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What is Guided Reading? - Definition & Levels

Instructor: Marquis Grant
This lesson will highlight the practice of guided reading by providing a definition of the term and explaining the levels associated with it. A short quiz will follow to test your knowledge.

What is Guided Reading?

Guided reading can be defined as a practice in which you, as the teacher, assist your students in navigating the reading process. Reading is about more than just recognizing and reciting words on a page: it's basically a conscious effort to understand what's being read. For some students, this may be a difficult task, particularly those students who struggle with reading comprehension. They may able to read fluently (meaning confidently), but have difficulty figuring out exactly what the author was saying in a text.

Likewise, a student may not be able to recognize the words that are in a text, which will inevitably affect how well they comprehend what they are reading. No matter what the struggle for them is, many children rely on the teacher to help them make sense of what the text.

How Does Guided Reading Work?

During guided reading, the teacher, Mrs. Olms, would provide instruction that will support her students as they develop their reading skills. While it's possible to implement guided reading as to an entire class, this may not be effective. Small group instruction has been found to work best when supporting learners who may need an extra push. Smaller groups allow Mrs. Olms to focus more on the individual needs of her students and provide reading strategies that would be most beneficial to developing their literacy skills.

Likewise, Mr. Jackson may have students that struggle with word recognition and need more specialized instruction. In this case, Mr. Jackson may use a decoding strategy so that when students come to unfamiliar words, your students will be able to sound out (decode) the letter sounds in the word. He may start out with a list of five or six words that he shows his students how to decode by saying the word first, then having his students repeat the words. As Mr. Jackson's list increases, so will his students' ability to decode unfamiliar words. His goal would be for students to use the decoding strategy in their own so that they can be come effective independent readers.

Levels of Guided Reading

After you, as the teacher, have assessed your students to determine their individual reading levels, you will then place them into guided reading groups. You will place your students in a group according to their levels. Children in a given group are generally reading on the same level, even though their reading skills may be different. As the teacher, you will need to pay close attention to your students' individualized needs and provide the support that they will need to continue to grow.

Guided reading levels range from 1-20 and, for the purposes of this lesson, categorized into three stages: beginning, transitioning and fluent reading.

  • Beginning Reading (Levels 1-2)

This level is for students who have demonstrated early reading skills. The stories are simple and short with an emphasis on high frequency words. High frequency words are those words that a student may come across in every day language. Examples of common high frequency words this level include,but are not limited to: I, he, she, they and those. The text may be supported by pictures to aid in word recognition and comprehension of text. As the teacher, Mr. Jackson may focus on letter-sound relationships in words in print or words that rhyme to show how certain letter combinations or endings sound alike. The focus is on building vocabulary and the development and use of decoding skills will be important. When students are able to decode, it simply means that students are able to divide a word based on letter-sound relationships in order to correctly pronounce the word. Emphasis on specific reading strategies such as decoding will be important so that students will learn to become independent readers over time.

  • Transitioning Reading (Levels 3-5)

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