Here are ten reasons when our K-2 learners need guided reading!
Let’s talk about guided reading.
What is it, and why should it be an integral part of the reading block in K-2?
Guided reading is an instructional approach that involves a teacher working with a small group of readers. During the lesson, the teacher provides a text that students can read with support. As the students read, the teacher coaches them as they use problem-solving strategies to read the text.
Some key things to know about guided reading
- Groups are made of 3-6 students reading at a similar reading level.
- The groups are flexible and fluid, changing as necessary based on ongoing assessment.
- Children do not take turns reading; instead, they each read the entire text as the teacher listens in and coaches.
So what’s the big deal about guided reading? Is it really that important?
10 reasons K-2 learners need guided reading
1. Guided reading allows you to differentiate instruction.
What do you remember about reading class as a child? Here’s what I remember: reading was my favorite thing to do at home, but my least favorite subject in school. I could hardly bear the monotony of going around the room, taking turns reading.
And I can only imagine how the struggling readers felt!
When our daily reading instruction involves the entire class reading the same story, we all know what will happen. Strong readers will be bored and learn to dread reading class. Low readers will struggle – and learn to dread reading class. (And our in-the-middle readers? Perhaps they won’t dislike reading class too much.)
Herein lies the beauty of guided reading. You group children by ability and choose texts that meet their specific needs and interests. Differentiation is built in.
2. Guided reading allows you to establish fundamental reading skills.
It can be hard to know what to do with emergent readers (or even non-readers). But guided reading solves the issue. When you pull out level A books and do a shared reading with your lowest readers, they learn so many fundamental skills:
- We read from left to right.
- We read to the end of the line and return to the beginning of the next.
- Print carries a message.
- Each word we speak matches a word in print.
- We can use letters in words as clues to help us solve them.
3. We can support our readers during guided reading.
In the old days, when we went around the classroom having each of 20 kids read aloud, reading aloud was scary. What if you lost your place? What if you got stuck on a word? More often than not, someone would supply the word so you could get through your passage in a hurry and the class could move on to the next reader.
In a guided reading setting, children are not doing round robin reading. Instead, each student is reading on his/her own (while you listen in). You can pull up a chair or lean in to offer support whenever it’s necessary.
4. Guided reading improves fluency.
Students become more fluent readers when they have opportunities to read aloud. If you have students in small groups, and each of them is reading on his/her own, you have much more opportunity to build fluency than when you’re teaching a whole class of readers. Students build fluency at the beginning of the lesson (when rereading familiar texts) and when they’re reading and rereading the new text.
5. Guided reading is fantastic for improving word solving skills.
Remember how it often goes in a whole class setting? A child is stuck and someone supplies the word. Because who has the time or patience to help every reader who’s stuck during a whole class lesson? And what child wants to let the entire class listen in while s/he tries to solve a word?
Guided reading to the rescue.
Each reader is reading on his/her own. While they might listen in to a neighboring student, they’re at a similar reading level. The eavesdropper might actually learn something by listening in … and the struggling student doesn’t have to feel lost or embarrassed; s/he has a coach right there to help. Teachers learn to build up their repertoire of prompts so that they know just what to say to help a reader who’s struggling.
6. Guided reading is wonderful for expanding vocabulary.
When you give your short book introductions, challenge students with a text slightly above their reading level, and engage students in discussion afterward – you’ll watch their vocabularies soar.
7. Guided reading helps improve reading comprehension.
When you plan both low and high level questions and conversation starters for after the reading, you set your students up for a rich comprehension experience.
8. Guided reading helps you identify and address weaknesses.
When you’re managing a whole class of readers, it’s difficult to take the mental energy to focus on specific needs/strengths of a single reader – and be organized enough to actually write them down for future reference. In contrast, the guided reading setting is built for this. When you’re focusing on just a few readers at a time, you can easily notice what your readers need to learn next – and have a notebook on hand to record it for future reference.
9. Guided reading promotes engagement and motivation for reading.
When we set ourselves up for success by meeting with a small group, we get started on the right foot. Students like having you to themselves, even if that means sharing you with 4-5 other kids. Many of them are much more willing to contribute to a discussion when they’re with a small group of their peers than with the entire class. And it’s easier to keep our easily-distracted kids “with us” when we’re an arm’s length away at a small group reading table.
Kids are much more likely to engage in the text when it’s been chosen just for them (rather than simply reading the next story in the basal). When we design questions and plan discussions for our unique group of learners, we help increase engagement and motivation for reading.
10. Guided reading can increase the amount of reading that kids actually do.
Too often, whole class reading instruction involves just a little bit of reading and a whole lot of reading response – in the form of workbooks and worksheets. While reading seat work is necessary to some extent, children get better at reading by actually reading. When they meet with the teacher several times a week for a guided reading lesson – and read the entire text themselves – they get much more reading time than the traditional round robin reading of the whole class.
So there you have it… 10 reasons why guided reading should be part of every K-2 classroom!