Saturday, October 29, 2016

Stress-Free Guided Reading

Is guided reading stressful to you?  Are you unsure what you should be doing on a weekly or daily basis with your young readers?  Worry no longer!  I am here to give you some simple steps to make your guided reading time meaningful, intentional, and easy to plan!

How often should I meet with my groups?
You will get a lot of different responses from different “experts” on this, but I will tell you I meet with all of my groups each day, 4 days a week.  Guided reading is simply one of the stations in our daily literacy center rotation, as outlined in my post here.
If you choose to set up your guided reading in a different manner, please, please, PLEASE make sure you are meeting with any student who is reading below grade level on a daily (or almost daily) basis.  That should be non-negotiable.

What should I focus on in each group?
Early emergent readers will be naturally concentrating on getting through the text- your focus with them should be on sight words, phonics, making predictions about and finding the pattern in the text, and above all, READING STRATEGIES (what to do when they get stuck on a word).

Emergent readers will work on fluency, reading with expression, making sense of the text, and comprehension.  Developing readers will focus more on digging deeper with the text. 

I always try to continue the focus of our Reader’s Workshop mini-lessons in the guided reading groups, when possible.  If we are learning about problem/solution in whole group, continuing that focus in the small group really helps cement the concept for them.  They are practicing at an individual level what we have been practicing with our whole group read-alouds.

Where should I get the books for guided reading?
Anywhere you can!  Hopefully your administration supports guided reading and you have sets of leveled books either in your classroom or in a shared space.  I have some book sets in my classroom and more in the library that I can check out.

I have also purchased non-fiction units on TPT (Lyndsey Kuster and Stephanie Stewart have fabulous ones) that have books on 3 levels.  These are good fits for my groups.

Don’t think that you have to always work with BOOKS, either.  I have created non-fiction visual vocabulary units that start whole group with great visuals on the SMART Board, then use leveled text passages with small groups, like the following:

Many of my customers have even used my Close Reading packets (see my post about those here) in small groups with great success.

How long does it take to plan for guided reading lessons?
If I tell you it takes me very little time to plan for groups, you might not believe me.  I used to spend HOURS planning for my groups, but I have found that it is just not necessary to do that!

Don’t get me wrong- you will need to plan. 

The bulk of your planning time for each group should be in the text selection- make sure you are choosing quality texts for each group that are not only the correct level, but also neatly fit into your purpose for them.  Keeping your text selection very intentional is vital to quality instruction.  Everything else will fall into place if you have the right text.

I know that many guided reading sets have lesson plans that go along with them, but you should be very careful here.  Maybe I am just an outside-the-box thinker, but I have rarely found that those lessons line up with my vision for teaching a text.  Definitely check it out for ideas, but think carefully about what YOU want your readers to gain from a text.

What should a daily lesson look like?

Your students should be warmed up and ready to go when you start your lesson. Some teachers achieve this with reading a familiar book first, some start with sight word review. 

I have found it easiest to have students at a Fluency Center right before coming to the guided reading table so I don’t have to spend precious minutes getting ready to read.  The Fluency Center contains familiar books they have already read (kept in colored baskets that match their reading group), One Breath Boxes and Fluency Phrases (from my Chunky Monkey Phonics series), their Poetry Notebooks, familiar big books, and the weekly phonics poem (from Chunky Monkey’s Spelling units).  Students are highly engaged in this center and come to the table excited about the reading process and ready to tackle a new challenge.

We usually tackle Word Work next- check out my post HERE to see 16 simple activities you can easily do with any of your groups.

Check out my freebie packet below (at the end of this post) to get more specifics on the following pieces in a lesson:

Reading the Book
Purpose, Before, During, and After the Book
Reader’s Response

I don’t always have time for all of these components in one day, but we do make sure to do them weekly or with the rotation of one text.

How long should we spend on one book?
I like to spend 3-4 days, depending on the book.  Some of the lower leveled books don’t have a lot of depth to them, though, so for those I find two days to be sufficient.  If I do spend 3 or 4 days on a book, that will include our word work and reader’s response to the story, too.

How often should I take a running record?
I take informal running records every day. I try to listen to two students read.  I take notes in a binder (each child has their own tab and I use simple notebook paper to take notes).  After listening to them read for a few minutes, we discuss their strengths and address one simple teaching point quietly while the others read.  If possible, I try to give them an opportunity to put the teaching point in practice- by listening to them read further, giving them a few words to try out their new strategy, etc.

How do I decide on a teaching point?
Teaching points can be something the student is doing ALMOST right, or a strategy that would help them be successful with something they are struggling with. 
I have common teaching points for young readers listed here:

What are some possible Reader’s Response ideas?
Students can pose questions to each other (or to me- they love that!) or they can respond with writing.  Depending on the level of the group, we respond in different ways- cut apart sentences, interactive writing, collaborative writing, exit tickets, etc. 

These ideas can be found in the following freebie in my store:

All of the Word Work and Reader’s Response ideas use simple materials you probably already have in your toolbox.  Simply keep this little packet close by at your guided reading table, and you will have everything you need to keep your groups moving along quickly with minimal planning needed from you!

I hope you have found this little post to be helpful!  I would 
love to hear your comments on this topic...I love to hear from readers!!!

Also, if you haven’t already done so, please follow my blog, Facebook, Instagram and/or TPT store to keep in touch!

Much love, 


  1. Where do I find that 3 levels of text?

    1. Hi Vicki, the picture of the 3 levels of text is a sample from my Weather unit you can find here: Weather Non-Fiction Unit. All of my non-fiction units contain 3 levels of text to use with small groups. Thanks for asking!
      :) Stephanie

  2. This article was very informative and has helped me greatly to understand how to better my guided reading sessions in my own classroom. Thank you.

  3. This is a great overview of guided reading. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Fantastic overview! As a reading specialist, I loved the clarity with which you described the process! I'll be sharing this on my facebook page!

  5. What an awesome step by step break down of guided reading! Perfect for newbies and a great reminder for us dinosaurs!

  6. This is a great read! Thank you so much :)

  7. Sounds like you have this together. I love your organization. Great post.

  8. Excellent guide for teachers who are guided reading shy. I get book sets from the public library or donors choose.

  9. Thank you for sharing! Great information for anyone doing guided reading!

  10. Wow! These were some informative tips! Thanks!!

  11. Great ideas to help me find resources for my little one. :)

  12. LOVE THIS! Thanks for making such an easy-to-read, step-by-step plan! Love that you said meeting everyday is "non-negotiable." I totally agree!

  13. Great Post! Thanks for the detailed explanation for Guided Reading. In my opinion Guided Read ing the best way to meet student needs> Thanks for sharing these SUPER plans and ideas!!

  14. Great information! Thank you for sharing! :)


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