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Guided Reading: A Critical “Piece” in the Literacy Block. Part 1: The Basics of Guided Reading. What is Guided Reading?. Guided reading is planned, intended, and focused instruction.

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what is guided reading
What is Guided Reading?
  • Guided reading is planned, intended, and focused instruction.
  • Guided reading is a teaching approach designed to help individual students learn how to process a variety of increasingly challenging texts with understanding and


  • Guided reading takes place in a small group setting with the teacher helping the students learn more about the reading process.

(Opitz & Ford, 2001)

understanding guided reading
Understanding Guided Reading
  • To maximize their full reading potential, all children need to be taught by skilled teachers.
  • Reading for meaning is the primary goal of guided reading.
  • Children need to become metacognitive: knowing what they know – the why and how of reading.
  • To be independent readers, children need to develop a self-extending system.
  • All children need to be exposed to higher-level thinking activities.

(Opitz & Ford, 2001)

why guided reading
Why Guided Reading?

Learning Zone

What the learner can

do independently

What the learner can do with

the support of an expert other

Learning Zone

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

scaffolding instruction
Scaffolding Instruction

High Support


Low Support

Reading aloud

Shared reading

Little/No Support

Guided Reading

Independent Reading

(Fountas and Pinnell, 1996 p.26)

benefits of guided reading
Benefits of Guided Reading
  • Teachers are better able to observe, monitor, and attend to the needs of readers.
  • Students are more comfortable taking learning risks in a small group.
  • Students are afforded more opportunities to interact with one another.
  • Instruction can be targeted and focused to meet the needs of the group members.

(Strickland, Ganske, & Monroe, 2002)

elements of successful lessons
Elements of Successful Lessons
  • Use both informal and formal assessment to form guided reading groups.
  • Rely on a three- part lesson plan: before/during/after reading. Use specified teaching strategies at each phase of the lesson to help children achieve independence.
  • Determine a primary purpose for each lesson based on comprehension strategies
  • Choose a variety of books and other printed matter to ensure that your students learn how to read different genres.

(Opitz & Ford, 2001)




DRA2 Word Analysis

Running Records

CRP Inventory or placement test


Anecdotal notes

Teacher observations

planning a lesson
Planning a Lesson

The teacher must think about the:

  • Grouping of students
  • Size of group
  • Purpose/focus for instruction
  • Text selection
considerations for a guided reading lesson plan

Pre-reading strategies: previewing the text, introducing vocabulary, assessing and activating prior knowledge


Modeling the strategy, observing and assisting students as they practice the strategy, taking anecdotal notes


Discussing text, discussing observations of readers, reinforcing strategy introduction, expanding strategy to independent reading, reflecting on lesson, etc.

Considerations for aGuided Reading Lesson Plan
framework of a lesson
Framework of a Lesson


  • Selecting the text
  • Introducing the text


  • Reading the text


  • Discussing and revisiting the text
  • Teaching for processing strategies
  • Word work (optional)
  • Teacher reflection

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

selecting the text
Selecting the Text
  • Think about the last reading lesson in which you observed the students. Refer to your notes.
  • Select a book or other text within the theme that you think will build on the readers’ processing strengths and meet their processing needs.
  • Read the book with your readers in mind.

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

introducing the text
Introducing the Text
  • Plan your introduction - write a few sentences or make notes on what you want to communicate or features you want to emphasize. You may want to place post-it notes on the cover and in the book.
  • Plan for the appropriate level of support based on knowledge of the students and data.
  • Make sure your record-keeping system is ready and all materials are organized and available.

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

reading the text
Reading the Text


  • Each student silently or whisper reads, the entire text or a unified portion of the text.


  • The teacher may sample students’ oral reading, reinforce a reading behavior, or support a reader by prompting for strategies.

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

discussing revisiting the text
Discussing & Revisiting the Text

The teacher helps students:

  • Summarize and synthesize information
  • Communicate their ideas to others
  • Express the connections they are making between the text and their own lives or other texts
  • Evaluate the text in light of their knowledge and experience
  • Confirm and extend their understanding

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

teaching for strategies
Teaching for Strategies

After observing the students during the reading, the teacher will:

  • Highlight briefly and explicitly one or two important processing strategies
  • Reinforce new processing strategies that students can use in reading other text

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

word work extending the lesson optional
Word Work & Extending the Lesson(optional)
  • Word work is a one- or two- minute optional component of a guided reading lesson. During word work, teachers help students discover how words work by working with letters, word parts, and words in isolation.
  • Extending the lesson is another optional component of a guided reading lesson. The teacher may have the students engage in an activity that expands the meaning of the story. For example, the students may complete a graphic organizer or write reflections in their reading journal.

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

teacher reflections
Teacher Reflections
  • Think once again about whether your grouping is appropriate for all the students.
  • Consider what you learned from observing the students read. Think about how this will influence your next book selection or your next lesson using this book.
  • Make some quick notes on what students need to learn to do next and the possible texts you can use to accomplish that goal.
  • Reflect on the effectiveness of your teaching. What did the students learn how to do today as readers that they didn’t know how to do before?

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

using formal assessments to formulate groups
Using Formal Assessments to Formulate Groups
  • Choose a formal assessment to determine an individual’s reading behavior and obtain an instructional reading level.
  • Instructional level text- books that are within the student’s control but offers moderate amount of challenge. (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)
ongoing flexible grouping assessment considerations
Ongoing Flexible Grouping Assessment Considerations

You want to consider:

  • Conducting ongoing assessments
    • Reading with students (running records, anecdotal notes)
    • Examining reader response journals
    • Reviewing students’ writing to observe their control of language and text structure
    • Informal reading inventories

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

rationale for guided reading groups
Rationale for Guided Reading Groups
  • Achievement Groups-students are grouped according to their instructional needs at a particular time
  • Shared Response Groups-students at various instructional reading levels are grouped together to discuss a common topic, genre or theme
options for needs based groups
Options for Needs- Based Groups
  • Working for phrasing and fluency
  • Solving multisyllable words
  • Introducing new genre
  • Learning how to read new kinds of texts
  • Connecting personally with reading
  • Learning how to read and study textbooks

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

strategies that sustain reading
Strategies that Sustain Reading
  • Solving words
  • Monitoring & correcting
  • Gathering
  • Predicting
  • Maintaining Fluency
  • Adjusting

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

scenario 1
Scenario 1

Stephanie is listening to one of her first graders whisper read during a guided reading lesson. The text states “I let him tug at a stick.” The student reads “I let him tug at a branch.”

  • What strategy might the student have used?
  • What prompts can Stephanie use to help the student problem solve in this situation?
scenario 2
Scenario 2

During a guided reading lesson, Alyssa observes her third grade student stop at the word ‘uninhabited’. The student appears to be having trouble and looks to the teacher for guidance.

  • What prompts could the teacher use to help this student move forward?
strategies that expand meaning
Strategies that Expand Meaning
  • Making connections
  • Questioning
  • Visualizing
  • Inferring
  • Summarizing
  • Determining importance
  • Synthesizing
  • Analyzing
  • Critiquing

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001; Harvey & Goudvis, 2000)

modeled guided independent
Modeled, Guided, Independent


  • Teacher introduces and models comprehension strategies using CRP materials


  • Teacher guides students’ use of strategies during guided reading
  • Students practice strategy use independently at literacy centers
aligning the three tiers
Aligning the Three Tiers


Prior to the guided reading lesson the teacher

modeled, through a shared reading during Tier 1, the

comprehension strategy: determining importance

Participant Activity:

  • Design a guided reading lesson that aligns with strategy instruction previously introduced in Tier 1
  • Create a reading, writing or technology center that allows for student rehearsal of the same strategy.

“In any guided reading session, the teacher needs to know what knowledge and understanding each child will bring to the reading and what supports or assistance will be necessary to ensure that the students can read the text successfully.”(Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)

Final Thoughts


Diller, D. (2003). Literacy word stations: Making centers work. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Foorman, B.R., & Torgesen, J. (2001). “Critical elements of classroom and small group instruction promote reading success in all children.” Learning Disabilities Research and Practice 16 (4):203-212.

Fountas, I.C.,& Pinnell, G.S. (1996). Guided reading: Good first teaching for all children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (2001). Guiding readers and writers grades 3-6: Teaching comprehension, genre, and content literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Johns, J.L., & Lenski, S.D. (1994). Improving reading: Strategies & resources. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.


Morrow, L.M. (2003). Organizing & managing the language arts block: A professional development guide. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Opitz, M.F. Flexible grouping in reading. (1998). New York, NY: Scholastic Professional Books.

Opitz, M.F., & Ford, M.P. (2001). Reading readers: Flexible & innovative strategies for guided reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Strickland, D.S., Ganske, K., & Monroe, J.K. (2002).Supporting struggling readers and writers: Strategies for classroom intervention 3-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

contact information
Doreen Beam

Literacy Specialist - IDEAL Coordinator (North/Central)

Office of Literacy

NJ Department of Education

(609) 777-3526

Jaime Frost

Literacy Specialist - IDEAL Coordinator (South)

Office of Literacy

NJ Department of Education

Trenton: (609) 633-0607

Sewell: (856) 468-5530 x. 6078

Contact Information