What is Guided Reading?

What is Guided Reading

I’ve previously explained how my reading programme featured four main aspects: Reading to, Shared Reading, Guided Reading and Independent Reading. In this blog post, I am answering the question: What is Guided Reading? I’ll also look at some of the research and history behind this approach to building comprehension.

What is guided reading?

Guided reading is a small group approach to the explicit teaching of reading skills and strategies: specifically making meaning of texts (reading comprehension) and critical thinking. Students are grouped and given a slightly challenging text which can be read independently. The teacher guides the students to make meaning as they read. Students read, think, talk, and question their way through a text.

Why use guided reading?

Guided reading is the transition between shared reading and independent reading where students are guided to apply or practice the reading strategies and skills taught during shared reading. These skills will be necessary for successful independent reading. It is a space for small group explicit teaching. Research into the science of reading does not promote guided reading for those learning to read through a phonics-based system. However, once students have mastered decoding, guided reading can be a great tool for digging deep into reading comprehension.

Where does guided reading fit into your reading programme?

Research has found that guided reading is successful when used in conjunction with shared and independent reading, in an environment that supports a quality session. This means you need a rich literacy environment with no interruptions. You’ll have your favourite ways to achieve this:

  • Well-practiced routines for what students do when they are not working with you – their independent activities. If you spend the time at the beginning of the year setting up these routines well, you will benefit for the rest of the year! Our range of reading resources includes great follow-up activities to keep your students engaged while you work with other students.
  • Independent activities could include: a student choice board, reading tumble, must do/can do’s, reciprocal teaching, games, silent reading, reading online books, plays, Daily 5, an integrated inquiry investigation, and so on.

What is Guided Reading?

Who invented guided reading?

There is international agreement that guided reading is based on the theories of New Zealander Dame Marie Clay DBE FRSNZ (1926 – 2007). She had notable success in addressing the needs of ‘at risk’ readers, and as early as the 1960s New Zealand teachers were teaching small groups using her principles. The Ministry of Education provided nation-wide courses ERIC and LARIC* in the 1970s and 80s, and guided reading became the preferred reading pedagogy for New Zealand children. Today, it is recognised internationally as a successful teaching method.

Is guided reading backed up by research?

There is a tonne of research, both local and internationally, into guided reading. Here is a selection:

  • Experts agree that guided reading is most successful when based on data and the process kept flexible to cater to emergent needs. The teacher, rather than keeping ‘rigid’ about the process, should adapt the process accordingly. Morgan et al. (2013), Iaquinta (2006), Morgan et al. (2013), Ministry of Education (1996a & 2003), Villaume and Brabham (2001), Hattie and Clarke (2019).
  • There is compelling evidence that students’ comprehension is improved by explicit teaching which is the main goal of guided reading. Cameron and Dempsey (2019).
  • Experts emphasise the importance of guided reading needing to be one part of a balanced and high-quality literacy programme.  Swain (2010), Fountas and Pinnell (2012)
  • Most researchers report that guided reading is the most critical part or ‘the heart’ of the rich literacy programme. (Ford & Opitz, 2011; Fountas & Pinnell 1996, 2001; Rog, 2003). Ministry of Education of New Zealand (1996a: 86)
  • A research review found that guided reading is a very effective reading approach when effective teachers using quality texts and have uninterrupted time for a quality session. Ciuffetelli (2018).
  • It has been shown that emergent readers need a strong foundation in decoding before being introduced to guided reading and it can be detrimental if introduced too early. Aitken, et al. (2018)
  • Strict grouping based on one running record test can become a barrier to learning. Hattie and Clarke (2019).
  • Partner sharing during guided reading discussion is useful because all children get a chance to ‘articulate their thinking’. The group thinking becomes co-constructed and gives the students agency, rather than the teacher asking one student and the others remaining passive. Johnson (2004).
  • Continue your professional development by reading and professional discourse. McNaughton, S. (2020) states that New Zealand teachers need professional development about how to use assessment information to inform instruction. He says specialist skills are vital for the complex discussion needed to systematically use guided reading.

This research has been included so you can defend ‘your way’. If you need to, become a disobedient teacher!  A great teacher according to Ings (2017) becomes truly transformative by thinking and acting and changing conventional educational practices.

Our reading resources

We have a great range of reading comprehension resources that would fit nicely into your guided reading programme:

Are you looking for information on the nuts and bolts of guided reading? The “how-to” of guided reading – so to speak? Click here to read now!

Practical Tips for Running a Guided Reading Session

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*ERIC – Early Reading In Classrooms

(LARIC – Later Reading in Classrooms

  • Aitken, J., Villers, H, and Gaffney, J. S. (2018). Guided reading: Being mindful of the reading processing of new entrants in Aotearoa New Zealand primary schools, Set 2018: no. 1, NZCER, Wellington
  • Cameron and Dempsey (2019). The Reading Book, S&L Publishing, Auckland, NZ.
  • Ciuffetelli, A Guided Reading Research Review (2018). Cengage Learning, Australia.
  • Education Review Office, (2018). Teaching approaches and strategies that work. He rautaki whakaako e whai hua ana. Keeping children engaged and achieving in reading, Crown, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Ford, M.P. & Opitz, M.F. (2011). Looking back to move forward with guided reading. Reading Horizons, 50(4), 225–40.
  • Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (1996). Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2012). Guided reading: the romance and the reality. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 268–84.
  • Hattie, J. and Clarke, S. (2019). Visible Learning Feedback, Routledge.
  • Iaquinta, A. (2006). Guided reading: a research-based response to the challenges of early reading instruction. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(6), 413–18.
  • Ings, W. (2017). Disobedient Teaching: Surviving and creating change in education. Otago University Press, Dunedin, NZ.
  • Johnston. P. (2004)  Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning. Stenhouse, University of Illinois
  • McNaughton, S. (2020). The Literacy Landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand – Full report. Auckland: Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.
  • Ministry of Education of New Zealand. (2003). Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Limited, 44(3), 131–6.
  • Morgan, D.N., Williams, J.L., Clark, B., Hatteberg, S., Hauptman, G.M., Kozel, C. & Paris, J. (2013). Guided readers in the middle grades. Middle School Journal, January, 16–23.
  • Swain, C. (2010). ‘It looked like one thing but when we went in more depth, it turned out to be completely different’: reflections on the discourse of guided reading and its role in fostering critical response to magazines. Literacy, 44(3), 131–6.
  • Villaume, S.K. & Brabham, E.G. (2001). Guided reading: who is in the driver’s seat? The Reading Teacher, 55(3), 260–3.

Onwards and upwards,

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