Read-Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading: What’s the Difference?


There are TONS of terms and acronyms in education! And when it comes to literacy instruction, there’s no shortage.

For example, you may have heard of these 3:

  • Read-aloud
  • Shared Reading
  • Guided Reading

They kinda sound the same, right? But they’re not!

There are subtle — but important — differences among these 3 instructional practices.

Each instructional practice can help your students grow in a different way. When you understand the differences, you can better utilize them to help your students become stronger readers!

In today’s post, I’ll explain the differences through some simple, easy-to-read charts!

Whether you’ve been teaching for 10 weeks or 10 years, it’s always helpful to revisit these concepts and reflect on your teaching!

How are a read-aloud, shared reading, and guided reading all different? In this post, I use simple charts to show the differences between all 3 literacy instructional routines! This post helps K-2 teachers better utilize these practices to support their students.

I think it’s helpful to compare these instructional routines in a few areas:

  • Timeframe (how long they take to implement)
  • Skills to address
  • The teacher’s role
  • The students’ role
  • Text difficulty

Let’s look at each area individually:


In a nutshell, a read-aloud typically takes the least amount of time (because you’re doing most of the work).

Always pay attention to your students’ attention spans and adjust accordingly!

Skills to Cover

To sum it up, read-alouds are great for working on skills that don’t require students to be able to see and read the text.

With a read-aloud, you can engage students in higher-level thinking. By reading aloud, you’re giving students access to more challenging text (that they often can’t yet read on their own).

Shared reading and guided reading are great for working on all skills. They’re “closer” to independent reading, so you’re getting students ready to use these same strategies on their own.

Teacher’s Role

Out of these 3 instructional practices, the teacher does the most work during a read-aloud. She does the least work during guided reading. Shared reading falls somewhere in between.

Students’ Role

Out of these 3 instructional practices, the students do the least actual reading during a read-aloud (their job is not to decode, but simply to listen and comprehend). They do the most work during guided reading, as they should be reading the vast majority of the text. Shared reading falls somewhere in between, as the teacher and students share the work of decoding and comprehending the text.

Text Difficulty

Together, these 3 practices give kids opportunities to work with texts at a variety of levels.

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about these instructional practices, grab one (or both!) of these freebies:

Free Shared Reading / Reading Workshop Lesson Plans

Free Guided Reading Toolkit

You can also check out these additional posts that go more in-depth:

What Is Shared Reading, and Why Is It So Important?

3 Reasons Why It’s Okay to Do a Readaloud (Just for the Sake of Doing a Readaloud)

What are the components of a guided reading lesson in a Kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom?

Happy teaching!


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4 years ago

Love me some color-coded charts! Thank you for the clear, easy reference!

shonali thomas
3 years ago

This is a good amount of clarity between the 3 concepts. The colour coding of the charts makes it more striking. However just one question – what type of reading strategies will one be sharing in all three.

Tenya Choi
3 years ago

The charts make it so easy to grasp those practices and figure out what to use for students. Would it be possible to use the charts for my ESL class as a reference to help teachers learn how to teach reading?

Reply to  Tenya Choi

Hey Tenya! Yes, that is completely fine for you to use the charts for a reference! 🙂

Amado Gonzalez
2 years ago

Hi Alison,
I just watched your video regarding the reading workshop. It was very informative and helpful. I was very inspired, and It is very impressive. I really appreciate the simplistic way you explained everything. Thank you your time and effort and for sharing it.

Reply to  Amado Gonzalez

Wonderful, Amado!!

Julie Snyder
1 year ago

May I use your slides to show my new teachers?

Reply to  Julie Snyder

Of course!

Reply to  Mark007

You’re welcome!


I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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