Teaching Guided Reading [Free Resources linked to content domains] Part 2

Following on from our previous blog, Teaching Reading Skills: Part One, here is Part Two where we apply it into small group guided reading or a whole class reading structure. When you have chosen the text you want to use and then selected the skills, vocabulary and knowledge you want to teach, our suggestion would be to structure your reading provision as follows.

By Sarah Dean on 02 Jul 2019

Following on from our previous blog, Teaching Reading Skills: Part One, here is Part Two where we apply it into small group guided reading or a whole class reading structure. When you have chosen the text you want to use and then selected the skills, vocabulary and knowledge you want to teach, our suggestion would be to structure your reading provision as follows.

Guided Reading is a valuable time where teachers should share quality texts with pupils and explicitly teach Reading Comprehension 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

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

In whole class guided reading we would advise that the planning clearly states which pupils to direct questions towards for assessment and which pupils will read aloud, to ensure that we listen to everybody read during the week (UKS2).

This structure can work for any year group in KS2 and also with Year 2 during, perhaps, the late Spring/Summer term.

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.

Day 1: Pre-read 1?

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 and testing comprehension with ‘on the spot’ questions at the end of a session. That approach will not produce skilled and enthusiastic readers. Using the Pre-Read to introduce the text and explore key vocabulary, whilst discussing any points not fully understood, will give the children a good foundation to explore the book further during the next session.

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.

Once you have hooked the children, the main focus of Pre-Read 1 session would be prediction (1e/2e) and understanding word meaning (1a/2a). You may start by asking:

1. From the front cover, what do you think the book will be about? Why? (1e/2e)

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? (2h)

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 (1a/2a)

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. Sometimes it might be advisable to highlight these words within the pupils’ copies beforehand to make them easily identifiable.

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.

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. If the children are working independently then a matching activity may help and the answers can be discussed in the session the following day.

4. Read the text (extract, book, poem, leaflet, menu, song lyrics etc)

As with the traditional approach to guided reading, allow children to read at their own pace and, if an adult is with the group, they should hear a child read part of the text whilst the other children continue to read. Whilst children are reading they should write down any questions that they may have about the book.

This helps children to become aware of the questions they pose to themselves when reading for meaning – something which competent readers do automatically, without thinking about it. If reading as a whole class, a good technique would be to ask children to use a ruler to follow the reading and indicate where they are on the page to identify if everybody is following. Select children to read as indicated on planning and then clap to signal the rest of the class to join in.

This is a good way of keeping all pupils on task, but needs to be introduced and practised in order to embed it.

Day 2: Pre-read 2

As mentioned earlier, Ofsted are quite rightly 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. However, it isn’t easy to grow children’s background knowledge as the level of this will vary from child to child. The accumulation of background knowledge is important, as it is accepted 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 topics, 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 topic 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.

There are many other ways of building children’s background knowledge. 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.

Day 3: Guided Read: Teaching the single skill

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 gem that should be selected carefully. The sessions should ensure that there is time for children to discuss questions thoroughly as well as enjoy discussing the book.

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. Accompanying these documents are skill ladders: Skills ladder define KS2 and Skills ladders retrieve KS2 which are a child friendly way of showing the steps to successfully use each skill. These 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. 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 Reading Award website.

The EEF suggest that support 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 peer’s responses.

Day 4: Applying the single skill

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 specific reading skills. 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.

Although our aim is to not teach to the test, pupils need to be able to apply their reading skills in many different ways. There are a variety of ways in which a question can be represented to challenge pupils, such as matching up, tick boxes, ordering events by number, fact or opinion. 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 feed back effectively to your pupils about their reading.

Day 5: Guided Reading: Mixed skills

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. 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.

How to include Reading for Pleasure

Aside from Guided Reading, we must also provide as many opportunities for pupils to read for enjoyment as possible. Research shows that developing a love of reading is one of the most effective ways to raise attainment as children who enjoy reading will achieve more highly right across the curriculum, (Oxford School Improvement, 2017). The National Curriculum places reading for pleasure at the heart of the English curriculum, as if children enjoy reading, they are far more likely to be able to comprehend and delve deeper into texts.

Reading for pleasure doesn’t have to be some elaborate process that becomes difficult to fit into an already jam-packed timetable. It can be intertwined through the curriculum, by sharing class novels, studying a whole text giving pupils opportunities to listen to texts and authors they might not have chosen themselves, teaching writing through texts using motivating and exciting books and allowing pupils to read independently during sessions to immerse themselves within the text.

Download all the free resources in this blog

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 a desire to become a life-long learner. The curriculum content that teachers have to 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 adapt an approach like this for your school please contact

The resources included here are part of a much larger selection available as part of One Education’s Reading Award.

Also make sure to book a place on our Literacy Conference 2019, which is focused on Literacy across the Curriculum. A Jam-packed day full of amazing speakers, it is not to be missed!


  • National Literacy Trust (2006) Reading for Pleasure: A research overview.
  • Ofsted (2019) The education inspection framework [Accessed online]
  • Oxford Owl (2017) Oxford School Improvement, Building an outstanding reading school: Oxford University Press.
  • CLPE (2016) Reading and Writing Scales: The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
  • Education Endowment Foundation (2017) Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2, London: Education Endowment Foundation.

Please get in touch or visit this page for more information.

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