Part 1 of 6- Balanced Literacy

Guided reading is small-group reading instruction designed to provide differentiated teaching that supports students in developing reading proficiency. ~ Gay Su Pinnell & Irene C. Flountas

This post is part 1 of a 6 part series: Balanced Literacy. Just like eating a balanced diet is important to ensure proper nutrition and a variety of vitamins are taken in, it is important to help children learn literacy from a balanced approach. Balanced_literacy_picture

Although the term guided reading,which is one of the steps to reading fitness , is generally used in a classroom setting, it is also important to use guided reading techniques when working with one or two children such as working with your own child, tutoring, or home educating. These steps will help to increase any child’s current reading ability.

3 Steps To Guided Reading:

1. Pre-read: Build up background knowledge and vocabulary. Predict reading. Take a picture walk. (Taking a “picture walk” is simply looking at the pictures and telling the story by looking at the pictures and thinking about the story before beginning to read the text.) Ask questions to set the stage for reading based on the pictures. Introduce all new vocabulary.  By building up background knowledge, children navigate new text more successfully.

2. Reading: Read each passage or book at least three times in order to build confidence and fluency.

First read to your child/children or read together. guid

balanced literacy

Use these cues when reading with your child/children.

Second, read together taking turns, or reading chorally.

Third, have the child/children read to you.

The above 3 steps are as follows: reading to, reading with, and reading by. ( Reading to the students role modeling fluency. Reading with the child/children to help them navigate new text successfully. Reading by the child/children listening to them master the text.)

During reading, use the following cues when a child is stuck on a word: See the graphic to the right and above on the left. These tips/cues help child/children through the reading process.

3. Post Reading (Comprehension): Discuss the story. Ask questions. Use graphic organizers to write or draw key comprehension elements.

Work on comprehension elements such as setting, characters, plot (problem/solution), sequence of events, compare/contrast, the main idea, drawing inferences (“there was snow on the mountain tops” What season?), etc.


One example of a graphic organizer Photo credit: Scholastic

Please click this link for a host of free graphic organizers. I’ve used these. They are fabulous and work with all kinds of stories, articles, and passages. These solidify the learning. Please don’t skip this very valuable step; it is the leap to commanding comprehension.

In summary:

– Pre-read – see activities listed above.

  • Read every book, passage 2-3 times.

  • Read to, with, and by = Read to the child, read with your child which is choral reading or taking turns reading sentences or paragraphs, and child reads while you are sitting by to encourage. Child must use finger to track the print for every reading.

  • The goal of reading is comprehension; thus, remember to implement post reading skills utilizing graphic organizers.

Whether guided reading is done with one student or a small group, its purpose is as follows: “No matter what the level is, teachers teach for a full range of strategic actions: word solving, searching for and using information, self-monitoring, and comprehension” ~Gay Su Pinnell & Irene C. Flountas

  • Set a reading goal and reward with a program like “Book It”: The reward is free pizza. Teachers and home school parents may enroll in the program. Check it out. I did this for classroom students. Later, when I home educated, I did this for my own children. They loved earning pizza by reading.

  • Another incentive that I used in my home is as follows: For every minute that my children read, I added a minute onto their screen time. (For example, each day they got 1 hour of screen time: games with screens, pads, TV, etc. Anything with a screen counted in the hour. Then, when they read for 20 minutes to me, I added 20 more minutes to their screen time. My youngest son became such an avid reader, I had to adjust this incentive, because he would have had hours and hours of screen time. 🙂 It worked!)

Favorite free resources for guided reading:– I have used this site with hundreds of children including my own. First, you can generate book lists based on level and interest; thus, matching books to kids. Then, there are quizzes for each book on the list. Therefore, I have kids read the book & take the quiz. This is like Accelerated Reader, but it is free. This method increases reading fluency and comprehension. Everyone I’ve used this with has made reading gains. 🙂  You do have to create a user name and password.  I’ve used this for years without getting spam, and it’s free.– First, I love this because it is free and leveled. Therefore, once you know your child’s level, you can search for passages at that level. There are comprehension questions to accompany every passage. The passages are short and on target thus helping build fluency. Every child I’ve had use these makes gains. They are incremental and effective. Plus, they are interesting and available in fiction and non-fiction. It is important to have children read all genres with plenty of non-fiction.  You do have to create a user name and password, but this is totally free.  You may get up to 2 e-mails a month notifying you of new passages.  No spam.

For beginner’s: – Incremental books that utilize both phonetic and high frequency words.

For Middle School on up: This is a news article a day with comprehention questions. It is a wonderful tool to expand vocabulary, knowledge, and comprehension. Additionally, it teaches a life skill, reading news. 🙂 – Great way to teach life skills using technology. Has lesson plans. I personally haven’t used this one, but I love PBS. Get kids reading and comprehending in life applicable ways using this site.

This is just the beginning. For a more in-depth explanation of guided reading, check out the following research based document:

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you help someone become a better reader. Do you have a favorite free web site or a tip that works for guided reading? I’d love to hear about it. Just share in the comments below.

Let’s make a positive difference~ one word at a time.


Please share this article with others that you think would benefit from these tips. Also, please ask any questions that you may have about teaching children reading or writing. Leave your questions in the comments. I’ll answer. 🙂

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