Getting Guided Reading Ready

I realize it may be a bit late in the school year for this post. And I would be embarrassed to admit how many times I altered my guided reading block last year. #toomanytocount  But, maybe, even if you've been doing guided reading for weeks (or months or years-ha!), you are ready to make some changes.

Personally, I don't think you should ever feel bad about tweaking things to find what works. Obviously you don't want to do a complete overhaul every week because we know students need consistency (and who has time for that?) Examining what needs to be fixed and making changes can feel like a big deal.  Even your tried and true strategies can need some adjusting depending on your students' needs. Guided Reading is just one of those things that is constantly a work in progress.

We all know, classrooms are like snowflakes. I hope, if anything, you can take away one small idea to help your reading block run a little smoother.

The biggest factor in guided reading group success is making sure the other students are engaged and on task. Above is an example of what my schedule looks like for one rotation.  I have 4 rotations a day and each day is unique.  Personally, I feel the novelty of activities keeps it fresh and prevents students from becoming bored and as a result, unfocused.  The balance of activities needing weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even better--no prep--helps me stay on top of it all.

There are 8 centers total. Well actually 9 if you include teacher time.  I roll them out very, very slowly one at a time in the first 6 weeks of school.  Our students use a reading center structure in first grade so that definitely helps kick start many routines and procedures.  However, modeling and practicing are still very much required for success.
  • Independent Reading: My students exchange books on an as-needed basis but NEVER during their read to self time.  I encourage them to use an extra time in the morning, afternoon or when they have finished work to switch out their books.  I don't do leveled book bins.  I really believe this is a time for students to relax and enjoy reading. I do check in with what they have in their bin.  Sometimes during one of my "free" blocks of time, I will sit and listen to them read one of their books.  Other times I have my groups bring their book bins to the guided reading table and share about what they are reading. (Also a perfect idea for a substitute if you don't want to leave complex guided reading plans!)
{just a subtle hint}
  • Word Work: This is one of my favorites.  It is the only center where I allow students to work together in partners.  Words are just more fun that way.  I try to incorporate all of those activities you feel like you don't have a lot of time for.  I incorporate sight words, phonics skills, grammar and vocabulary.
Some of the favorites lately have been:

{freebie by SSSTeaching}

Spelling Battleship with bigger boards!
{sorry for the glare but if someone could tell me how to photograph lamination without a glare, you would be my new bff}

     Hands on
My students LOVE these Wikki Stix!
      Grammar/Phonics sorts
  • Word Work on iPads: I am very fortunate to have 6 iPads in my classroom.  I also am sad to say this is my most neglected center.  I just can't ever seem to find the time to sit down and update apps on the iPads.  It is one of those things I always want to do but just gets pushed to the side. Apparently the kids don't care much because they rated Word Work iPads very high on their reflection sheets (see below for more info about those).
  • Listen to Reading (read about how I use Symbaloo here)
  • Writing: I was on the struggle bus forreal when it came to my writing center last year.  This year, my kiddos love writing and I purchased some great resources.  They especially love these idea cards with vocab from A Cupcake for the Teacher. I love how cute they look hung with magnets on our dirty old AC unit. #winwin

  • Raz Kids (
        This program is AMAZING.  I could do a post just about Raz Kids and all its usefulness. A must-have is computer log in cards (Don't worry--the ones below are fake students).  They are seriously a life saver! I also assign one student a day to be the "tech" helper.  They answer all the iPad and computer questions. 
  • iReady Reading Lessons: My district pays for this program which we also use for benchmark assessments.  Honestly, it is many of the students' least favorite center which I learned through this reflection sheet you can find for free here. But since I now know this, I have added some incentive to meet our districts' 45 minute per week per student expectation.
{of course it is not this students' least favorite of whom I happen to have a picture of their reflection sheet but I swear, most of my kids rated it a 7 or 8}

  • Read and Find: Reading a passage and answering questions isn't always the preferred activity.  But, add highlighters and engagement immediately increases 48% (it's true, I read it somewhere.) 
{This is real life people.  Messy desk, hand written label, Dunkin Donuts in the background.  Not everything is picture perfect.}

I choose passages based on the group's reading level (the ones pictured above are from Rooted in Reading), stick them into colored folders, allow the use of fluorescent markers an ta-da, read and find is way more fun than plain old answering questions.  I do one of these as a whole group and in small groups before expecting students to complete independently.

I also used these wonderful differentiated passages by Meet Miss Parker.  She offers 3 levels of each so they are perfect for my highest 3 groups.
Differentiated Reading Comprehension Passages

I have in no way perfected this system.  But I have those moments I glance around the room and just revel in students who are actively engaged in what they are doing.  Their gasps of excitement when I introduce a new book on Listen to Reading or a new Word Work game.
We have a dedicated hour as a grade level specifically for Guided Reading. During this time, two of our amazing reading specialists are pulling skills groups.   We can also share groups as a grade level if needed.  In addition to that hour, there is a flexible 15 minutes before lunch that our reading time inevitably falls into.  It is so nice to have such a nice chunk of time to fit it all in!

Below is my schedule this year for my groups. I had to work around students being pulled for Tier 2 intervention during this block of time as well. I don't have times because I like to have a few minutes of flexibility.  I typically set my timer for two minutes and turn it on as I am wrapping up my group.  If we are in the middle of a great discussion about the book, I hate to cut it short (especially if all my other students are still engaged in their centers).

 I do not have any group that I meet with everyday. But I do have those gray areas--extra chunks of time--to meet with skills groups.  This is where I can address specific needs outside of the guided reading group. 

I like to color code everything since the students within the groups will likely change every few
 weeks. So I keep all of my materials in color-coded bins as well. And I am going to be honest, I didn't think about color coded my lesson plan template until just now so  here it is.

I have it in grayscale too which you can download here.

Finally, I leave you with a picture of my guided reading table area.  It always looks like this. : )
When that lamp is on, it means no interrupting! And that pink chair helps me be a better teacher.

In short:
  • Setting up reading centers may feel overwhelming. (Implementing 8 different centers does not happen overnight.) You may not want to do 8 or even 6 or 7.  Whatever you choose, roll it out slow and practice whole group first!
  • Changes will happen.  We teachers, oh, we are a flexible group...and we teach flexible groups.  Remember, if it isn't working, tweak and alter as needed.
This post was originally going to answer like 5 questions but I got tired and realized unless I wrapped it up now, it was never getting published so..
          if you have any further questions, I would be happy to try and help...just leave a comment : )

Happy teaching!


Leslie Moore said...

Great ideas!! I found a few I can use for Guided Math! Where can I find the login cards?

Leslie Moore said...

Great ideas!! I found a few I can use for Guided Math! Where can I find the login cards?

Mary said...

How did you make those i-phone login cards? So cute!