What is Guided Reading?

by Karen Moncrieffe, Literacy Consultant, teacher and author of many of Badger Learning’s guided reading resources.

Guided reading was first introduced in the late nineties and continues to be one of the most popular ways of teaching reading at primary level. It describes the practice of teaching pupils reading skills working in small groups differentiated by ability. Guided reading sessions are mainly focused on developing comprehension skills. Phonics and word recognition are usually taught separately. Although there is no specific research on the efficacy of guided reading per se, there is an evidence base for comprehension strategies which can be viewed here.

Why do guided reading?

Guided reading allows for more focused teaching and differentiation. Pupils work in groups studying texts specifically matched to their age and reading ability. Working with small groups enables the teacher to discuss texts in depth at a level which is appropriate to pupils.

How should I organise guided reading?

The usual structure of guided reading sessions is that the teacher works mainly with one group whilst other pupils work independently. A whole class is usually divided into five groups of approximately six pupils. The idea is that the teacher should work with one group each day; therefore, by the end of the week, each group should have had an opportunity to work with the teacher.

What books should I be using?

Books chosen should be appropriately challenging, but also suitable for pupils to read independently. The Enjoy Guided Reading book boxes from Badger Learning help teachers by providing a selection of carefully chosen books which are appropriate for each primary year group and differentiated to match varying abilities. The importance of children developing a love of reading is referred to constantly throughout the National Curriculum for English. The Enjoy Guided Reading Teacher Books contain resources for whole books allowing pupils to experience and enjoy a fantastic range of classic and popular novels in their entirety.

How do I challenge confident readers in guided reading sessions?

Confident readers may need longer more complex books than those which are aimed at their year group, but it is also important that such books contain suitable content. The Enjoy Guided Reading series contains a range of challenging books appropriate for confident readers in each year group in KS2.

Year 3 Gifted and Talented Year 4 Gifted and Talented Year 5 Gifted and Talented Year 6 Gifted and Talented
Year 3 Gifted and Talented Year 4 Gifted and Talented Year 5 Gifted and Talented Year 6 Gifted and Talented

Does guided reading work for struggling readers?

For pupils who experience difficulties with reading, text selection is important. High-interest books with a low word count can help enthuse reluctant readers and develop their skills and confidence. Badger Learning's Guided Reading for Struggling Readers series is suitable for pupils reading below their chronological age. Texts are carefully selected, and the accompanying teacher books provide resources and detail strategies which can be used to help struggling readers. Guided reading in a small group provides the ideal opportunity for teachers to work closely with pupils who require extra support to develop their reading skills.

How do I plan for groups working independently during guided reading?

Groups working independently should be engaged in tasks which extend their literacy skills or enhance their understanding of texts. Tasks must be meaningful rather than merely time fillers. The Enjoy Guided Reading Teacher Books contain comprehension questions and extension activities which allow pupils to read, answer questions and complete extension activities related to the books they are studying. The questions and extension activities are ideal for groups working independently during guided reading sessions. Click here to see an example of what's inside our teacher books.

How do I assess guided reading?Guided Reading Assessment

It is important to monitor pupils' understanding in order to identify and target weak areas. Completing detailed written records whilst questioning pupils during a guided reading session can be onerous and impractical. The teacher books in the Enjoy Guided Reading series contain straightforward assessment tick lists which link to reading objectives and questions. These tick lists enable teachers to quickly assess the understanding of a guided reading group against specified objectives. Space is also provided to make more detailed notes where deemed necessary.

Why do whole class guided reading?

Whole class guided reading offers an alternative approach to guided reading in groups. It involves the entire class studying the same novel or text. Some teachers feel that it is preferable to group guided reading as pupils tend to receive more direct instruction than the traditional guided reading setup allows. Group guided reading is usually organised so that pupils work with the teacher once a week. During whole class guided reading, all pupils receive direct instruction in every session. Another reason whole class guided reading is gaining in popularity is because it is easier to organise. In addition to allowing the whole class to engage in the shared experience of studying a text in depth, many teachers report that it requires less planning time.

How does whole class guided reading work?

During whole class guided reading, the teacher shares a selected text with the pupils. Sharing the text may involve the teacher reading aloud whilst pupils follow; alternatively, selected pupils could be chosen to read sections. On occasion, pupils may be expected to read the text independently, in groups or in pairs and then discuss their understanding. During whole class guided reading, support is constantly provided by the teacher therefore more challenging texts may be selected. After reading and discussing a specified section, teachers provide pupils with activities which further strengthen understanding and develop comprehension skills. As pupils will usually be expected to work independently at his point, activities may need to be differentiated to meet the needs of the class. Badger Learning provide teacher notes for a wide selection of books which support whole class guided reading

Which is best, group guided reading or whole class guided reading?

The latest government guidance for primary English (National Curriculum 2014) contains statutory requirements for the teaching of reading specified in a list of objectives and expectations; however, there is no guidance given for how these should be taught. Many schools have devised reading policies which dictate whether teachers should plan lessons using a whole class or group guided reading structure. In other schools, the decision is left to the discretion of the teacher. Sometimes a combination of both approaches is used. Which method may be judged as best is a matter of preference and opinion. Teachers require guidance and resources to support planning and teaching in whichever route they take. Badger Learning provides resources to help support the planning of both whole class and group guided reading.