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A recipe for guided reading--powerful teaching of reading.

Guided Reading is a tried and tested approach to the teaching of reading ... just like Grandma's cake recipe that still works after decades.


1. An understanding of how a Balanced Literacy Program operates.

2. A wide range of texts at appropriate levels for instruction.

3. Classroom organisation that allows the teacher to work intensively with small groups.

4. Ability to group students homogeneously for guided reading to accommodate children's ongoing changing needs (this often requires moving students between groups).

5. An environment that supports individuals within a community of learners.

6. Accurate and current running records for each student including the miscue analysis, retell and comprehension responses.

7. A repertoire of assessment practices that assess comprehension, reading strategies and fluency.

8. A system for recording and monitoring progress of all students.



1. Assessment--What does this child know now and need to know next? Assess students' point of need; this is more than the instructional level! Analyse a running record and look at the miscue analysis--what errors are they consistently making? Consider the level of comprehension displayed by the student after the reading event. Do you need to focus on inferential meaning or evaluative connections? What strategies are they using? Are they the most efficient strategies they could be using while gaining meaning?

2. Grouping--How can I meet the needs of each child in a small group setting? Students need to be grouped homogeneously based on their instructional reading level. Groups of three to five students are optimal as this allows the teacher to support each child individually.

3. Planning--Where do I start and where am I going?

Select a text for each group. Ensure that you know the texts and the pertinent features of relevance for each particular group. There are various planning formats you can use but ensure that the following features are included:

--previous text to revisit

--high frequency words (if appropriate)

--word study (making and breaking through to word derivations)

--stumbling blocks that students may encounter while reading


Consider the many resources that are available to assist you in your planning including First Steps Reading (Second Edition), MyRead, Luke and Freebody's Four Resources Model, David Hornsby and Fountas and Pinnell.

4. Setting the Scene for Success--How do I create a productive working environment for everyone? Students need to understand why they are engaging in Guided Reading and how this process works. There needs to be a respect for the routines so that the teacher can manage reading in this context. Students can be grouped heterogeneously so that they are socially supported and challenged whilst engaging in literacy centre activities. This allows the teacher to withdraw students for the Guided Reading session. The literacy centre activities while engaging and rigorous need to be at a practice level so that children can solve their own problems and do not need teacher guidance. This approach also allows the teacher to adjust groups often to meet the changing needs of students.

5. Starting Guided Reading--What does it look like?

Guided Reading helps students to become strategic readers through explicit instruction but this can only occur if you are familiar with the text.


Guided Reading begins with a strong book orientation so that the students will all be set up for success. This is necessary for learning as there will be sufficient 'problems' they need to solve while gaining the overall meaning from the text. The book orientation also ensures that the students' working memory is loaded with information they will access before, during and after reading.

Students then read the text independently in a quiet talking voice so that the teacher is able to hear each student. This allows the teacher to focus on the learning goals (as in the lesson plan) for each student. The teacher's observations at this point will guide and inform subsequent Guided Reading sessions.

At the conclusion of the independent reading students may or may not work on extending the meaning of the text or engage in word study. While these aspects are important over time, use your professional judgement to decide what focus needs to occur. Don't feel obliged to complete everything on your lesson plan! Remember that the Guided Reading session should be a focused session of approximately 20--30 minutes.

6. Planning for the next session--How do we support all learners to move on? Review your observational notes and reflect on the growth that has occurred. Celebrate and share all successes and remember to keep the experience joy filled! Use the information gleaned from the Guided Reading episode to target your further teaching within the Balanced Literacy Program. You may have noticed a trend amongst groups in one area which would be pertinent to address in a modelled or shared reading event.


While the order of ingredients can be adapted, it is necessary to have all the elements included. The method must be clearly followed to ensure that your cake rises, is enjoyable and has you begging for more! Just like reading itself.


Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell G.S. (1996). Guiding Reading Good First Teaching for All Children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Hornsby, D. (2000). A Closer Look at Guided Reading. Armadale: Eleanor Curtain.

Robyn Frencham (B.Ed E/C) is an experienced Early Childhood teacher. She has worked as an Early Literacy Officer supporting Kindergarten to year 2 teachers in developing and implementing quality literacy programs. She has also worked as a tutor for 3rd year pre-service teachers at the Australian Catholic University, was part of the team of ACT teachers who developed the BEE Spelling approach and is a First Steps Reading (Second Edition) facilitator. She currently works as the Executive Teacher at Narrabundah Early Childhood School in Canberra.

Jantiena Batt (B.Ed E/C) has been teaching for ten years in the ACT in a range of settings including childcare centres, preschools, P-2 Early Childhood Schools and primary schools. She is currently an Early Literacy and Numeracy Officer with ACT DET Literacy and Numeracy Section. Two components of this program are supporting teachers to undertake their own action research and building or supporting Professional Learning Teams. Jantiena is also a First Steps Reading and Writing facilitator and worked collaboratively with the Literacy and Numeracy Section in designing the BEE Spelling program.
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Author:Batt, Jantiena; Frencham, Robyn
Publication:Practically Primary
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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