In Mrs. Martin’s classroom, five students are seated around a table. Mrs. Martin is seated with them. She appears to be simply watching them read a story. But there’s a powerful strategy at work here. It’s called guided reading.
Guided Reading is Part of a Balanced Literacy Approach
Guided reading is one component of a balanced literacy program that allows teachers to meet the needs of all students – regardless of their level of proficiency – so they become stronger, more confident readers. Through this strategy, students are met right where they are in ability. Because they’re with students who are on their level, they’re much less likely to feel anxious or embarrassed about how they measure up to the skills other students. This is so important.
One component that makes this so successful is the teacher works in a small group setting. That way, students quickly learn workable strategies to process and construct meaning of words. This is what drives balanced literacy instruction. As their reading skills strengthen they gradually move on to more difficult reading with concentrated teacher guidance.
The Big Benefit of Guided Reading
With guided reading, instruction can be streamlined to meet the individual needs of each student within a group. That is so essential in teaching a critical skill such as reading. Instruction is easily managed in small groups and the teacher is able to give individual attention to the group members. The teacher meets them where they are, moving them along so they can progress with confidence.
How to implement Guided Reading
The grade level and the size of the classroom will largely determine how you approach guided reading. However, here’s a framework to get you started.
1. The first step is to divide your students into small groups, no more than six students in the group. The students in each group should be on the same guided reading level.
2. Select the appropriate leveled text and give each child his or her own copy of the book or literature.
3. The teacher begins by introducing new vocabulary and providing any background knowledge students will need to help with comprehension. The teacher can lead the students to make predictions. This step is called pre reading.
4. As the students read to themselves, the teacher makes observations and provides coaching to those who hit a stumbling block. This guidance can be asking questions, prompts, or providing a reading strategy. This is the reading phase.
5. After students have read the literature the teacher should test for comprehension. At this point, the “testing” usually takes the form of questioning. This is also a great time to introduce more strategies for future use. This step is called post reading.
6. When working with groups of students it’s paramount that the teacher is prepared with other activities for the rest of the class. This is generally some type of reading activity. Make sure all students understand the procedures and expectations you have for them while you’re with each group.
Why should you use guided reading?
As stated earlier, when teachers use guided reading the students have the advantage of being in a homogeneous group – they’re with other students who are on their same reading level. Another benefit is that the teacher is present for guidance, support, and to reinforce skills.
Other benefits of guided reading:
- Reading strategies are strengthened as the students are engaged in a particular story.
- As the teacher introduces the story children learn about cueing, predicting, and monitoring.
- Younger students learn about tracking — following the print word-by-word and left to right.
- Assessing prior knowledge strengthens comprehension.
- Students can practice recognizing sight words.
- Students learn the skill of predicting and inferring meaning.
- Capitalization and punctuation concepts are reinforced.
- Students learn about sequencing of the story — the setting, characters, and beginning, middle and the end of the text.
- Students have the opportunity to practice self-correction.
How is using guided reading different?
Guided reading is similar to shared reading but zeroes in on the needs of each child within a group. The importance of individualized attention can’t be over emphasized. Because the reading materials gradually become more difficult, students have the opportunity to apply the strategies they learn within their group and feel like successful readers!
It’s important to keep in mind the reading session should last no longer than 25 minutes. Also the pre-reading, reading, and post-reading phases of guided reading are key success factors – don’t skip a step!
The chief goal of guided reading is to foster confidence, proficiency, and foster a love for reading. Grouping students by guided reading levels and providing the attention they need makes this critical task much easier.