Iaquinta (2006) explains "Guided reading is a teaching approach used with all readers, struggling or independent, that has three fundamental purposes: to meet the varying instructional needs of all students in the classroom, enabling them to greatly expand their reading powers; to teach students to read increasingly difficult texts with understanding and fluency; to construct meaning while using problem-solving strategies to figure out unfamiliar words that deal with complex sentence structures, and understand concepts or ideas not previously encountered" (p. 414). Guided reading is an approach that combines small group instruction with ongoing observation and systematic assessment to meet the needs of learners of various abilities. According to Iaquinta (2006), it is important that grouping remain dynamic, flexible, and varied to allow students to support one another as readers as well as to make them feel part of a community of readers.
A study conducted by Ford & Opitz (2008) identified eight commonalities in guided reading practice:
Guided reading starts with the belief that all children have the ability to become literate.
All children need to be taught by a skilled teacher during guided reading in order to reach their full potential in reading.
The whole purpose of providing children with guided reading experiences is to help them become independent readers as quickly as possible.
Children learn to read by reading.
Reading for meaning is the primary goal of guided reading. The instruction is designed to help children construct meaning.
Guided reading should help children to become metacognitive: knowing what they know; the why and how of reading.
Children need to experience joy and delight as a result of the reading experience.
Specific elements characterize the successful guided reading lesson. It relies on a three-part lesson plan (Before/During/After Reading) with one focal point for the overall lesson and the use of specific teaching strategies at each phase of the lesson (p. 310-311).
Iaquinta (2006) stresses the importance of the teacher during this process and outlines the role of the teacher before, during, and after the reading of a text during a guided reading lesson. Before the reading, the teacher's role is to select the text, introduce the text, introduce the title and author, provide information about word meaning, prompt students to interpret illustrations, and define the problem or plot of the story. During the reading, the teacher's role includes reading the text and modeling good reading strategies. After the reading, the teacher discusses the text, inviting personal responses from the students to process the information and expand the meaning of the text.
Ankrum & Bean (2008) stress the importance of differentiated instruction. "In classrooms comprised of students with varied reading levels where the teacher did not engage in differentiated instruction, student achievement for the low and average students suffered; high achieving students made merely modest gains…Since teachers in non-differentiated classrooms often focus on the average learners, students of high or low ability do not receive instruction to adequately improve their reading" (p. 134).
Conversely in differentiated classrooms, according to Anderson (2007) all students are engaged in instruction and participating in their own learning. "In a classroom with differentiation of the curriculum, learning process, or performance outcomes, all students assume responsibility for their learning through the decisions they make in their selections of activities and products, in their abilities to self-assess their work, and by the manner in which their teachers are flexible and creative in responding to their unique and individual learning differences. Differentiated thinking empowers teachers to be responsive rather than reactive to the unique and individual personalities, backgrounds, and abilities found within students." (p. 51).
According to Anderson (2007), some individuals in the field of education continue to question whether differentiated instruction can withstand rigorous accountability standards and high-stakes testing. Therefore, additional research is beginning to emerge within the field of education supporting the "potential for differentiated instruction as a vital means of assisting diverse learners in their acquisition of knowledge and skills while also breaking down barriers that inhibit their unique abilities to successfully demonstrate their maximum potential as learners." (p. 52). Anderson (2007) concludes that, combined with continuous assessment, responsive educational programs that provide necessary interventions and remediation for struggling students, as well as positive school, home, and community supports for students, differentiated instruction may indeed be the closest alternative we have in our schools enabling professionals to truly be attentive and effectively responsive to all learners. Iaquinta (2006) adds that the benefits of guided reading include instruction at students' individual ability levels, reinforcing problem-solving comprehension, and decoding as well as providing opportunities for establishing good reading habits and strategies.
Anderson, K.M. (2007). Differentiating instruction to include all students. Preventing School Failure, 51(3), 49-49-54. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/228568951?accountid=27965
Ankrum, J.W., PhD., & Bean, R.M., PhD. (2008). Differentiated reading instruction: What and how. Reading Horizons, 48(2), 133-133-146. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/236486668?accountid=27965
Ford, M.P., & Opitz, M.F. (2008). A national survey of guided reading practices: What we can learn from primary teachers. Literacy Research and Instruction, 47(4), 309-309-331. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/205337312?accountid=27965
Iaquinta, A. (2006). Guided reading: A research-based response to the challenges of early reading instruction. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(6), 413-413-418. doi:10.1007/s10643-006-0074-2