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  • Writer's pictureSaresha Zentner

How to Easily Implement Small Group Guided Reading into Your Classroom

Are you starting to realize that teaching reading whole-group isn't the best fit for all students? I remember my first few years of teaching when we did whole group reading. It seemed like the stories and activities were too easy for some of my students and too hard for some. There were only a few students who were appropriately challenged by the content.

When we started small group reading instruction, it was a hard transition for me, but I knew that it would make a bigger impact on more of my students than whole group instruction was.

Here are some tips to make the transition to small group guided reading instruction. It won't be perfect, but that's okay. Spending time listening to your students read and conferring with them about the text is the most important part!

What are other students doing while you are doing small group guided reading?

During this time, students are working on other literacy activities. I usually have an independent word work/spelling activity for them to work on based on our words for the week. Students also can work on writing, independent reading, typing practice, writing about something they've read, or listening to reading. I try to give my students (4th grade) at least 20 minutes of independent reading time.

Sometimes I will add in a more fun reading activity by letting students explore a website and then writing a reflection about it. My students have liked and in past years!

How long is each activity?

About 15-20 minutes. You can see my example schedule below to get an idea of what has worked well in my classroom.

How are students grouped?

I group students by Guided Reading level. You can use another assessment as well. Students are grouped with other students who can read text at similar complexities.

If your school doesn’t have anything like this, check out this free online text leveling assessment.

How do you pick which book works for a skill or standard?

It takes practice. I read through the book and look for what I want students to be able to learn.

Sometimes, if I can’t find one, I will try to find articles or stories online to print.

Websites That I Like:

What skills do you teach during guided reading?

I teach all of the comprehension skills. I try to alternate each week between fiction and nonfiction based on the skills. I also look at my standards and determine what students need to work on to master those.

Some examples are: Answering Questions based on a text, Finding Main Idea and Details, Summarizing, Draw Conclusions, Make Predictions, Finding Cause and Effect, Author's Purpose, etc.

I also try to incorporate these important skills each week during guided reading:

Determining the Genre

Finding the Meaning of New Words

Setting, Characters, Problem, Solution


How long does it take to get through one book? What if 5 days isn't enough time?

That is okay! This definitely happens to me too. Use your teacher judgement. If one book/lesson takes 7 days, then that is fine! I would rather teach a skill in depth and know my students understand it rather than rush to the next thing.

Some shorter books and articles will only take 5 days. Some stories have taken my students 10 days!

How do I know if students are ready to move on to the next skill?

I use proficiency scales (like a rubric) to determine each student's level of proficiency. If the group is mostly at a 2 or lower, I would pick another book and practice this skill again. If most of the group is at a 3 or higher, I would move on.

There will always be students who don’t understand the concept right away. I make note of these students and continue to support them on this skill moving forward. This can look like reteaching the skill, practicing with them, and asking them these types of questions going forward until they show understanding.

One thing that has made planning for guided reading so much easier for me is creating these guided reading pages for my students that can be used with any text. They have been lifesavers!

What's included in each guided reading unit?

Each one has specific questions and prompts for that skill. I used to spend my nights and weekends reading through texts and coming up with question and writing prompts. Now, I know that the questions and prompts in these packets can go with any text!

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