How to Use Guided Reading Warm-ups

If you teach kindergarten through 2nd grade, you know that guided reading is an essential component of literacy instruction. The way I’ve conducted guided reading has changed over the years and some people aren’t fond of the term guided reading, but small-group reading instruction is essential in order to differentiate and meet your students’ needs in reading.

Planning for guided reading used to be very time-consuming. I found myself trying to find resources from different places in order to fill the gaps my students had.

And sometimes I’d plan a lesson, then notice something else my kids needed while reading, so I’d want to teach that skill but didn’t have a resource on hand to help.

So I created guided reading warm-ups to help get my kids’ brains ready for reading, remind them of important phonics skills and reading strategies, and have everything I needed for any necessary skills that popped up during small-group instruction. These warm-ups helped me maximize my time with my students and I’m so happy to hear from many other teachers who feel the same about them.

I’ve been asked how to use these most effectively, so I want to go through each component to show you all the different ways to use these with your students.

My Guided Reading Kit Includes Levels AA-J.
Example of Guided Reading Warm-ups for Level H

I’ll start by briefly explaining the 3 components, then going in-depth on how to use each part. Make sure to grab a free sample at the bottom of this post so you can try them yourself!

3 Components of Guided Reading Warm-ups

My guided reading warm-ups cover essential reading skills and strategies in these 4 categories:

  • Concepts of print
  • Decoding (Phonics skills)
  • Fluency and Expression
  • Comprehension

Each level builds upon the skills covered in the previous set and increases in difficulty. I also included the entire bundle in digital format as well, to help you when teaching remotely.

Guided Reading Warm-up Pages

These are 1-page warm-ups with 3 sections. Each page focuses on one phonics skill, followed by fluency practice, and ends with more practice or a comprehension skill.

Skill Cards

In addition to the warm-ups, I created really fun practice cards for each skill covered. I call these skill cards. These are designed for focused skill practice. They don’t require any other materials (although they can be extra fun with some tools I’ll show later).

Reading Strategy Teaching Cards

Finally, I added reading strategy tent cards as a handy tool to teach a skill and have a solid example on hand. So many times I’ve wanted to teach a skill (whether planned or on the fly), but I couldn’t think of an example to model with. These eliminate the need to scramble for examples, or even the words to teach the skills. They are foldable standing cards with a teacher script (guide) on one side and a student example on the other.

These were a godsend during guided reading bc I always had an example on hand to model a skill and having the cards on display throughout the lesson was so helpful for kids to refer to.

How to Use Each Component

There are many ways to use this guided reading toolkit, but I will show you how I used them in my classroom and if you have other ways you use them, I’d love you to share them in the comments!

Warm-up Pages

We started our small-group lessons with these (after a quick phonemic awareness activity). I picked a page depending on the phonics skills my group needed. Since these warm-ups cover all phonics skills from letter sounds to CVC words to vowel teams and multi-syllabic words, I was always able to find a warm-up to fit each group’s needs.

I keep 6 copies of each warm-up page in a sheet protector (My groups had 3-5 students and one was for myself). I’d just take as many as I needed out for the group and give each student one. If you have students that get overwhelmed by a lot of print, simply fold on the lines to reveal one section at a time.

Fold pages to work on one section at a time or cover sections with a large index card (for kids who get overwhelmed with lots of print).

Read the small teacher print on the top part and remind them of this important phonics skill to use when reading. Model one example, then go through each one together.

Continue for each section of the warm-up page. When completed, quickly remind students of the skills and to remember to use them when they’re reading their book.

Some warm-ups will take a few minutes and some will take more, depending on the level and skills covered. Sometimes I’d just use a guided reading warm-up with a passage instead of a book that day.

With remote teaching, you can use the Google slides version and share your screen with students. Or, use at your ipad or computer center in the classroom!

TIPS & More Ways to Use Them

  • You may want to model the first one on your sheet before handing them out, to make sure your students are focused and not distracted by their own.
  • Laminate and place in a reading center or in your center bins. You can differentiate by placing the levels most appropriate for each group in that group’s color-coded drawer.
  • FUN TIP- provide fun tools for kids to circle, highlight, and interact with the activities. for example, mini-eraser cars or play-doh smashing for sounding out, transparent chips for highlighting, etc.
  • Give to volunteers, substitute teachers, or teaching assistants! Since each section has directions, they are so easy to use by anyone.
  • Short on time? Use these as your entire lesson in order to meet with many groups in one day. I did this when we had assemblies, field trips, and other times we didn’t have a full week for guided reading. It helped me still be able to meet with all of my students that week.
  • Make booklets of a few warm-ups to send home with kids or give to parents during conferences for extra reinforcement at home.
  • Use as informal assessments– print extra copies and take notes of how your students did with each skill.
  • Use whole-group– for skills that most of your class needs, display on your whiteboard and go through it with your entire class.

Skill Cards

These are perfect to focus on and extend practice with one particular skill. I usually used these after reading our book. Sometimes I planned which cards I’d use, depending on skills I knew my kids needed. Other times, I’d notice a skill they needed more practice with as I listened to them read, so I quickly pulled out a different set of cards.

I store my skill cards in these plastic boxes (aff. link) and tape a copy of the skills included inside to make them easy for me to find the ones I need.

Tape the skills list to the inside of each box for easy reference.

Once I had my cards picked out, I started by modeling with one card or example. Then, we did the rest on that card together (on cards with one example, we did a few cards together). Sometimes I gave them each a card to do independently as I guided them if necessary.

TIPS & More Ways to Use Them

  • Make a booklet of a few pages stapled together (no need to cut apart) to send home with kids. It’s so easy to differentiate work with these and they’re fun for parents to work with at home.

Reading Strategy Tent Cards

If you’ve ever wished you had an example for a strategy, you are going to be thrilled with these. Having an example of the skill you’re teaching will save you so much time. You don’t even have to come up with the words to use, since these have a teacher script on the back as a guide.

I planned which card I would use depending on the skill I was teaching. Often, I used multiple cards: one as we went through the warm-up pages, another just before reading the book if I had a focus skill, and even another afterwards for a comprehension strategy.

I keep these cards stored in this bin I got from the Dollar Tree. Since I made some additions, they are a little crowded in one, so separating into two bins might be a better option. I included dividers with the skills listed in each section to help you find what you need quickly.

Just pull out a card and stand it up with the teacher’s side facing you. Use this as a guide to help you teach the skill and the example side facing the students.

I also used these as whole-group reading mini-lessons! I included these in Google Slides version, as well as PowerPoint. Just display the card on the board and refer to your printed ones for the teacher script. These were especially great when I was short on time and just wanted to review a skill that most of my class needed.

Putting it ALL Together

So, what does a complete guided reading lesson look like? Firstly, I will say that this toolkit will not replace using books with your students. At times it will, because of how comprehensive these are. However, you still want to have your students use books and you will also want to include phonemic awareness and sight word activities.

I always started my groups by having kids come to our table and immediately pick up their sight word ring to practice independently while waiting for us to begin. Then, I did a quick phonemic awareness activity before the warm-up.

Here is what a lesson may look like, from beginning to end:

  • Kids come to your table and start practicing their sight word rings or another fluency review activity while waiting to start. You can have them reread the book from your last session, too. This is independent practice while the rest of the class is settled and your materials are ready.
  • 1 minute: Phonemic Awareness- blending and segmenting words orally. Choose words from your target skill.
  • 2-5 minutes: Guided Reading Warm-up Page (may also include a tent card)
  • 1 minute: Reading Strategy Tent Card for reading focus
  • 10-13 minutes: Read book and discuss
  • 3-4 minutes: Skill cards to practice focused skill (may also include a tent card)
  • Optional 3-5 minutes: Writing/ Sight Words activity


Guided reading should be flexible and adapt to your students’ needs. Sometimes you never know which skill you’ll need to review until you’re in the middle of a lesson. Having these guided reading warm-ups at your fingertips will save you tons of time and make your lessons more effective.

Setting your Guided Reading Warm-up Kit does take a bit of prep, but I promise once you have it ready to go, the feeling of having what you need for virtually any skill you’re teaching is priceless! I’d love to hear from you after you set it up and start using these resources! Let me know how it’s going, questions or suggestions, or even new ideas on how to use them!

Are you ready to try Guided Reading Warm-ups?

Get your free sample set below or purchase in my shop or TpT store!

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