Guided Reading Vs Shared Reading: ELI5 The Difference

Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Editorial Team

Reading is a good habit, and most parents encourage their children to read books, newspapers, and other research papers apart from their academic subjects. If we recall how we learned to read, memories of teachers asking students to read aloud in class, one by one, with the whole class or in smaller groups, would come to our mind. 

Even today, the names of the techniques aren’t known to the general public. Not only are they tied to our early childhood memories, but they also serve several essential purposes for the heterogeneous classroom.

Hence, the article below discusses the two essential types of reading, guided and shared reading, in what context they are used, and their advantages and disadvantages. 

Guided reading vs. Shared reading: Addressing the “What”

There are 3 main reading types: Shared, Guided, and Independent. While shared and guided are conducted in groups, independence is achieved after a student becomes well-trained to undertake an independent read. 

Guided reading

Shared reading is the most preliminary form of reading adopted by educators. Teachers use big books or whiteboards and ask the class to read together. Shared reading also involves the exchange of reading strategies, further strengthening one’s reading abilities. It is ultimately followed by comprehension or giving meaning to the content. 

Guided reading, however, focuses more on a smaller group and involves more excellent monitoring of struggling students. Compared to shared reading, guided reading consists of an introduction to the text, student engagement toward targeted work, and a guided discussion and explanation of the reader through a teacher. 

Key differences between the two reading programs explored

Guided Reading and Shared Reading are built on some foundations and guarantee specific deliverables, which constitute their differences. 

1. Group Size

Based on Holdaway’s research, shared reading involves the teacher and the whole class reading together through a big book or in a digitized whiteboard format. Guided reading, on the other hand, is taught to children in groups of 4 or 6. 

2. Accuracy

Shared reading involves children learning correct pronunciation and reading abilities that lie beyond their capabilities. However, the understanding of the content needs to be scrutinized the way it is in guided reading. As there are smaller groups, more attention is paid to each child.

3. Teacher’s role

In the guided reading setup, the teacher’s role is more instructional, whereas in the shared reading format, the teacher is part of an observer and assessor. 

4. Student’s Role

Shared reading involves reading text out loud with the teacher, while guided reading involves independent reading in a smaller group under the supervision of a teacher. Due to the critical structural differences, self-correction is learned in shared reading, while acceptance of surveillance is learned in guided reading. 

Pros and cons of guided reading and shared reading explained

While both the methods, shared reading and guided reading can be inculcated through various methods like activities, games, apps, and books, teachers need to carefully weigh the difference between the both to choose the one for their students. 

PROSShared ReadingGuided Reading
Independent ReadingShared reading is one method to teach independent reading to the child. As they learn words and pronunciation, students become more confident about independent reading. As they learn words and pronunciation, students become more confident about independent reading. Guided reading is done in smaller groups, and children can naturally develop a keen interest in reading with more guidance on assignments. 
Text ComprehensionShared reading involves reading together with the class, followed by an explanation by the teacher, enabling greater understanding. 
Guided reading is more personalized; hence, the smaller group receives greater attention on their doubts about any part of the reading that can be addressed at any time. 
Vocabulary ExpansionChildren often have a limited vocabulary, and it is through shared reading that they learn the usage of new words. Sometimes, the teacher paraphrasing the lesson can introduce them to a rich collection of words. Like shared reading, guided reading in a smaller group also ensures vocabulary expansion. One happens through the lesson, second through the guidance on the comprehension of these words.  
Auditory AwarenessAuditory awareness is something that children learn through collective reading. Learning about silent letters and pronouncing vowels can all be done through exposure to the collection of new words. Pronunciation or auditory awareness of syllables and words is even more significant in guided reading as the teacher can immediately listen and correct the student. 
CONSShared ReadingGuided Reading
Not Universally ApplicableNo doubt explicit reading opens windows to all learners. However, each learner has a different pace. Most often, children with dyslexia do not benefit from shared reading. Even though there are smaller groups, guided reading still needs to ensure the same learning for everyone. Some individuals would need an additional hand and some homogeneity with the group they are paired with. However, if the homogeneity factor is taken care of, guided reading can benefit students with dyslexia.
Lacks individual attentionGuided reading also focuses on pronunciation and meaning of content and less on the written aspect of verbal ability.Guided reading also lacks individual attention to an extent but is still better than shared reading. In a session of 40 minutes, sometimes a student can take more than others; hence, in such cases, not everyone will give similar output.
Less focus on writing Shared reading’s emphasis on pronunciation means less writing and more speaking, which can be difficult during written tests.  Guided reading too focuses on pronunciation and meaning of content and less on the written aspect of verbal ability.
Assessment problemShared reading only allows for individual assessment of students. Guided reading involves too much assessment, and students can become very disinterested and discouraged with a highly critical teacher. 

The situational applicability of the two reading modules measured

Shared reading and guided reading are both classroom approaches. While the former can be undertaken during literature reading classes, the latter can benefit students with learning disabilities or reading problems. 

shared reading

Shared reading is most focused on pronunciation, while guided reading amongst smaller groups involves a deeper understanding of the text. Hence, a teacher can use both strategies, depending on the reading sequence and the student’s requirements. 

Verdict: Is one better than the other?

Before a student learns to read, dependent reading guides them into becoming better readers. Guided reading and shared reading are different forms of conditional or directional reading. Depending on the context, both can be administered and sometimes both are used simultaneously in a classroom. 

A teacher can group students and form a guided reading circle while the whole class gets involved in shared reading. While each of them has benefits for different kinds of learners, it is impossible to ascertain which one is better. As there are students who will benefit from shared reading, guided reading is just a good initiative for slow learners or those who are easily distracted, and for others, it might just be an added task for the teacher. 


Regardless of the pros and cons of guided and shared reading, both are unique and essential to a classroom. Some situations heavily need shared reading, such as early childhood. And cases where guided reading is more needed, such as with special needs children.

The techniques of guided and shared reading would have been put into practice by every teacher. Hence, deciding which is better should not be the debate; instead, when and where to use both should be explored and understood.

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