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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Literacy

Laying the Groundwork for Effective Guided Reading Instruction in Your Classroom  Arlyne LeSchack

Unless you work in a school with a scripted reading program like Success For All, you will most likely be expected to teach reading and writing using a balanced literacy program.  The components of a balanced literacy program, according to the Wright Group (1995) are:  Reading Aloud to Children, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Paired Reading, Independent Reading, Language Exploration and Writing and Reading: The Balanced Writing Program.

This article will focus on the Guided Reading Component and will specifically address things the teacher needs to do in advance to run a successful guided reading program in her classroom.  Literacy instruction and classroom management are both included.

Guided Reading is a small group approach to teaching reading.  The teacher works with a small group of students with similar reading ability.  The book must be at the students' instructional level.  The teacher spends the first part of the lesson discussing concepts in the book and scaffolding information.  This lays the groundwork for reading success.

There may be as many as 10 developmental levels of reading- from Preconventional to Independent.  Students at each developmental level need an appropriate format for Guided Reading sessions.  Gradually the amount of support by the teacher and group is reduced.  In another article the  characteristics of the 10 groups will be described.  Within one typical classroom there will probably be 3 or perhaps 4 different levels.

How do you know which students go into which group?  What do the other 2/3 or of the class do when you are working with the Guided Reading Group.  You need to spend the first six or seven weeks of the school year assessing your students.  In New York City, in the Early Childhood grades, most likely you will use the Early Childhood Literacy Assessment System or ECLAS.  Use the results of this assessment to group your students into 3 or 4 groups depending on the number of children in your class.  A small group shouldn't have more than six students.  In the upper elementary grades you should have access to the Grow report which will help you group your students according to how they performed on a standardized reading test given the previous school year.  Of course you should do your own assessments as well.

Use the classroom time when you have to administer the ECLAS individually to teach the rest of the class how to use materials independently.  This will pay off later when you are working with your Guided Reading groups.  If your class is not ready for centers, you could post the following chart (Fountas & Pinnell,1996):

Things to do During Reading Time

  • Read around the room with a pointer
  • Read from your book box
  • Read a book to a partner
  • Read a big book
  • Read a fairy tale or folk tale
  • Read an ABC book
  • Read a book at Listening
  • Read books our class has written
  • Read from your journal
  • Read from your writing folder
  • Read at the overhead projector
  • Read an information book

Ideally you want the other 2/3 or 3/4 of your class to be engaged in a meaningful literacy activity while you are working with your Guided Reading Group.  Look for the next article on how to manage your class for effective guided reading instruction to learn more about this.


Fountas, I. C. and Pinnell, G. S.,(1996) Guided Reading, Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH

Wright Group Publishing (1995) Guided Reading: A Practical Approach for Teachers, Bothell, WA

Please e-mail me  if you have any questions.


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