The answer is BOTH. Middle school is the bridge between elementary and high school -- what a huge difference in academic, social and personal growth. As middle school teachers, we often see a huge range of reading levels. In my caseload of 79 students, I teach students who range from second grade reading levels to tenth grade reading levels. So, I got real about things.
The term "guided reading" is generally used as a phrase, but if you break that apart, it's easy to figure out which students actually need guided reading. So I asked myself: Which of my students need guidance in terms of reading? I couldn't just look at grades, because we all know that there are some brilliant students out there who sometimes don't complete all of their work, so I looked at reading assessments, history of standardized reading tests, and used my judgement as their teacher.
I assigned the students who need guidance to guided reading groups, and those students who are reading above grade level to literature circles. The hardest part of this job is finding books at the right academic level and interest level for a group of opinionated middle schoolers.
I used this form to organize my class into groups:
I think it's important to create an actual schedule because I'm more likely to stick to it when it's in writing. Our schedule rotates, and some weeks I see my students for long periods of time. In other weeks, I see them for shorter times. So, I was specific in my schedule to make sure some weeks I see them three to four times per week, because the following week may not allow me to see them at all.
Am I the only one with a crazy schedule?
As I put together books for groups to choose, I realized I wanted my literature circles to be able to run themselves with me only needing to check in on them. After countless hours on Pinterest, and my desire to keep things simply designed in my classroom, I decided to store each set of books in small paper-sized plastic drawers. (I'm attaching a picture, even though I have 4 drawers that are black plastic and 2 that are white. I seriously need some OCD relief because I look at these drawers every day and analyze my choice in buying two colors...lol)
My guided reading/literature circle station:
Now that I see the picture online, I realize I forgot to remove the Sterilite stickers. :/
Here is a close-up of one set of drawers:
Each drawer contains the number of books I need for that group. It also includes any graphic organizers or unfinished assignments so I don't lose them. My literature circle students know what day they meet, and one of them comes to this station to grab the books they need along with enough literature circle record sheets for that day.
Here is a copy of the literature circle record sheet:
When the group is done meeting, they place their books and record sheets back in the drawer. I check these periodically (especially if I am not able to spend class time meeting with them). *Tip: If someone is absent, the group creates a sheet for them and writes absent at the top, so they can make it up.
While my literature circle groups meet, and my other students are working on other activities, I start pulling students who need guidance. While they read, I give them time to read the text themselves. I usually do a quick review of the passage they are reading. In general, I finish with a little time to spare (another tip: If they finish before you, have them go back and reread, since it's probable they did not actually take their time.), so I will lean in and have them read out loud to me -- quietly so it doesn't bother the other group members. With certain students, I may work on specific skills. Once we review those skills, I will have each student pull a Common Core Guided Reading Task Card from a pile of cards I've chosen ahead of time. They write the question on the Guided Reading Task Card Sheet, and they answer it. You can see on the photo that I wrote "good" upside down on the first answer. This student chose a portion of the chapter to read to me with fluency and expression, so I marked my approval. It's upside down because I sat across from him.
When I finished with my group, I open my binder and add some notes. I used to do this while I worked with my kids, but they were really worried that I was writing bad things on the page. So, I've moved to filling it in as soon as they leave my table. It really only takes an extra minute or two, PLUS I have the record sheet to review specific skills the student examined during our meeting.
I hope I haven't typed too much. I'm known to ramble in my writing.
Happy New Year!