Guided Reading Resources

Guided reading doesn’t have to be a headache. It doesn’t need to be chaos. It sure doesn’t need to be ineffective. That’s why we’re excited to share these guided reading resources with you! The video below gives a 2-step strategy for guided reading documentation and data along with a free template for you to use based on Jan Richardson’s Guided Reading resources.

Here’s a quick overview of the guided reading resources you’ll find in this article:

Free Guided Reading Resources

Progress monitoring, data gathering, documentation, and lesson planning can be difficult for guided reading. But not so much with this 2-step strategy and data template.

Download an editable version of documentation and data tool as well as sample data below.

The guided reading documentation and data tool will help you:

  • Keep track of your guided reading interventions
  • Individual student reading levels, books, and reading behaviors
  • Reading inefficiencies
  • Reading growth in WCPM (words correct per minute)

The guided reading documentation and data tool will also generate graphs for student progress monitoring. These are great for IEP meetings, parent conferences, teacher team meetings, and RTI data.

Guided Reading Progress charts are essential for measuring your impact on learning and the effectiveness of guided reading teaching strategies.

Guided Reading Strategies You Can Use This Week!

The ultimate goal of guided reading is to help students use the strategies and thinking processes that expert readers use fluently.

With this goal in mind, any teaching technique or strategy should always empower young readers to practice reading skills and strategies without creating a “crutch” or too much scaffolding (see What is Scaffolding?).

All students need instructional support so they can expand their competence across a greater variety of increasingly challenging texts. Fountas and PinnellClick To Tweet

5 Steps to Get Started

In guided reading, the teacher is a critical part of helping students read increasingly challenging texts with understanding and fluency. Here are the five steps for helping them achieve that goal.

  1. Select a book just above the students’ independent reading level (their ZPD, zone of proximal development). Plan for 1-2 books to per week.
    Power Tip: Provide 2-3 books and model the book selection process.
  2. Model Pre-reading Strategies such as connecting to prior knowledge, skimming the book, direct teach what good readers do prior to reading (see 9 Reading Comprehension Strategies).
    Power Tip: Use questions to help students make their own connections prior to reading, and directly tell them, “This is what you should do before reading any text.”
  3. Allow 10-20 minutes for students to silent or whisper read the book. This is not time to teach a lesson but for them to practice what you’ve already taught in whole-class instruction.
    Power Tip: Check in with the readers to guided them through problems they have with the text. Also, gather their estimated words correct per minute.
  4. Respond and reflect on the text. Ask students to make connections, summarize, and give their opinions about 1) the text and 2) how they solved problems during reading.
    Power Tip: Use questions to get students to dig deeper in their answers and to cite text evidence (or picture evidence) to support their responses.
  5. Record your observations of the predominant research-based reading behavior (see video above) and the most prevalent reading inefficiency.
    Power Tip: Use a digital documentation tool that can be easily sorted and can automatically aggregate your data for faster decision-making and evaluation.

Activities and Tips for Guided Reading

Guided reading is a major part of the literacy block, and it can run smoothly and effectively with a few simple teaching activities and tips.

Time needed: 2 minutes.

How to Run Successful Guided Reading Groups

  1. Model Literacy Activities

    Readers not in a group should understand the activities they will do such as close reading, keeping a reader’s notebook, using graphic organizers, or reading for research.

  2. Assess Students

    Use a variety of assessments such as running records (or informal estimated words correct per minute), attitude surveys, interest inventories, and quick comprehension task cards.

  3. Foster Independent Reading

    Model and practice independent reading with students, so they can enjoy and engage with a text for longer periods of time. Sometimes, this can be the best use of time during guided reading groups.

  4. Scaffold Independence

    At first, your students may only be able to work independently for 5 minutes. That’s fine. Build from there, by setting timers, having fun competitions, and slowly increasing the time, so you can spend more time in a guided reading group.

  5. Expand Choice Slowly

    Don’t just roll out all the world’s best literacy centers and let them go at it. Expand the choices slowly, and start with the simplest choices first such as silent reading, silent research, or paired whisper reading.

Research on Small Group Reading Instruction

You can find important research here on phoneme-grapheme mapping in small groups. Here you’ll find an overview of guided reading research.

Not opinions or authors trying to sell books – this is actual research.

I’ve summarized the research in the following three sections, but you can also download the original PDF version of the articles below. Simply click the button, add an email, and save the pdfs!

Self-Study and Evidence Base

The first place to start with research is in your own classroom. Using the data from the guided reading documentation and data tool is a great place to conduct your own self-study.

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) mandates that schools and educators use their own evidence of learning to ensure students are making achievement gains. According to the Florida Center for Reading Research, there are three steps in determining evidence:

  1. Evaluate the evidence for your instructional approach.
  2. Determine evidence-based interventions you will use.
  3. Provide resources for the interventions.

Guided Reading vs. Explicit Instruction in Primary Grades

In this 2014 study, 219 students were randomly assigned to either a guided reading group, explicit intervention group, or typical reading instruction (control group).

The study found that both the guided reading group and the explicit intervention group outperformed the typical reading instruction group. However, there was a significant difference between the intervention groups.

Researchers stated, “The explicit intervention group is more likely to substantially accelerate student progress in phonemic decoding, text reading fluency, and reading comprehension.”

Explicit intervention is more likely to accelerate student progress than guided reading.Click To Tweet

Research on Guided Reading and Reading Comprehension

In a 2016 publication from St Johns College, Kathryn Hansen conducted action research with 5th graders to discover how guided reading affects reading comprehension for three types of readers:

  1. Struggling Readers
  2. Middle Level
  3. High Level Readers

The researcher found that guided reading improved reading comprehension for middle level learners, but it did not enhance learning for struggling learners or high level learners.

Glasswell and Ford (2011) are cited to show the problems that surround guided reading pedagogy, “As with other aspects of literacy instruction, bad things can happen to good ideas because of a rigid orthodoxy that grows up around a useful practice. When orthodoxy takes hold, a focus on “one right
way” to engage in that useful practice can lead to the inflexible implementation of it.”

As with other aspects of literacy instruction, bad things can happen to good ideas because of a rigid orthodoxy that grows up around a useful practice. Click To Tweet

Glasswell, K., & Ford, M. (2011). Let’s Start Leveling about Leveling. Language Arts, (3). 208.

See more research on reading instruction here.

Jan Richardson Guided Reading Tips

Jan Richardson is renowned for her work with helping schools and teachers implement a consistent approach to guided reading instruction. The following are FAQs, tips, and free downloadable templates.

On her website, she offers these tips to frequently asked guided reading questions:

Can whole-class instruction take the place of guided reading?

I totally endorse and encourage whole-class reading instruction, but I don’t think it can take the place of guided reading. There is a seductive efficiency to whole-class instruction that says we can save time by giving every child the same lesson. The reality, however, is that the few children who respond appropriately may be “getting it,” but the others are not. Even those who respond correctly during the read aloud may have problems transferring that strategy to a text they read independently. Guided reading is the bridge between whole-class instruction and independent processing.

Do fluent readers need guided reading instruction?

Fluent readers might be good decoders, but they still benefit from explicit instruction in comprehension strategies.  When they read self-selected books, they are often reading at their independent level. Since the text is easy, they are rarely required to engage in strategic actions. When we give students a complex text during guided reading, students encounter challenging vocabulary and sentence structures. They might be reading about a topic that is not part of their background knowledge. That is when they need to employ a variety of strategic actions to construct meaning.

What should I do in whole-class instruction?

I recommend that teachers model a comprehension strategy with a read aloud or short text during whole-class instruction, and then thread that strategy into guided reading in which the children are doing most of the work — not the teacher. Whole-class instruction can never achieve the differentiation and scaffolding found in a teacher-led guided reading lesson.

Downloadable Templates

Click the button below, add a valid email, and access or download any of the following guided reading resources:

  • 10 Minute Lesson Plan
  • Progress Monitoring for Levels A-I
  • Guided Reading Observation Guide and Teaching Points
  • Guided Reading vs. Book Clubs

Suggested Reading

Here’s a quick list of free and paid professional learning resources for teachers and instructional coaches.

Free Articles

Paid* Resources and Books

  • Next Step Forward in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson – All the planning and instructional tools you need to teach guided reading well, from pre-A to fluent, organized around Richardson’s proven Assess-Decide-Guide framework.
  • Responsive Comprehension Instruction by Jennifer Seravallo – This text focuses on teaching comprehension in a balanced literacy environment with a strong emphasis on the reading workshop.

Did you learn anything in this article? What strategies or tips for guided reading would you add? Leave me a comment below and share the article by pressing the social media buttons below.


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Leave a Comment or Question

  • This spreadsheet for guided reading is so much easier than the binder my district asks me to use. Do you think I could print out the pages, so I can still comply with the district guided reading binder?

    • Yes, you can! In Excel, click the “View” tab and go to “Print Layout”. Then you can adjust the columns to fit on the paper size you have in the print. And thanks for your kind words!

  • I had trouble with the graphs. I see them on the sample data, but they don’t generate on the blank form when I enter student info. Please advise.

    • To generate the graphs, you have to right click the graph, select “select data”, then select the student data to go in it.

      That’s probably not easy to follow here in the comments, so I think I’ll create a tutorial video for it.

      Thanks for bringing this topic up!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

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