Twelve Tips for Powerful Teaching in Guided Reading Lessons

By Irene Fountas, Author and Founder/Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative


The following are some guiding principles from Irene Fountas that may help you get more power in your teaching:

  1. Notice the student’s precise reading behaviors.
  2. Eliminate ineffective behaviors and help the reader do what proficient readers do.
  3. Select a text on which the reader can learn how to read better- not too difficult and not too easy.
  4. Teach the reader not the text.
  5. Teach the student to read written language not words.
  6. Teach for the student to initiate effective problem-solving actions.
  7. Use clear precise language that passes the control to the reader.
  8. Only ask the student to do what you know he can do.
  9. Don’t clutter the teaching with too much talk.
  10. Focus on self-monitoring and self-regulating behaviors so this reader becomes independent.
  11. Build on examples of successful processing.
  12. Teach for fast responding so the reader can process smoothly and efficiently.

If you’re looking for an introductory course on Guided Reading either online or on-campus, click here!

What are some ways to effectively record anecdotes during guided reading?

Elizabeth DeHaven Webby Liz DeHaven, Intermediate/Middle Grades Trainer

**This blog post is a longer response to a question posed during our Twitter chat for the intermediate/middle grades last year.

Finding a recording method for anecdotal notes is often a journey that takes on varying forms over time until you find one that suits you. It’s a bit like shopping for jeans. You have to try on a few pairs, visit several stores, ask friends for recommendations and suggestions, and even buy a couple that don’t fit quite right before discovering the pair you were born to wear.

My own journey started with a sophisticated system of sticky notes and checklists, which was far more complicated and time consuming than it was effective. So I scaled down to a less sophisticated system, replacing sticky notes with mailing labels and adding multicolored file folders and a binder. Scaling down looked an awful lot like scaling up.

I thought the more complicated and colorful the system, the better I would be at recording information about my students. At the time I also thought fancy systems were the hallmark of a good teacher. What actually happened is that I maintained my system for roughly two days before becoming overwhelmed by the management required to keep it running that I neglected to take notes on the students.

I was more focused on creating a system with bells and whistles than finding a way to take and store meaningful notes about my students that would both be evidence of student learning and inform future work with these students.

Though this process of finding an effective system was long and expensive—I think I spent at least a week’s salary at Staples on labels of various colors and sizes—I learned several things.


… and

  1. Bells and whistles are for cars, not systems for recording anecdotal notes.


If you haven’t had a chance to check out our Center’s guided reading pages, below are the links:


Wanted: Texts For All Readers

by Heather Morris, Intermediate/Middle School Trainer

This post is the first in a series this winter/spring where we take questions that were asked during our guided reading Twitter chats last summer and answer them in greater length.

Question: I need ideas for upper grade students who read at lower guided reading levels. Texts are babyish.

Answer: A couple years ago, I was meeting with a group of four students in a guided reading group.  During our discussion of the text, one student exclaimed, “Oh, THIS is reading!  I don’t think I have been reading before.”  Mujeeb was in fifth grade reading Super Storms by Seymour Simon, a level M book. Eureka!  He was completely engaged in the book and was enjoying a lively discussion.

As intermediate and middle school teachers, we understand that some students may enter the classroom reading below grade level.  It is our job to observe readers carefully and get to know them in order to select a text to use during guided reading.  We choose books that are at that reader’s instructional level and that students will be interested in reading. Sometimes selecting a text can prove tricky for these readers.

So how might we go about finding these texts to use for our small group reading instruction?  One way is to read, read, read as many books as possible!  As we pour ourselves into children’s literature, it becomes clear what books will engage each of our readers, and the more books we read, the wider the selection from which we have to choose. Another way to find books is to ask your librarian to suggest some titles.  She/he is a wonderful resource!

Remember, you can always turn to a helpful resource to find texts that are written at a lower level but have high interest, like Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Books: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Teaching.  There is also an online version, On the online version, there is an advanced search option that allows you to look for books with mature content and lower level text demands. As you peruse your students’ instructional levels, you’ll find authors and series that your students will enjoy.

Lastly, creating a community of teacher readers at your school can be an invaluable resource to locate wonderful books to fill our school’s book room to use for guided reading.  Finding and purchasing books of high interest for below-grade level readers could be an agenda item for your school’s Literacy Team. Also, blogs contain a treasure trove of texts that colleagues around the world recommend:

Taking the time to find instructionally appropriate texts that honor a student’s age and interests will unlock the door to reading  – just like it did for Mujeeb!

If you are interested in learning more about guided reading , visit our Center’s NEW guided reading resource pages at

Guided Reading K-2 Twitter chat with Irene Fountas transcript

Guided Reading K-2 Twitter chat with Irene Fountas transcript

On 6/20/13, we had our Center’s first Twitter chat! Irene Fountas took questions from teachers around the world about guided reading in grades K-2. The transcript of the chat can be found by clicking the link above. Thank you to all of the educators who participated or followed the chat. It was great to see all of the terrific questions that were asked by all!

Our next guided reading Twitter chat will be this Thursday, 6/27, from 4-5 pm Eastern. Irene will be taking questions on guided reading in grades 3-5.

Guided Reading and the Common Core State Standards

by Irene Fountas, Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative at Lesley University


In the last two decades, you may have noticed how much we all have learned about the importance of differentiating instruction in our literacy teaching. We have learned the importance of meeting our students where they are and bringing them up “a staircase of text complexity” to grade level or beyond grade level performance in focused, explicit small group instruction ( In our recent article published in The Reading Teacher (, we celebrated the many accomplishments of literacy teachers in their journey of developing expertise and shared new challenges for the years ahead. You might find the article worthwhile as a jumping off point to discuss where you see yourselves in the journey.

As we move forward and address the Common Core State Standards (, think about how important your expertise in guided reading will be in helping your students achieve the goals. Your teaching will need to be precise and powerful, so your students can achieve success. It will be important that you engage your students in text introductions that help them learn how the text is structured and involve them in discussions that help them learn how to support their thinking with evidence from the text.  You may use the technique of close reading to revisit particular pieces of text for brief, extra attention and analysis. As you engage your students in reading a wide variety of genres across a level, be sure that you include about half informational texts in your selections. As you select and use texts, capitalize on opportunities for your students to think across texts and build deep understandings of concepts and ideas. And, as is always important, the “thinking together about texts” will need to assure that students take away the bigger ideas or messages the author communicated.

Alongside the work in guided reading, your work with shared texts that represent grade level  complexity will also be important for all students, regardless of their instructional reading level.

This is an exciting time for literacy teaching. When you view reading as thinking, all your  students can bring their voices to every text and benefit from the rich art and voices expressed by the world of authors and illustrators.  Our students will be able to grow up in our schools realizing the power of their own literacy.