We are often asked why all books can't simply be leveled for teaching using the guided reading instructional method. The answer is both simple and complicated because: A- not all books are appropriate for delivering guided reading instruction B- When taken outside of the context of classroom instruction (i.e. used for independent reading or read-alouds), guided reading text levels lose their impact and meaning.
Here is some helpful information from our guided reading leveled books website (http://www.fountasandpinnellleveledbooks.com) to help you understand what guided reading is and how guided reading instruction is delivered in the classroom.
Guided Reading Basics
What is guided reading?
Guided reading is a teaching approach designed to help individual readers build an effective system for processing a variety of increasingly challenging texts over time. Using benchmark assessments or other systematic observation, the teacher has determined the approximate instructional reading level of each of the students. The teacher forms a temporary group of students that are alike enough in their development of a reading process that it makes sense to teach them together for a period of time. In selecting a text for the group, the teacher uses the level designation; thinks about the strengths, needs, and background knowledge of the group; and analyzes the individual text for opportunities to support students' successful engagement with the meaning, language, and print of the text. The teacher uses the text to help the children expand what they know how to do as readers.
To learn more about guided reading and benchmark assessments, see the following:
- Fountas, I. C., and G. S. Pinnell. 1996. Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
- Fountas, I. C., and G. S. Pinnell. 2000. Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6): Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
- Fountas, I. C., and G. S. Pinnell. 2009. The Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Book List, K-8+ 2009-2011 Edition, Print Version. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
- Fountas, I. C., and G. S. Pinnell. 2005. Leveled Books: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
What are the elements of a guided reading lesson?
Although the conversation, text, and teaching points will vary from level to level and group to group, the basic structure of a guided reading lesson is essentially the same:
- You introduce the text to the students in a brief conversation about the meaning, language, and features of the text. During this conversation you clarify some of the language or provide other vital information students will need to process the text with understanding, explain a few difficult words or concepts, and help the children notice a few important words. You then turn the text over to the students to read for themselves.
- Each student reads the text (or a unified part of the text) softly or silently to himself or herself. You "listen in" to individuals and sometimes interact to support reading. After reading, you and the students discuss the meaning of the text and revisit the text as necessary. You may have explicit teaching points based on what you observed as students processed the text.
- (Optional) You may wish to extend students' understanding of the text through writing, drawing, diagrams (graphic organizers), extended discussion, partner discussion, readers theater, etc.
- (Optional) You may want to engage children in one or two minutes of preplanned "word work" using magnetic letters, individual whiteboards, writing paper, a chart, or other ways of displaying and illustrating principles. This work builds automaticity and flexibility in solving words and word parts.
For more basic information about what the guided reading instructional method is and how guided reading lessons are taught, see the following websites:
- Guided Reading on Wikipedia
- Definition of Guided Reading (Instructional Strategies Online)
- What is guided reading? (Scholastic article)
- Guided reading overview (TeachersNetwork.org)
- Guided Reading (WikEd)
- Introduction to leveled [guided] reading (Reading A-Z)
- What is Guided Oral Reading? (Reading Rockets)