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How to Set up Guided Reading in the Classroom

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 5 min read

What is Guided Reading?

Guided Reading vs. Round Robin

I remember sitting in a lecture during my teaching studies, listening attentively about the importance of guided reading, an essential part of any early literacy program.

Guided reading was explained as a small group, round-robin reading scenario. Each student reads a page/paragraph from a text, specifically selected for their guided reading group. The students that aren’t reading aloud, follow along with the student who is reading. Otherwise, the listener may get lost and have the uncomfortable task of asking where they are supposed to read from when their turn comes around.

As a new uni student, this sounded excellent to me, a highly productive way to listen to your students read, while keeping other students engaged and active as they read along in their heads until it was their turn!

Of course, in reality, these reading activities only work when the group of students are reading at the same level and working on the same reading and comprehension goals!

Nowadays, this round-robin strategy of reading aloud is viewed as an outdated teaching practice, and a waste of the little time a teacher has to listen to their students read each week.

The more significant impacts that I witnessed in my classroom were individual students disengaging from reading itself, and the creation of unnecessary anxiety for others. Not to mention, the decrease in comprehension of a text as the students spent their time worrying about what page they were going to have to read out to the group.

So, how else can you incorporate the idea of oral reading skills without falling into the easy ’round robin’ scenario?

In this post, I will provide you with some guided reading resources as well as hints and tips for getting the most out of these small, but beneficial bursts of reading time with your students.

How to Set up Guided Reading

Hints and Tips for Guided Reading Success

  • The setup and grouping of your students are crucial elements of a successful guided reading lesson!
  • I used my PM benchmark levels to group the students in my class. The reality of having small groups all at the same level is very slim. So, you just need to do the best you can! It is a bit of trial and error, and sometimes you need to move children to different groups. I would suggest using velcro dots on the posters to make it easier to move student’s names between groups.
  • These gorgeous tubs from Elizabeth Richards are the perfect storage solution for storing the texts and associated activities for the week. I have used the Aquatic Animals Grouping Posters, mainly because they are bright and go nicely with the colours on the tubs (a suggestion from one truly colour-obsessed teacher to another!). I also used the Sparkles name tags for the names.
  • I have also used the Rainbow Word Wall template for the names of the groups on the front of the tubs as well. This makes it very clear to the students which group they are in and also makes it easier for helpers in the classroom.

Setting up Guided Reading in the Classroom

Setting up Guided Reading in the Classroom

  • Each student also received their very own Guided Reading folder.
  • Within this folder, the students had their individual reading and comprehension goals that they were working towards at the time. Again, I used velcro dots for these to make it easy to change the goals once a student had achieved them.Setting up a Student Guided Reading Folder
  • In each student’s folder, I also included a sight word mat. This was kept in a plastic sleeve stapled to the other side of the manilla folder.
  • Having a reading strategies bookmark in each folder was also an essential tool in supporting students during their guided reading lessons.  Making the bookmark available for the students to refer to during guided reading encouraged independence and helped limit interruptions while I was working with an individual child.

Setting up a Student Guided Reading Folder

Alternatives to Round Robin Reading

Here are some different ways that you can listen to the children read aloud in a small group without falling into the round robin trap.

Readers’ Theatre

Although students are encouraged to read aloud in this guided reading activity, studies have proven that this interactive learning experience can improve oral reading fluency in students of all reading abilities. For more information on this, head to our blog – Readers’ Theatre – Building Fluency, Confidence and Comprehension.

Silent Reading

Students sit in their guided reading groups, however, they are given the opportunity to read silently in their head. If they find this difficult, you may like to encourage them to whisper the story quietly. I would then tap them on the shoulder when I was ready to listen to them read. If a student is reading silently when you get to them, ask them to whisper from where they are up to.

Planning a Guided Reading Session

At the beginning of the session, I would spend a small amount of time talking about the text, pictures and predictions, as well as getting students to look at and remember the reading goals they are currently working towards.

Then, I would get the students straight into their silent reading, reminding them to use the reading strategies bookmark and sight word mat to assist them if they got stuck.

It is important that you do not interrupt students, even if you can see that they are struggling. Instead, encourage them to use their reading strategies.

When you can see that a student does need a bit of extra help ask questions like:

  • What do you think you can do next?
  • What strategy are you going to use next to keep reading?

Otherwise, if you assist them every time, they are not going to learn to work out tricky words by themselves.

Finally, after the reading of the text, I would check for comprehension and ask questions about what reading strategies they used during their reading.

Guided Reading Activities

We have a number of guided reading activities, guided reading questions and resources that you may find useful in your classroom. Which you choose to use really is an individual preference. You will also need to consider the level of your students when thinking about what to focus on in each of the guided reading sessions.

Guided Reading Comprehension Activities

Have a look through our library of guided reading resources.

Guided Reading Teaching Activities

For more details about how my classroom ran during guided reading sessions, please refer to our blog – 40 Activities and Ideas to Set up Literacy Groups in your Classroom.

Do you have any favourite tips or tricks for making guided reading work in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!


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