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Reading guides help students navigate reading material, especially difficult textbook chapters or technical reading. Students respond to a teacher-created written guide of prompts as they read an assigned text. Reading guides help students to comprehend the main points of the reading and understand the organizational structure of a text. They are particularly helpful for students who are reading below grade level.

Why use a reading guide?

Reading Guides are teacher-created and may be developed for any discipline. The strategy is especially helpful when used with text that is more difficult than students could comprehend through independent reading. Reading Guides may be used with the whole class, small groups or for individual work but they are a powerful tool for partners to use as they navigate text to deepen their understanding.

How to create and use the strategy

You want to determine the major concepts from an assigned text and consider your students’ knowledge related to the concepts. Then write items designed to guide students through the major ideas and supporting details of the text. Guides may be phrased as statements or as questions. 

Begin by introducing the assigned text and discussing the main concepts, then present the items on the reading guide. Students read the assigned text and complete the tasks on the reading guides during the reading process. The reading guide should support interactive reading, so make sure there are a variety of questions or responses you want students to make as they read, and not just after they have completed a selected text. As students gain proficiency at completing Reading Guides, they may design their own guides and provide support for one another. 

The following is a list of sample items that teachers might include on a reading guide. These are generic ideas that should tweaked to match the specific text students are reading. 

  • What is the main idea of the text? 
  • The author’s purpose for writing the text is…
  • The author discusses the differences between ____ and ____ . 
  • What are the important dates discussed in the reading? 
  • The most significant contribution of ____ was…
  • What might be your personal experiences related to the reading? 
  • The author’s motivation for writing the text was…

Strategy in action

Let’s watch as a middle school teacher uses an interactive reading guide with her science class. Notice the variety of interactions she expects students to make with the text and their partners

Tips for success

  1. Reading guides are sometimes viewed as “giving all the information to students,” when they really are guiding students to understanding what the important information is and different ways to critically think about it.
  2. Reading guides are most useful when they are interactive and used with partners or small groups.