Session 143: Is guided reading fit for purpose?


Session Title: Is guided reading fit for purpose?
Date: Thursday 21st March 2013

This week’s chat focused on a stalwart of primary practice – guided reading. This pedagogical structure has been a regular feature on most primary school timetables since the introduction of the National Primary Strategy back in 1998. So, fifteen years later the @PrimaryEnglish team wanted to know if British teachers still consider it a purposeful way to teach reading.

For the uninitiated, guided reading involves the teacher working closely with a small group of children on reading. The session is usually 20 minutes in duration. The other children in the class work independently at this time, although many classes are able to use a teaching assistant to support some of these children.

It emerged fairly early in the discussion that a carousel of independent activities is a popular classroom management tool used by many teachers. @suepimlott told us that she listens to the guided group whilst the independent carousel activities focus on reading tasks. Other colleagues included handwriting and spelling within their carousels. There were even suggestions that making cross-curricular links during these independent learning activities could improve learning further. However, whilst the carousel was a popular approach, problems emerged in the shape of: planning meaningful independent activities; and the management of those independent groups. Something that @joga5 has solved by giving each child a role during GR. In addition @hayleyjess shared a neat phrase for reducing interruptions whilst you are leading your group, “ask 3 before me…”.

The efficiency of guided reading, as opposed to hearing individual readers, was received positively by most contributors. Not just for ‘getting through the readers’ but also as a means of giving quality time to children. Although there was some concern about ‘labelling’ of children by their guided groups there was enthusiasm for using the guided reading model across the curriculum as ‘guided learning’. Whilst the teacher-led guided reading structure seems to prevail there were contributions showing that teachers do modify the organisation of the session. Several contributors mentioned running the session as a ‘book group’, implying a more egalitarian relationship between teacher and children. And, @StephenConnor7 told us about the flipped relationship in his school where children lead the sessions by asking the questions, talking about characterisation and offering opinions…he gets to make notes and interject when required.

Towards the end of the discussion the question, “How do you assess reading in primary schools?” was asked by @ianaddison. The role of APP in supporting teacher judgements emerged as a popular approach; with tests being used to support those teacher judgements. The role played by book-banding in supporting those teacher judgements was also clear at this point in the discussion.

Earlier in the discussion we had asked colleagues about their preferences for real books or schemes. Whilst schemes were being used by teachers, book-banding again appeared as a tool for helping teachers to use real books pitched at the abilities of the children in their classes.

[pullquote]Practitioners consider guided reading fit for purpose for teaching children to read.[/pullquote]During the chat it became apparent that the majority of practitioners consider guided reading fit for purpose for teaching children to read. It is though just one of many approaches used in UK schools. Contributors told us about their literary spines of read-aloud books, shared reading, paired reading, one-to-one reading, book talk and phonics.  The overwhelming response was that guided reading is,“ great when used together with phonics, reading for pleasure and…[sic] working with parents” @stjohnscoventry.

Notable tweets:

We asked colleagues how they identify the focus for their guided reading sessions. APP came to the fore in their responses, as typified by this tweet from @JE55 “We use child friendly APP bookmarks – highlight when each achieved. Gaps for each group are clear”

In response to our question about strategies that practitioners use to keep the independent children on task @MargMcM pointed to a strategy that we often advocate in our work with teachers,  “reading journals, in which they have choice of activity”

Tweet of the Week:
@GoG0_GadgetGirl “Our 6th formers are paid as reading buddies, they work with the same child throughout the year on a weekly basis”

We loved the idea of these youngsters applying for their role and then being paid for their hard work. It seemed such an enterprising way to engage young people in peer to peer support and to signify the importance of reading. The majority of participants were from the primary sector but this tweet showed how very important reading remains in secondary schools.

About your Host

@PrimaryEnglish are: Rachel Clarke, Julia Etheridge, Charlotte Reed and Jo Upton. We are currently employed by Coventry LA as Teaching and Learning Consultants. Together we have nearly 70 years teaching experience in the primary sector.  We are avid readers and regularly blog at

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About @ICTmagic 780 Articles
Martin Burrett is the editor of our popular UKEdMagazine, along with curating resources in the ICTMagic section, and free resources for teachers on UKEd.Directory

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