Sometimes we come together in groups to learn more about reading. In the Victorian Early Years Literacy system, this is known as GUIDED READING. In the Sisters’ CAFE model, this is known as STRATEGY GROUPS.

I believe that the best reading teaching happens when I work one-on-one with a student. I believe that guided reading/strategy groups supplement this individual instruction.


Why is guided reading/strategy group a part of my classroom literacy learning and teaching?

·     Economics: it allows me to contact with as many students as possible within the literacy block

·     Focused learning: I can tailor the instruction to meet the needs of the individual students within the group.

·     Peer learning.  Children learn best from one other.

·     Observation: teaching is mostly listening. The guided reading/strategy group situation allows me to get to know my students better as they negotiate a text, and time to record my observations.

Guided reading/strategy group helps me to teach and helps my students to learn.


The focus in the guided reading/strategy group is not performance, but leading students to find out what they do as readers, and to become independent self-monitoring readers.  Therefore each guided reading group session will have a strategy focus that is relevant to the readers.  During a guided reading/strategy session, students are involved in more than round-robin reading-aloud, and answering only teacher-led questions.  Although it is the teacher who leads the group, it is the students’ questions that matter the most, and their awareness of their own strategies used in the reading process. Therefore the group conversation is about using specific strategies and also about the students’ wondering and own questions about the text.

The guided reading/strategy group focus is on more than developing accuracy in reading: saying words correctly. The skills associated with comprehension, accuracy, fluency, expanding vocabulary, and critical analysis are all integrated in the process of becoming an experienced reader.

The guided reading/strategy group offers the ideal situation for peers to support one another. Less experienced readers will understand a strategy demonstrated by a friend. They will also be well-supported by the language used by a friend to identify reading strategies, and to ask questions about a text.


The selection of materials is important.

Although the conduct of the group is led by the teacher, the students’ strategies in focus will determine the material chosen. The students’ interests will also determine the material chosen: consider which texts the students need to understand their world, and consider the types of texts that they use in their daily lives.  The teacher needs to be familiar with the text to enable opportunities for learning about the strategies in focus for each group.

All students need to be able to comfortably view a shared text, but not necessarily from an individual copy. A text can be viewed with a partner, on a projected screen, or on an iDevice.

If the strategy focus requires, students may each be using a different text.


In the photo above. Tim, Jae and Jeyan take over a guided reading group. We have been working on the text ‘Jack at Sea’ by Martin Waddell and Philippe Dupasquier, to focus on the strategy of using the pictures to help build understanding. At this point these students don’t need the teacher any more and are able to practise the strategy without me.

Alicia brought a gorgeous boxed set of her favourite Billie B. Brown books and requested a reading strategy group – nice when the kids themselves ask for it!  I asked her to invite some friends into our group, and she chose three friends at different reading levels. We visited our CAFE strategy board and decided we would look at the strategy of ‘skip a word you don’t know and come back to it’. This was just what Alicia needed to practise. Each student found a word on a page, took a photo of the page using the iPad, then we used the ShowMe App to record our strategies in action. (Please excuse the ‘sideaways’ video – students are just getting used to iPad).

Michael and Chloe were contributors to a guided reading/strategy group looking at the meaning of unknown words, using the iPad app Epicurious.  A video of their summary is here:

How do you conduct your Guided reading/Strategy groups?  Have you found that this has changed in the last few years?

5 thoughts on “READING GROUPS

  1. I have to say, every time I hear/read about something you do in the classroom, I’m so impressed – the way you focus on what the students need and want, that’s always an inspiration to me. I think the fact that they take responsibility for their own learning at such a young age is bound to be beneficial to them – I can imagine that especially in the long run, it wouldn’t just have positive effects on their reading, but their entire attitude to learning and life.
    What I would be interested to hear, have their been studies examining how the self-determination of young readers actually affect their ability?

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words, Kat. The students are all progressing well with their reading, according to the empirical tools that we use to measure this. However, of note is the fact that children request to be in a Guided Reading/Strategy group, and are coming up with the tasks themselves. As I look around the room during literacy time, I see children reading what they want to read, sticking to the task, and supporting their peers. It’s a good buzz.
      Perhaps you would like to spend some time in my classroom one day?

  2. Hi Brette,
    I am really impressed with the way that you so clearly describe the way that reading sessions should be conducted in classrooms. i will take from this the idea of personal choice. My class always has personal choice for Independant reading -but you highlight the personal choice about the strtegie that they are going to practce – as well as the Guided Book. I am goign to give this a try and I will let you know how I go. Do you mind if I forward this link onto others at school?
    Bye for now,

    PS – I have just written in a blog for the first time!

    1. Thanks Jacquie, that would be the highest compliment to pass this on to colleagues. Also, you are always welcome to visit my classroom, and my students themselves can demonstrate the Daily Five in action. In the meantime, check out my video collection at You will find several videos made in the classroom to demonstrate what the Daily Five looks like in practice.
      Thanks also for the honour of being your first blog comment place. Keep it up – I have found writing comments on others’ blogs a really worthwhile thinking process, and even better than writing my own.

  3. Thanks Brette for your fresh views and demonstrating your practice so clearly. It is so helpful to see theory in practice, particularly from someone as passionate as you! You almost have me hooked!

    Great skype chat the other day, we must do again soon.


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