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Whole Class Guided Reading

The Literacy Shed's 'VIPERS' approach

VIPERS is an acronym to aid the recall of the six reading domains which form part of the UK’s teacher assessment framework for the reading curriculum.  They are the key areas which we feel children need to know and understand in order to improve their comprehension of texts.

  • Vocabulary
  • Inference
  • Prediction
  • Explanation
  • Retrieval
  • Sequence or Summarise


The six domains focus on the comprehension aspect of reading and not the mechanics: decoding, fluency, prosody etc. 

As such, VIPERS is not a reading scheme but rather a method of ensuring that teachers ask, and students are familiar with, a range of questions. 

They allow the teacher to track the type of questions asked, and the children’s responses to these, which allows for targeted questioning afterwards.


Key principles of a Whole Class Guided Reading lesson:

  • Clear learning intentions – even in Year 6, children know they are ‘learning to read’
  • Explicit vocabulary instruction
  • Reading fluency practice
  • Explicit teaching of reading strategies
  • ‘Small steps’ approach
  • Teacher modelling and explanation
  • Opportunities for discussion
  • The activation of prior learning features in every session
  • A scaffolded approach: my turn, our turn, your turn
  • Lots of active engagement from children


What does a whole class guided reading lesson look like?

In Years 2 to 6, guided reading lessons take place three times per week. The same text will typically span the week’s lessons, although sometimes a class reader might be accompanied by several weeks’ study of that particular book. Texts are chosen for various reasons: sometimes these have challenging or unusual themes; sometimes they support or pre-empt learning in English or other curriculum areas; occasionally, texts are included for no other reason than they’re jolly good! A good mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry is ensured.


Every Guided Reading session in each week’s block builds on the last. Each session has three distinct parts:


1. Explicit Vocabulary Instruction

The start of each session of every session will focus on vocabulary, the ‘V’ in the Vipers acronym above. Usually, this will be the vocabulary that the children are set to experience in the text being read. In subsequent sessions, the words will be revisited, explored in more detail or applied to other contexts. Vocabulary acquisition will not be forthcoming without frequent revisiting. Although some very specific subject vocabulary is included, many useful or versatile words are too - it is hoped that the children will then take the vocabulary forward to use in their own speech and writing.



In the lesson above featuring Percy Shelley’s classic poem Ozymandias, which is quite advanced linguistically, the more of the vocabulary the children already know, the more likely they are to access the meaning. Where texts are easier to access, there is an opportunity for children to read around the words in context and figure out what they mean for themselves.