Learning to read is a key milestone in a child’s development. But sometimes they need a little extra support to really get on their way.
Guided reading is a method to push a child’s reading skills forward without making them feel overwhelmed or out of their depth. Incorporating guided reading into your lesson plans is a great way to nurture and develop their skills.
If you’ve never heard of guided reading, or you’re looking for more information on how to do it, this article covers everything you need to know…
What is guided reading?
Guided reading is a structured approach to teaching children how to read. Teachers either work one-on-one or in small groups where every student has roughly the same level of reading comprehension.
A guided reading text needs to be chosen carefully — it should be easy enough that students can read it with about 90% fluency, but should still contain some complexities that require deeper thought.
When students read through the text out loud, they should be able to understand the story without too much prompting from the teacher. This means they can focus on following the story and enjoying the book, rather than only sounding out the words.
This means that when they encounter tricky words, or complex sentence structures, they’re more likely to use problem-solving skills to figure it out on their own. Of course, the teacher is always there to provide feedback, encourage students when they’re correct, and guide them through any issues that arise.
How does guided reading help children learn?
Reading out loud is one of the most effective ways to strengthen reading skills, and studies have shown that it can significantly improve word recognition, fluency, and comprehension in students of all grade levels.
So to really boost their confidence, and make them comfortable with reading out loud, guided reading should be done with texts they are already familiar with. After all, this confidence will help them in figuring difficult things out on their own.
Guided reading also helps teachers identify a student’s problem areas, to see which skills need strengthening.
How to prepare for and lead a guided reading class
Creating guided reading lesson plans can take some preparation, especially if you have a lot of students in your class. And guided reading works best when all the students in one group have about the same level of reading comprehension.
Take some time to assess each student’s level, and sort them into small groups accordingly.
Some teachers recommend giving each group a color and trying to meet with at least two groups every day, while the rest of the class does other independent work.
Rotate the groups throughout the week so that by Friday you’ve spent time reading aloud with each group. Having at least 30 minutes of guided reading each week will have an incredibly positive impact on your students’ reading and comprehension skills.
If you have the resources, or class size, to be able to do 30 minutes a day, then even better.
It might also be helpful for you as a teacher to bring a notebook to guided reading sessions, to record the progress of each student. This way you can track progress every week and ensure you are targeting skill gaps effectively.
Lastly, it’s important that no children get left behind in this process. Don’t be afraid to mix up your groups as time goes on — it’s totally normal for your students to progress at different rates.
So how do you lead a guided reading session?
Step 1: Choose your text
Choosing the right text is imperative when planning your guided reading class. It needs to be difficult enough to challenge them, not frustrate them, but not be so easy that it feels boring.
That can be a tricky sweet-spot to find!
To help, you should really get to know your students and their interests. Texts which focus on interesting storytelling, rather than just developing skills, are more likely to engage. And for intermediate grades, short stories, poems, or newspaper articles can be a good option.
Step 2: Open the session
Start by giving your kids a short introduction to the guided reading session.
As a group, you should have a quick two-minute chat about the text and what their expectations are about the story, based on the cover or the title. This will help focus them on the task at hand.
Step 3: Start reading
Some teachers like to ask the students to take turns reading paragraphs aloud.
Others prefer a more silent method, where students read silently or in a whisper. Here, the teacher spends a few minutes with each one.
Whichever style you prefer, be sure to give your full attention to the student as they read. If they stumble, encourage them to correct themselves before giving support.
Remember, you’re not there to read for them. You’re there to help them as they do it for themselves. As you go, make notes about each individual student’s strengths and areas that need improvement.
Step 4: Ask questions
Before closing the session, lead a quick discussion with your students to assess their levels of comprehension. Ask prompting questions about the text they just read — specifically about the characters and storyline.
It’s important that they’re focusing on the story and the meaning of what they read, not just sounding out the words and moving on. If your text contained any vocabulary words or specific topics you’re focusing on, be sure to spend some time reinforcing those as well.
What materials do you need for guided reading?
In truth, all you need for a guided reading session is a book. However, there are a few additional tools which can help your guided reading lesson go more to plan:
Resources designed specifically for guided reading
There are plenty of awesome text and worksheet bundles online to help jumpstart your guided reading lesson plans. Here are three of our favorites.
This worksheet introduces your students to poetry. It helps them see that reading and writing can be emotional and moving.
The bundle has poems for them to read aloud, as well as discussion questions. It also contains a couple of paragraphs introducing the concept of poetry that you can talk through before reading.
2- Roald Dahl
If your students are a little older or up for a longer text, a book like Roald Dahl’s BFG is an excellent place to start. It’s a fun, engaging book, and there’s even a film that you can watch as a class once the unit is done.
This is a free 15-page bundle with discussion questions that’ll prompt their critical thinking, creativity, and ask them to reflect on key learnings.
A tracking system
You’ll find it much easier to track each student’s progress if you have a dedicated tracking system.
Invest in a notebook solely for guided reading sessions, or use a spreadsheet to keep everything organized.
Highlighters and pointers
Some students learn visually and need props to keep them focused on the task at hand. Highlighters can be helpful to highlight key concepts or vocabulary words. You can also ask your students to mark any words or sentences they have an issue with.
Similarly, students can use pointers to follow along with the text as they read — colored popsicle sticks will do the trick!
Plan your next guided reading session with our help
Yes, making the perfect guided reading lesson plan takes a little preparation.
But put in the work at the beginning — by browsing our wide selection of reading worksheets — and you’ll be ready for a whole year of guided reading.
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