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Ministry of Education.

Guided reading and the Ready to Read series

A framework for small-group literacy learning

Guided reading is a key instructional approach for teaching reading. In years 1–3, students develop and refine their own reading processing systems. This means drawing on multiple sources of information to make meaning – prior knowledge, visual information, information about meaning, and structural (syntactic) information.

Ready to Read texts support students’ reading development by increasing, at successive levels, the complexity of text features such as vocabulary, text length, sentence structure, and the level of implicit content.

For guided reading, the teacher works with a small group of students who each have their own copy of the book. The teacher selects and introduces the book and the students read the text themselves, building their reading processing systems, developing their comprehension, and thinking critically about what they are reading.

Working in a small group enables the teacher to monitor the students closely and work individually with each one. Monitoring students during guided reading provides opportunities to respond immediately to their literacy learning needs.

Engaging groups in discussion and critical thinking

Guided reading lessons create many opportunities for purposeful talk. Ensure there is sufficient guided discussion during the introduction so students can, on the first reading, read the text largely by themselves without continuous teacher prompting. The discussion before and at the conclusion of the reading, and during a rereading session, is crucial for scaffolding students’ learning. This is an opportunity to:

  • clarify the purpose of the task
  • introduce new vocabulary and language structures
  • activate students’ prior knowledge and make links to previous learning
  • model ways of constructing meaning
  • stimulate students to think critically
  • encourage students to reflect on their learning.

The rich topics and themes within Ready to Read guided reading texts stimulate lively and meaningful discussion and promote critical thinking. For example, students can ask questions, clarify ideas, discuss aspects of the text (such as points of view, illustrations, characters, settings, and plots), discuss how they managed a particular challenge in the text, and express and justify opinions.

Planned discussions that are carefully structured and scaffolded offer strong support for English language learners because they provide opportunities for practising language. The use of the speaking frame can help them to be precise and concise, reinforce key vocabulary, and help students learn particular language structures.

The guided reading session

In a guided reading session, the teacher introduces the text, the group reads or rereads the text and discusses aspects with the teacher, the teacher concludes the session by reviewing the learning, and the students may engage in follow-up activities to support and reinforce the purpose for the reading.

The teacher support materials for individual Ready to Read titles include examples of follow-up activities. See also independent literacy activities.

Monitoring students during guided reading

The guided reading approach enables you to be highly responsive to the students’ literacy needs as those needs become evident.

During guided reading sessions, monitor students carefully. Attend closely as each student reads quietly to themselves. Make decisions about when to intervene and when to wait for them to engage in reading processing or comprehension strategies.

If you notice that a student has lost meaning, use prompts to guide them to take responsibility for monitoring their own reading and solving the problem.

If a student stops at an unknown word, help them to search for and use different kinds of information so that they can self-correct. 

As the students become more competent, use prompts that support them to integrate different sources of information.

You can monitor student’s comprehension by engaging in text based discussions after reading, and by noting their problem solving, phrasing and use of expression when reading, discussing the text, or retelling the story.

High-frequency words and letter–sound knowledge in the first year

The students’ repertoires of high-frequency words and their letter–sound knowledge will grow rapidly in the first year of school. Use a chart, a whiteboard, or a group modelling book to highlight letters, sounds, and words from the text. Prompt the students to use what they know to get to what they do not know.

Promoting independence and critical thinking

From about year 2 “How do you know?” is a key question. Asking this question promotes students’ independent use of reading processing strategies and encourages them to check that they have integrated all sources of information. It can also support them in comprehension and in thinking critically.

If you notice your students not comprehending or thinking critically during guided reading, decide where you need to focus discussion in subsequent readings of the text.

Generate discussion through the use of think-alouds, prompts, and challenging questions.

Give your students opportunities to talk to each other without your input. Such talk supports the development of their thinking by giving them opportunities to consider and clarify their ideas.

Background information

  • For more information about guided reading, see pages 96–100 of Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1–4.
  • See also Guided Reading: Years 1–4.

Updated on: 20 Nov 2014