You are right- I never explained this!
In a guided reading group one of the goals is to have students read text while supported by you, the teacher. Remember the idea of gradual release of responsibility:
- I do, you watch
- I do, you help
- You do, I help
- You do, I watch
Using staggered-start can be both of the last two bullets; the key is that the student is ‘doing’ while you watch or help:
- When you stagger the start, each student has a copy of the text;
- One student student begins with the first paragraph (first page, first part,…);
- When the first student gets to the second paragraph (second page, second part, …) student number two begins with the first paragraph while the second student continues on;
- When student number two gets to the second paragraph, student number three begins with the first paragraph while the previous students continue reading;
- While students are reading you are monitoring, taking notes and coaching.
- When a student finishes s/he goes to the beginning and starts again and all students stop at the same time.
Did that make sense? The idea is that each student starts and continues reading through to the end. Because each student begins at a different time, each one has to appropriately-struggle with the whole text. No one is getting nervous about everyone listening; no one is counting ahead and pre-reading his or her paragraph. This is not round-robin reading!
As coach, you cue students as they are reading and take notes about their struggles. I always ask students to use their finger or a ruler while they are stagger reading so that I, the teacher, know where they are on the page and I can match the text with their speech as I quickly check in with each student.
Remember, this is one step in a whole process; it is one way to have students practice their reading in a guided reading group. Staggered reading will mean nothing if students do not understand what they are reading. Reading= comprehension.
Literacy Creates Justice (and it’s fun!).
Here is a group of teachers practicing staggered reading: