Guided Reading with Adolescent Readers

What are the best strategies for teaching and facilitating learning with Adolescent readers? There is a dearth of research that discusses Guided Reading with Adolescent students, but we do know that differentiation and equity are essential. There is a very great potential with this practice if we can learn to implement effectively. If we hear the words ‘Guided Reading’, most teachers will have a basic ‘head-nodding’ understanding of what it is, but outside of the younger elementary grades, there does not exist a rich wealth of research into Guided Reading with Adolescents. Without a more in-depth understanding, it will not be implemented in our classrooms.

How can we take what we know about Guided Reading, and use our knowledge of Adolescent readers, to determine how to implement this activity in the classroom?

What is Guided Reading?

Basically, Guided Reading is not its own program — rather it is part of a broader ‘Comprehensive Literacy’ framework that implements a Gradual Release of Responsibility from Modelled to Shared to Guided to Independent Reading.

It is defined by features including levelled texts, small-group instruction, teaching and prompting of effective reading strategies, independent activities for those not involved in guided reading. Because there is not enough time in the day to meet with all students individually, Guided Reading is a flexible option for supporting students with reading comprehension. The groups are usually comprised of 3–8 students. It is comprised of before, during and after reading strategies. Before Reading strategies include building Learning Goals and Success Criteria, activating prior knowledge, building background knowledge, setting a purpose for reading, using graphic organizers, KWL charts. During Reading strategies include identifying connections to personal experiences, asking questions, discussing vocabulary, making inferences, teaching strategies for unfamiliar words, sharing reactions, and providing feedbackAfter Reading strategies include consolidating the key learning, engaging in self-assessments, and teacher mini-assessments, feedback, planning next steps for student learning.

It is also absolutely essential that the grouping arrangements be flexible, temporary, and change based on progress monitoring and assessment. This is key for promoting differentiation and equity.

Most importantly, it needs to be a flexible framework that supports you in your responsive instruction and assessment strategies.

Why Guided Reading?

A common issue for all teachers is the difficulty of being able to meet the range of needs that occur in each classroom. This includes, and is not limited to, students with identified learning disabilities, different needs associated with attention-deficit, autism spectrum, fetal alcohol, hearing impairment, ELL, social and behavioural problems, suspected unidentified disabilities, average achievement levels, attendance issues, transience, trauma, cross-cultural differences, students needing enrichment, and gifted students — and infinite combinations of all of the above and more.

When it comes down to it, it is the teachers themselves who are directly affected by their unique range of needs. As such, it is the teachers themselves that need key strategies that will need to be actively engaged in assessing, reflecting on, and improving their own practice.

If done well, Guided Reading has the ability to promote differentiation AND equity through small group reading opportunities.

Why are some students good at comprehension and why do others have difficulty?

4 possible reasons that students will encounter difficulty with reading:

1. Low knowledge of vocabulary

2. Inadequate word recognition strategies

3. Lack of schemata or background knowledge to interpret text

4. Poor use of strategies to comprehend what they are reading

Let’s look for a moment at # 4. What can teachers do to help students use strong strategies that support comprehension?

Students with difficulties in reading comprehension, need to engage in strategies including:

· re-reading the text

· using background knowledge and schemas

· developing metacognition

· becoming assessment-capable learners who can tell whether they have comprehended it or not

We really want adolescents to really learn to harness their metacognition and self-Assessment skills that they will need both now – and for the rest of their lives.

A repertoire of roles and activities that the Teacher can use in Guided Reading, depending on the situation:

· Coach

· Modelling/demonstrating — make learning visible

· Prompting

· Questioning students

· Eliciting questions from students

· Listening

· Activating background knowledge and schemas

· Creating mental images

· Telling — students information in an abstract way without telling them what to do

· Explaining — clarifying how to do something — direct explanation

· Promoting engagement in discussion

· Promoting awareness of text structures

The reading strategies need to be chosen based on student needs, and teacher observations during guided reading.

The following is a basic structure you can use for a 15–30 min Guided Reading session:

1. Introduce the Learning Goals, and co-create Success criteria

2. Teacher introduces text, and engage students in pre-reading activities

3. Students read silently, some may be asked to read in a whisper or quiet reading

4. Question, prompt model and during reading strategies. Be careful not to make this a solely teacher-led session. Especially with adolescents.

5. After reading strategies and discussions


Finally, don’t forget to assess your students. Guided Reading provides a great opportunity to Triangulate other data you may have from other benchmark assessments, standards-based assessments, and observations. You can record and track what happens in Guided Reading in a personalized way that works best with you (checklist with learning goals and success criteria, google forms, anecdotal organizers etc.) with data from other group reflection notes, teacher journals, student conferences, classroom observations, assessments and more.


Guided Reading is not without its challenges. It is best to be responsive to the needs of your own students and situation, rather than feel you need to create that ‘ideal state’ of Guided Reading in your classroom. There are very real challenges including insufficient time to work with each of the guided reading groups, insufficient space for multiple groups, disruptions, attendance, figuring out what to do with the other students, lack of motivation, diverse range of needs. The reality is that these challenges exist everywhere, and we need to figure out for ourselves how Guided Reading could and should look in our own unique situations.

Words of Caution:

It is best not to consistently group students in the same ways all the time. This begins to turn into a traditional model of pulling-out students for instruction, and having separate classes, which are both models that have not demonstrated effectiveness. It also becomes a situation that the opposite of differentiation and does not promote equity.

Also, especially with adolescents, it is essential as Teachers to avoid leading the entire discussion. It is important to help students lead the questions and discussions themselves or make strides to helping them take this responsibility. It supports metacognition, and also the very important role of the Adolescent reader in developing their own identities as readers, and as people.

Two Things to think about moving forward:

1. what will you do as a teacher to support differentiation, equity, and reading comprehension skills with your adolescent readers?

2. What are the types and frequencies of ‘talk’ that you will help students engage in?

Deb McCallum







One response to “Guided Reading with Adolescent Readers”

  1. This Week in Ontario Edublogs – doug — off the record Avatar

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