August Only: Use promo code NF15-0819 to save 15% on all Nonfiction. Shop Now!

What is Guided Reading? (Part 3: Planning a book introduction)


   The six steps of a guided reading lesson:

   1. Assess each student’s reading level

   2. Select a book for the group

   3. Provide students with an overview or a book introduction

   4. Have all students read the book (with help from the teacher)   

   5. Discuss the story

   6. Do one or two follow-up teaching points

Michele Dufresne

In my previous posts, I talked about assessing students to help you make decisions about creating leveled groups for guided reading and selecting a book for the group. Here I will discuss the next step – planning a book introduction.


The first few times I did a book introduction for students before they read the book I thought how odd it was to tell students about a book BEFORE they read it. I soon learned how important this step was in the process. There is tremendous payoff for students when you prepare them for a successful first reading of a new book. The book introduction creates a supportive context for building meaning.

Here are the steps I recommend:

  • Start with a synopsis or an overview of the story. For example, when introducing a group to the book Super Dog, I might say, “This story is about a dog named Jack who has a red cape. He thinks he is Super Dog!”
  • Next, consider the challenges in the book. Marie Clay, in her book Literacy Lessons: Designed for Individuals, Part Two: Teaching Procedures, tells us to take the "bugs" out of the text before students begin to read. Be prepared to:
    • Make the students familiar with any new concepts that might be new or unusual in the story.
    • Discuss new vocabulary.
    • Say and then have students repeat unusual phrases or language structures in the text.
  • Together, look through the book. Some people call this exercise a "picture walk," but I think that can be misleading. This is not a time to merely look through the book at all the pictures. Your conversation should be carefully planned in order to make sure the students have a good sense of what the WHOLE story is about before they begin to read. This should be a natural sounding conversation between you and the students as you look together through the book.

More guided reading resources

This video shows a teacher introducing a Level I book, Adventure in the Purple Forest (published by Pioneer Valley Books), about Spaceboy and his friends, to a group of second graders. She does a great job of making sure the students have a good idea about what the book is about before introducing some of the more challenging concepts.

Pawprints Lesson Cards - The Pioneer Valley Books Pawprints Collection includes sturdy lesson cards to go with each guided reading book. The lesson cards have suggested book introductions to help teachers plan for their lessons. Samples of the lesson cards can be seen on Pioneer Valley Books' website.

In my next post, I will go over reading the book as a group (with the teacher's help).

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

Follow Michèle Dufresne on Pinterest.

Follow Michèle Dufresne on Twitter.