How to Guided Reading Lessons in 1-2-3

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Powerful and effective guided reading lessons are what every primary teacher strives to perfect. Over the years I learned that when I took the time to carefully target and plan my guided reading lessons with intention, my students’ scores soared. 

The process I used is quite simple:

  1. Assess
  2. Plan
  3. Instruct

I know. It’s not a big secret method. It’s what many of us already do. 

But in order for our guided reading lessons to be effective, each of the 3 steps must be intentionally completed.

Intentionally: purposefully, deliberately, with intention, knowingly, meaningfully

Please Note: This post will define and explain each step. Then look at the end of this post to find the link that will highlight each step in more detail!

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In order for your lessons to be planned and taught intentionally, you must first know the needs of your students. And those needs change as the year progresses.  

So periodic assessments are a must.

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Skills to Assess:

Not all students need all of the testing listed above. No one has that much time and your students would be overwhelmed.

So instead, teachers of young readers must establish a testing starting point. Many schools use DIBELS testing at the beginning of the year to establish a baseline for future testing and instruction. If this is not available, you might use a running record, assessments available through your reading specialist, or simply listen to each child read a grade-level passage. Struggling readers may need to start with phonemic awareness testing. Fluent readers may need to be tested on higher-level comprehension. 

Try our Targeted Phonics Assessments for K-2 here!

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If you’re looking for more options, check out our Targeted Guided Reading which includes phonics assessments above, sight word testing, running records, and more!

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You have your testing data, so now it’s time to intentionally group students and plan your lessons for 2 weeks.

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You need to group your students with similar needs/goals. Then list the targets for each student on a plan (of your own design or see below), the steps you will take during each lesson to reach those goals, and of course their names and assessment data.

This targeted plan will literally sit in front of you to guide your 2 weeks of lessons based on their needs each time you meet with that group. After 2 weeks, you reassess.

I’ve created a one-page fillable pdf guided reading plan to use for each small group. 

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But you get sooooo much more than just this guided reading form in our Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Resources. You get instructions for use, testing materials, planning materials, instruction suggestions based on students’ needs and goals, and much more. Not sure how to use everything in this bundle, read all about our targeted guided reading blog post!

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You have your testing data, your planning guide all typed up with targets for each group, your materials organized and ready, and now it’s time to instruct with intention. Grab those organized bins and go!

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If your assessment and your plans identify phonemic awareness skills and sight word fluency is lacking, then that will be a big part of your daily lessons. 

Example for Group needing Phonemic Awareness and Sight Word Fluency Skills: 

1. 2 mins. Start this group with a quick phonemic awareness activity using sound boxes.

2. 2-3 mins. Sight word speed drills using sight words for the week

3. 2-3 mins. Sound-by-sound word blending with vocabulary from text

4. 7-8 mins. Below level decodable reader work with decoding, sight word fluency practice and comprehension

See all posts broken down into the 3 main parts: 

Comment below with any questions and thanks for stopping by!


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