures of assessment (Suits, 2003). Since
guided reading typically involves skills-building in utilizing cognitive strategies for growth in
literacy, one might be accurate in claiming that similar methods are sound practice for language
development. Although independent reading seems to make room for young learners curiosity
and creativity, guided reading should supplement these efforts by assisting in the construction of
any necessary schematic foundations.
Guided Reading
Methods
There are many variations of guided reading that are practiced from classroom to
classroom. Top-down approaches may focus on storytelling with an emphasis on vocabulary in
context. Learning strategies, such as skimming and scanning texts would also be practiced
(Suits, 2003, p. 32). On the other hand, alternative models begin by noting explicit objectives,
and facilitating around structural items (Avalos, Plasencia, Chavez & Rascon, 2007). Yet, there
is a common element in all of them in that they are used in small-group instruction with intensive

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS

methods. Almost all are used in conjunction with evaluation tools in order to carry out formative
assessments, and most tend to benchmark students according to their level of readiness in
literacy, and reading strategies. Thus, the entire process sets out to accommodate mixed-ability
classes through systematic methods of differentiation.
Elements of Guided Reading
The teacher may begin a guided reading session during group activities by inviting three
to five students of similar reading proficiency to another area of the room. Often, the location is
a small table where a teacher sits facing her/his student group. The teacher begins by introducing
the text and eliciting background knowledge of the topic before moving on to intensive activities
(Miller, 2008). From here, a variety of activities may be facilitated, such as those surrounding
phonemic awareness, inferential thinking, or decoding. Before introducing any text, the teacher
sounds out individual phonemes corresponding to letters that form specific words before
motioning for students to respond verbally. Thus, a student is afforded the chance to understand
how these sounds, often non-existent in L1, would contribute to the generation of patterns in
spoken form and in text.
In further stages, the teacher poses several types of questions in order to assist students in
meaning-making, and literacy development. These may include simple comprehension checks,
inferential questions or critical thinking questions (Marinaccio-Eckel & Donahue, 2009).
Whereas inferential questions elicit predictions of subsequent events that are illustrated within
the text, critical thinking questions seek to guide learners in a more open-ended scenario when
connections with the storyline are realized through their own thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Similarly, QARs (question-answer relationships) may be used to assist young learners in
comprehension of the text through responses of graduated complexity beginning with

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS

information that is located directly in the text, to working with the topic without using the book
(Chin-Wen, 2013).
Assessing reading. In each step of the process, a checklist or running record is used in
order to document assessments of the learners progress. In the pre-reading phase, checks are
noted under criteria corresponding to data gathered from knowledge of context and structural
items. In the during-reading phase, students are engaged in the storyline. The teacher
documents quantitative data related to leveled questions, as well as any extraneous qualitative
data related to events that pertain to a particular student. Further data are gathered in postreading segments when the teacher facilitates discussions through activities such as think aloud,
or think-pair-share (Barragato, 2015). While students contribute to the broader discourse, their
metacognitive strategies become clear enough to quantify. Each of these allows for analyses
contributing to differentiation in follow up lessons using an action-research based cycle of
instruction.
Criticisms
In addition to Krashens critique of grammatical approaches in literacy, guided reading
faces two main subjects of criticism. It is suggested that leveling and benchmarking students
according to ability has adverse effects on student-achievement since students may not have an
opportunity to graduate to levels as high as other peers (Miller, 2008, p. 25). The other suggests
that because a fragmented approach to structure and content is used in facilitation, guided
reading deemphasizes the broader dialogue around literature contexts (p. 36). Both of these may
bear some truth, so in case of their neglect, teachers may consider supplementing their programs
with guided discussions, and tiered activities.

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS


Literacy and Young ELLs
Criticism of guided reading seems to concern only certain aspects of the program. Even
those that are broader in criticizing the structural focus seem to overlook all of the input and
engagement in meaningful dialogue that is taking place while comprehension is at the forefront.
Its assessments provide enough data to teachers in order to differentiate appropriately in future
lessons, and plenty of interaction is provided for meaning surrounding the content. Although
each program will need to be supplemented with plenty of independent reading time and deeper
discussion, guided reading has a lot of potential to assist in language development. Through
these efforts, young learners may have an opportunity to develop their use of English through
engaging in the essentials while their schematic development depends on making sense of the
literature, as well as the world around them.

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS

References
Avalos, M. A., Plasencia, A., Chavez, C., Rascon, J. (2007). Modified guided reading: Gateway
to English as a second language and literacy learning. The Reading Teacher. 61. 4. 318329. International Reading Association. doi: 10.1598/RT.61.4.4.
Barragato, A. (2015). Think/pair/share and variations: An effective implementation guide for
active learning and assessment. Faculty for Innovative Teaching. Central Michigan
University. Retrieved from
https://www.cmich.edu/office_provost/facit/Documents/Teaching%20and%20Instruction
al%20Design/Think%20Pair%20Share-2015-Adam%20Barragato.pdf.
Chin-Wen, C. (2013). Using Raphaels QARs as differentiated instruction with picture books.
English Teaching Forum. 3. 21-22. Retrieved from
http://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/51_3_5_chien.pdf.
Irujo, S. (2007). What does research tell us about teaching reading to English language learners?
The ELL Outloook. Retrieved from
http://www.usc.edu/dept/education/CMMR/543/543IrujoResearchReadingELLs.pdf.
Krashen, S. (2004). Free voluntary reading: new research, applications, and controversies.
Proceeds of the RELC Conference. Singapore. Retrieved from
www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/singapore.pdf.
Marinaccio-Eckel, P. & Donahue, J. (2009). The critical role of guided oral reading for English
language learners. 6. 3-4. TESOL International Association. Retrieved from
https://www.tesol.org/read-and-publish/journals/other-serial-publications/compleatlinks/compleat-links-volume-6-issue-3-4-%28october-2009%29/the-critical-role-ofguided-oral-reading-for-english-language-learners.

ESL LITERACY AND GUIDED READING FOR YOUNG LEARNERS


Miller, A. L. (2008). Guided reading tutorials with English learners. SJSU Scholar Works:
Masters Theses. San Jose State University. Retrieved from
http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4563&context=etd_theses.
Suits, B. (2003). Guided reading and second language learners. Multicultural Education. 27-34.
Retrieved from www.files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ775329.pdf.