What Is Guided
Reading and Why Should I Use It in My Classroom? Lisa
Guided Reading is one of the components of a Balanced Literacy Program.
In a balanced literacy program students are taught a "balance" of
phonics and reading strategies to help them learn to read. Writing
and reading are taught mostly by doing reading and writing and teacher
modeling and not by students filling in many worksheets on separate
skills. Much time in the school day is devoted to student reading
and writing on the student's own level. This is because people usually
get better at any skill by practicing a lot. You get better at riding
a bicycle by riding a bicycle, not by doing exercises to practice
balance. Students should be reading and writing for a large part
of the literacy block.
What is Guided Reading?
Guided reading is a form of grouping for instruction.
Teachers must make decisions about what each student knows and does
not know about reading. The teacher then makes groups of from 4
to 6 students with similar needs. For example a group of children
might need to work on " stopping when what they read does not make
sense." The teacher might work with a group for 3 to 4 weeks and
then reassign the groups based on what each child now needs to work
on. The reading groups are not static, that is students move around
in different groups every month or so.
The groups are called "Guided" because the teacher guides the students
as they read. The groups are small so that the teacher can interact
with each child during the approximately 15 minute lesson. In the
beginning of the lesson the teacher usually discusses what the book
is about and gives the students any background knowledge they might
think the students need to understand the text. She/he might say
she has noticed that the students in this group sometimes do not
stop when what they read does not make sense. The teacher could
explain how we need to listen to ourselves as we read. Examples
could be given. If reading a story about having fun at the park
and someone reads, First I went on the slide and then I got on the
school. The reader should stop and think "that does not make sense."
I had better reread that and think what would make sense and check
the word more closely. Teachers could then have the students read
their books. Little "post-its" could be given out for the students
to mark wherever they read something that does not make sense and
they have gone back to reread. After reading the students can show
one of the places they marked and discuss how they solved their
Guided reading is a very effective way of teaching
reading because instruction takes place on the students own level.
In "whole" class instruction which often follows a scripted program,
the instruction is either above the students level or below of a
large proportion of the class. Think of a child learning to ride
a bicycle. It will be much harder to learn on a 10 speed adult bike.
In fact the child just might give up and not even try anymore. Now
think about giving the child a small bike with training wheels.
Instruction is taking place on the child's correct level. Now think
of the child that already knows how to ride a bike, but is given
only the bicycle with training wheels. They will get bored and either
cause trouble or not want to ride anymore. So with reading instruction.
Students must be grouped at their own level for reading instruction.
Many teachers have "grouped" for instruction for
many years. Before though, the groups were often large and static.
You were in group one or two, or the bluebirds or robins for the
whole year. The teacher followed a "program." Once you were on "that"
program, that is where you stayed for the whole year. Guided reading
groups allow students to make large gains and move around different
groups based on what they need at the time. Because the groups are
small the teacher can base the instruction more on what they actually
How do I decide how to put which students into
This is done after the teacher listens to each child
read and takes a "running record" of their reading. By "analyzing"
the running record, the teacher can see what the students knows
and does not know.