Guided Reading as an Instructional Strategy
“It is through Guided Reading that teachers can show children how to read and can support children as they read.”(Fountas & Pinnell, 1996)
In the National Reading Panel Report (1999), guided oral reading with feedback was found to positively impact word recognition, reading fluency, and comprehension. The use of this format across grade levels was found to help children recognize new words, read with more accuracy, read with more ease, and understand what they were reading.
The teacher’s goal during guided reading is to interest students in the story, relate it to their experience, and provide a frame of meaning that will support problem solving (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, p. 8). During the guided reading session, the teacher works with a group of students who use similar reading processes and are able to read similar levels of text with support. The teacher introduces the book and ties it in to their prior knowledge. The teacher then walks the students through the text, highlighting vocabulary and concepts they may come across when they read the book independently. As the students read the book, the teacher monitors individuals for evidence of reading strategies that are being applied, or not applied.
During the session, one to two teaching points may be addressed (i.e., modeling the use of a comprehension strategy, such as visualization, or locating and noticing specific features such as beginning or ending). The ultimate goal of the guided reading is for students to be able to read text and to apply strategies independently.
The National Reading Panel Report (1999) further addresses teaching comprehension strategies in the context of guided reading activities. Teachers must be skillful in their instruction and be able to respond flexibly and opportunistically to students’ needs for instructive feedback as they read. Two major approaches are examined in particular: Direct Explanation and Transactional Strategy Instruction.
“The Direct Explanation approach focuses on the teacher’s ability to explain explicitly the reasoning and mental processes involved in successful reading comprehension. Rather than teach specific strategies, teachers help students (1) to view reading as a problem solving task that necessitates the use of strategic thinking, and (2) to learn to think strategically about solving comprehension problems.
Transactional Strategy Instruction also emphasizes the teacher’s ability to provide explicit explanations of thinking processes. Further, it emphasizes the ability of teachers to facilitate student discussions in which students collaborate to form joint interpretations of text and acquire a deeper understanding of the mental and cognitive processes involved in comprehension.”
Patricia Cunningham, et al. (2000) explain how guided reading is an integral part of the Four Blocks approach. In contrast to Fountas and Pinnell, Cunningham advocates the use of heterogeneous groups versus homogeneous groups when working with the guided reading groups. Cunningham uses a variety of formats; partner, small group, and whole group in order to make the guided reading session as multilevel as possible. The students who meet in these groups change regularly and better readers are included who serve as models for the struggling readers.
Selecting the Text
A general rule of thumb when selecting texts for guided reading is that students should be able to read the text with 90% or higher accuracy. Text that is within this range enables children to draw on their knowledge of visual, meaning and structure cues. When the student is reduced to simple word calling because the text is too difficult, then he or she becomes unable to construct meaning or to cross-check and self-monitor. Staying within the 90% range allows “children to sustain attention while problem solving an extended piece of text and, in doing so, build a system of strategies that they can use for reading other texts” (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, p. 9).
Important to the success of guided reading is the selection of books that are on the level of readers in the group. Selecting from a range of materials that includes fiction and nonfiction guarantees that children are also exposed to different types of text features. The text selection should also be based on the focus of instruction for the lesson, which will be dependent on the interventions that are needed by each child. Students will be placed in groups based on reading behaviors that may they already have or may be missing or need additional work. This placement should then build on previous strengths to help improve weaknesses that have been observed during instructional activities or assessments.
Another important aspect of guided reading is that the groups are dynamic (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996), and constantly changing, based on the teacher’s ongoing observation and assessment of each child. The teacher’s use of assessments, such as running records, for each child enables her to effectively monitor the student’s use of reading strategies. The teacher keeps records of guided reading, including books read, running records, and any notes on specific reading behaviors observed.
Cunningham, P., Cunningham, J.W. & Hall, Dorothy (2000). Guided Reading the Four-Blocks Way: The Four Blocks Literacy Model Book Series. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company.
Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (1996). Guided reading: Good first teaching for all children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. NIH Publication No. 00-4769, 3-1 to 3-43. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Guided Reading Procedure as Used in the Instructional Plan
Reading strategy development which includes: word analysis and self-
1. Student reads from a text that is on his/her instructional reading level. Children reading between a primer and 2.2 level, read texts that use controlled, yet meaningful vocabulary. Once children reach a strong 2.2 reading level and above, they read leveled trade books.
2. The teacher works with a small group of students with similar needs.
3. The teacher provides introductions to the text that support children’s later attempts at problem solving.
4. Each student reads the whole text or a unified part of the text.
5. Readers figure out new words while reading for meaning.
6. The teacher prompts, encourages, and confirms students’ attempts at problem solving.
7. The teacher and student engage in meaningful conversations about what they are reading.
8. The teacher and student revisit the text to demonstrate and use a range of comprehension strategies
The teacher provides:
Comprehension support: Previewing stories, activating and building student’s background knowledge, setting a purpose, helping students to predict, summarize, answer questions demonstrate and use a range of comprehension strategies.
Contextual reading support: Echo reading, and/or partner reading to support fluency
Word recognition support: Encouraging analysis of unfamiliar words, self-correction, and if necessary, providing unknown words.