What Does Effective Guided Reading Look Like

What Does Effective Guided Reading Look Like?

Guided reading is a crucial part of our literacy blocks. It’s our time as teachers to work individually or in small groups with students to improve their reading skills and comprehension. That sounds nice, but what does that really mean?

Let’s begin by defining what guided reading actually is. Guided reading is a small group instructional model where students move from high teacher support to full control of the reading process. A text is selected specifically to provide just the right amount of challenge and it is possible to address individual student needs in a powerful way. It also allows students a chance to engage with a rich variety of texts as they are taught how to read and process text on a page. It is part of a rich literacy design inside your classroom.

“The ultimate goal of instruction is to enable readers to work their way through a text independently. Guided reading leads to the independent reading that builds the process; it is the heart of an effective literacy program.”

-Fountas and Pinnell, 2016, pg. 13

Guided reading is NOT the entire reading program, but it is through guided reading that students learn how to engage in every facet of the reading process at a level that provides maximum opportunities to grow in reading competence. They take their reading skills to all literacy contexts (spelling, writing, decoding, etc.) The purpose of guided reading is to support the reader’s  building of an effective processing system, enabling them to expand their reading power over time.

Guided Reading as part of literacy block

Let’s look at some of the essential characteristics of guided reading.

Essential Characteristics of Guided Reading

After formally assessing students to find their reading levels, you create groups of students that are close in level. Sometimes it is effective to work with another teacher on your team to really create groups of students that are on the same level. Then, you select a text that is engaging and offers the right amount of challenge. If you discover that the text is too easy or too hard, you can stop reading it and choose a more appropriate book. After briefly introducing the text, you want to help guide your students through the ideas presented inside. This is done informally in a more conversational tone. Questions asked tend to be more open-ended and text-based. Finally, after observing the students, you make decisions on what the students need to focus on to become better readers. This could be decoding skills, comprehension strategies, or word work activities.

The ultimate goal of guided reading is independent, silent reading. You are there to support them if they need help or become confused, but in general they read without interruption. You may listen in to a student reading (whisper reading), and any interruptions with readers should be very brief.

“The process of reading must be dynamically supported by an interaction of text reading and good teaching. “

-Fountas and Pinnell, 2016, pg. 18

To help this process along, each person in the group has a job to do before, during, and after reading. Talking explicitly about this with your students can help maximize the effectiveness of your groups.

before during and after reading

By following these guidelines, you will set your students up for success in all areas of literacy.

Want to learn more? Check out my Guided Reading Blueprint: 9 Steps to Creating Independent Readers webinar. It’s completely free and you get a certificate of completion just for attending.

Looking for print and go guided reading materials? I have everything you need for grades K-5. 🙂


Cassie from Create-abilities

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Cassie Tabrizi
Cassie Tabrizi
After being in elementary education for 14 years, and as founder of Create-Abilities, Cassie is passionate about helping fellow educators empower their teaching.
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