Reading Gems: Teaching Reading (Part 2)

Guided Reading is a valuable time where teachers should share quality texts with pupils and explicitly teach Reading Skills. The sessions can either be in small groups or as a whole class.

By Jo Gray on 03 Feb 2022

This blog follows on from our previous blog, Reading Gems: Reading Skills: Part One, which we would suggest that you would read first. (Click Here) Guided Reading is a valuable time where teachers should share quality texts with pupils and explicitly teach Reading Skills. The sessions can either be in small groups or as a whole class. Whatever the approach, a similar structure should be followed to ensure children have opportunities to read or listen to a teacher read, explore strategies to approach unfamiliar vocabulary, be taught how to use specific skills to comprehend a text and be able to practise and apply these skills within a text.

The Structure for teaching reading effectively
The team at One Education have seen whole class, small group and a combination work really effectively for structuring the way in which you teach Guided Reading. To us, it is more important about how effectively the skills are taught and how the children respond to group or whole class work.

If you choose to teach whole class reading, then you would take the suggested timetable below and use this structure as a whole class, i.e. Day 1, complete Pre-read 1 as a whole class. Day 2 Complete Pre- Read 2 as a whole class.

This structure can work for any year group in KS2 and also with Year 2 during, perhaps, the late Spring/Summer term. (Look out for Reading Gems: Early Reading Skills Part three which will explore EYFS – start of Y2)


If you choose to teach your reading in small groups with an adult then the structure would be as follows.


Please click here for an example Guided Reading plan that follows our structure. You may wish to read the rest of the blog whilst looking at the plan as an exemplar.

A note of caution: We have seen small group Guided Reading work really well but please do bear in mind the workload of planning 5 different guided reading lessons each week can be onerous. It may be that the quality of lessons is better if adults are only planning for one text per week. Children can access the same text with the level of ability in accessing the text differing each week. Some children may also need a pre teach or a post teach session to ensure that they are able to keep gaps in reading skills from developing. Other children may need addition guided reading sessions in addition to their main class sessions to help close any gaps already developed. As mentioned, to us it is more important that the skills are taught effectively and in a way that suits all children within a cohort.

(We are more than happy to discuss individual school requirements with you if required!)


The Pre-Read is essential to both guided reading and whole class reading, ensuring that the following days, which should focus on understanding the text, are not spent reading the text then adding questions ‘off the cuff’ at the end of a session. That approach will not produce skilled and enthusiastic readers.

A great way to start your guided reading sequence during the Pre-Read 1 is to hook and excite children about the new text. Making the experience real will really engage them and develop a love of reading. It is also a great way to develop their skills in questioning and predicting.

For example, when introducing ‘Cogheart’ to a Year 5 or 6 class, because the story includes ‘Mechanimals’, it would be fantastic to show pictures of clockwork or mechanical toys with cogs, like the images below, to initiate discussion. Or if you have the luxury of more time, giving the opportunity to make similar ‘junk model’ toys could help them to form a prediction and set expectations about the text.


Another example of a school ‘hooking in’ their pupils was during the study of ‘Esio Trot’ by Roald Dahl. The teacher brought in a pet tortoise for the children to see and ask questions about. Before they had even gone past the front cover of the story, the children had discussed what tortoises eat, where they sleep and to what age they live! Access to a live tortoise is not essential of course! Showing videos of tortoises will also initiate discussion.


There are more ideas of ways to ‘hook’ pupils into texts in our Hook a Book resource and on our Reading Award website.

As mentioned in part one of this blog, the DfE and Ofsted are focusing on what children are learning and how well it is taught. Schools are designing curricula that suit their pupils’ needs in order to prepare them for the world in which they live. The accumulation of background knowledge is important, as research shows that our understanding of what we read depends greatly on what we already know.

We need to build children’s background knowledge, but how can we do this? It is beneficial, where possible, to link reading lessons to current learning in other subjects, so that the children can develop their understanding and become familiar with relevant events, people, objects, concepts and subject specific vocabulary.

The EEF state in their ‘Improving Literacy KS2’ document ‘To activate prior knowledge pupils think about what they already know about a topic, from reading or other experiences, and try to make links. This helps pupils to infer and elaborate, fill in missing or incomplete information and use existing mental structures to support recall.’

For example: During a WWII history lesson, children might be learning about the outbreak of war. They then might be exposed to a newspaper article about Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war. Their background knowledge of the event will enable them to make links helping them in their reading and understanding of the text.

Another way would be to support new, unfamiliar concepts found in fiction with a non-fiction text to improve their understanding. For example: In the text ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio, the main character suffers from a rare facial condition called ‘Treacher Collins Syndrome.’ When reading Chapter One, children might benefit from a better understanding of what this syndrome is and what the symptoms are. Providing them with a small medical article explaining this and discussing it would help them to improve their knowledge before continuing the fictional text.

Another example can be found here: Download the planning resource for ‘Pax’ by Sara Pennypacker which shows how we can enable children to relate with characters by giving them the knowledge and understanding needed to do this. Within this story the fox relies heavily on his sense of smell and communicates through this. To be able to understand and connect with this character, children need to understand why and how foxes use their sense of smell, developing their understanding and empathy for the character.

There are many other ways of building children’s background knowledge. Some books may not require a separate lesson as it is being covered during another subject lesson, others may need more than just a short 20 minute session.


Once you have hooked the children in and built up their background knowledge you may want to develop their engagement with the text. This may be through prediction questions and understanding word meaning. You may start by asking:

1. From the front cover, what do you think the book will be about? Why? As an open ended response question, this allows children to give their own opinion and try to link it to something that they already know and understand. In order to be able to infer well, we need background knowledge and some understanding of the topic we are reading about.

2. Have you read any books that you think are similar? An open ended response question will draw the children in to making links with what they have already read and give children the opportunity to draw upon prior knowledge whilst reading to make connections.

3. Vocabulary Check Rather than asking children to find words that they don`t understand, which you can do as you read, for the Pre-Read it is best to identify and discuss the words with which children may struggle before the session.

This is a good opportunity to check children’s understanding of specific words in addition to introducing new vocabulary. For younger children, this is also the opportunity to discuss strategies of how to read words that they are not familiar with.

Getting the balance right between independently finding out word meanings and directed teaching will depend on the vocabulary being taught e.g. is it likely to be used regularly or in future learning (Tier 1 or 2 vocabulary) if so then it may be worth spending time on the word, or if it is a lesser used word (Tier three) it may be worth directly telling children what the word means. Encouraging children to work out what specific words mean without teacher input is important, but if children are to learn precisely then in some cases they may need to be specifically taught the meaning of a word. There are many different ways we can help children to understand the words that they will come across in the text. For example, you may encourage children to choose one of the words you have given them and complete a word map or a vocab tree such as the ones below, alternatively you may use a word wheel like the one found here. However, there may be times when you teach the meaning discretely by showing an image or video clip and explaining what the word means.

KS1 Word map


KS2 Word map


Vocab tree


4. Read the text (extract, book, poem, leaflet, menu, song lyrics etc) As with past approaches to guided reading, you may want children to read at their own pace and, if an adult is available, they may hear a child read part of the text whilst the other children continue to read to themselves. At times, however, if you are exposing children to a more challenging text then you may want to read it to the class so that children can listen and understand it, before they read it themselves.

Whilst children are reading the book, or listening to it be read, they should write down any questions the children may have about the book. This helps children to become aware of questions readers pose to themselves when thinking about the meaning – something which competent readers do automatically.

When sharing the book, please remember that this is also about developing a love of reading and a passion for books. The more enthusiastic you can be about a text the more enthusiastic (usually) the children are, however, there is never any harm in changing the text if you and the majority of the children in a class are not enjoying it as much as you thought you would be doing. Extracts you used with some cohorts many not work with other cohorts.


The Guided Reading session should be led by the teacher. Each session should start with a short recap of the Pre-Read sessions to reactivate pupil’s prior learning and make links. The session may start by asking the children to explore the vocabulary identified in the Pre-Read or discuss the questions that the children have about the text. The majority of the Guided Read session should focus on one specific reading skill (gem) which has been selected carefully, according to children’s skills, knowledge and experience. The sessions should ensure that there is time for children to discuss questions thoroughly as well as finding enjoyment whilst discussing the book or having ‘book blether.’

Before children delve into the text and practise strategies, the EEF suggests that reading skills should be described and explicitly modelled by the teacher. In order to do this effectively, within each gem, there are a number of skills to be taught which should be planned out appropriately to enable progression. One Education have created ‘Skills Overview’ documents for each gem to assist teachers with developing the subject knowledge and modelling.

There are two free examples to download with this blog, Define Skill Overview and Retrieve Skill Overview, with the remainder available to Reading Award subscribers and those who have whole school support. Accompanying these documents are skill ladders. These have been developed with, and tested by, children and are a child friendly way of showing the steps to successfully use each skill. The skill ladders can be used when teaching and are an effective way of showing our thought processes as readers. Children could be shown how to use these and encouraged to do so within lessons across the curriculum. Below is an example of the Define ladder:


When discussing a text with a class, it is crucial that the questions we ask are of good quality and will help pupils practise a specific skill. It is also important to use a range of questions such as: multiple choice questions, short and long response questions, ranking and ordering, find and copy etc. Preparing understandable and pertinent questions for children can be difficult and can sometimes result in misconceptions, possibly leading to a misunderstanding of the text.

A focus on selecting specific question stems, or graphical representations, is beneficial as part of the teaching and in that way skills can be scaffolded and repeated to provide opportunities for pupils to practise. We provide question stems (adapted from past SATs papers) to support teachers create quality comprehension questions.


You can find the question stems for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 on our Literacy resource page and are perfect to help you in your planning of effective questioning within each gem.

The EEF suggest that using these skills should be gradually reduced as the pupils take increasing responsibility for answering questions and practise applying them more independently. We encourage the ‘I, we, you’ approach to releasing responsibility, starting with the teacher modelling, the whole class or partners practising, and finally the children independently applying skills. When asking questions in a whole class session, allow the children to collaborate and practise the skill and their answers verbally with partners and within groups, before feeding back to the class. You can also encourage children to ABC (Lemov, 2016) their feedback – agreeing with, building upon or challenging their teacher’s modelled response or a peer’s response.


The next day, children should independently answer questions or complete an activity where they can practise the same domain that was taught the day before. Although the same text should be used, the questions should be different to those previously asked which will enable pupils to explore the text further and practise applying the specific reading skill further. This will provide an opportunity to gain a more in depth understanding of themes and plots within texts whilst keeping the cognitive load of decoding lower.

Pupils need to be able to apply their reading skills in many different ways and there are a variety of ways in which a question can be represented to challenge pupils within their application, such as: matching up, tick boxes, ordering events by number, fact or opinion. As mentioned, these should also be modelled as part of Guided Read ‘The Single Skill’ (Day 3).

For example: Retrieval (1b/2b): Are these statements true or false? (More Able – How do you know?)

Mr. Hoppy was confident to talk to Mrs. Silver True / False How do you know? More Able

Mrs. Silver is an old lady True / False How do you know? More Able

The balcony of Mrs. Silver is close to Mr. Hoppy's balcony True / False How do you know? More Able

Alternatively, instead of further questioning, children can complete an activity that challenges them to apply that reading skill independently. An example can be found here.

Whether completing questions or a skills-led activity, feedback is key. Children need time to reflect and extend their responses to texts. It is crucial that you think about how you can feedback effectively to your pupils about their reading regularly. The independent application can also help to inform your formative assessment and support your decision in how you adapt further reading gem lessons.


Subsequently, children can then be given the opportunity to independently answer questions on all of the domains so that they are continuously exposed to the full range of gems, helping confidence, fluency and independence build whilst ensuring children can explore the full meaning of the text. Again, the same text should be used and feedback should be prioritised. An example of a Reading Chest linked to the planning example can be found here.


We have also recorded a free introduction to One Education Reading Gems so that all schools interested in developing the way in which Reading Skills are taught in your school can gain an insight into this. Please click here to access the recording.

How can One Education help?

The teaching of Reading is essential: it is a way of helping children to spark a passion for books, a thirst for knowledge and the desire to become a life-long learner. The curriculum content that teachers must cover is vast, but if a consistent, thorough approach to reading is embedded across the school it can have a profound impact on the entire curriculum. If you would like advice on how to create an approach that is tailored to the needs of your school or would like to book a staff training session then please email Jo Gray, Head of School Development and Literacy.

The resources shared in this blog post are part of a much larger selection available as part of One Education’s Reading Award. For more information on this please click here. Please get in touch.

Go back

Other news & Blogs

Share post

Want to know more then please contact us ...

Want to know more?

Contact Us

Find us:
Universal Square,
Devonshire St N,
M12 6JH
Main Contact:
0161 276 0160
One Education Music:
0844 967 1116
One Education ICT:
0844 967 1113