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At What Age Can You Start Teaching Guided Reading

English teachers have a lot to juggle. There are lesson plans and grading, but there is also the teaching of new vocabulary and grammar skills. At some point in their careers, most English teachers are going to have to deal with guided reading instruction.

It’s not an easy task! Not only do you need to know all of the different types of strategies for teaching these students, but you also need to come up with materials that will keep them engaged as well as learn how to differentiate instruction so that your whole class benefits from learning these reading strategies.

At What Age Should You Start Guided Reading?

Teaching a child to read is one of the most important and rewarding things that you can do as a teacher and as a parent. It’s also one of the hardest. There is such a huge variety of reading programs and methods out there, which makes it hard for both teachers and parents to know how to start their children on this journey.

As a general rule guided reading focusses more on reading level than age of students, however there are certain phonics and decoding skills that students require before being able to tackle a guided reading leveled book. These skills are often taught in kindergarten at around four to five years old.  

As your child progresses through school, guided reading will become less important as he or she learns how to decode words on their own and comprehends text more easily. However, there are some situations where you may need to use this strategy during intermediate grade levels.

This blog post discusses some of the considerations and for guided reading and what factors you should consider before using this method in your classroom!

what is guided reading

What is Guided Reading?

Guided reading is a strategy that encourages children to read with support and guidance from an adult. It can be used for students of any reading level, but it’s most commonly used in the early elementary and primary grades (K-grade two) when kids are learning phonics and sounds in parallel.

It requires children to read books at their reading level , with an adult guiding them through the text. Often for short periods of time in small groups or individually.

The goal is to help children who are struggling in reading, and it can be used for students of any age or level!

What Factors Should You Consider Before Using Guided Reading?

  • How many students are in the class or group you’re teaching with guided reading. If it’s a small number, then this method might not be as useful for them because they’ll get more one on time and attention from an adult anyway, but if you have larger numbers of students then splitting them to to levelled reading abilities and targeting texts at that level will certainly be of benefit.
  • Do you have activities planned for the rest of the class while you split them and read with a smaller group. This can be self learning activities, worksheets and consolidation exercises, pair worth or an assignment. We have plenty of reading and phonics activities both in a free section and in our store that you can check out in the links.
  • Do you have enough time in your lessons: The success of guided reading can also depends on time constraints. if you have hour long lessons it is fine, but if you are trying to fit this in at recesses or before school then it may be more difficult. Although a lesson may only be 15 to 20 minutes, it does mean their are more of them.
  • Classroom management need to be excellent: Students still need supervision, if you have help in the classroom, or you are a parent doing guided reading with one or two children at home then this is fine. However if you have a class of 30 you need to make sure you spend time on ground rules for the other students while you are teaching your reading group.
  • Gather the resources: If you are a parent you may only need one or two copies of a book or activity, but if you are a teacher you will need multiple copies and resources for the lesson. Plan ahead for these and have them ready so you can maximize the usefulness of the time with your students.

Can You Do Guided Reading With Second Language Students?

100% Yes! Guided reading can be done with second language students, but it is important to take into consideration the level of English proficiency. The teacher should have a plan for how they will work on vocabulary and comprehension skills in order that all children are able teach themselves.

It’s also helpful if there were more than one adult working together so each child has someone who speaks their native tongue as well or assist if the students are very young, or if they are very low level english.

We personally feel that guided reading is an excellent strategy for ESL students to learn real world applications of English, and to be able to immerse themselves in topics that engage them.

guided reading age

What Age Should Second Language students Start Guided Reading?

The age at which a second language student should start guided reading depends on the level of English proficiency. The earlier, however, it is introduced to them and the more time they have to practice their comprehension skills.

There are some skills that will make the whole process mich MUCH easier. The ability to decode words and use phonics will allow them to look for meaning more than struggle with unfamiliar words. Although Guided reading and phonics instruction should work in tandem, we suggest a grasp of phonics is essential before starting with levelled readers and guided reading.

We have a lot of resources for phonics here, its our bread and butter, so you can dive in and check them out. However, we also how articles on order of phonics instruction, when to start with phonics, and what to do if phonics doesn’t work to help you as well.

What Are Reading Levels in Guided Reading?

This very much depends on the Levelled readers you are using, we have information for that here as well. However although we will highlight the one we have used extensively below, all are similar and new leveled readers are being published every year making improvements on the previous books.

A reading level will include a selection of books and readers that at each specific reading level have similar sentence construction, vocabulary, grammar usage, and tense form. This is to provide students with multiple opportunities to practice and master these before progressing on to the next level.

What are the PM Benchmark reading levels?

The PM Benchmark reading levels are a system of leveling books for children. The higher you go up on this scale, the more difficult it becomes to read and understand what is happening in each book.

It starts at level 1 which will have a simple sentence repeated, perhaps changing only the action verb or the adjective. It aims to encourage students to proactive forming these simple sentence and to build their confidence in English reading.

It can them go up to level 30, which are highly advanced multi clause sentences requiring inferencing skills, high level thinking and extensive vocabulary and reading for context skills. Obviously these are aimed at English learners with more experience but the path from level 1-30 has hundreds, if not thousands, of readers to choose from. You can check out their reading scales on their website here.

what age to start guided reading

What Resources Are Needed For a Guided Reading Lesson?

In order to do a guided reading lesson with students, you need the following:

  • A correctly leveled reader for each student;
  • An adult who will read aloud while guiding discussion and modeling strategies that support comprehension
  • Some pictures or illustrations in your book or on hand to help with comprehension.
  • A quiet space to do the guided reading lesson
  • About 20 minutes spare
  • Some added value items (if reading a book on dinosaurs you could show them a fossil for example)
  • A set of Alphabet or phonics cards to help with decoding ( ours are free here)

How Often Should Children Do Guided Reading Lessons ?

Children should do guided reading lessons in school every day where possible. Where not possible then as often as they can. It builds routine and gives them more chance to practice the skills you are teaching them in the lesson!

Guided Reading can be a great way for kids who are struggling with their literacy skills, or those that just need some extra help getting through difficult texts like chapter book series. It is not busy work, or an administration fad. It will help your children and students to learn to read.

How Long Should A Guided Reading Lesson Take?

A guided reading lesson should take about 20 minutes. you can go over and under a little with that. If you have children brand new to guided reading it may be worth making it shorter so you don’t scare them or worry them. they may not be used to reading in front of their friends.

However as they get more confident in their similar levelled group you can expand the time as much as you can.

“The age of the child is not as important with guided reading instruction. The most critical factors are whether or when to start, and what level they’re at.”

starting guided reading

Can You Use Guided Reading With Adult Learners

Yes, guided reading lessons can be used with adult learners of English.” (Duke). “The most important thing is to make sure that the lesson you’re teaching will work for your students. You’ll need a lot more scaffolding and support if they don’t have any experience learning reading like this.

However as we have mentioned age is not the major factor in guided reading, it is reading level. With adults it is worth choosing age appropriate reading material to maintain interest and respect, but just as important is finding that material at the correct reading level to be instructional.

Can You Teach Guided Reading At Home?

Yes, parents need to learn some of the strategies and methods that teachers use in order to teach guided reading. Parents should make sure that they are using the similar text levels as their child’s teacher so there is consistency between what happens at home and school . It also helps if parents read aloud with students while teaching them how too do it themselves through texts.

How to assess a students reading level using guided reading resources?

There are many levelling methods to determine the reading level of students. One of the most popular is using a leveled reading passage from one of the many MANY publishers out there. This can be done by selecting passages from books that are on different levels, and then asking students to read them aloud You can assess how easy of difficult it was for them, and either go down a level or up depending on the results.

The idea is for students to be able to read about 90% of the text you give them. At that point it is called an instructional text. Most sets of readers will also either come with assessment tools like readers or passages, or they will be able to be picked up as an add on. ( an expensive add one usually)

Final Thoughts

Guided reading is suitable for most ages. Thought for different age groups you will have to make some changes and adaptations to make it appropriate. However we have loads of advice and resources for you to access here so jump in and enjoy!

  • Don’t introduce financial newspapers to kindergarteners, and don’t introduce fluffy kitten books to adults ( most adults) If the text is at an appropriate reading level then you can start guided reading.
  • Make sure your students have some phonics skills knowledge so they can use those skills to decode new words in their guided reading readers.
  • It is important to have a variety of books for your students and this will help them learn different words, sentence structures etc
  • It’s also good if you introduce new texts every now an then so that the children don’t get bored with one text type or genre too quickly . This way they are more likely keep on practicing their skills in order not just read but understand what it says as well!

I hope these tips were helpful- please feel free contact me at any time should there be anything else i could do tto assist :)”

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