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October 2, 2018

Guided Reading 101: Our Top 9 Tips 

By Scholastic Editors
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Teachers know first hand the benefits of guided reading. Students learn at different paces and absorb information in different manners. Organizing similar learners together in small groups allows teachers to use specific strategies helping each student advance at optimum levels. The trouble is carving out the time and that's where those teacher tricks come in handy.

    Start with this robust collection of guiding reading book lists — for every level — and read on for some of our favorite time-saving tips from seasoned teachers.

    1. Repurpose A Dish Rack

    A dish rack makes the perfect, inexpensive holder to sort all of my lessons for the week and any other materials my reading groups may need.

    Dish rack for guided reading organization

    "Guided Reading Organization Made Easy" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    2. Buy Your Books Pre-Leveled

    I love Guided Science Readers! They are a big collection of high-interest leveled readers that fit perfectly into my guided reading and leveled library. They are nonfiction which aligns perfectly with the Common Core State Standards and kids love reading about animals. There is an instant text-to-world connection and they are highly sought after as a result. 

    "Guided Reading: Part 2, Benefits of Small Group Instruction" Shari Carter, Kindergarten Teacher

    3. Create a Peel-Off Work Surface

    I use the traditional kidney-shaped table but cut roll paper to fit the tabletop every one to two weeks. Students do much of their written work on the paper, including word work. When one group leaves, their sheet is rolled away for the next group. 

    Guided reading table with paper cut outs for work

    "Guided Reading Organization Made Easy" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    4. Stock Your Stations With 5 Essential Tools

    Have these tools handy during guiding reading instruction:

    • Highlighters — Students use highlighters to highlight sight words and other key vocabulary words.
    • Pointers — Pointers help students track print throughout the text.
    • Dry Erase Boards and Markers — Students draw and write responses to various questions during guided reading lessons.
    • Whisper Phones — I have my students practice reading the text to themselves using whisper phones as I work with other students in the group. They love it!
    • Magnetic Letters and Board — Students use magnetic boards to spell sight words and do phonemic awareness activities. 

    "Guided Reading Tips and Strategies" Sharon Taylor, Kindergarten Teacher

    5. Use a Placemat to Group Your Readers

    Once I have about two-thirds of my students assessed, I begin placing them on the placemat below. This allows me to get an idea of how my groups are shaping up and at what levels my 4–5 groups will be taught. I try to get my lowest leveled groups started first while I finish assessing the remainder of my students. 

    All-in-One Guided Reading Toolkit

    "All-in-One Guided Reading Tool Kit" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    6. Use a Stuffed Toy to Help Emergent Readers  

    During guided reading, Miss Bindergarten becomes the "guide dog" who sits with the groups and lets students read and think with her. This puts students more at ease. During the first lesson, I say, "Miss Bindergarten and I are going to help you learn to read. We are going to have so much fun learning letters, sounds, and words!"

    GuideDog01

    "Guidelines and a Guide Dog for Guided Reading" Allie Magnuson

    7. Level Your Library With the Book Wizard

    For years, I have used Scholastic Book Wizard to level my books, but when Scholastic came out with the free Book Wizard mobile app, it was a total game changer for me! Instead of having to sit at my desk entering in titles, now I can walk around my classroom and scan each barcode with my phone.

    "Guided Reading: Part 1, Getting Set Up" Shari Carter, Kindergarten Teacher

    8. Start Your Groups Even Before Testing Ends

    • Do not wait to start your guided reading groups until everyone is tested.

    • When you have finished assessing the lowest 30 percent of your students, begin meeting with them in guided reading groups. Remember, your lowest students need you the most and they need you as early as possible.

    • Assess your remaining students over the next few weeks and start meeting with additional groups.

    Guided reading group

    "Tips for Getting Your Guided Reading Groups Started Quickly" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    9. Streamline Your Lessons With These Easy Strategies

    Using these guiding principals from literacy consultant Jan Richardson's video series, Next Step Guided Reading in Action: Grades 3 & Up, I've learned how to streamline my guided reading lessons so I'm able to meet with more groups more often.

    I stopped overplanning.

    It just wasn't possible for me to meet with each group three to four times a week and still conference with individual students. Now I meet with each group twice a week and check in with my two lowest groups a third time.

    I set a time limit.

    The length of my lessons was my biggest downfall. Now I break each guided reading lesson into two parts that last no more than 15–20 minutes. Less time with me means more time for them to practice their actual reading!

    I focus on only 1–2 teaching points per lesson.

    In the past I would let those teachable moments I hadn't planned for to take over. By staying focused on one to two points, my student leave the table with a much better idea of what they should be focusing on while they read.

    I double-dip.

    While students silently read the book, I listen in on one student at a time. I compliment him on something he did well and model a reading behavior that I then ask the student to repeat. This a double-dip because the other students reading at the table are also hearing and assimilating what I am saying.

    I use close reading strategies.

    I used to discuss the stories in-depth with students and then have them write out and share answers to comprehension question. Now, I use close reading strategies to focus and gather evidence of understanding from one small part of the text.  

    "Make Guided Reading Manageable" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

     

    Your Guides to Guided Reading

    The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

    Guided Reading in Action

    Guided Reading: Making it Work

    Guided Reading in Grades 3–6

        

    Books to Stock in Your Guided Reading Bins

    Check out these super comprehensive guided reading book lists that give you a wide variety of titles from reading levels A to Z!

    Teachers know first hand the benefits of guided reading. Students learn at different paces and absorb information in different manners. Organizing similar learners together in small groups allows teachers to use specific strategies helping each student advance at optimum levels. The trouble is carving out the time and that's where those teacher tricks come in handy.

    Start with this robust collection of guiding reading book lists — for every level — and read on for some of our favorite time-saving tips from seasoned teachers.

    1. Repurpose A Dish Rack

    A dish rack makes the perfect, inexpensive holder to sort all of my lessons for the week and any other materials my reading groups may need.

    Dish rack for guided reading organization

    "Guided Reading Organization Made Easy" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    2. Buy Your Books Pre-Leveled

    I love Guided Science Readers! They are a big collection of high-interest leveled readers that fit perfectly into my guided reading and leveled library. They are nonfiction which aligns perfectly with the Common Core State Standards and kids love reading about animals. There is an instant text-to-world connection and they are highly sought after as a result. 

    "Guided Reading: Part 2, Benefits of Small Group Instruction" Shari Carter, Kindergarten Teacher

    3. Create a Peel-Off Work Surface

    I use the traditional kidney-shaped table but cut roll paper to fit the tabletop every one to two weeks. Students do much of their written work on the paper, including word work. When one group leaves, their sheet is rolled away for the next group. 

    Guided reading table with paper cut outs for work

    "Guided Reading Organization Made Easy" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    4. Stock Your Stations With 5 Essential Tools

    Have these tools handy during guiding reading instruction:

    • Highlighters — Students use highlighters to highlight sight words and other key vocabulary words.
    • Pointers — Pointers help students track print throughout the text.
    • Dry Erase Boards and Markers — Students draw and write responses to various questions during guided reading lessons.
    • Whisper Phones — I have my students practice reading the text to themselves using whisper phones as I work with other students in the group. They love it!
    • Magnetic Letters and Board — Students use magnetic boards to spell sight words and do phonemic awareness activities. 

    "Guided Reading Tips and Strategies" Sharon Taylor, Kindergarten Teacher

    5. Use a Placemat to Group Your Readers

    Once I have about two-thirds of my students assessed, I begin placing them on the placemat below. This allows me to get an idea of how my groups are shaping up and at what levels my 4–5 groups will be taught. I try to get my lowest leveled groups started first while I finish assessing the remainder of my students. 

    All-in-One Guided Reading Toolkit

    "All-in-One Guided Reading Tool Kit" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    6. Use a Stuffed Toy to Help Emergent Readers  

    During guided reading, Miss Bindergarten becomes the "guide dog" who sits with the groups and lets students read and think with her. This puts students more at ease. During the first lesson, I say, "Miss Bindergarten and I are going to help you learn to read. We are going to have so much fun learning letters, sounds, and words!"

    GuideDog01

    "Guidelines and a Guide Dog for Guided Reading" Allie Magnuson

    7. Level Your Library With the Book Wizard

    For years, I have used Scholastic Book Wizard to level my books, but when Scholastic came out with the free Book Wizard mobile app, it was a total game changer for me! Instead of having to sit at my desk entering in titles, now I can walk around my classroom and scan each barcode with my phone.

    "Guided Reading: Part 1, Getting Set Up" Shari Carter, Kindergarten Teacher

    8. Start Your Groups Even Before Testing Ends

    • Do not wait to start your guided reading groups until everyone is tested.

    • When you have finished assessing the lowest 30 percent of your students, begin meeting with them in guided reading groups. Remember, your lowest students need you the most and they need you as early as possible.

    • Assess your remaining students over the next few weeks and start meeting with additional groups.

    Guided reading group

    "Tips for Getting Your Guided Reading Groups Started Quickly" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

    9. Streamline Your Lessons With These Easy Strategies

    Using these guiding principals from literacy consultant Jan Richardson's video series, Next Step Guided Reading in Action: Grades 3 & Up, I've learned how to streamline my guided reading lessons so I'm able to meet with more groups more often.

    I stopped overplanning.

    It just wasn't possible for me to meet with each group three to four times a week and still conference with individual students. Now I meet with each group twice a week and check in with my two lowest groups a third time.

    I set a time limit.

    The length of my lessons was my biggest downfall. Now I break each guided reading lesson into two parts that last no more than 15–20 minutes. Less time with me means more time for them to practice their actual reading!

    I focus on only 1–2 teaching points per lesson.

    In the past I would let those teachable moments I hadn't planned for to take over. By staying focused on one to two points, my student leave the table with a much better idea of what they should be focusing on while they read.

    I double-dip.

    While students silently read the book, I listen in on one student at a time. I compliment him on something he did well and model a reading behavior that I then ask the student to repeat. This a double-dip because the other students reading at the table are also hearing and assimilating what I am saying.

    I use close reading strategies.

    I used to discuss the stories in-depth with students and then have them write out and share answers to comprehension question. Now, I use close reading strategies to focus and gather evidence of understanding from one small part of the text.  

    "Make Guided Reading Manageable" Genia Connell, Third Grade Teacher

     

    Your Guides to Guided Reading

    The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

    Guided Reading in Action

    Guided Reading: Making it Work

    Guided Reading in Grades 3–6

        

    Books to Stock in Your Guided Reading Bins

    Check out these super comprehensive guided reading book lists that give you a wide variety of titles from reading levels A to Z!

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