I love guided reading! It makes me smile to see children lean over a table, dig into a book, solve problems, and construct meaning. Why? Because these precious children are experiencing a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. They know they are becoming better readers, and they’re excited about it. I’m convinced that there is no instructional approach more powerful than guided reading. What an honor it is to see lives changed forever by the simple yet profound joy of learning to read!

Whether you are brand new to guided reading or have been teaching it for years, my book, The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading will help you move forward in your instruction by using the Assess Decide-Guide framework. These three basic steps simplify the guided reading process while they ratchet up each lesson’s effectiveness.

1. Assess

Guided reading utilizes formative assessments that help teachers make instructional decisions about grouping and text selection. Teachers conduct systematic assessments to determine student strengths and needs (Richardson & Walther, 2013) so they can place students in flexible groups for efficient reading instruction. While every child has unique strengths and challenges, students in a guided reading group are enough alike that they can be taught together. Teachers select slightly challenging texts for each group—books students will be able to process successfully with instruction (Richardson, 2009).

Other assessment goals include the following:

• Know each student’s reading habits and preferences.

• Pinpoint each child’s developmental word knowledge.

• Understand a learner’s ability to comprehend in various reading (or listening) situations.

• Determine a child’s instructional reading level.

• Identify the skills and strategies a student needs to learn in order to become a proficient reader.

2. Decide

Because they reveal a student’s strengths and needs, assessments have tremendous value when they’re used to make instructional decisions. With assessment information in hand, you can:

• Form flexible, needs-based groups.

• Pinpoint an instructional focus.

• Select texts that will compel readers to think and problem-solve.

• Differentiate and evaluate reading instruction.

• Monitor progress.

3. Guide

The framework shows you how to use your assessment to plan and teach powerful guided reading lessons. As you work with students, you will uncover the optimal instructional area, also known as the Zone of Proximal Development—or as Lev Vygotsky (1978) explained,“instruction  that marches ahead of development and leads it.” Your instruction should pose intellectual challenges for readers and invite them to stretch and grow—and learn something new with your support.”

• Introduce the text and state the learning target.

• Scaffold and teach for strategies.

• Incorporate word study and vocabulary instruction.

• Connect reading and writing.

• Engage readers!

To learn more about how you can transform your guided reading program and ensure it supports all your readers, purchase my book here.

About the author:
Jan Richardson, Ph.D., is a former K–12 teacher, reading specialist, Reading Recovery teacher leader, and staff developer. She currently is an educational consultant, providing schools across the U.S. and Canada with professional workshops and classroom demonstrations.

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