Guided reading. Many teachers hear those words and instantly start to sweat. How do I do it? How long should my lessons last? How do I group students? Do I need to meet with them individually? These and many other questions go through the minds of teachers everyone. But guided reading does not have to be difficult. Read on to see the tips, strategies, and ideas that I’ve successfully used in my classroom and small groups to run guided reading successfully.
So let me tell you a little background about myself… when I first got out of college, I started subbing immediately. I was mainly in one school (this is where I did my student teaching). After subbing for half a year, I was blessed to be offered an interview. Funny thing is, I didn’t really know it was an interview. I was teaching summer school and the principal asked if I was interested in a part time third grade reading position. I told her that I absolutely was and she said “Great, I’ll come in and talk to you about it tomorrow.” I had absolutely no idea that it was going to be an actual interview. At least I didn’t have a chance to get super nervous!
So, it went something like this…
Principal: What is your favorite subject?
Me: Math, I have always loved math growing up and love solving problems.
Principal: How do you feel about teaching reading?
Me: Reading has always been one of my weaknesses. I don’t really enjoy reading myself.
Principal: How would you use core books to help teach reading?
Me: (this is what I was thinking) What in the world are core books? (I have no idea how I actually responded to this question.)
Oh my… after this conversation- she actually hired me! She assured me that she too always loved math in school and now teaching reading was fascinating to her and she felt that I would feel the same after some time.
WOW- she hit it right on the nose!
Thanks to her and our school district, I feel lucky to have had some fabulous training by first 5 years of teaching. I was trained in Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative. Through Literacy Collaborative, I had the luxury of having a literacy coach by my side whenever I needed her. I have learned a lot about teaching young children how to learn to read and she was absolutely right- I LOVE IT and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Now, I know this post is supposed to be about Guided Reading (sorry I’ve been babbling so much). Currently, I teach Title I Reading and Math for first grade students. I essentially teach 6 guided reading groups everyday.
Here are some quick little pointers from me to make sure that you keep in mind when you are doing your Guided Reading groups. (Please know that these are my opinions and I’m sure others may feel differently on some of the items).
Guided Reading Tips
- When setting up your guided reading groups, you want to find the instructional reading level of your students. This would be reading accuracy of 90-94% with acceptable comprehension and fluency. It’s great if you can use a benchmark system. We use Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark System.
- Your guided reading groups should last about 20 minutes. If you teach kindergarten and are working at lower levels, it may not be as long. If you are teaching first or second, it might be a little longer depending on the reading level.
- I always start out with a reading of the book that we read the previous lesson (their second read of that book). Sometimes I will take an informal running record or I will just listen in to each student as they are reading.
- I have, for the past 12 years, religiously done the new book last. This year, I have not. I have done the new book first. I LOVE this change. Many times, I would run out of time and not get to the comprehension part of reading the book. I really wanted to make sure that I have been hitting the comprehension (mainly inferencing) hard this year. This is definitely the change I needed. I introduce the new book. Then, each student reads the book, with whisper voices, independently. I feel it is extremely important that every child is reading every word in the book (no round robin reading etc.). I then listen in. Doing the new book before any word work has allowed me to dive much deeper with comprehension this year.
- Then I get to the word work. I have the luxury of having 30 minutes with the kids so I can spend more time on word work (which my kiddos desperately need). I try to make it fun and we play a lot of word games and do a lot of fun activities.
My message here to you is to do what works for you and your kiddos – it may change from year to year depending on the needs of your students. Don’t be afraid of guided reading or that you are doing it wrong- the more books (at the students instructional level) that you can get into their hands- the better:)
I have a freebie guided reading lesson plan sheet for you. I also included a chart that you can use with your students before the start of your guided reading group. This allows the teacher to know what the focus of the lesson is going to be as well as the expectations for the students. I simply laminate it and use a dry erase marker so that it can be used over and over again. Here are some pictures of what is included:
I have also made some very detailed Guided Reading Lesson Plans. These plans are for levels A-N (Fountas and Pinnell leveling system). I have included word work ideas, before reading, during reading (strategies to teach), and after reading (comprehension) ideas to help you plan for your groups. This has been an amazing help to me. You can click on the pictures to check it out.
You can see all of my guided reading lessons for primary grades by clicking here.