Guided Reading in Spanish: Leveraging an English Literacy Practice
Dual Language Teachers, Administrators, and District Leaders:
This is the next in a series of brief, practitioner-focused articles I have written during the last couple of months focused on teaching Spanish “a la English.” Today, I would like to address guided reading, a pedagogical practice that is used throughout the United States, including in many transitional bilingual and dual language classrooms.
Interestingly, guided reading is not an educational strategy used to develop initial Spanish literacy anywhere else in the world. But, because of the English-centric nature of schools in the United States, teachers facilitating instruction in Spanish and other partner languages have been forced to embrace guided reading as part of their biliteracy pedagogical toolbelts.
Guided reading is an extremely important practice as we provide students the support needed to effectively decode in English. As an opaque language, English with its 15 vowel sounds and 40-52 phonemes, requires targeted reading support that allows students to deeply engage in the decoding process. Working in small groups with a teacher facilitating such literacy instruction is essential. Spanish, as a transparent language with only 5 vowel sounds, 24 phonemes, and focused on syllable work requires less support for students learning to decode.
This does not mean that we, in bilingual or dual language programs cannot leverage guided reading to ensure that students are working towards bilingualism and biliteracy goals. We can and we should, because it provides an opportunity to demonstrate value added as students engage in the process of learning content through two program languages. However, whether we are using DRA-EDL, Fountas & Pinnell, or another type of literacy assessment, guided reading in Spanish must be adapted to more authentically align with biliteracy instructional best practices.
If we consider the orthographic differences between Spanish and English, then, guided reading in Spanish must initially focus on vowels and syllable work. Students must understand and own the differences between literacy work in both program languages. That is, from the time that students are enrolled in bilingual and/or dual language PK/Kinder classrooms, they should be empowered to compare and contrast how we learn to read in both English and Spanish.
As we lesson plan for our Spanish guided reading groups, what happens before and during the reading portions of the lesson is similar to English. However, after the reading, as we engage students in the construction of learning around the significance of the text, inferencing, and biliteracy strategies leveraged, the teaching point must align with a multilingual perspective of literacy instruction.
Moreover, since most students, including those that more readily mobilize English and/or Spanish at home, will be able to decode in Spanish by second semester of first grade, guided reading beginning in second grade, and specifically, as part of the teaching point, must focus on other biliteracy components. This includes student work around text comprehension, higher levels of cognitive thinking, cross-linguistic connections, and authentic Spanish literacy elements (see November 2020 article), rather than solely targeting phonemic awareness.
Finally, we must remember that emergent bilingual/multilingual students are on a biliteracy journey, unlike students in English-only monolingual educational settings. Thus, when considering their growth, we must align with the biliteracy trajectories that have been identified in our schools and/or districts. If we are to leverage guided reading as a biliteracy practice, we must do so through a culturally sustaining lens.
Adelante con la lectura guiada en español, but let’s modify it to meet the needs of our bilingual and multilingual emergent students!