Delving into the depths of new and mystical lands with your class is perhaps one of the most pleasurable activities a teacher can do. You can encourage pupils to read fin their own time, but planned guided reading can be one of the most effective ways to build this precious skill. However, it can also be one of the most time-consuming activities a teacher can do. Deciding on the book, linked activities, differentiation, timings, AFL, DIRT, not to mention questioning, is no mean feat.
Let us take some of the planning weight off your back with our extensive list of 29 guided reading activities you can do today.
What is guided reading?
Guided reading is often small group, reading instruction designed to provide differentiated teaching of the skills and knowledge needed to read. Small group reading of this sort was introduced in the 90s. More recently the idea of whole-class guided reading has grown in popularity, but the objective remains the same; ensure children have reading proficiency.
What is a guided reading activity?
Guided reading activities are used as stimulus and support for ensuring children have meaningful interactions with the books they read. They will exercise a number of skills, including but not limited to: empathy, use of grammatical features, use of structure, authorial intent, prediction, attention to detail, and reading comprehension.
Effective guided reading activities
1. Character letter writing
Write a letter in the voice of one character to another. This doesn’t just have to be two characters from the same book. Imagine a letter from Dorothy Gale to Alice; now those two could share some stories!
Whether it’s the Amazon River from Journey to the River Sea or rural Dorset in Goodnight Mr Tom, drawing a map of a place in a story is a great way to solidify context. Encourage children to label their maps and include as much detail as possible. You might also encourage them to fill gaps with their own imagination.
3. Newspaper report
A classic when it comes to guided reading activities; re-tell an event from the story as if you are a reporter. Children could even write and perform a news programme slot covering the story in pairs, with one in the studio and the other on location at the spot where it happened.
4. Character interview
Channel morning TV presenters and write an interview script between an interviewer and a character from the book. Children are likely to come up with a lot of ideas for questions, but they may struggle more on the answers. Consider modelling a couple of answers before you send children off independently.
5. You write a letter to a character
This task is a little easier than writing in the voice of a character. The children write their own personal letter to a character from the book they are reading. What about their own lives might they want to share with this character? And what questions do they have for the character?
6. Letter to the author
Sticking with the letter writing theme, why not get the children to write a letter to the author of the book they are reading? The added bonus to this is that you could genuinely send the letters and see if you get a response.
7. Tweet the author
Ask children to collectively come up with questions they would love to ask the author if they could. Collate the questions and pick out your three favourites. Tweet the author and see if they come back! Some authors are very active on social media and are very willing to engage young people in their books and reading.
8. Sell a holiday to the setting
Give children a selection of holiday brochures as models; you can often find digital versions on holiday sites to avoid unnecessary printing. Then ask the children to write a paragraph about a setting from the book selling it to potential tourists.
A great way to stretch children is to create parodies of text types. Choose a setting that is unpleasant and get children to sell that place to tourists.
9. Diary entry
A classic guided reading activity, but effective all the same. Get children to write a diary entry from the perspective of one of the characters.
Write a diary entry from the point of view of one of the characters after they have just found and read the diary of another character. Children will need to empathise to quite a deep level here, considering the deepest darkest feelings of two characters.
Predicting what comes next in the story is not only great for practising good reading skills, it can be a lot of fun too to see who was right/close.
11. Continue the story
Challenge children to write the beginning of a sequel to the book they have just completed. You might introduce children to fan fiction that often arises off the back of a well-loved book and discuss the merits of such fiction.
12. Comic strip it
Choose a section from the book to recreate as a comic strip. It may be worth introducing children to the genre of comics before setting them off on this task and ensure they understand the need to be precise with any text they include.
13. Social media profile for a character
Social media profiles reveal a lot more about a person than just their name. What might they update their status to? What pictures might they post? What would other characters comment on the pictures? This is also a great opportunity to discuss social media vs reality.
14. Turn an event into a play script
Immortalise the words on the page and turn the book into a script. You could give each child a section of the book to turn into a script and perform the finished result for the end of term/year.
15. Re-design the book cover
Look at features of book covers and then challenge children to re-design the book front cover of the book they’re reading, making conscious choices for colour, font and image.
16. Chart the feelings of a character
Draw out a basic graph with chapter numbers along the bottom and a scale of emotions on the left. Get children to plot the change in emotions throughout the book. They can look back on what is likely to be a rollercoaster of emotions and label events along the graph.
17. Magpie the best words and phrases
Allow children time to copy out interesting words and phrases from the book. They can use these words and phrases in their own writing.
18. Write a poem
Take a story and turn it into a poem. Text transformations help to inspire children to indulge in a range of text types.
19. Create a dictionary
Encourage children to make a note of any words they don’t understand as they go through the book. Better yet, ask children to write down the sentence the words appear in too. They can then use a dictionary to check the meaning. Writing out the sentence as well will help the pupil remember the meaning of the word by providing context.
20. Review the story
Children could write honest reviews of the book. You could take this further by encouraging children to write reviews of all the books they read and then collate these in a folder for children to peruse when they’re stuck for the next book to choose.
21. Make a list of sentence openers
Children’s fiction contains some of the most beautiful and effective examples of the use of language and structure. Get children to make a list of the different sentence openers the author uses. These can then be used as a way of demonstrating all the different ways a sentence can be started.
This can also be done with connectives used throughout the book.
22. What’s in a name?
Ask children to come up with a new name for the main character in the story and push them to explain their choice.
This is a perfect homework task. Get children to make a scale model of a scene from the book. They should consider body language of characters, placement of props and setting.
24. Create a thesaurus
Get children to pick a word from the text – this might be an ‘interesting’ word, or a really basic word. They should then use a thesaurus to write down a list of synonyms.
Ask children to pick one of the synonyms that they would replace the original word with and why. Or, if they prefer the original word, explain why.
25. Re-write a chapter or event
Choose a key moment in the book and ask children to re-write the event. This is a tough task and children might be tempted to write a nicer ending to events that are difficult. You might find more creative responses to this task if you encourage them to avoid this approach and it also provides an opportunity to discuss what good can come from struggle.
26. Write about a memory
It’s good to be able to draw from our own experiences when trying to empathise. Ask children to write down something from their own life that is similar to events/characters/themes from the book they are reading.
27. Leave a message after the beep
Ask children to write down an answerphone message from a character from the book.
28. Tweet from the character
Whilst children might not have used Twitter (the current age restriction on Twitter is 13), they probably do know that Twitter limits the number of characters a person can use in a tweet. Why not challenge them to summarise a chapter in no more than 280 characters.
29. Dear Agony Aunt
Get children to write an Agony Aunt response to a problem a character is facing in the story.