What is Guided Reading?

A Look at Guided Reading

Literacy instruction may include guided reading. A small-group practice in which students read texts at their reading level, guided reading provides one way for teachers to support each reader’s development as they process texts that appropriately challenge them.

Some of today’s literacy instruction uses guided reading or small group instruction to engage students with a variety of texts, encouraging them to apply the reading skills they’ve learned and to employ flexible problem-solving. Guided reading provides one strategy to help students think and act like proficient readers, and helps teachers lead students forward intentionally through increasingly challenging texts.

Guided Reading in Practice

The teacher seats students together who are reading at a similar developmental level, assigning the same text to all the members of this small group. In each of the guided reading or small instructional groups, the students read the text, silently or quietly to themselves; then the teacher guides a discussion of the text, addressing its meaning or other aspects through exercises targeted to the students’ areas of weakness or strength.

How to Implement Guided Reading Activities

  1. Conduct extensive research on the students in this small group:
    • Review their assessments
    • Remind yourself of everything you already know about their needs as readers
    • Identify the areas of instruction you’d like to emphasize with:
      • Each reader
      • The small group as a whole.
  2. Choose the lesson plans you want to use with this group, based on:
    • Reading level
    • Educational needs of each reader and of the group
    • Relevance to other areas of study
    • Appropriateness for guided reading or small group practice.
  3. Study and analyze the text in-depth, considering how students will respond and planning out in detail all related questions and activities for the small group.
  4. Introduce the subject of the activity to the assembled group, and then introduce the text itself.
  5. Ask students to read the text individually, and observe them while they read, offering answers to questions along with other reading support as needed throughout the reading time.
  6. When they’re done reading, invite them to discuss the text’s meaning with you and each other.
  7. Work with students on the teaching goals, questions, or activities you planned for this group, focusing on one or two main take-away points.
  8. Extend learning and understanding by engaging children in:
    • Activities involving letter and/or word work
    • Writing activities about the text they’ve just read
    • Reflection on things they enjoyed or learned from the text or the activity
    • Games or role-plays based on the text
    • Requests for following lessons or related texts
    • Artistic expression inspired by the text.
  9. Think about what worked with this exercise, what didn’t, and why, and use the knowledge to improve next time!

Effectively implementing guided reading or small instructional groups takes work, but the effort is uniquely rewarding. You’ll see your students applying what you’ve taught them, becoming more independent while reaching higher levels of reading competency and achievement. The skills and knowledge gained from small group practice will reward the investment of your time and energy. Try daily guided reading and/or small group instruction activities and see how your students improve!


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