April 28, 2022

The Principles of Effective Practice in Teaching Reading: Group Guided Reading in KS1 – Part 3

Whilst for some children, working with a teacher 1:1 might improve reading accuracy and fluency, this isn’t always possible; therefore, often we arrange children into groups for reading practice.

Group Guided Reading

Whilst for some children working with a teacher 1:1 might improve reading accuracy and fluency, this isn’t always possible; therefore, often we arrange children into groups for reading practice. According to the DfE Reading Framework, deciding how to organise children into groups so they can practise reading a ‘decodable’ book, might be within the main class or in groups throughout the day.

It involves the teacher choosing a book or text that matches most closely the GPCs that the group knows and taking account of the children’s ability to blend the sounds in words that are unfamiliar.

The teacher would make a note, in advance of the session, of which words might need explaining to support reading fluency. The children would be involved in re-reading and would understand the purpose of re-reading so that they can increase the number of words they can read at a glance, or perhaps to discuss the plot of the story, the characters and their motives. The teacher might then decide which decodable book the children will take home to read. 

Many of you will be familiar with the teaching of Group Guided Reading. Importantly, by practising reading every day, the children refine the vital processing they have to do. They are fluent readers when they can read at a speed that allows them to understand the text they are reading. These processes are aligned to having good formative assessment practices and a robust summative assessment procedure. 

The Reading Framework suggests that individual records of reading rather than group records are vital, particularly for children who are at risk of not meeting the expected standards in Reading, as these children are more likely to fail to learn to read. Understanding those barriers that children may face and thinking carefully about the differences between word reading processes and language comprehension processes, help us as teachers to gather the most accurate assessment information that we can through observing children reading, talking to them about their reading, and through listening to them read. Those assessments may take place through small group guided reading. Guided Reading is an essential element to the teaching of reading. This is the method often used to teach individual children to become fluent readers.

Features of a Guided Reading Lesson

The children are taught in small groups, normally of around six children and they are grouped according to their reading skills. The children all read the same text, which is suitably challenging at around 90-95% accuracy. Reading strategies, such as the application of particular phonemes or reading skills such as reading fluency skills and blending, are also taught in these sessions. The children have the teacher as an expert reader, modelling out loud that particular skill and then scaffolding the children’s attempts to understand individual texts.

During this session, a suggested sequence which allows for teaching and the application of the skills is as follows:

  • The book introduction: Where the book is introduced, and any tricky vocabulary is identified. The teacher might talk to the children about any prior knowledge that pupils will need in order to access the text. Research tells us that the two biggest barriers to comprehension are background knowledge and vocabulary.

  • The Strategy Check: This is where the teacher would model the particular reading behaviour and the particular reading skill that they would like the children to practise in the lesson. 

  • Independent reading takes place: The aim of this part of the sequence is for children to engage in independent decoding and rereading. 

When I am teaching Guided Reading, I ask all of the children to read at the same time, but to themselves. I will then move around the group, listening in to each child’s independent reading. If a child is struggling to decode, I might step in and help them. This way, every child will be provided with an opportunity to practise their word reading and reading fluency. When pupils ‘read around’, with one child reading at a time, pupils will be passive for much of the independent reading time and this will hinder reading automaticity.

Children are often moved too quickly from phonics to reading comprehension activities without the time and attention needed to develop automaticity and accuracy in decoding. Children in Year 1 and Year 2 need time to practise their reading accuracy and fluency by re-reading matched books. Beginner books should provide decoding practice. Re-reading these books will support their understanding of what they read. 

Whilst children are developing their reading accuracy, they will not be able to attend to the meaning of the text. Comprehension should therefore be developed when listening to the teacher read.

When pupils can read a text with automaticity, we can turn our attention to develop meaning. Here we can check that children have read the text with understanding. At the end of the session, it’s important to make some assessment notes, whether the objective was met and what the children need to be taught next. Following this Guided Reading session, I might set the children some independent tasks which would involve the children in re-reading the Guided Reading text, this time answering comprehension questions, or completing a piece of writing in response to the text or re-reading the book to one another to develop their fluency. 

Click here for part 4!

Photo of Emma Adcock – VNET EDUCATION CIC
Emma Adcock

Director of Training and Research
April 2022

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