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Bringing Balanced Literacy Into Primary, Intermediate and Upper Grade Classrooms

Guided Reading

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Guided Reading: Small Group Instruction with Instructional Level Text

Students need ongoing instruction, support, and scaffolding throughout the intermediate grades to address the complexity of the reading process. Guiding reading is a strategy designed to meet the instructional needs of all the students by providing scaffolding through small group instruction. The groups are fluid and allow students reading at approximately the same level to receive instruction appropriate to their needs.

The procedure begins with an introduction to the selected text to support students as they are reading. In small groups, students read the same selection silently as the teacher works on specific strategies with individual students within the group. Following silent reading, the teacher and students explore the meaning of the text and revisit the text to make connections, search for information, and/or find evidence to support their thinking. Finally, the teacher uses information from the guided reading experience as the basis for teaching metacognitive strategies that can be applied to other texts (Lipson & Wixson, 2003). Oral reading should be used selectively to emphasize a particular passage, to exemplify statements in discussion, and to teach strategies as the need or opportunity arises.

The role of the teacher is:

To select texts at the students’ instructional level that will be supportive but have a few problems to solve.

To introduce the text, keeping in mind the meaning, language, and visual information in the text, and the knowledge, experience, and skills of the reader.

To interact with students individually to observe strategy use, difficulties and successes with problemsolving attempts, and to notate the strategy use of individual readers.

To return to the text for one or two teaching opportunities to demonstrate how a reader constructs meaning from text, makes personal connections with text, and goes beyond text.

To assess students’ understanding of what they read.

The role of the student is:

To engage in a pre-reading conversation about text.

To notice the language and the visual features of the text.

To read a text or part of a text silently or quietly.

To request problem-solving help when needed.

To check predictions and react personally to the text.

To revisit the text at points of problem-solving as guided by the teacher.

To engage in collaborative discussion about the text.

To engage in activities that involve extending understanding and responding to the text.

The observer will see:

A variety of instructional practices used to meet individual students’ needs.

Flexible student groupings, which include homogeneous and heterogeneous groups for different reasons at different times.

The teacher assessing literacy performance in a variety of ways over time, including checklist observations of student literacy behaviors.

A sufficient quantity of leveled narrative and expository texts matched to the students’ independent and instructional reading levels.


Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (2001). Guiding readers and writers: Grades 3-6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Lipson, M., & Wixson, K. (2003). Assessment and instruction of reading and writing difficulty: An interactive approach. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Shared reading. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2004, from the Illinois State Board of Education Principal’s Flip Chart for Reading Web site:

CPS Grades 4-8 Literacy Observation Guidelines 23