How to Teach Guided Reading
- Look at the requirements of your school - What do they expect when you are teaching guided reading lessons? This may not be what you want to do, or even how your class will work best, but it helps to know what is expected of you even if you plan to challenge it!
- Group your children by reading level – There can be some variation but generally having really strong readers with those that struggle will be disheartening for everyone.
- Work out your main objectives for each day of the week – I will go over this in more detail below, but it is very helpful to reuse the same objectives each week but rotate them between groups or slot your topic or book into them. We will look at some examples in a moment.
- Plan activities which can be easily adapted for each new book or topic – it is important that you do not waste time every week planning new activities for short, guided reading lessons. Make things you can reuse.
- Prep reusable resources – just like you want to be able to reuse your plans each week make sure you can reuse your resources as well.
- Set each class to their activities and then work with a different group each day – this is where careful preparation comes in, your activities need to be engaging and set at the right level so the kids don’t disturb your group work to ask questions. Don’t worry this can take some practice!
What is a guided reading lesson?
This question may seem pretty basic, but it is an important question. Guided reading is when teachers guide the students through their progress in reading. It is different from explicitly teaching a skill because you are just guiding them and improving their skill at reading.
Generally, schools have their own set-up for guided reading and how they would like it organised, however, you can still use what works best for you. In the majority of cases, guided reading involves small groups sitting together, each group working on a different reading task and one group reading with the teacher.
As the teacher, you will set the tasks and listen to the children read. The tasks are to develop their reading level, comprehension and knowledge about books. Listening to the children read provides valuable assessment but it also goes beyond that. Having the children read aloud to you from level appropriate texts, gives them confidence and develops their fluency.
How do I plan guided reading?
Everyone plans differently but finding out what works best for you can be tricky. I will describe how I plan here and if it works for you then great but don’t think this is the only way to plan out your guided reading lesson structure.
There are I plan four different activities, one for each day of the week and a day for me to read with the group. Then throughout the week, I circle the activities between the groups. So for activities A, B, C and D, the plan would look like this:
Activity A will be comprehension work, either from the class book or a given text. The children will be expected to be able to complete the task on their own and without too much difficulty. Activity B will be producing some kind of response to the book or text, this is usually written work but can be illustrations as well. Activity C is related to word recognition and dictionary skills, these activities are usually worksheets or task cards s children become used to the format and are able to complete tasks with minimal input and support. The final activity is a fun activity, something related to the text or book in a fun way that lets the students show how they feel about the book.
What kinds of activities are good for independent guided reading?
So with all this in mind, it is helpful to look at real examples of activities for each group. These are just a few ideas and can be adapted and changed to suit your class.
Activities for group A
These activities have a comprehension basis. I use standard comprehension prompts that the children can use with either the class book, their group book or a given text. It is a good idea to mix up the types of comprehension questions given. I use direct questions such as ‘How did they get the door open?’ these are best to start the task and for lower ability. I also include inference comprehension questions, these are not explicitly stated in the text but require the students to understand what is happening in the story. For example, When a character refuses to let another child play with them the question could be ‘Does A like child B?’ these types of questions are usually followed up with the question ‘how do we know?’. The final type of comprehension question I use are review questions, these are more personal and do not have a right or wrong answer as such, they ask the children to think about the story and use their own ideas. Examples of review questions can be ‘what do you think will happen next?’ or ‘how might the character be feeling now?’ this makes them think about the story and produce their own answers.
Text that work well are newspaper articles or short stories, using a separate text to the class or group book gives them a chance to think about other stories in comparison to the book they are currently reading.
If you wish to use the class book, be mindful of the chapter each group has read to not give questions which may not, yet make sense.
Activities for group B
These activities require the children to produce something in response to the book or text. In these activities it is better to have longer texts that the children are more familiar with, this means that class or group books work well.
A few examples of activities which can be used for group B are:
- Writing newspaper reports
- Drawing a scene from the book
- Planning the next chapter
- Planning the next adventure for the characters
- Giving the point of view of a side character
- Map out the story – if they travel in the book map out the world of the story
These are just a few examples to give you an idea. These activities are in response to the story they are reading or have finished.
Activities for group C
Word recognition, dictionary work and spelling are all important skills that can be reinforced with guided reading lessons. Question sheets or task cards which ask the children about specific words are good for this type of activity. Questions such as ‘which word in the story means to be over excited?’ or the opposite ask them to explain a word from the story, ‘what does the word ‘triumphant mean on page 56?’. Having the children define and recognise unusual words increases their vocabulary. You can also have them look up words in dictionaries and write the definitions, as well as other words which mean the same thing.
Activities for group D
In these activities, I like to try and give the students something new and fun to do. Some of the activities are low key and just require a printed sheet of instructions others will take some guidance before the lesson. Some ideas for Group D activities are:
- Make a Facebook / Youtube page for the characters – what will they post about?
- What does the character’s house look like – design and draw either their real house or their dream house
- Making an object that the character uses or would need
- Packing a bag for the characters (if they need equipment for something)
- Create a news report or video explaining the events of the story
- Design new clothes/uniform for the characters
These activities are similar to group B, but the difference is that these are not in direct response to the events of the book they are the children’s impressions and the things they have taken away from the story.
How do I get the kids to work in a group without me?
This is a big challenge for many teachers and classes, the short answer is with practice! The slightly longer answer is that it takes lots of time and expectations. There are some strategies that you can use to encourage the children to work independently so you can focus on your group.
- Visual signals - Using a do not disturb sign or a light is a good idea, it shows the kids when they can and cannot interrupt
- Clear explanations – before starting the lesson ensure that every student is clear on what they should be doing. This means they are less likely to come looking for clarification
- Prompts – written and visual prompts of what they can and cannot do during the guided reading lesson
- Student helpers – Giving one student the job of helper can be very beneficial, they can answer quick problems and get students back on track
- Engaging tasks and extension work – keeping students busy will reduce the amount of time they are out of their seats wanting you.
- Good behaviour rewards – reward the behaviour you are pleased with will encourage more of it. If the whole class has a successful, guided reading session they can have a song playing during the next lesson etc.
- Message boxes – have a message box on the table and allow students to put their notes to you in the box, you will read them after the lesson so if there is anything they need you to know you will find out before they forget.
What does a good, guided reading lesson look like?
So in an ideal world, the students will be well practised in the routine. They will move to their guided reading table and take out their equipment. The timetable will be visible to all students (or stuck to tables or books) so every child knows the task they will be working on today. The teachers will work with the group reading today. The independent groups will work on their tasks and support each other. The teacher led group will take turns reading and answering questions about the book.
Yes, this is the dream….
What resources are available for guided reading?
If you are looking for more text specific activities I have many work packs based on books, which include before, during and after read activities. I currently have Mr Stink, Matilda, Awful Auntie and more, plus I am constantly adding to the collection. If there is a book you would like please let me know!