6 Reliable Guided Reading Tips That Really Work!

| |

Guided Reading…When you’re new at it, it can be challenging. Even when you’re NOT new at it! We primary teachers are constantly looking for that secret guided read tip that will help our 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 reliable guided reading tips that have worked wonders for me…

Be Explicit About Your Guided Reading 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 this one here is a good thing to refer to often. Take a look at this blog post to see all the posters and How to Explicitly Teach Behaviors & Expectations in 1st grade!

Reward Them at the Reading Table

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 behavior 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 in guided reading tip #5.

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.

Have All Materials Readily Available

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

You should be able to quickly grab and teach!

Here are some great blogs to check out what materials I use and how I instruct my groups using this guided reading tip:


Use A Targeted Guided Reading Instruction

We just talked about having material readily available and organized, but targeted instruction is my most IMPORTANT guided reading tip to share because..

Targeted instruction works like this:

  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. Read all about how easy and effective it is to target your reading groups with our Targeted Guided Reading Plan HERE!

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)

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

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 REAL text. Here’s an easy way to 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: “Sound” and “Read”

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

Watch this quick 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. 

These Phonics Charts are a great activity to use this new technique!

Note: These prompts are taught early on in the year. Learn How to Easily Prompt and Guide Your Students Now!

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 guided reading tip 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, 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, and there is no wasted time while they complete their work on their own time.

Read ALL about this Must Do May Do Strategy HERE and please reach out with any questions!

I hope these 6 reliable guided reading tips start working for you as much as they do for me. If you have any questions please comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Click HERE to Follow my store and be the first to know about freebies and sales!

Similar Posts


  1. 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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *