What is Guided Reading?
Guided Reading is a research-based instructional method in which a teacher works with a small group of students who are reading at similar levels at a particular point in time. The teacher supports each reader's development of effective reading competencies. However, unlike the reading groups of the past, the small, temporary groups are flexible and dynamic. Teachers regularly observe and assess their students, then group and regroup them based on the students' strengths and changing needs over the course of their development.
Guided Reading was developed in New Zealand in the 1960s. Later, when it came the United States, educators including Gay Su Pinnell and Lesley's own Irene Fountas enhanced it over time. In 1996, Fountas & Pinnell published their highly influential text, Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children (Heinemann). This text revolutionized the teaching of reading, and is still used by over a million teachers worldwide.
The goal of Guided Reading lessons is to help students become more proficient readers. Teachers help their students read increasingly challenging texts over time, in a variety of genres and across a text level gradient (PDF). Texts on the gradient range from A to Z+, or, easiest to hardest. For example, a Level A book is suitable for the earliest readers, while a Level Z or Z+ is for highly proficient students.
What are the components of a Guided Reading lesson?
Guided Reading varies slightly depending on the grade and the reading level of each group. However, there are essential components that support effective Guided Reading lessons.
- The teacher assesses the students and forms a small, flexible group. The students in the group are able to read about the same level of text.
- The teacher chooses a text at the students' instructional level. The text provides opportunities for learning while not being too challenging. Each student gets their own copy of the book to read.
- The teacher introduces the text, calling attention to meaning, language structure, and print information. The teacher discusses text structure, themes, literary devices, and elements within the text that may be challenging or new to the students.
- The teacher interacts with the students as they read out loud. The teacher helps them develop a successful processing system.
- The students read the whole text (or assigned portion) independently and silently, then talk about the meaning.
- After reading the text, the students discuss themes, ideas, and what they noticed about how the text was written. For example, the characteristics of genre, structure, features, and author's craft.
- After the discussion, students focus on word work for a few minutes (e.g. high-frequency words or taking words apart), which helps them solve words as they read.
While the teacher works with the small group of readers, the other students engage in independent literacy activities that don’t need direct teacher support. This block of time is referred to as "Readers' Workshop." They learn how to work independently so as not to interrupt the Guided Reading group. Teachers need to establish these routines and have them running smoothly before beginning Guided Reading lessons.