6 Guided Reading Tips That Work!

Guided Reading.

When you’re new at it, it can be challenging. Even when you’re NOT new at it. Primary teachers are constantly looking for that secret that will help our guided reading groups run more smoothly.

We dream of having students who:

♥ Come to the table RIGHT when we call them

♥ Are ready to learn and not talk about how grandma is coming to visit

♥ Look at the teacher or point to the text

♥ Are excited to learn and meet their goals!

Well, I may not have all the answers, but I can give you a few tips that have worked wonders for me…

1. Be Explicit About Your Expectations

Never assume your students know what you expect during guided reading.

Tell them. 

Show them.

Model for them.

Praise and reward them.

Repeat the above often.

A visual like the one below is a good thing to refer to often.

Class Rules Posters and Activity Sheets

2. Reward Them!

The minute they see you are rewarding students for following your expectations during guided reading, they will sit up tall and try to impress.

I’m not talking about repeated trips to the treasure box. Keep it simple. I like to give tally marks each time I see students following the expectations listed on the poster. I tape down seasonal notepad papers where I can quickly give tallies.  Notice the notepad papers are alternately taped as apples and pumpkins. I will talk about that later.

The tallies look like this:


An alternative to this is to start each student with 5 tallies and the goal is to keep them. Either way, at the end of your group time, students with 5 tallies (or whatever number of tallies works for you) get to move their clip up. Here you could use whatever simple reward you use in your classroom. My students work hard to move their clips up on the clip chart so this works for me.

Something to note:

Don’t waste precious instruction time commenting each time you make a tally. Just give tallies when they are doing the right thing. They know what they are doing right. Other students see it too and will try to do the same. Make them responsible for their learning behaviors. Once in a while, it is important to comment on good behavior, but if there is too much teacher talk, you lose instruction time.

3. Have Everything Ready

As soon as you are searching for materials while students are ready at your table, you’ve lost them. The time you spend getting materials organized and ready is time very well spent.

Grab and teach!

Some materials I use during guided reading instruction:

Targeted Guided Reading Plan

Speed Drills for Blends Digraphs and Word Families

Speed Drills for Mixed Long and Short Vowel

Fry Word Speed Drills for All 1000 Sight Words

Dolch Word Speed Drills for All 220 Sight Words


4. Use Targeted Instruction

Not all students need to same instruction. Just like not all sick people need the same prescription from the doctor.

1. Test

2. Review the data

3. Determine your students’ individual literacy needs

4. Group them

5. Target instruction according to their needs

I use a Targeted Guided Reading Plan to help keep myself focused on each group’s needs:

When I target my instruction to their needs, it’s like writing a prescription…Just for them! So I’m careful to make sure what I plan is exactly what they need based on the testing data. If my testing data is not complete or doesn’t tell me what I need, then I need to find different testing materials. We use DIBELS testing, sight word testing, and comprehension testing that comes with our Houghton Mifflin Reading series. From this testing, I can determine their level for:

♥ Phonemic Awareness Skills

♥ Sight Words

♥ Word Attack Skills

♥ Blending Whole Words

♥ Automaticity with Blending certain sounds

♥ Reading Fluency

♥ Reading Sight Words in Text

♥ Long Vowels, Short Vowels, Blends, Digraphs, etc. within Text

♥ Retell

♥ Comprehension Skills

Here’s an example of targeting instruction. One of my groups is still working on Phonemic Awareness Skills. I have 4 small sticky notes taped down in the middle of my table that I use every day with them. This is noted in their Targeted Reading Plan.

I prompt with:

“Say trap.” (as I sweep under the 4 sticky note boxes)

(they say trap)

“Sound.” (they say the 4 sounds as I point to each box)

You may like:

Dolch Quick and Easy PowerPoint Test

Fry Word Quick and Easy PowerPoint Test

Targeted Guided Reading Plan

Blog Post: Targeted Guided Reading

5. Keep Teacher Voice to a Minimum

The more the teacher talks, the less time students have in text. That’s what we want, right? More time in text. Keep your prompts and instruction to a minimum.

Example 1:

Remember the apples and pumpkins I taped on the table? I use those to quickly call on students to read.

I say:

“Apples” or “Pumpkins” or “Girls” or “Boys”

And I do it quickly in a flow so their fingers don’t move from the text and 

they don’t even have time to look up at me.

The flow is important. Keep the flow going and keep them reading.

Example 2:

When we are reading from charts or focus boards, I give quick prompts like:



Quick prompts give more time for staying engaged with the lesson and less time to look away and get disengaged.

See 13 second video below of an example with a vowel discrimination lesson:

I use the same prompts when a word is missed while students are reading text. If there is hesitation before a word or a word is missed, I prompt with “Sound.” Students know they are to sound the word out. 

Note: These prompts are taught early on in the year.

You might like:

Speed Drills for Words With Long and Short Vowel Sounds

Speed Drills for Words With Blends, Digraphs and Word Families

All Drills

6. Use Must Do May Do Instead of Rotating Reading Centers

Don’t waste your precious guided reading instruction time with rotating centers. I’ve blogged about this a lot. That’s because I’m a  true believer in using every minute of guided reading instruction time to its fullest.

Stopping students from working at centers, or turning wheels or moving names on pocket charts is stopping the flow and wasting precious guided reading instruction time.

Keep them working at their seats and just call up your group. At each group’s table, have a list of Must Do Activities and May Do Activities and include all materials in a handy tub.

Students work through their differentiated materials while you are teaching.

No wasted time and they complete their work on their own time.

See this blog for more information about 

Must Do May Do HERE.

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  • Unknown January 10, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    I have been looking for an alternative to rotating my reading centers!! Last year was a breeze with rotations this year is quite different. So this weekend I guess I will be revamping my groups!! Fingers crossed for success!

  • Jennifer January 10, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    Which HP printwr do you own?

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    I am a newly retired first-grade teacher in the beautiful state of Colorado. I taught for 32 years (17 of those in 1st grade.) Watching my students learn and grow was such a blessing for me, and I'm excited to share what I've learned over the years with you. Read More

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