Small Group Instruction or Guided Reading?

( words) minutes to read 

Small-group instruction and guided reading are both powerful approaches in reading instruction - but they serve different purposes!

What’s the difference between small group instruction and guided reading? Are they the same, just a different name? Which one should you use?

In this post, you will discover:

  • What is guided reading?
  • How does guided reading help readers?
  • What is small group instruction?
  • When should I use small group instruction?
What's the difference between guided reading & small-group instruction? Read to find out!Click To Tweet

What is Guided Reading?

Guided reading is an approach to teaching the reading process, and it involves grouping students according to their reading levels (here’s a helpful reading level chart), helping them use reading strategies, and teaching them skills they need to be independent readers.

Guided reading is focused on developing independent readers. That’s it. An independent reader:

  • uses metacognitive strategies
  • reads grade-level text fluently
  • understands and appreciates a variety of genres
  • makes choices about reading that result in comprehension and satisfying reading experiences (both for pleasure and information)
What's the difference between guided reading and small group instruction?
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How Does Guided Reading Help?

It creates fluent, independent readers who read for a variety of purposes when guided reading focuses in on strategic and agentive reading. The most common results from effective guided reading are:

We’ve gathered many of the top strategies to help you in your guided reading groups. Feel free to read these articles:

What is Small-Group Instruction?

Small-group instruction in the reading classroom focuses on gaps in student learning and allows a teacher to target individual student needs.

To pull a small-group, the teacher uses recent assessment data that indicates the skills for which students need additional learning opportunities.

The simplest way to plan for small-group instruction in reading is to:

  1. Identify the skill that needs re-teaching.
  2. Gather one or two instructional materials that align with the skill.
  3. Plan a simple way to break the skill into easy-to-learn steps.

Provide direct teaching, modeling, and guided practice in the small-group session. Students should apply the skill in a reading or writing context…not just on a worksheet such as a fill-in-the-blank or matching.

How Does Small-Group Instruction Help Readers?

Small-group instruction focuses on mastery of skills and learning standards by grouping students based on similar learning gaps. It allows students to receive targeted pre-learning and re-learning opportunities tailored to their individual needs.

In a reading classroom, small-group instruction can quickly result in mastery of techniques and skills to help students increase their fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. The purpose is not to increase reading-levels, per se.

Difference in Small-Group Instruction and Guided Reading

Small-group instruction is a dumbbell workout. It is similar to lifting a single dumbbell and doing a set of bicep curls. It targets a single muscle group and improves performance in that one area. It’s a great workout that results in growth, but it’s not designed to improve overall fitness.

Guided reading instruction yoga for readers. It’s like a yoga workout where the entire body experiences stretching and mild muscle exercise. It doesn’t result in quick growth for any targeted area, but it does create overall improvements slowly over time.

Small-group reading is a dumbbell workout. Guided reading is yoga. Both great, different purposes!Click To Tweet

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