June 6, 2013

Guided Reading Groups 101

If there is one subject I was completely unprepared to teach out of college, it was Guided Reading.  In fact, my student teaching cooperating teacher didn't even include guided reading groups as part of her literacy instruction--she was totally amazing, but guided just wasn't standard at her school!  Since starting teaching, guided reading is one of the areas that I have worked hard every year to develop and continue tweaking to fit the needs of my students.  It is always evolving in my classroom and is in no way perfect, but I feel it is one of my stronger subject areas as a teacher.  I've published several posts about my Daily 3 (modified Daily 5) structure and activities, but those have mostly focused on what the rest of the class is doing when I'm meeting with guided groups.  Last school year, I shared a post about some changes to my guided reading.  In the past two years, I have worked a lot of bugs out of my groups, and I'd like to share some details about how I create my groups, what I use for resources, how I plan for groups, and how I take data on my readers.

Guided Reading Space + Materials
Here is my guided reading space:
It's not super cute, but it works!  I use two trap tables pushed together instead of a bean table because they take up WAY less room, and I also think it's easier to lean across the table and listen to kiddos read.   The kids sit on little stools I got from Ikea--WAY easier to squeeze them in there on stools instead of chairs!  For a minute two summers ago during the big Crate Seat Craze I considered making those, then decided they were too much work and went shopping.  These babies were super cheap anyways.  The tables are arranged in front of a white board so I can write the group's "Focus Question" and stopping point on the board--saves a lot of, "What page am I supposed to stop on?" annoyances during the group!  I also have a whole bunch of pens, highlighters, markers, post-its, and index cards available in the little bins on the table, my little bell, and of course the books.  I also have these little "I'm Finished!" cards taped on the table:
Here's my guided reading binder:
I got the cover on TPT last year as a free download from "A Modern Teacher."  Pretty!  My guided binder holds a few things: a break down of who is in which group currently, resources about guided reading levels and questioning, lesson plans, and data sheets for each kid.
Creating Guided Reading Groups
Sorry about the blurrines, but I am super paranoid about sharing anything with kids' names, even first names.
I create my groups in fall using Fountas & Pinnell testing and occasionally MAP test data, but mainly F&P.  This year I ended up with way more groups than I would usually prefer, but it's just what had to happen.  I try to have a range of just 2 levels per group, maybe 3 if I have to.  During the year, I update their F&P level based on informal data taken during guided (more on that in a minute).  I DO NOT F&P test the kids all year long.  Who has that kind of time???  I move their level if I note in my data that they have been super successful at a particular level and are ready to be pushed up.  I am pretty fierce about monitoring their levels and pushing kids up all year--in the past I have let kids get "stuck" in approaching text just because I didn't know any better.  Now I really try to push them into harder texts and scaffold; usually the kids will step it up after a week or so.

Guided Reading Structure
I plan to do a second post that gives a detailed description of how I run Daily 3 down to the minute, but I'll give the basics now.  This school year I had a full hour in my schedule for guided reading time and was able to meet with 3 groups a day.  I also had an ELL teacher for guided support for 2 of those rotations, so collectively we were able to see 5 groups per day.  I try to see the needier groups first for about 20 minutes each and save the last 15 minutes or so for one of my groups of higher readers who need a little less time for building background and support.

Here is an example of my plans:
I simplified them quite a bit from the version in this post from last school year, and this template worked great for me.  Here's the breakdown of how I try to allocate those minutes for guided:
  • 2-3 min: Build Background, introduce skill, review objectives and sentence frame
  • 1-2 min: Set purpose for reading with a "focus question" and assign chapters to read (write this question on the white board)
  • 10-12 min: Students read assigned chapters.  I conference with 2 students to listen to their reading and take data on fluency/accuracy as well as comprehension.  After reading, students respond to focus questions and complete "I'm Finished" activities--see above picture.
  • 3-5 min: Discuss responses as a group or with turn & talk partners.  Make predictions for tomorrow, fill out graphic organizer if using one for this week's skill.
I typically read two books per week with the groups I see every day and one book per week with the kids I see 2-3 times a week.  I use our series's (Treasures) Leveled Readers, books from our school book room, and Reading A-Z printable leveled books.  

The back chunk of my guided reading binder is divided up by each guided group.  I always let them choose their own group names and change them midyear if they want. In each section, each student has a data sheet with spots on front and back for 4 total conferences.  Once their sheet is filled, I file it and start a new one.
As I said earlier, during each rotation I try to conference with two students.  I will take an informal running record to gather fluency data while they are reading and also take data on their accuracy with answering comprehension questions.  I will give them an overall comprehension "rating" and write down any other relevant notes about things I am seeing.  When I'm writing down comprehension info, I try to at least indicate what type of questions I'm asking, whether it's a skill like inferential, main idea, cause and effect, or a level of Blooms like synthesize, evaluate, or simply a right there or summarize question.  If I have time or if it were an especially tricky question that the student struggled with, I will write down the whole question, but I don't usually have time for that.
As I said earlier, I use this data when I'm updating students' instructional reading levels and moving them between groups.  I am a big proponent of sharing data with the students.  If I notice a pattern in fluency errors, I will share it with the student.  Before listening to a student read, I may show them on their sheet what we were working on last time.  Every one of my students knows their instructional level and knows where they need to be to be at grade level.  They get so excited when they see that they have moved up a level!

 You can now download a pack of my Guided Reading templates for FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers!  All I ask is that you pay it forward and share the awesome resources you create with the teachers in your life!

Tell me about your guided reading structure!


  1. Thanks so much for this! Guided reading is by far my weakest area...I moved from Grade 8 to 3 and have been flying by the seat of my pants. This will totally help.

    Thinking of Teaching

  2. Love this! I've been feeling a little lost with Guided Reading/Reading Groups lately, so this is super helpful!

  3. How ironic! We both suffer from ITBS and teach 5th grade Reading! What reading series are you guys using? We're adopting a new series this year, so I'll be starting all over with files, even though I've only been teaching 5th grade for 2 years. We'll definitely have to swap some ideas.

    1. Hi Jennifer! I actually moved to 3rd/4th multiage this year--haven't gotten around to making a new header yet, oops! But I did teach 5th grade for 3 years. Would love to swap ideas! I use Treasures at my school--it's decent for a series!

    2. I taught 4th grade for 11 years and 5th the past 2. We used Harcourt Trophies, but are changing to Reading Street.

  4. Thanks for this!! This is fabulous!!

  5. I know as a sixth year teacher, I still feel that guided reading is my weakest area. Not helped by the fact that I have taught K for 5 years and am now going to 3rd I am lost! Thanks so much for giving me a starting point!

  6. Your blog is saving my sanity! I have been clicking through your posts... I am a fifth grade teacher (starting my 3rd year), but this is my first year implementing the Daily 5 (or 3, or 4, or 6... AH). I feel like every question I've had in my brain has been answered by your ideas and examples! Thank you so much for the awesome posts! Will definitely be using some of your ideas and materials :)


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