With all the buzz about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the emphasis on complex text, many teachers are wondering how guided reading fits into this new landscape. It’s important to remember that the CCSS lays out the end goals we want our students to achieve; they do not specify how to get there. In our minds, guided reading is a powerful teaching context for scaffolding students to read and understand increasingly complex text. Here are five compelling reasons for using guided reading in a CCSS classroom:

1. During guided reading, the teacher can observe each child reading, noting the skills and strategies under control and those that need direct instruction.

The opportunity to regularly observe a child reading is unparalleled in helping the teacher plan focused instruction that will allow a child to tackle more complex texts. Information a teacher gains in this setting can be used throughout the day to effectively scaffold students’ acquisition of foundational skills, language skills, and self-monitoring and decoding strategies. For example, if the teacher notices that a child is having difficulty understand the meaning of the words in the text, she might try to emphasize vocabulary strategies during her read-alouds.

2. During guided reading, the teacher can coach the child in the moment.

As a teacher listens to a child read, she can coach the child to use decoding, self-monitoring, comprehension, and vocabulary strategies, effectively individualizing instruction. This one-on-one support fosters success and helps students become more skilled at independently processing text, increasing their engagement and motivation to read even more complex texts.

3. During guided reading, text-based comprehension is the goal.

Reading is a meaning-making activity, yet too many students believe it’s only about word-calling. As a group discusses a text they’re reading together, the teacher emphasizes the goal of understanding what the text says, encouraging rereading and close reading to clarify understandings and facilitate text-based discussions.

4. During guided reading, students have the opportunity to engage in collaborative discussions.

The small-group format is a safe, supportive environment for children to express their ideas and learn how to talk constructively with one another to explore the meaning of a text and voice their opinions. This experience is a valuable opportunity to practice skills necessary for meeting the speaking and listening standards as readers talk together to ask and answer questions about the text, discuss the author’s craft and text structure, and infer the theme or central message of the text.

5. During guided reading, the teacher can employ a variety of text genres and structures.

By introducing students to a variety of genres and text structures during guided reading, teachers help readers build a rich reading history so that they can use their knowledge of how different texts work to comprehend new texts they are reading independently. This is especially important given the wide variety of texts the Common Core expects students to read and understand.

The Common Core has set ambitious goals for our students, goals we want every child to achieve. To reach those goals, however, children must acquire the skills and strategies necessary to accomplish them. Guided Reading offers a supportive setting in which this learning can occur and should be an integral part of any reading program.

These essential resources include targeted assessments and ready-to-go lessons for helping students get the most from strategic guided reading instruction.

The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson

Next Step Guided Reading in Action: Grades K-2 by Jan Richardson