What is guided reading?

Adult and child taking part in guided reading

Each day teachers must devote at least 30 minutes of the timetable to a reading session for their class. The practice is about analysing text, ensuring all children can understand and interpret written words and discuss what they believe the text to mean.

Key reading practice is extremely important and devoting time to this across the week helps children to consistently gather more skill in the area. Sometimes, you’ll notice that some children will need additional support and that’s when it’s a good idea to arrange for an assistant or a reading buddy to help further.


What is a guided session?

The plan is often to set up a classroom ‘carousel’ of activities. This means that each table around the class will have a different activity, children will swap and rotate through. Here’s an example of just some ways that this could work:


Writing table

Lots of coloured paper, different pens and pencils laid out with a task to complete e.g. write a thank you note to someone in your class, a family member or friend.


Grammar table

Age and level appropriate worksheets and tasks for understanding grammar.


Guided reading / choose a book table

A chance for guided reading with the teacher and a choice of books to take home


Specific topic table

A table full of books dependent on what the children are learning about e.g. Ancient Egypt


There are of course lots of other table options e.g. learning phonics, poetry, spelling, story-writing, book reviewing etc.


A further explanation of guided reading

After dividing the group by ability, based on reading levels, teachers can select a set of books for the group that is then perfectly appropriate.

A high-quality guided session tends to focus on two areas, decoding and comprehension.


Decoding within guided reading

Regardless of the word being ‘understood’, decoding simply means the child is speaking from text. Decoding is based on how the word is split up in to separated sounds, it’s the teachers job to help children to break those words up and then sound them out properly as a first step. Applying pictures to the words and sounds can help children to firm up their knowledge and understanding quicker too.  

A popular way to help is by reading the entire sentence to children, missing out the word that they are struggling with – it’s then possible for the child to guess the missing word based on what they have heard. This technique helps to reverse the focus from the word and eases the pressure on the child.


Comprehension with guided reading

Comprehension is the natural follow-on from decoding and it means that children will begin to understand the meaning of words as they read them, helping to piece together sentences and larger bodies of text. They can advance further by being able to talk and write about what they have read.


Inference, deduction and prediction: Fully understanding the text

Here is a piece of text, imagine a child was reading it:


“Ajay was just about to tuck into his tea and toast dripping in sour rhubarb jam when there was a loud clatter from the letterbox as an important-looking brown envelope landed on the mat. ‘Bit early for the post isn’t it?’ Mum said. ‘Ooh, it says Special Delivery.’ Mum opened it, and unfolded the letter. Joe knew instantly that something was wrong. He could see it on Mum’s face. ‘What is it, Mum?’ Joe asked. ‘Yeah, Mrs P, what’s happened?’ Ajay asked too. ‘It’s the park... they’ve shut it down.’ For a second no one said a word. Joe and Ajay looked at each other, then back at Joe’s mum. Her face was pale, her jaw dropped open. She stared at the letter, her eyes watery.”


Teachers always ask children to understand what is literally being said in the text. When reading the above, the questions that may be asked of the class could be:

  • What arrived through the post? (a letter)
  • What kind of sound did the letter box make? (a clatter)
  • What was the letter about? (the park)


Adding another layer to this, the children need to think about inference or ‘reading between the lines’. This understanding of text is about making judgements on characters and situations, by looking at the language used. A question about the text above could be:

  • How was Ajay’s mum feeling when she read the letter? (sad and upset)


Discussing this in groups or pairs helps the class to work out their answer together, it can throw up lots of ideas about what is being said by the writer. Children will likely pick up on the fact that her eyes were ‘watery’ and her face went ‘pale’, which means she was close to tears and therefore, upset or sad.

Deduction will also be looked at, or ‘reading beyond the lines’ by teachers. This is when children can come to their own conclusions about the text, an example question for the text above could be:

  • Why do you think Ajay’s mum was so upset about the letter?


Children will often come up with the weird and wonderful when it comes to deduction! Give them the opportunity to explore and then explain why they have given their opinion.

Prediction is another step to children exploring during reading, it encourages children to tell teachers what they believe will happen to the character and situation in the future. This technique results in lots of creativity and excitement where anything is possible!

It’s best though for teachers to pull these wild assumptions back to apply reasoning and ultimately beneficial to have children explain exactly why they made their prediction, in relation to the text they’ve just read.