How To Revolutionise Guided Reading

Reading time: 3

Hollie Anderton

Hollie is currently a primary teacher in North Wales with a degree in Theatre. She trained in Bath Spa University to gain her PGCE and has an experimental classroom which she has developed from other practitioners. She is a firm advocate for anything collaborative and...
Read more about Hollie Anderton

What is whole-class guided reading?

Let me relay a scenario to you: You’re just sitting down to read a chapter with a group of children who have very little interest in it. Each page is read out painstakingly slowly, whilst the rest of your class disperse into chaos on the all important ‘Reading Carousel’. What a way to start each and every day!

If that situation is commonplace in your class then keep reading.

Teachers have forever tried to reinvent Guided Reading (GR) and ultimately always come back to, ‘Oh, I know! Why don’t I read with a group and the rest of my class can work on a variety of tasks around the classroom!’

Whole Class Guided Reading

Mornings will always be disrupted in primary schools – assemblies, visitors, DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) time – and it all adds up! I didn’t want to go through this year doing the same thing I’ve done every year. I didn’t want to commit to the planning of GR to have it go down the drain, sometimes because I want to do something less banal. So I found whole-class guided reading (WCGR) – it really wasn’t that difficult (a quick search engine and you’re off!)

You’ve probably heard about WCGR already, but I wanted to share with you the way that my class now undertake WCGR and what a profound effect that this has had on my children. Context: We have GR every morning from 9-9.30. Each week is focused on 1 chapter of the same book.

Monday and Tuesday

We begin the week by looking at a variety of vocabulary, around 12 words over two days.

Vocabulary pursuit
  • The children are introduced to the word on my trusty PowerPoint and thus ensues a race to find the word in the dictionary. A fun task for them leads to me being able to tick off the fact that they are able to confidently use a dictionary.
  • The winning pair then take great pride in reading out the definition for everyone else. The children write down the word and the definition, and then come up with their most creative sentence to consolidate their understanding of each word.
  • Here’s the twist: The words ALL come from the chapter that we are about to read! I tend to choose words that they either won’t know or that they could benefit from using in their work.

Tip: This was an incredibly slow process at the beginning of the year, with the children completing only two words in the first session. Now, I have to pull as many words up as possible to keep the work going over the two sessions!


Now, don’t panic about what I am about to say.

Reading aloud
  • On Wednesdays, we read the chapter. I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’. Yes, you read right, I read a whole chapter to my class whilst they follow along in their books.
  • ‘What’s the point?’ I hear you ask! The point is that some of my children wouldn’t engage with this text because it’s too difficult, some of my children aren’t read to at home, some of my children are dyslexic, some of my children would benefit from hearing intonation and expression being used… I could literally go on and on but I’ve got to stick to a word count!
  • Surplus to this, my class fire their hands up when they hear a word that they covered in the vocabulary sessions – a surefire way of me checking that they are listening.


On a Thursday, the children write a summary of what they have read without looking back in the text. Most detailed gets a Dojo Point. That’s it.


We move our GR lesson to the Literacy slot to cope with the amount of time needed.

Answer the questions
  • The children complete a comprehension (about eight questions) based on four pages of out class text.
  • The questions are not simple. When writing them, I endeavour to use ‘How might…’ type questions to promote inference and provoke their inner investigator!

And then we start all over again the following week.

And the outcome?

My children love reading our class text. It’s pitched high. No one is left behind. No differentiation, no deviation.

And the biggest product? I enjoy teaching Guided Reading!

Other blogs worth a look

  1. Jo Payne (Mrs P): How Do Whole-Class Reading Lessons Work?
  2. Solomon Kingsnorth: How To Switch To Whole-Class Guided Reading.
  3. Alison Dawkins: Guided reading – whole-class or guided groups?

21 thoughts on “How To Revolutionise Guided Reading

  1. Do you think a whole class reading session might work in Reception or Y1-for part of school year? I believe guided reading should be banned in these year groups! Please prove me wrong!

    1. I think that it definitely could work! Even with a picture book, you could generate vocabulary from the pictures, the children could orally relay the story and then answer questions – if you use Seesaw, this can be really useful!

  2. I’d be really interested to know who actually came up with the idea of guided reading as we know it now.
    I don’t think it ever worked well. I suspect if you look closer at when it became in vogue, and by whom, you will find a link to a publishing company. These companies have made fortunes producing guided readers across the key stages.

  3. I love this idea and have been doing it now for 5 or 6 weeks. It’s so ingrained now the chn are really getting used to what is expected and as you said my LA are doing much more work, they are getting used to spotting words and finding them quicker than they did before. It’s early days but for me this is enhancing their phonics. spelling, handwriting and general comprehension! and best part is I can do a whole class on my own.

    I’m in Y1 so my days run similarly to yours. They get 2 pages from a book each (back to back). We do GR for 4 days a week.

    Day 1, they look for NoNo words (Common exceptional/ red words) and write them down 3x . We then class share and they tick what they’ve found and we see who got the most, who got more than x words etc. Its quite competitive and I ask them to write new ones down they haven’t discovered
    Day 2, they look for words with digraphs / split digraphs / trigraphs and write them 3x
    Day 3 I read the pages to them and they follow and we discuss words and meaning and what might happen next etc
    Day 4 they write 2 sentences (or more) about what we’ve read. I also use this time to concentrate on handwriting and writing the long date

    I love this method thankyou! so much for enlightening me!

    1. I know this is an incredibly old comment, but just reading it now and wondering which texts you use? Y1 teacher and really keen to get this set up and any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    2. I like the sound of this. Please clarify whether you are using the same book for days 1-4 or whether you change the book every day.

  4. Hello

    Do you have access to lots of whole books for the reading day?
    I’m struggling to find enough books that my class of 31 children can follow.

  5. There seems to me a lot of distain for guided reading.
    Guided reading was introduced to stop the need for the teacher to have to listen to 30 children read independently. It gives the teacher opportunity to hear each child… this is particularly important for younger children.
    Reading SHOULD be taught throughout all aspects of the curriculum particularly in English lessons. It seems to me that a lot of the unpicking, sharing of texts has gone because the “English” curriculum has become so formulaic and SPAG based. Therefore teachers are trying to get it into their guided reading sessions. Quality guided reading should be where you teacher explicit reading skills etc.
    My advice is Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water – Change the teaching of English not guided reading …

  6. I really want to do this – but – I do not have the amount of books needed for the children to follow in their own book – do you think putting the text under the visualiser would be as good?


  7. It’s unfortunate that there is a misconception of Guided Reading and its pedagogical roots in the initial post. Well delivered as QFT, it does not yield the scenario described by the writer, whereby you are “just reading a chapter” with disinterested children. Based on a wide field of research and evidence-based practice (reflected in Reading Recovery programmes), GR sensibly replaces the scenario of “hearing” individual children read and cramming that into your breaks and lunchtimes (and theirs too!), instead of teaching and enthusing them. By looking carefully at a class, they can roughly be grouped into similar levels of attainment (often by the colour coded books they are accessing at instructional level), thus providing differentiated learning and teaching. A GR session has a clear 3 part structure, whereby you ‘warm up’ the text, introducing vocab or tricky words with younger ones, remind about strategies, and ask literal and inferential questions BEFORE reading in order to drive them into the text and not have that unnatural reading of stop/start. Then children read independently at their own pace whilst you tune in. It is possible from YR to Y6. The point is that they read at their own pace and have maximum time to process text/problem solve, execute word recognition and comprehension. There is research that indicates it is detrimental for children to follow along as the eye movements for the one reading aloud and those following print are not at the same pace. And anyway, what’s the point of that? Those following will not be ACTIVELY processing the text, if they are following at all!; they need to be working at it themselves with optimum time to do so. As you tune into each child, it may well only be for a minute or two, but you will have teaching opportunities at the point of learning that will be significant to that child. In time, you will even be able to record relevant changes in reading behaviour at the same time as you teach. The third section, however brief, is the chance to quickly review any strategies that children used to solve a particular word (get them to articulate it to the group) and check in with any comprehension questions asked beforehand. Older children can then be reading other chapters (choose the right texts then they won’t have “little interest in it”) on days when they are not your focus group. I used to do this first thing after register for 20 mins – the best part of my day. Don’t sweat the rest of the class – in groups they can be book browsing in the reading area, a group browsing on the carpet area, others can be at tables just reading either the comic box or a non-fiction topic related box (it’s up to us to keep these regularly replenished); they can share quietly in pairs or on their own as they choose. Any children who did have some difficulty on any day would be expected to sit by my chair whilst I was with the focus group. No ‘chaos’, just training. I’ve even seen it in nursery, with the GR session being just walking through a text carefully, while other children enjoy storysacks or other reading opportunities. And I’ve seen skillfully taught sessions in Y5. Every child has entitlement to teacher direct teaching in this way, whether your most or least able. Done well, it is very empowering for the teacher and the learners.
    What is described in the initial post is a variation of Shared Reading which is a whole class practice (rooted in Holdaway (1979) as a collaborative approach.) So WCGR is a misnomer. GR and SR are two separate pedagogcial practices, serving different educational intent. Choose the right text, pitch the right level, use the 3part structure to whatever extent and it works, avoiding that crazy situation of listening to 3 ‘readers’ at once on different texts at different levels, and playing catch up in breaks, just to get ‘through’ them all. If we understand why we are doing what we are doing, ie the theory behind it and our knowledge of how (not just what) children learn, guided reading in its true form, is effective, strategic teaching and enjoyable for all – most of the time! (Oh, and no writing needed – it destroys the enjoyment of reading for many; that is not what GR is about.) Mrs S above says this much more succinctly : )

    1. Thank you for this, it was an interesting read.

      I would love to see any plans you have of this successfully delivered in lower key stage 2.

      I am currently exploring my options in relation to guided reading and trying to find the way that works the best. By the sounds of it you are suggesting that you work with a small group each day focusing on their reading with perhaps some well structured questioning, while the rest of the class develop their reading for pleasure?

      Thank you.

  8. Hi Hollie,

    Is this how you do it in Year 2? Does it work with SATS? What about children that can’t maintain interest in listening to reading?

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