We all know that reading makes us smarter. But, did you know reading makes us calmer too? Reading for only 6 minutes a day can reduce stress by 68%. How cool is that!
We gain most of our knowledge from reading alone. Reading is such a crucial part of any student’s life; there are several methods for teaching it. One such method is guided reading. A teacher ‘guides’ a small group of students rather than taking up the entire class as a whole. This helps the educator address and answer individual queries.
Know more about this wonderful method of teaching reading proficiency in this article. We have included all the features and components of the program that will help and motivate you to adopt this approach. Scroll through our table of contents to jump to a selected section.
Guided reading is a proven method for achieving fluency in reading. One good reason could be how teachers can select and assign different customized reading materials to each group of students based on their reading level. Not only that, the educator supports the students by providing explicit instructions about the assigned text.
Let us now discuss all the elements related to the approach and learn how to incorporate them in as many classrooms as possible.
What is Guided Reading?
Guided reading is a system in which students with the same or similar reading levels and learning styles are put together in small groups to learn effective reading skills. These groups, called guided reading groups, typically have 2–4 students. However, the number may also go up to 5 or sometimes 6 students.
This kind of strategy adheres to every student’s needs, as it becomes easier for the teacher to interact with each student individually. The ultimate goal is to address every learning style and help students become the best versions of themselves. Guided reading is an extensively used strategy in the universal design of learning programs.
The approach is derived from a similar setting called small-group reading instruction. The idea originated in the United States
when teachers began to identify how distinct learning preferences could be.
This prompted them to put students in small groups rather than teaching the class as a whole. Even the resources began to be customized for this format of differentiated learning.
However, the major drawback of the small-group reading instruction method is that there need to be rules for grouping students together. The groups did not classify students based on similar interests or learning styles. So the system was not acknowledging the individual learning needs of the students.
Obviously, the approach needed to be replaced. This is where guided reading came in. This system didn’t sort out students randomly but rather according to their learning styles.
Students who prefer to learn through reading, understanding, and memorizing concepts were put with their bookworm peers. Those who like to take notes and memorize through writing had a separate batch. And if there were students who learned the best through experiments, their group was called the hands-on learning group.
When guided reading emerged in the 1960s in New Zealand and Australia, it aimed to resolve the flaws of conventional reading groups. Marie Clay and her team should be credited with this invention. And for its development in the US, Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas deserve the praise.
The idea was simple: divide the classroom into small groups. These groups contained kids who were at the same reading level. Now the teacher would be able to concentrate on each kid properly.
The students are provided with books for their reading level, and the educator guides them as per their abilities. This kind of setup helps elevate the child’s natural flair while motivating and challenging them to do better. If you are someone who thinking of employing this approach, you should get familiar with the term reading level first.
What are Guided Reading Levels?
The reading level in a guided reading lesson is simply based on the difficulty the students might face while going through the text. There are a lot of different factors that contribute to deciding a reading level, for instance, the length of the text, the words used, the grammatical structure of the content, and the number of helpful illustrations.
Let us discuss these factors one by one:
- Genre: There are many different genres of books. Fictional, non-fictional, biography, fun story, factual content, etc., are all different types of genres of books.
- Text Structure: How the content is presented is vital as this helps students understand the meaning of the content better. Breaking down the content into paragraphs and subheadings is a great way of presenting the text.
- Subject Matter: The subject of the content is obviously the most important of all.
- Literary Techniques: The writing style of the author plays a major role in determining at what grade level the book might be placed.
- Grammatical Structure: The proper usage of grammar rules is important as it teaches and brushes up the rules to the reader. Also, the easier the sentence structure is, the simpler it would be to understand.
- Vocabulary: Vocabulary means the collection of words in a language. Based on the number of new or difficult words used, the text is deemed as easy or hard to read and understand.
- Images or illustrations: Images tell the story in a much more interesting and quicker manner. They also help us understand an event perfectly.
- Print Medium: The overall print quality of the book also impacts the reading. Larger letters, fun fonts, and color printing are suitable for kids, while a more professional font style is what interests students who are older.
There are also many reading charts that help the educator how they should incorporate guided reading by understanding the reading levels. The most commonly used is Fountas and Pinnell’s guided reading levels system.
In this leveling system, levels are referred to using the alphabetical format from A-Z, with A denoting the simplest reading level and Z being the most difficult. There are many more reading-level systems like Rigby, Reading A-Z, and DRA.
Let us now move on to discuss the features of guided reading.
What Are the Features of Guided Reading?
Guided reading helps increase a student’s confidence. It makes them independent. As for a teacher, guided reading allows them to upgrade the reading abilities of students in an organized manner.
Reading comprehension challenges students, as they not only have to go through the text but also have to understand and memorize it. This knowledge also becomes a stepping stone for further learning in life.
Guided reading strategies guide students to a point where they can work on their own. Thus, it strengthens their thinking abilities. There are 3 fundamental steps in guided reading instruction:
- Before Reading: A lesson begins with the teacher outlining the theme of the text. Then the teacher will get a glimpse of the prior knowledge of the students. Now, the students are provided with the agenda of the day so that they know what they are learning.
Now it is time for some pre-reading tasks like an introduction to the upcoming difficult words and the text features that would be included, followed by a ‘picture walk’ (interpreting the story through the given images).
- During Reading: Each group reads the text separately without any assistance from the teacher. Meanwhile, the teacher takes note of how well the students are understanding the story. In this stage, the educator encourages the students to ask questions and make their own strategies for reading comprehension.
- After Reading: After the students are done with the lesson, it is time for them to elaborate on it in their own words. Additionally, they can also be asked to suggest an alternate ending in some cases. Students also give an account of the reading strategies they came up with.
Finally, the lesson is further explored through kinesthetic learning activities, such as drawing their favorite character(s), enacting their favorite part of the story, designing puzzles whose answers are related to the content, etc.
To go through all of these levels, a guided reading instruction class incorporates some plans of action:
- Introduction of the lesson: Discuss the content before beginning the actual lesson, like telling them the title and describing the type, like whether it is a poem or a long written account.
Furthermore, mentioning new or difficult words with their meanings helps in the reading process. Also, asking questions such as “Have the students read this type of content before?”. This way, the students are informed about what to expect and are thus more confident about their own skills.
- All guided reading lessons have some strategies associated with them. Some of these are taught by the educator, but even students come up with their own strategies. These plans should be discussed before beginning the lesson so that the students know which technique can be used for effective reading.
- Even though the students are categorized into groups, the actual process of reading has to be done individually. Students need to read the content either silently or may be asked to read certain portions out loud. During this, the teacher has to inspect the skills of the students and their use of strategies discussed before.
- After the reading is done, the next step is discussion. Teachers need to ask the students about the new terms, phrases, morals, etc., they have learned from the lesson. What strategies they used, and also appreciate the correct choice of strategy.
- For a deeper comprehension, the students should be asked to express their own opinions about the things they read.
- The last step is re-reading. The educator now presents phrases that have been part of a recent write-up and asks the students to re-read them and use them to create sentences or scenarios of their own.
Working on achieving these features is the essence of a guided reading lesson. To adopt the guided reading program, an educator requires certain components. Now, we will get to know about them.
Components of Guided Reading
Teachers improve the reading level of their students by introducing them to higher levels of texts over time. This provided reading proficiency to students as they continuously kept on upgrading.
The steps that help bring the idea of guided reading to life. They are:
- The teacher monitors the understanding level of each student and groups them accordingly. This type of sorting helps to meet the comprehensive needs of all students. However, these groups are also flexible, meaning students can be shifted from one group to another based on their needs and preferences.
- Now comes the selection of the reading material. The books, workbooks, quizzes, etc., are specifically chosen as per the students’ needs. The reading material has to match the reading level of the students.
- The teacher connects the class with the lesson, starting with the meaning of the text, type of the text, grammatical reviews, sentence structure, or the included headings, pictures, etc. Further, the theme of the write-up, various analogies, and vocabulary are to be discussed as well.
- Teacher support is also necessary when the students are reading the text out loud. In most cases, the teacher guides the student in discovering new reading strategies.
- Independent reading is one of the basic steps of guided reading. The students read the text provided on their own and elaborated on its meaning. This is followed by discussions and debates where each student puts out their thoughts and outlook about the lesson.
- Students exchange their ideas about the theme, the personality of the characters, the sequence of events, etc.
- Students also take some time to pronounce, understand, and use new words. This upgrades their vocabulary.
- The educator also puts forward their own ideas or points, which they might find worth revisiting.
The features and components elucidate, “how to teach guided reading”. These are applied as per the 3 models of guided reading. These models are vital to the guided reading program.
Models of Guided Reading
Reading comprehension enhances the problem-solving abilities of the students too. Students learn new words to add to their vocabulary, and they understand sound syntax connections that will help them spell more complex words in the future.
Guided reading groups are formed with students who are on the same reading level. These groups follow 3 kinds of models, which are based on the National Curriculum (NC) level:
- Early Model: This is for the students who are at NC level 1A/2C. The lessons at this stage are very short. The steps like theme discussion, introducing the title, independent reading, and text discussion are done together rather than treated as individual stages.
- Transitional Model: This one is for NC level 2C to 3C/B. This model includes two stages of reading. First off, the lesson intro, strategy discussion, and independent reading.
Lessons are generally longer at this stage and are not finished in one session. So the students are prompted to try to read the rest of the content on their own before class discussion. This helps develop the cognitive skills of the students.
- Fluent Model: The fluent model works for the NC level of 3B onwards. This model focuses on how students decode the meaning of words on their own.
All of these models help educators decide how they should sort out students into different groups. Additionally, the models help decide the curricula for each group. It would be even better for you if we presented a practical example of the same.
How to Do a Guided Reading Lesson
This extensive reading and teaching technique is an advanced move and a boon for students. Guided reading cultivates the idea that ‘reading is thinking’. Even though it does bestow the teacher with some extra responsibilities, the outcome is exclusively edifying.
The teacher interacts with groups one by one. But this does not mean that while the teacher is concentrating on one group, the others are sitting idly. The other students try out independent reading techniques and catalog their queries in the meantime. This is defined as a ‘readers’ workshop’.
Let us now see how a guided reading lesson practically works out:
- All students are provided with a common text to read.
- When they read specified portions of the text, it reveals their reading level.
- The teacher keeps a record of this assessment.
- Now, based on the previous assessment, students are grouped with their peers on the same reading level.
- The assessment report also contains remarks about the areas of improvement for each group and every student individually.
- The next step is the selection of a lesson. The lesson must abide by the needs, knowledge, and reading level of the students.
- Before introducing the students to the chosen reading material, the teacher must go through it themselves. Having a clear picture in mind about the students’ abilities would be helpful in the scenario. Additionally, prepare a list of possible questions the students might be prompted to ask.
- The theme of the lesson is discussed before introducing the lesson.
- Students are then asked to read the text on their own, while the educator observes their interpreting skills. The educator also helps the students as and when required.
- After reading, the next step is a discussion about the text among themselves and with the teacher.
- Now the educator shares their teaching goals with the students, and together they accomplish the list.
- The previous step is followed by activities that help involve the students more in the lesson. For instance, the students can role-play their favorite portion of the lesson, they can participate in spelling tests for difficult words, pen down their own articles about or similar to the lesson they had, etc.
- At last, the teacher reflects on the responses of the students to the steps followed and the strategies used. This helps in understanding what worked and how to devise the next lesson plan.
Teaching guided reading is not exactly that complicated. If handled perfectly, this is actually a very fun way of learning.
The idea of guided reading is great. However, the concept does include certain issues.
Some Flaws of Guided Reading
The goal of guided reading is to make students understand that reading is a unique process in itself that employs many of our cognitive abilities. However, nothing is perfect. Even guided reading has certain drawbacks.
The most obvious snag is the level. A level in guided reading is defined by challenging the text may seem to the readers. If the words used are complex, or the text is longer, and there is minimum to no text feature, it might appear difficult or boring to read.
The issue with guided reading is there are too many levels. Educators have to introduce the instructions for each level separately, which takes way too much time.
Some of the levels can also be combined, as they offer similar challenges. This will save time for both students and educators.
Secondly, sometimes guided reading tries to provide individual reading materials for students even when not needed. This way, there are more groups than necessary.
Guided reading is an organized instructional process. Sometimes props in a classroom also help make a guided reading lesson successful. Posters of the new words, an audio version of the lesson in progress, post-it notes about the major highlights of the lesson, fun storybooks of a variety of genres and levels, etc. are good to include.
Educators must ask relatable questions before, during, and after each lesson. When students get to discuss their ideas, it makes them happy and confident while fueling their creative thinking.
Ans:All students get great benefits from guided reading. But the ones who have a greater advantage are:
- Kids who like to interact with people.
- Students who have a basic understanding of sound-syntax relations.
- Kids who can read written words and know that text has meaning.
- Children who can initiate conversations and know how to communicate their thoughts.
Ans:Reading is not just skimming through the text. Reading is an elaborate task that has many goals. There are 5 essential components by the National Reading Panel that define the purpose of effective reading:
- Phonemic Awareness
Collectively, these 5 components are called foundational reading skills.
Ans: A level in guided reading is defined by how difficult the designated text is to read. The difficulty is decided by the complexity of the words used, the length of the reading material, the usage of images, headings, subheadings, etc. And each level requires meticulous planning and effort from the educator’s side.