Guided reading is small group reading instruction that follows a carefully planned structure. The teacher works with the group 3–5 days a week (depending on need) for approximately 10–25 minutes, depending on the level. It provides a context for responsive teaching – teaching that is grounded in the teacher’s detailed knowledge of and respect for each student, supporting the reader’s active construction of a literacy processing system. By careful composition of the group, selection of the text, and precise teaching moves, the responsive teacher provides differentiated instruction to meet the needs of each student. The teacher observes readers and writers carefully, weaving a valuable set of understandings about the competencies each reader controls, almost controls, and does not yet control. Then, in a continuously evolving process, the teacher tailors precise responses to the readers’ strengths and needs.

In guided reading, the text is selected specifically to provide just the right amount of challenge for the readers so that individual student needs can be addressed in a powerful way. Students in the group are similar (although not exactly the same) in their development of a reading process, so it is appropriate, efficient, and productive to teach them in a small group. The text offers each reader the opportunity to learn how to read more effectively, within a shared text experience, and allows the teacher to make the skillful moves that support each reader’s development.