Guided Reading

****NEW as of January 28, 2007****       

When I first started this site I wrote about how I organized my reading block.  Last year I reflected upon what I did and wrote about the changes I intended to make to improve reading instruction.   It is now reflection time about what worked and what did not work. I did change some things this school year and would like to make some more changes.  I will write about those here!


What Is Guided Reading? 


 What Are the Other Kids Doing?

 Planning for Reading Groups

 Starting Guided Reading

Guided Reading Activities That Teach

What Does the Teacher Need for Guided Reading Lessons?

Leveled Book Lists

What Is Guided Reading?


If you are new to Guided Reading and are unsure of exactly what it is I suggest you try to get your hands on a copy of this book.

Most people consider this book to  be the "bible" to Guided Reading.  It is VERY thick and long, but has many, many clear ideas of how to implement Guided Reading in the classroom.


This is my definition of guided reading:


Guided Reading is meeting in small flexible homogenous grouping to work on a reading passage or skills.  Students meet in small groups (if possible, 6 or less) and tackle common text or skill.  These groups are not static and children move within these groups based on their reading level or needs. It is important that students are place in a group where they will have a maximum potential for reading success.  When planning my guided reading groups, I think before (preview and activation of background and vocabulary), during ( tackling the text and/or skills) and after( assessment, reflection and sharing).


    The problem most teachers have is not WHAT to do in guided reading, but rather what to do with everyone ELSE!  Hopefully, this page will give your some options of how to manage guided reading.



For more information about using Guided Reading in the classroom check out these links


Although I would not consider some of these videos to be guided reading videos, I do see these videos as being good models for teaching some really good reading strategies and management ideas.  Here are some free movies to watch of other teachers teaching reading.



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Updated 7/07-

This year I kept my schedule pretty simple.  I taught a combination of whole group and small group reading.  I began teaching in whole group and then we divided into our smaller guided reading groups.  Here is an example of my daily literacy schedule schedule.  It is NOT perfect and I was really TIGHT on time, but here it is:


11:55-12:15 Spelling or Grammar Lesson
12:15-1:25 Lunch and Recess
1:25-1:35 As students came in from recess they pulled out their DEAR time books and read.  This was a routine and it was expected that students come in and get ready to read. Students enjoyed having the chance to get settle before "teaching" began.
1:35-1:55 Whole Group Mini Lesson.  These were skills based or comprehension based.  Click here to read more about mini lessons.
1:55-2:40 Guided Reading Groups-I met with my lowest group first and then met with a second group.  Students not in guided reading groups continued to DEAR time read or complete an assigned activity.
2:40-2:50 Writing mini lesson
2:50-3:10 Writing Workshop


I will continue to start with whole group and then break into small group because I like the flow and it helps me manage my time (I tend to make my mini lessons maxi lessons if I know I don't have to do GR (Guided Reading) right after!!!).  Also, I can build upon what we just discussed in the whole group during my guided reading lessons.


This is the first year when I have been able to set up a daily schedule for reading groups.  Generally, I just alternate days to make sure I see each group.  For some reason, it has all just fallen in place this year where I can have a weekly schedule.


For a printable version of this schedule in Word, click here.


I am currently working on my long range plans and what I intend to teach when as far as my mini lessons go.  This is a working version of my long range plans.  It is only September and I am already a little off ( I am just beginning connections!).  I will make it work the best that I can.



Printable Version of Long Range Plans in Word




        This year I did mix  whole group with small group, but as the year progressed I tended to go with small groups.  This was because I really felt my students were sky rocketing with the small group instruction and I could more easily identify their needs with in a small group setting.


         Another reason I abandoned this was because simple I was able to.  I have been teaching three and a half years.  This was the first years when I really felt I could reach back in some files and find what I have done in years past and use it.  Planning six or seven reading groups (total groups for my homeroom and my teammates) was no big deal because I could recycle some of my old lesson plans.  Also, more students were on similar levels so I was able to use books for both classes (my middle groups were both reading the same story).


        Finally, I abandoned it because I realized I am just not one of those teachers who follows a rigid schedule well.  I have a hard time saying,  "Okay week one, I have start whole group!"  Especially when I found something I just knew my kids loved or they were requesting books.



Guided Reading Groups Weekly Schedule











Medium 1


Medium 2

Medium 1

Medium 2


Catch Up Day


    This is a copy of my original weekly plan.  This got tossed as well.  Why?  Well, after I tried this and I felt guilty, I knew I had to change.   I felt guilty because I felt I was short changing the higher students.  These students deserve a years worth of growth also and by seeing them *maybe* twice a week I couldn't guarantee that I was giving it to them.  So I simply did a rotation and put them in.  I saw my lowest kids the most often (still, this did not change.  They were the group I always met with first) and then rotated through the other groups.  The way I managed this was NOT to evenly split group times.  I had always met with each group for twenty five-thirty minutes apiece.  Well I always meet with my lowest of the groups I intend on meeting with first.  I meet with them about thirty or thirty five minutes.  Then I meet with the higher of the groups second for about fifteen or twenty minutes.  Yes, shorter time, but these kids can move through things quickly (and most actually prefer it- mine got bored quick!).



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Here is some powerful research.  Check this out to see why I do WHAT I do.


Percentile Rank

Minutes per day

Words Read per Year





























































Anderson, Richard C.

Wilson P.T.

Fielding, L.G.

Growth in Reading and how Children Spend Their Time Outside of School, 1988 Reading Research Quarterly, #23, pp.285-303


       This information is  from the book Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy by Irene C Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, 2001 pp 43.


         I have tried to do centers that are all literature based.  However, I read a book called The Reading Essentials by Regie Routman. This book really changed my view of reading and centers.  According to the book, while centers help improve skills, students need to opportunity to READ and apply all the strategies we are teaching them.  Click here to read more about this book or on the cover below.

    As more and more students are entering upper grades with limited reading success, we have to provide more opportunities to read.  Unfortunately, students do not read as often, or as "richly" as we would like at home. 

     After digesting this book I really thought about what I want children to walk away with most from my class.  I want children to walk out of my class with a love for books and reading.  If I achieve this, then I am happy.  


        I have not changed much this year about what students do while I am meeting in small groups. I just want them reading! I have felt that this was actually the MOST successful part of my reading class!  So after that long drawn out paragraph.  Here is where I get into the good stuff: what ARE those other kids doing while I am meeting in small groups?


        Students who are not meeting in groups with me are either rereading the text (to increase fluency), finishing a skill from their group (this is what I often grade), listening to a book of choice on tape (increase fluency and increasing sight words, etc.), writing in their writers notebooks or READING.  They are reading either in the room or in the library.  Students are able to go to the library once a week in their small reading groups on their own and choose books and hang out and browse in the library.  They can read magazines, take AR tests or check out books or read.   It may sound like a lot is going on, but it is not. 


Update 7/06- This is an area that I am going to change.  I had a group this year that simply could not manage going to the library.  It was WAY too much for them and I am not sure if the time was used as wisely I would have liked.  This is the one change I want to make.  I will keep the other activities, as I saw the benefits of them. I am tinkering with the idea of the letting a different group every day have game time.  I am still not sure about this.  The idea of "game time" makes me VERY hesitant due to noise level and on task behavior. The "games" would actually be games we had played as a class to practice a skill or comprehension. You can find examples of these games on my centers page.  If a student is not on task or is too loud, they just don't get to play.  I am NOT sure if I want to do this yet.


I am also considering just making it extra DEAR time for students.  I am creating a "new" reading incentive plan that I may tie into this extra DEAR time. 


Another idea or choice I am playing with is doing some kind of buddy reading program.  This is what I am REALLY learning toward.  Last year I had my very high readers (two or more YEARS above grade level) met with a partner or a set of three students.  The students all chose one book and then met together in informal literature circles.  Once a week, students wrote letters to me detailing what they were reading and also what they discussed.  The kids loved this and SEVERAL of the kids wanted to take part. After surfing the 'net for awhile I ran across this AWESOME teacher's site.  She actually teaches third grade.  I LOVE her idea for reading partnerships.  I like the idea of students participating in reading partnerships or reading "buddies."  This would take a good bit of modeling during the beginning of the school year, but I think by the second quarter students could be completing these independently when not in guided reading groups.  One thing that will be tricky is keeping these reading partnerships/ buddies flexible.  I don't want students to be confined to being able to choose buddies (or the teacher choosing) by guided reading groups.  I would like these to be more flexible and tiered by interests.



This year I am teaching a group of children unlike any other group I have ever taught.  For the most part, the abilities  are pretty wide spread between the two classes, and even within the same class!  So, I am trying to reinvent my reading block to match the needs of my students.  I have include ideas for differentiation of guided reading activities on the following pages:


Supporting On and Above Grade Level Readers

Supporting Below Grade Level Readers



Here is a brief example of what my class looks like during reading time:



What Are We Doing?

12:55-1:05 DEAR Time
1:05-1:12 I have a brief mini lesson.  (To read more about these click here)

I make an announcement of what we are doing. This is written on the board.  Click here for a picture of the board.

"Group One it is your Library Day. Meet me at the front door.


Group Two we will be meeting first at table one

Group Three we will be meeting second at table two.  Reread text until we last stopped at chapter 3.


Group Four it is your DEAR time day.  You may read or write anywhere in the room."


While I meet with the library group at the front door other groups are getting reading baskets (magazine file folder boxes that contain the guided reading books for that group and each students folder) and taking materials to the table I have announced (Students do not come to a reading table.  It wastes time.  Instead they move once at the beginning of class and once at the end and I move to where THEY are. Saves time.) Library group has to each tell me their goal for the day: Check out a new book, read this book (have to show me the book), work on their story, read a magazine, take an AR test over _____ book. They are out the door and know to come back at 1:55.


I count down from 10 to 0.  When I am at 0 all students still in classroom are doing their activity I assigned.

1:15-1:40 Meet with my first group.  This is usually the lowest of the two groups I will be meeting with that day.  We talk about the book and I set up what we will be reading today (and do a typical guided reading lesson). 

 Students then silently read an assigned part of the book until I sit next to them.  Then they read aloud.  I take notes on my clipboard. On this clipboard I have sheets of Avery labels.  Click here to see what I mean.   When I have time I peel the stickers off and put in their file I keep in my room.  Instant anecdotal notes.

I either leave students with a task or they read.

1:40-1:55 Meet with group two.  By now they are reading and I have to interrupt their reading (They may moan and groan, but I love that they do this!  It is amazing to see non-readers in the beginning of the school year actually asking to finish the page) and repeat the above.
1:55 Library Group enters the room.  They know to sit on the floor near the door and read the book they checked out or took to the library or share with a friend (magazine or such) until I announce that we need to find our way back to our seats.
1:58 I announce to the class it is time to get out writers notebooks for writing time.  I count down from 10 and ask students to take their belongings to their "regular seat" in the room, put away reading baskets, and take out writers notebooks.
2:00 We are ready for writing.

     Updated7/06-So what about Fridays?  I use this as our "break day."  Students have longer DEAR time (which believe it or not they love) and I have time to read aloud more from our latest book. 

Then we rearrange the room for Readers Theater. Students perform a Readers Theater every other week.  Scripts are randomly passed out on Mondays and students practice their part every night for homework and we present on Fridays. You can read more about how I use Readers Theaters in my classroom here.

Then we go to the library for a whole group check out.  Students have to approve books by me in the beginning of the year.  As the year progresses, I wean them so they make appropriate choices themselves by going over and over the five finger rule. 


Updated 7/06- This year I tried something new this year rather than the picture below to let kids know what we would be doing in guided reading groups for that day,  I wanted some kind of poster to let kids know  what and where their guided reading group would be in the next few DAYS.  This helped me in my own planning and forced me to stay more organized and "on top" of things!

I took my planning page that I use to plan for guided reading and drew it on a piece of 11 X 18 white construction paper.  I laminated it and then put magnets on the back.  You can print a version here on legal size paper here. I went ahead wrote down what group I would be meeting with and when. At the end of reading I would check it off so students could keep up with where we were. If for some unexpected reason we didn't have guided reading and I had planned that we would (you know how "stuff" comes up...sigh) I would not check it off and we would pick up the next day where we left off.  it was great because it took the responsibility off of ME to tell kids what and where they would be...they know to look!

PS- I didn't come up with the idea, just the planning sheet.  I shared it with my coworkers and one of them came up with this idea!  Ingenious!!

I will post an image soon!



Update 06/07

This is a website that is actually devoted to primary grades.  However, on this site, there is a link to printable ideas for centers in a second of third grade classroom.  This might be a good place to get ideas if you choose to do centers. Also check out my free, printable center page for other free centers. 

Since I do not use centers during guided reading, I have NO idea how to manage them.  I am sorry!  Ms. Powell does have some great management ideas during centers, so you might want to check her site out.


This picture illustrates how students know what they need to be doing during Guided Reading.  I used Word Art and Clip art to create a picture for each group.  Then I mounted the pictures on construction paper and laminated them.  The last step was the put magnetic strips on the back.  I put the pictures on my white board (which is magnetic)  and write daily what each group will be doing.  I simple erase it and rewrite for the next day.  Very simple when I need to give a few different directions.

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           The planning I originally did  worked for most of the year.  However, sometimes I found myself "forcing" a skill that did not naturally fit the book.  Or trying to teach WAY TOO much in one book and dragging it out forever. did I try to fix this? I mixed my old and new.  I still tried to find one main skill for all the groups (old) and added in mini lessons.  In order to teach all those skills that the basal covers so wonderful I did MINI LESSONS!  Not a new concept, but it works for me. 

         So how does it all work?  What I did was choose one skill I wanted students to learn.  For example, identifying fact and opinion.  I spent a week on the skill about seven to ten minutes a day.  Usually the first day I introduced the skill.  I might use a picture book.  The second day we might play a game using the skill.  The third day we would find another way to cover it (my mind is blank right now!).  Usually the fourth day I would use a sheet from the basal practice book as practice. Good old pencil paper practice.  Then the fifth (give or take) day I would use another sheet from the basal to assess the skill.  Our basal (Scott Foresman) is set up very well so that skills are recycled many times.  They would have several practice sheets and then a review page.  The practice sheet would be a practice and the review page would be a quiz.

         Next year NOT all of my mini lesson will be skills based.  I will be adding in the adding in the ideas from Strategies that Work and Mosaic of Thought.  I have been adding to the mini lessons page.  So far I have Questioning completed.  I am currently working on Making Connections and Inferences.    


     Updated 7/06 - When I plan for a guided reading text, first I try to find a text that  matches students reading level. Sometimes I will have ALL the guided reading books for ALL groups be a specific genre.  For example, I do a study of biographies and this year each guided reading group was reading a biography while we studied context clues using a big book about the life of Beatrix Potter. 

     After choosing the book I read it and and look for any big ideas that I might want to cover.  For example, some books might be great for using picture clues to infer or prediction.  Others  use specifically for using character's emotions to infer plot and motive.  Then I use my small group planning form to write my lesson plan for each book.  Yes, I write a lesson plan PER GR book because I save them year after year and it helps me keep track of what I have done in each group.  I approach guided reading planning in this manner:

Before- activating background information and learning new vocabulary

During- comprehending text, using reading strategies learned in whole group mini lessons

After- summarizing, seeing the "big picture,"  responding to literature.

Click on each section to see activities I do in guided reading groups (I picked these up from colleagues or workshops.  none of these are my own creation.  I am not that creative!!!)


  Here are the planning sheets that I did use for each GR group and I found very useful. Click here to see other planning sheets.

Guided Reading Group Plans

Example of Guided Reading Group Plan


This is a tricky area and many people have many different views of how to start guided reading in the classroom.  I like to view more as setting up our reading "plan" or reading workshop (although I do not subscribe to this method completely).  I find it easier to start setting up guided reading and my reading workshop in general in the beginning of the year.  This is because I am setting up my entire reading workshop/ reading block.

Things I consider:

What will my schedule be?

What will the other students be doing?


It takes me a good long while before we area ready to start guided reading.  I am anticipating starting the about the fifth week of school this year.  So what am I doing the first month of school?  The first week of school is pretty much getting to know you activities and team building activities.  I rarely start on academics the first week.  Then the second, third and fourth week of school I am laying the ground work for guided reading.  Since students will generally be independently reading while I conduct guided reading groups (I will introduce reading partnerships later in the school year), I spend most of this time building up their reading "stamina."  Most kids simply aren't able to read 30-45 minutes independently and I use this time to build them up.


To structure this I use the First 20 Days of Independent Reading from the Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6 book by Fountas and Pinnell.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.  I pull all of my mini lesson from these first 20 days and then send my kids off to independent read and then we meet back to discuss what we have learned in our reading.  While I do not use ALL 20 days of mini lessons, I pick and choose the ones I know I will use to set up my reading workshop.  Below are some charts that we created using the First 20 Days of Independent Reading during our mini lessons:



When I am ready to start guided reading, I simply need to introduce routines like which groups will be called and how they know when their group will meet.  They know what to do when we are in guided reading, because they have been practicing it for 4 weeks!


I loved this idea that I found on Ms. Gurian's website. You can create a tool box for students to use during guided reading- or even in independent reading time! She also included directions on how to use it!  Love it and will be work on making these for next school year!!!

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        I have received many emails asking about the reading contracts that I reference on my other guided reading page (the one I created at the beginning of this year BEFORE I was able to make this current page of "reflections and what worked for me" page). 

        At one time I did these with ALL my reading groups.  Then I decided to ditch them and only do them with my highest groups.  I thought that giving students these contracts would allow me to work more with my lowest group.  Then I changed my mind again!!  I DO NOT do this because I feel that this is "neglecting" my high ones (they deserve a years growth too!) and couldn't make these work for me.  I found students become bored with the contracts also BUT maybe you can make them work for you.  Maybe I was doing something wrong!!!  Here is copy of all the contracts I have saved.

Here is a link to Teresa Wilson's 3rd grade site with a few other reading contracts.

Here are several other reading units that have been developed online.

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     I am very lucky.  Our reading specialists have already gone through our entire book room and have leveled all the books that we need to use.  In fact all I have to do is walk in, find the 40 (DRA levels) bucket and pick out books and  I am done.  I do not usually use novels because I take too long teaching them!!  I stretch them out so long students lost interest!  I usually just use the short guided reading books is our bookroom because we have a wonderful collection.  However, if you are looking for a book level here are a few good links that may help you.

This is an EXCELLENT and extensive list of books that has Fountas and Pinnells Guided Reading levels for kindergarten through sixth grade( and some higher)

Cherry Carl's site

This is a wonderful site, but is geared for the lower grades.  She has a large list of books but they are leveled by the reading recovery levels.

Beaverton School District

This is a cool site where you can do searched by either title, keywords, author OR guided reading level.

Title Wave

This is MY FAVORITE leveling site.  It is really for librarians to order books, but it can be used for teachers to figure out levels.  I will say it does NOT have guided reading levels, but has AR levels and lexiles. I use it just to get an idea if it is in the ball park.

Reading Lady

More links to other leveling sites.  Reading Lady is a wonderful resource for anything reading!


These are levels of books published by Scholastic.

Books with Leveling

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It seems like in the upper grades parents may not read as much with their kids because the children are now readers.  Too often I hear stories of parents that tell me they send their child off to their room to read for an hour.  Yikes! Usually these are kids who NEED someone to read with  them, but the parents are just unaware.

Literature Bags

      This is something new I am trying this year.  I have a page devoted to all I am *trying* to get done this summer!


Lunch Bunch

      I loved this!  I did Lunch Bunch this past school year and the kids loved it!  They are similar to informal Literature Circles and it is like a reading club.  However, students that participate get to come back to the classroom to discuss the books during lunch time while they eat.  This was a BIG draw.  This idea was created by Laura Candler.  I just used the book sets that we had in the fourth grade workroom.  Students could read at any time, lunch, DEAR time or at home.  Parents had to sign off and students had to have a question read to ask their peers.  Here is the parent letter I send home regarding lunch bunch.


Souvenir Bags/ Story Bits

I have never done this but came across this idea.  I loved it!!!!  Next year I will fit it in!!

Here is a website FILLED with ideas you can use for story bits.

Here is another great link with ideas.

Another WOW site where you can search by book to find a souvenir.


Book Reports

I have never been a really big fan of book reports.  I didn't want to create them and grade them and all that jazz.  However, I came across Ms. Rentz's amazing website and she has a book report each month.  The directions are right there and she has examples!  Very easy!  A kind of report was assigned each month and students presented on the last day of the month.  I liked this idea and will tie this into the student's listening objectives.


Reading Games

Adrian Bruce has created these fabulous games.


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Some graphics on this page are from