Mark Barnes


South Euclid, OH

Interests: 21st century learning,...

  • Posted 5 Years ago
  • 13k

Top five reasons to eliminate guided reading

For more than a decade, I bored my language arts students to tears with guided reading activities. We'd read one novel for six weeks, analyzing every chapter, completing vocabulary worksheets and fill-in-the-blank plot charts. Then, after one truly amazing summer of research, I decided to stop the guided reading madness forever. Here are the top 5 reasons to eliminate guided reading in your classroom.

5. Guided reading does not teach reading -- The most undeniable research on this subject has been completed in over 40 years of study by literacy expert Stephen Krashen, who says that the best way to teach reading is to put books in kids' hands and get out of their way. See for plenty on this subject.

4. Guided reading work is boring -- Put a fill-in-the-blank worksheet in a student's hands and watch how quickly she rolls her eyes. Students driven to get good grades may complete the work, but they'll hate it for sure, as they long to read books they enjoy.

3. Guided reading stifles readers -- While you're spending 4-6 weeks on that one so-called classic novel, enthusiastic readers are dying to move on to something different. Instead of encouraging a love of reading, teachers who spend several fortnights in one book are inhibiting good readers' abilities to get better.

2. Guided reading is about teacher control -- When teachers tell students what they have to read and what they should think the theme of a novel is, this is about teacher control, which is really an extension bad discipline practice. Guided reading inhibits independent reading, which is always best, as it encourages a love of books.

1. Guided reading teaches students to hate books -- All those years that I used guided reading, maybe 20 percent of my students read more than one or two novels in a year. The avid readers might have read five to 10 on their own. Since I've abandoned guided reading and gone to an aggressive, year-long independent reading program, my average student reads 30 books during the school year. Some read 60-90, and those who enter the year as reluctant readers finish 10-15 books. After mini-lessons on book structure and context clues, they read, write about and discuss their books daily. A year-long independent reading progect is the best teacher and should always be the choice over guided reading.

Mark's new book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom is available in the ASCD bookstore here.


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04 Aug 12, 02:52 PM

I believe what you are referring to is "book clubs" - or "lit circles" - where the teacher guides what is read, discussed, or completed.  Guided reading provides a before, during and after opportunity in text that can be completed in one or two sessions, thus providing volumnous reading.  Students must have independent reading time to select their own reading texts and have the opportunity to read at their own pace.  Balanced literacy is based on  gradual release -shared reading where the teacher models, guided reading where one focus or challenge is introducted, and independent reading where the children have the opportunity to practice.


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04 Aug 12, 05:11 PM

Rebecca, most of what you say is spot on with the points I'm attempting to make in the post. I know what book clubs and lit circles are, and they are not the kind of guided reading I refer to. Poorly-conducted lit circles constantly interrupt reading, reducing comprehension and distracting readers from the enrichment that independent reading provides. Shared reading should involve a teacher or other skilled reader reading the story aloud. Offering an opportunity for students to discuss the reading or to free write about it is fine. Stopping each page or chapter to complete worksheets is a waste of time. Balanced literacy strategies include everything you mention. You seem to have expertise in this area, and I believe we agree on the topic. Thanks for commenting.

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