Guided reading is my favorite time of the day! It’s the best way to differentiate reading instruction to meet the needs of all your students. It wasn’t always my favorite, though. In fact, I used to dread it! I did not feel confident and always felt overwhelmed with planning my guided reading lessons.
It takes time to get a smooth system going for effective guided reading. Over 17 years, I’ve learned how to organize and plan effective lessons to take the overwhelm out of guided reading and I hope you can get some useful tips here! Make sure you scroll down to find your freebie!
What is Guided Reading?
Guided Reading is a time for teachers to work with a small group of students. These small groups are made up of students who are on similar reading levels and need similar skills and strategies. During this time, the teacher supports students in each group by providing appropriate guidance before, during, and after reading the same book. The teacher plans lessons to target skills and strategies each group needs, takes notes on each student’s progress, and uses these notes to plan future instruction. One book I highly recommend if you’re new to guided reading is The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson. When you buy the book, you also have access to videos that show her modeling different parts of a lesson.
What Do Other Students Do During Guided Reading?
While the teacher meets with guided reading groups, other students are given tasks that they can do independently at centers around the room, such as independent reading, writing, sight words, and word study activities. Click here to read about my centers and management tips: 5 Anchor Literacy Centers
What Do You TEACH During Guided Reading?
A guided reading lesson takes about 20 minutes. In brief, the teacher guides students by:
•reviewing skills and getting ready to read the book
•providing support while kids read independently
•guiding a discussion about the book
•teaching a strategy that students need
•leading a word work or writing activity
Here are more in-depth suggestions to do before, during, and after reading.
Make sure to have all your materials for each group ready to go. This will cut down on inattentive behaviors and will make the most of your limited time.
I call my first group to the guided reading table before I send the rest of the class to their centers. My students know to get a sight word ring from my table and practice reading it while they wait for us to get started. I take a moment before starting to make sure everyone else is at their centers and on task before I start my guided reading lesson.
WARM UP- 4-5 minutes
I like to start with a quick phonological awareness activity. Depending on the group, I may ask them to identify rhyming words, clap syllables, or to isolate/ blend/ segment/ manipulate sounds in words. This only takes about a minute, since it’s done orally and I make sure to have my list of words ready.
Skill/ Strategy Warm-up
Next, we warm up for our lesson. We review phonics, comprehension skills, and even prints of concept for very early readers. I created guided reading warm-ups with skills that are necessary for each level. These are just a quick review and practice of what readers do and usually takes no longer than a few minutes. I pick out a page that has skills I’ve noticed they need just a quick reminder of or skills we will be targeting during that lesson. I added digital warm-ups to all of the bundles for use during distance learning.
My Guided Reading Warm-ups are now available in digital format (Google slides).
I often use one of my Reading Strategy Tent Cards too, to help remind kids of a particular strategy to use while reading. These are great because they have read-to-examples for modeling each strategy. The teacher side has a suggested script and the student side shows the practice example. I keep this displayed throughout the lesson, to refer to when necessary.
**Now includes digital slides with the student sides for lessons via video or on your interactive screen once classes resume!
Book Introduction-1-2 minutes
This is one area I learned to keep brief! Don’t spend too much time reviewing vocabulary, doing a picture walk, and activating schema; especially with beginning readers, whose attention span you will have for only a short time! Give them a 2-sentence synopsis of the book (try to spark their interest, bonus if there’s a cliffhanger!) and go over words that you think they will find challenging.
Ask them to think of what they know, words they predict will be in the book, and/or make a prediction. But, instead of everyone sharing to the group, ask them to talk with their partner quickly to share their thinking. Sometimes I just ask them to close their eyes and think about this, rather than share out. *For English Language Learners, I do take a bit more time to review the topic and go over vocabulary, pointing to pictures to help them understand.
Give students their own copy of the book and whisper phones. The phones help them hear themselves while not being distracted by others’ reading.
Independent Reading- 5-8 minutes
Listen to each student read and help as necessary. It’s important that you give students an opportunity to problem-solve before jumping in right away to help them. When they do need help, ask them to try by looking at the word carefully and sounding out any parts they know. Encourage them to think of strategies they can use and provide suggestions, as well as praise for effort.
Take notes for each student, jotting down the strategies they are using, as well as skills and strategies they need. Informal running records also help you learn areas to target instruction in. These notes will help you plan future lessons, advance them in their reading levels, rearrange your groups, and remember their progress when writing report cards or meeting with parents.
Longer books may take 2 days to read. Plan a stopping point where you can discuss what’s happened as well as make predictions for the rest of the book. You can ask kids to read the rest at their tables, either independently or with their partners, or wait until your next guided reading session.
Book discussion- 2-3 minutes
Discuss the book to ensure comprehension. For fiction, can they summarize it to include the important parts? For non-fiction, can they tell the main topic or idea and some details?
Ask open-ended questions about the text, requiring them to make inferences:
- Why did the character —?
- What lesson did the character learn?
- Why do you think polar bears —?
- What might happen if—?
- Why do you think the author—?
Teaching Point- 2-3 minutes
Teach a skill or strategy that they need, based on your observations of their reading. Jot down notes as your students are reading and you’ll likely notice something they all (or a few of them) do.
Sample observations and teaching points:
- Did they add words to the end of a sentence? Teach them to point to each word (levels A-C) to have 1:1 correspondence.
- Did they keep reading when they made a mistake? Teach them to self-monitor and reread when the text doesn’t make sense.
- Did they get tripped up on words with endings? Teach them to cover the ending and read the base word, then add the ending.
- Did they sound out every letter, even in long words? Teach them to look for chunks they know: digraphs, word families, etc.
- Did they read in a monotone voice, not demonstrating an understanding of different characters talking? Teach them to read with expression, imagining how the characters are feeling.
- Did they ignore text features? Teach them how text features help the reader understand more.
My Reading Strategy Tent Cards are perfect for teaching points as well. They include 74 cards to model different reading strategies across all levels, in 4 categories: print concepts, decoding, comprehension, and fluency & expression. *Now include digital reading strategy slides you can use during distance learning!
And finally, the last activity in your guided reading lesson is word work or writing.
Word Work/ Writing 4-6 minutes
I usually do sight words PLUS word study OR writing. If I’m short on time, I skip sight words. If I have extra time, I do all three activities.
Sight Words: We review 2-3 sight words and I teach 1 new word. We we read it in a sentence, talk about the ‘tricky’ part, finger-write it on the table, mix and fix, or build it with magnetic letters.
Word Study: I usually have a word work activity planned, but as they read, I jot down words they get stuck on. I may decide to change my activity and teach that phonics skill instead. My skill cards come in handy for these times, as I have cards for every skill we could just take out and practice with.
Some activities we do include:
- “marking up” the phonics skill (using symbols from our Fundations phonics program)
- reading and writing words with the focus pattern
- building words with magnetic letters
- manipulating letters to make new words, ex: “Build the word bug, change it to make rug, rub, cub, cut, etc.”
- using skill cards-I created task cards for each skill at reading levels AA-J, as well as comprehension skills and strategies. I love these for a quick, no-prep practice! You can find them in my Guided Reading Warm-ups resources.
We use magnetic letters a lot, especially for manipulating sounds to build new words. To save time, I have letter trays set up and ready to grab and build. Keep these at your table, stacked (with a piece of felt in between each so the letters don’t stick to the bottoms).
Writing: For beginning readers and writers, we work on a sentence together on a sentence strip, then cut it up and fix it, discussing concepts like spacing, capitals, and punctuation. A little later, we come up with a sentence, count the words, and students write it in their own notebooks, with my guidance. When students become more advanced, they begin to write to respond to the book, with little support.
While my reading group returns to their center, I take a moment to write down and organize any notes I took and to set up any materials I need for my second group. In a 45-minute block, I usually only had time for 2 groups, but if I had a few extra minutes, I called a group for a quick review or intervention activity. My guided reading warm-ups are perfect for intervention and when you’re short on time.
Guided Reading Station
For effective guided reading to take place, you must be prepared ahead of time. This definitely takes some work, but it gets easier with time. Prepare baskets for each group with the books and materials you need. Organize your games, cards, and resources and have them closeby. Keep your binder or lesson plans beside you to keep you on track. To make sure you don’t run over time, set a timer to go off or keep a stopwatch near you. There are also some tools you might want to have on hand. Read this blog post to learn about the tools I use for my guided reading, including some that may surprise you!
More Guided Reading Tips
As with anything in teaching, this is a guide and your groups will vary, depending on level, student attention, and the time that you have! Be flexible and know that you are making a positive impact on their reading. The most important thing about your lesson is that they use strategies to read and understand the book, so keep that in mind if you get bogged down with all of the activities.
Maintain fluid groups. Move kids around as necessary based on assessments, like running records or observations you make. To help keep track of my students even after moving them into a new group, I write my notes on Post-its that I can easily move to a new folder.
Review routines and use consistency during guided reading. Kids thrive when they know the expectations. Try to keep the routines the same during Guided Reading.
If you found this post helpful, please pin it or share it. Do you have any strategies that work well for you during Guided Reading? I’d love to hear about them, so please comment below!