How to focus your guided reading sessions for children who understand what they read but are held back by their word reading skills

Lindsay Pickton

To find out more about how to group your class for effective guided reading, see my original post which takes you through using The Simple View of Reading to organise your class into guided reading groups.

In a nutshell, children are organized into groups based on their strengths and weaknesses in comprehension and word recognition. This enables you to adapt your teaching style and focus your guided reading session in a more accurate way than grouping by national curriculum level, for example.

This post focuses on Group 1 – “good comprehenders who struggle to read the words for themselves”. (Top-left of The Simple View of Reading diagram)Effective Guided Reading infographic

These are the children who “get” and enjoy the class story, often easily recognized by their willingness to contribute to class discussions. However, these children are let down by their word recognition skills and often stuck reading low-level scheme books for themselves.

They can easily become disaffected, and even angry, or just despondent, about reading – and therefore, about school.

Some of these children may benefit from additional phonic support, whilst some children may be already overusing phonics and sounding out words that are either phonically implausible, or familiar (or both). For older children, you may need to consider using a reading intervention programme to help close the gap.

You’ll need to use your judgement to decide the best way to bring these children’s word reading skills up to standard.

In my opinion, nothing beats one-to-one reading for this group. If a child is behind in their ability to read words, whether they are 5 or 11, they should be targeted for this support. This is time-consuming and things will be missed, but reading underpins all academic success, and it must be prioritised (making it cross-curricular can help).

Guided reading still plays a crucial role in these children’s reading development, and enjoyment. One-to-one reading is not the right forum for the development of comprehension because there’s no opportunity for paired talk and building on each other’s ideas. These children still need guided group discussion to enable them to access texts at a higher level than their word reading ability. This will keep them motivated and interested in reading and ensure that they don’t go backwards in their comprehension.

Crucially, we have to use appropriate texts with these children. Things like Project X Code texts, which have age-appropriate content and appearance, but easy-to-read words, are immeasurably better than giving them books designed for children years younger.

Lindsay Pickton is an experienced independent Learning and Teaching Adviser, specialising in all aspects of primary literacy with a particular focus on raising standards in comprehension through effective guided reading and fostering the enjoyment of reading in children. Hear from Lindsay at a free event this term, focusing on how effective guided reading using Project X Origins can help you meet the higher standards of the new National Curriculum. 

Download the full guide to Grouping your class for guided reading.

Read the next post in this series: Focusing your guided reading to get the best out of your weak comprehension, weak word reading groups