Guided Reading

by Kaley Woodman
"In primary grades children are learning to read and in upper grades they are reading to learn."

What is it?

Guided reading is a context in which a teacher supports each reader's development of effective strategies for processing and understanding text at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty.
  • a strategy that helps students become good readers.
  • the teacher provides support for small groups of students as they learn reading strategies, such as context cues, letter/sound relationships, word structure, etc
  • mostly in primary grades, but can be modified to be successful in all grades
  • Purpose: with the proper book selection, students will be able to read with 90% accuracy. This allows the student to enjoy the story because they are not overwhelmed by "road blocks" that interfere with comprehension.
  • By providing small groups of students the opportunity to learn various reading strategies with guidance from the teacher, they will possess the skills and knowledge required to read increasingly more difficult texts on their own
  • Independent reading is the GOAL
  • The text is matched to readers in difficulty and complexity so that the readers can use effective strategies.
  • Children are grouped by ability so that matching text and readers is possible.
  • The teacher provides direct, explicit instruction to support all aspects of effective reading.
  • Children have a designated period of time to read continuous text, practicing effective strategies.
  • There is opportunity to extend meaning through writing and discussion, thus supporting comprehension.
  • There is opportunity to do some very specific teaching about letters, sounds, and how words "work" across the lesson as well as following the lesson.

Initial framework of Guided Reading in the Classroom

guide.jpgQUICK STEPS:How to set guided reading up
Before reading: Set the purpose for reading, introduce vocabulary, make predictions, talk about the strategies good readers use.
During reading: Guide students as they read, provide wait time, give prompts or clues as needed by individual students, such as "Try that again. Does that make sense? Look at how the word begins."
After reading: Strengthen comprehension skills and provide praise for strategies used by students during the reading.

  1. Students should be divided into small groups (4-6 students). The younger the students the smaller the groups. How to Group Students
  2. Guided reading lessons are to be about 15-20 minutes in duration.
  3. Appropriately leveled reading materials must be selected for the group and each child should have his/her own copy of the literature. Appropriate Levels
  4. Pre-Reading: The teacher establishes a purpose for reading through prediction making, vocabulary introduction, or discussing ideas that will provide the readers with the background knowledge required for the text.
  5. Reading: The teacher observes the students as they read the text softly or silently to themselves. The teacher provides guidance and coaching to individuals based on her/his observations by providing prompts, asking questions, and encouraging attempts at reading strategy application.
  6. Post Reading: The teacher asks questions to ensure that the text has been comprehended by the readers and praises their efforts. Further, the teacher may observe gaps in strategy application and address these gaps following the reading in a mini-lesson format.
  7. When you teach guided reading you are busy observing and instructing a small group of students. The other students in your class must be kept engage in a literacy activity while you are with your GR group. It helps to have literacy or reading stations.

Center Suggestions:

These are centers that can be set up and ready at any time in classrooms, by having materials in a box or container of some sort. This will make it easier for students to learn the routine of centers and know where and how to set them up themselves.
  • ABC centers (flash cards, ABC books, song and poem cards, and other ABC activities, alphabetizing)
  • Write the Room (small clipboards -- about 6x9 -- students copy any print they see anywhere in the room. They must fill one side of a page, even if they can't read everything they wrote. Beginning writers draw pictures to help them remember the words). Students can pair up & one may even use a pointer and tell the other what to write.
  • Rainbow Spelling (Post the week's spelling words on a half sheet of chart paper, students write them 3 times each with colored markers or colored pencils.)
  • Spelling Activity Center - using their word lists create tongues twisters, sentences, stories, word scrambles ...
  • Pocket Charts (Read/do the activities in at least 4 charts - (story sentence sequencing, making words challenge, etc).
  • Stamp a Word - take a tub with rubber alphabet stamps, stamp pads, and large sheets of paper to a work area and stamp any words they want to stamp.
  • Book Bins - independent, silent, or small group reading
  • Star Authors - A place to read student created work
  • Listening Centers - Record the books you read to the class. Have parents help out - have students record for others. How nice to hear your friend, mom, dad, sister or brother read a story at center time!
  • Magnetic letters/Magnetic Poetry for Kids - Make use of your metal file cabinet!
  • Stamp and sticker stories - Students use the stamps or stickers (appropriate to the unit) and write rebus type stories using stamps/stickers and words. Put a limit of stickers to be used or photocopy sheets of stickers they can cut apart.
  • Making Words Centers - Throughout the week students can go up to a pocket chart when they have a few minutes and try to make words out of the scrambled Mystery Word. On Fridays - students share all of the words that they came up with and decode the mystery word. It's a great activity for your average and high students.
  • Bookmaking Center -place numerous materials in a basket (writing utensils, colored pens, markers, crayons, stickers, etc.), a tablet of story paper and a stapler/binding machine. Encourage children to make books about topic that interest them.
  • Sign Language Center- Make a center with a poster of the hand sign letters, flash cards, and books (consider Braille or other languages as well).
  • Making Greeting Cards - have samples of greeting card verses, titles, etc - cut them up for students to refer to for ideas. Add anything from yarn, pompoms, wiggly eyes, letter and picture stencils, etc....Encourage students to make cards for their family, teachers around the building, and students within the room.
  • Game Center - think word games - Scrabble, Story Scramble, Silly Sentences (cards)
  • Computer Center - reading of living books or student created e-books
  • Dramatic Play -- baskets of book & props (Mrs. Wishy Washy, etc.)
  • Word Hunt -- kids get a letter or digraph and see how many words they can find that start with or contain it.
  • Browsing Box: Each guided reading group takes the books read during GR group and put them into a browsing box. They can look at the books as a group. This is effective because the students are dealing with familiar text independently. Each day "special" students choose books to read from their browsing box to the entire class.
  • Literature Circle: A group of students will read a literature selection together and discuss their favorite part. Once they are comfortable with this process, they can map the story on large chart paper, make puppets and put on a play for the class, etc. This allows children to own literature.
  • Buddy Reading: Place duplicate copies of books at all levels in the room. The students can read with a partner, this can be familiar or unfamiliar texts. Then they work with their buddy to draw or write about their favorite part.
  • Journal Writing: Give students content related pictures to glue in their journals as writing prompts
  • Phonics Center: Phonics based literature, games, worksheets and flash cards.
  • Handwriting Center: Use laminated alphabet cards for the class to practice handwriting either by tracing over them in a marker or play dough. They can also use wikki sticks or pipe cleaners to make letters.
  • Overhead: Place a cloze paragraph on the overhead or let the kids map out their stories on the overhead, stories they have read or will be writing. Encourage students to use graphic organizers such as plot graphs, Venn diagrams, and T-charts to gain understanding into story reading or creation.
  • Sight Word Center: (which may change to vocabulary center depending on your students) They can make the sight words with rubber stamps, magnetic letters, paint baggies, sand trays...

Watch and Learn...

Books.jpgSelecting Books for Guided Reading

A collection of books for your classroom guided reading program, and needs to be chosen with care. Some things to consider while creating a good collection include:
- enjoyment, meaning, and interest to children,
- accuracy and diversity in multicultural representation,
- many types and genres,
- levels of difficulty,
- common authors, characters, settings,
- quality of illustrations,
- content, length, and format.
Part of guided reading is helping your young readers understand how authors are presenting information. This will be easier with an appropriate book collection for each young reader in your classroom!

Example in Primary Classrooms

Text: Glasses by Francis Lee
--> This book is selected because it contains high frequency words such as my, has. It also has predictable sentence structure, and names that can be recognised throughout.
Students will: use language and sound patterns to identfy words, express own thoughts and experiences.
Before reading: have discussion on what students already know about seeing glasses; who wears them? how do they help? do many people in their family wear them? After this discussion, children are encouraged to read the title of the book.
During reading: Use picture cues. Open to first page and ask students "Who do we see? Who would Emma (main character) say has glasses?"
Students respond: "Her dad!"
Teacher: "Yes, Emma said, "'My dad has glasses.'"
Repeat for a few more pages. May have students stop and check the letters in a word, such as sister, to see if it looks right. This encourages independent strategies.
Have students finish the book independently, so teacher can watch for difficulties.
After reading: Group discussion on what the book was about. Students are encouraged to share what strategies they used when they had trouble. The book is now apart of the students independent reading selection.
Use the high frequency words had and my in center activities.


Instructional Strategies Online (2012) from
Guided Reading in the Primary Classroom (2011) from
Cathy Mere, More than Guided Reading; Finding the Right Instructional Mix, K-3 (2005)
Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell, Guided Reading; Good First Teaching for All Children (1996)