Guided Reading

Love it or loathe it, guided reading is probably the most well-used strategy for teaching reading in the UK. This popular post collects together a range of ideas to help you plan for meaningful guided reading sessions.


Have you ever added up how many minutes per day you spend with each child in a class of 30 – not much is it? Guided reading ensures that every child gets 20 ring-fenced minutes of your time every week of the year. Put guided reading immediately after lunch and you can guarantee that lost sweatshirts, grazed knees and football disputes will eat into your reading session. Likewise, put it on a Friday after awards assembly and you can rest assured that you’ll only have 5 minutes before the bell goes for play. Choose a time for guided reading that won’t slip away and use it to give the children that extra special bit of time with you and a book.


Really effective guided reading sessions have a sharp focus and stick to it. Try keeping to just one Assessment Focus (AF), ask questions for this focus and try to make assessment notes only about this focus.

Even more focus

Use your assessment notes to inform what you plan. Not just for the guided session but the work children will do before and after the session with you. Stick to one focus. This way you prepare the children for their work with you and then you can assess their ability to apply what they’ve learned through their independent activities. This also saves you time in having to ‘come up with ideas’ for the independent groups to do during the session.


If you do guided reading every day for 20 minutes that’s 100 minutes per week – each child gets just 20 minutes of that with you. What do the other 80 minutes look like? Make sure that children have high quality opportunities to prepare, practise and apply their learning during this time.  Ofsted inspectors are just as likely to look at the quality of the independent learning taking place in the classroom as the guided work that you are doing with your small group.


Reading a dull text is bad. Having to answer questions about it is even worse! Engage children by choosing inspiring texts. There are good published guided reading schemes available but using real books, such as those found on our Pinterest boards, will encourage a love of reading which extends beyond the guided reading session.


Keep it simple, stupid! – don’t over complicate it! Guided reading is a mini-lesson. You haven’t got time for tonnes of whizzy teaching tricks. Keep the plan focussed and don’t spend too long planning it. Minimal planning for a mini-lesson.

Prime them

Before they read, tell the children what you will be asking them about. This gives them focus for their reading and also helps them to locate the information and formulate their responses

Get equal

Challenge the teacher-pupil relationship by encouraging the children to ask you questions about the text. The small group size of guided reading makes it a great place to teach children (and yourself) about this dialogic relationship. Providing children with some question stems based on Blooms taxonomy helps them to come up with questions to ask you and their peers. This strategy takes practice but once you’ve all mastered it you won’t look back!

Flip it

With children who’ve mastered decoding (generally those working within NC level 4) try ‘flipping the learning’. This means providing children with the text prior to the guided reading session so that the time you spend together is for discussion and analysis rather than reading the text.

Shuffle them

It is unlikely that the groups should remain static for an entire academic year. So, use your periodic assessments to shuffle the guided reading groups from time to time.

Further resources and ideas

For further ideas for guided reading take a look at our post guided reading #2 and our post about teaching inference and deduction.

We have FREE to download questions for guided reading on our resources page.

For a summary of the UkEd chat we hosted on “Is guided reading fit for purpose?” click here.

Rachel Clarke,  Director: Primary English Education Consultancy

Originally published on LoveToReadToMyClass.Wordpress.Com

Read a fuller version of this post on the Teach Primary Magazine website.

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