Guided Reading

Part-to-Whole Phonics versus Whole-to-Part Phonics
Making Guided Reading Work

Guiding Reading Manuals

Many schools today are using Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell’s Guided Reading program.  I purchased their method books in 2012, when I made this post: Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children and Word Maters: Teaching Phonics and Spelling in the Reading/Writing Classroom. They are published by Heinemann.  I studied them when I was public school teacher, but fortunately was never required to teach that method.

A Review of The Fountas & Pinnell Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study System.

Although I personally feel that school districts requiring Guided Reading instruction are not using the best approach to teaching reading and spelling, I also understand that teachers are required to use whatever method their district requires. In order to help those teachers, I will explain how that adding a few minutes of daily Blend Phonics to their teaching can help them make sure that ALL their students learn the systematic, sequential phonics they need to be superior readers, accurate spellers, and competent writers. Blend Phonics is now available in paperback. There is now a book of 62 Blend Phonics Lessons and Stories Available.

Letter to Lindenberg Board (Saint Louis). Concerned parents present the School Board with a letter demanding that they switch from Guided Reading to Scientific Based reading instruction.

Shared Reading and Trade Books

I have no criticism of Shared Reading or the use of trade books. In fact, I very much enjoy reading them with my students. I am not opposed to decodable text, but do not consider them absolutely necessary. Many decodable texts offer little advantage over predictable text because they are loaded with pictures and sight-words that encourage whole-word guessing. Once students have mastered Hazel Loring’s Blend Phonics, they will be fully ready to benefit from shared and independent reading of the rich children’s literature – without any need for strictly controlled vocabulary. Students who are taught Blend Phonics in their Guided Reading classroom, will score very high on their Running Records and standard reading assessments.

Requirements & Procedures 

Nothing is required but a chalkboard, white-board,  overhead, or one of the new document cameras and a projector. I do NOT use phonics worksheets and other paraphernalia that are often associated with systematic, sequential phonics. The procedures are very simple and easy to follow:

I write the words on the board following the blend phonics procedure: b+a = ba, ba+t = bat. Directional guidance is built into the program. We teach letter names and the sounds the letters represent at the same time. Each words is used in an oral sentence to make sure the neural connections from sight to sound to meaning are secure, with the connections operating in reverse for composition. The students write all the words in a wide-lined spiral or sewn notebook. Pencil grip and letter formation (preferably cursive) is taught with great care. Each word is spelled orally after it has been written. I say the letter names as I write the words so the students learn to sound out, understand, and spell all the words.

Note: The program is designed to be completed during the first four months of first grade. It can be taught to kindergarten in a year. It serves well for remediation for any age. It is perfect for RTI Tier II, and III for older students and Tier I for beginning students.

Total Recall of Alphabet

I cannot emphasize too much the importance of “total recall” of the alphabet. Here are some helpful materials I have developed to help teachers and parents teach Alphabet Fluency. Students in kindergarten should be able to rapidly write the alphabet from memory in alphabetical order and identify the letters by name out of order.

Phonovisual Charts

For teaching the sound-to-symbol correspondences to automaticty, nothing beats the comprehensive Phonovisual Charts. They have a proven track record in American classrooms since their first publication in 1942. Although not absolutely necessary, they form a powerful adjunct to effective reading instruction with Blend Phonics. I have published a Detailed Analysis of the Phonovisual Charts and a YouTube Training Video. You can read the 1960 Phonovisual Manual from the Internet Archive Library.

Recommendations for Parents 

While this blog is basically addressing teachers and administrators who are required to implement Guided Reading instruction, parents can do much to assure that their children will learn to read well, even in unfortunate situations where Guided Reading is not being supplemented with a strong systematic, sequential phonics program at school.

1. Read to your children daily from the rich treasures of our English language. To develop comprehension skills, let me recommend Dr. George González’ Totally Integrated Language Arts Program. High level comprehension skills can be developed even before the children are able to read by listening to stories and discussion the stories using Dr. González´Eight Comprehension Powers.

2. Make absolutely sure your children develop “total recall of the alphabet.” They should be able to identify the letters in upper and lower case print (and cursive) write the letters in order fluently and legibly, and copy words effortlessly.

3. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes everyday to teach your children Hazel Loring’s 1980 Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics for First Grade. Even if the teacher at school is supplementing Guided Reading with a good phonics program, Blend Phonics taught at home will eliminate any possibility that your child might slip through the cracks. Blend Phonics is so easy to teach that anyone can teach  it correctly the very first time without any formal training beside what is offered in the Blend Phonics pamphlet.

4.  On July 3, 2014 I published a paperback edition Florence Akin’s 1913 Word Mastery: Phonics for the First Three Grades. It is one of the most effective phonics programs ever published.

5.  Be sure and teach your children good pencil grip and letter formation. If your school does not have a formal handwriting program (many do not), you can supplement with several commercial programs that are available. Good handwriting is the essential foundation for good reading and composition. My Shortcut to Manuscript is an excellent program that is very easy to teach. My method has proven very successful with many students. Here is the Video for Shortcut to Manuscript.

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2 Responses to Guided Reading

  1. Victoria says:


    After reading over your websites for the past couple weeks I have purchased both blend phonics and word mastery! You have mentioned to use them both, do you meant to complete one before the other or at the same time? If at the same time, does it matter that the blend phonics units and word mastery order don’t line up exactly?

    Also, you stress for students to know the alphabet and sounds before starting blend phonics, is this the same for word mastery? or can a student that doesn’t know all the letters and sounds start word mastery since it goes over one letter at a time in the beginning?

    And when using your alphabet tapping exercise and phonovisual charts, does the student need to know the letter names before starting the sounds on the chart or teach them simultaneously?

    Thank you for all your hard work and passion in your reseach to make all this available for free or at a very low cost!

    • Don Potter says:


      Its great to hear from you. You have some good questions. Blend Phonics and Word Mastery are separate programs. They are both great. Blend Phonics can be used single students, small groups, and large classes. Word Mastery is good for individual students I start where the student is. All students need to know the letter names and sounds so I teach both. Loring taught them together, but not in ABC order. I teach the alphabet tapping exercise in conjunction with alphabet flashcards, teaching straight through the alphabet a to z. I also like them to learn to write the alphabet from memory from a to z quickly, in print, cursive, or both. Personally I teach the alphabet letter names and sounds from the start, but in separate sessions – often within the same tutoring hour. As the students work through Blend Phonics, I have them spell the words with letter names. Written spelling from dictation is good but oral spelling with letter names is much faster. Thanks for purchasing my books. I believe in the programs and use them everyday in my private tutoring, One year I taught Blend Phonics to a first grader who came to our school one month before school was out unable to read. She was on grade level in one month flat! She finished third grade last year the top of her class. Kindergartners who finished the program in kindergarten were reading on a solid second semester first grade level and improved another grade level over summer. I have reems of such stories from my personal experience. As lot depends on the age of the students. I really emphasize fun play with the tapping expercise, alphabet cards, Phonovisual Charts, and Phonovisual cards. Be sure and check out my YouTube training videos

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