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Literacy Partners

4 Ways To Make the Most of Guided Reading

I distinctly remember attending my first guided reading professional development seminar. At the end of the session, the facilitators handed out a mock schedule for pulling groups so that all students could be seen at least twice a week during guided reading.

By the end of my third year using this schedule, I was exhausted. Worse, I wasn’t seeing the growth I knew my students needed. However, once I understood guided reading planning wasn’t a one-size fits endeavor, my groups felt so much more purposeful, and my readers actually started to grow.

As teachers, it can be tempting to focus on the number of groups we pull rather than the quality of strategies we teach.

This kind of urgency can make planning guided reading groups feel stressful and less targeted.

Here are 4 tips for planning guided reading groups to support your readers’ growth.

Not all students need regular guided reading.

  • Students reading at letter K and above can do without guided reading instruction. Instead, these students will benefit from strategy groups and one-on-one conferring to help advance their reading.
  • Students reading at or above grade level (but below level K) should be seen less frequently than their peers for guided reading.
  • Students reading at level C and below often need heavier scaffolding during small group time. Instead of guided reading, these students can benefit from a small group shared reading, in which the teacher guides the readers all the way through the text with specific skills in mind.

Think through routines and procedures to help groups run smoothly.

  • Ask yourself, what’s your ideal classroom environment during this time? Consider what you expect of the students who aren’t meeting with a guided reading group.
  • Identify what students should bring with them to the guided reading area. Here are a few examples of what students could bring:
    • Book baggies
    • Bookmark or reading log
    • Strategy cards you gave students during a conference or small group
    • A pen and stick notes
    • Reader’s response notebooks (third grade or higher)
  • Plan to stagger your students as they begin to read. This will help you listen in on each reader more clearly and avoid choral reading.

Always come in with a plan; don’t risk winging it.

  • Select book titles that will excite your readers and pique their interest.
    • If you’re unsure about what kinds of books your kids would enjoy or best respond to, try using a reading interest survey with your class.
  • Use a planning template for each guided reading lesson. It is important to have read the text thoroughly and internalized the…
    • Text structure
    • Tricky vocabulary
    • Comprehension skills needed to understand the text
  • When deciding which strategy to teach at the end of the lesson, consider which skills are essential for that particular reading level. Use Matching Books to Readers to support understanding each reading level’s needs.

Coach your readers to be independent; let them do the heavy lifting.

  • Focus your energy on coaching your readers to use strategies rather than focusing on a single book. It can be tempting to zoom into a book’s nitty-gritty plot points and forget about the transferability to other books.
  • While listening in to teach your readers, start with a low level of scaffolding, then add in more as needed.
    • For example, if you’re working with a level G book, you can start by prompting them to scoop up more words in each phrase. The next level of scaffolding would be to model how to scoop up words.
  • Use prompts such as “Try it again” and “Keep going” to provide scaffolds to your readers without hand-holding them.


As you dive into guided reading, here are some additional resources to support you:


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