I get a lot of questions about how to run guided reading lessons, and I could share exactly how I structure my lessons, but to be frank, there is no ONE perfect way to run all guided reading lessons. If you observed every primary classroom in your school during guided reading time, you would probably see vast differences in approaches, strategies, methods, materials used, and personalities while teaching. You can’t be me and I can’t be you. But we can learn best practices from each other, and that is what my focus is for this post. So I’ve narrowed it down to my 4 Must-Dos when it comes to teaching Guided Reading for any student at any level.
1. Target your instruction to your student needs
If you know me, you know this is a biggie for me. Guided reading lessons must be targeted to the needs of the students you have in front of you. Not all guided reading lessons should look the same. Just like the treatment prescribed by a doctor should be targeted to the specific health needs of the patient. Not everyone should be treated for appendicitis. (Wait, it’s just a sore throat!)
For example, not all students need to practice sight words. If a student is reading fluently and has demonstrated that all assigned words have been mastered, then don’t waste precious time reviewing them. Does each student know all their sounds? Maybe you have documented last week that one group is struggling with long/short vowel discrimination. Perhaps another group needs more work with phonemic awareness activities. And another group is ready for more challenging prefix/suffix skill work along with more rigorous comprehension activities. This requires close daily observation, note taking, progress monitoring once or twice a month that includes sight word testing, sounds testing, fluency testing, word decoding and blending. We use DIBELS testing along with sight word and sounds testing. Using this information along with our daily observations in small groups, I target our instruction using this best-selling program: Targeted Guided Reading Plan for K-2 (Also Targeted Guided Reading Plan for 3-5 and Targeted Guided Reading K-5 Bundle.
Once every 2 weeks, I create a new plan. I record names and the target(s) for each group using the plan below.
Then I use the included Targeted Guided Reading Suggested Activities Flip Books to select activities that will help meet my students’ needs. (If flip books aren’t your thing, no worries…All of the information included in the flip books are also included in easy to follow full sheets that are easy to store in binders.)
Read in greater detail about Targeted Guided Reading HERE.
Need more information on planning guided reading? Click here for more!
2. Use every minute of your guided reading time wisely
You probably only have 15-20 minutes each day to meet with each guided reading group. In order for students to make the reading growth necessary, we have to use every minute.
There’s no time to search for those white boards or markers. All materials need to be ready to grab and this requires planning. Once the Targeted Guided Reading Plan is in place, you can select activities and materials needed. Have them ready to grab.
Keep somewhat of a routine for each group so students are ready for the next activity and they know what your expectations are. If you change up your activities too often, you are constantly spending time explaining what they need to do and answering questions. Keep activities simple and routine.
Write down in your guided reading plans exactly how much time you are allotting for each activity so you can stay on target for time.
Make sure the other kids are doing what they are supposed to do and that transitions to the table and to their centers are smooth. Keep activities simple to follow and again, somewhat routine. My Must-Do, May-Do System (instead of rotating reading centers) works great! Read about it HERE.
3. Keep the teacher talk to a minimum
Yes, you need to teach. But often, less is more when it comes to teacher talk. You are guiding them to read, so let them do the work and guide them without too many interruptions and long instructions/verbal lessons.
- point to a missed word to indicate a mistake
- prompt students who pause before challenging words with one word: “sound” to remind them to sound it out
- prompt students who pause before sight words with “sight word” to remind them it is a word they need to know by sight
- listen to each student read several times with quiet prompts so you are not interrupting their flow
(The video at the end of this post has great modeling of quiet listening and prompting from the teacher among many other things!)
4. Keep your activities engaging and research-based
There are so many fun sight word activities out there! But are they all the most effective for your students? Make sure you are using activities that are 1. going to meet your targeted goals and 2. that are engaging and help to reach different types of learners.
If all you do is flash sight words at your students, you may not be reaching all of your different learners.
Try a couple different approaches:
- sight word flash cards
- dictating sight words (paper or white boards)
- read, spell, read sight words
- building sight words (see 16:00 on video)
- focus on a few weekly sight words
- sight word focus boards or drills (example HERE)
This video demonstrates most of the points I have made above. She makes smooth transitions from one activity to the next and keeps students engaged, she has everything ready so no time is wasted, she uses a variety of strategies to teach sight words, students know exactly how to do each task, she quietly listens to each student and gives quick feedback, she takes notes as they read, and so much more. See what you think:
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