Five Ways to Keep Your Guided Reading Groups Moving and Grooving

Who is ready to move and groove with their guided reading groups this year?  Moving and grooving is really not an understatement with guided reading. As we meet with our students, sticking to the allotted time and keeping all on task means we keep our groups progressing, and progress is the purpose. So, how do we make sure we get progress as our final "product"? Well, here are five tips I have for you based on The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, and the book I'm currently reading, Summer Reading.  These books are not directly geared to guided reading, but these are a few of the takeaways I've learned from them.
Spend most of your guided reading time with your group doing the thinking and talking. According to Allington, teachers need to limit the amount of teacher talk and put the work load on the student. Students need to practice building stamina with and in books to build fluency, apply decoding strategies, and practice comprehension skills. With students in the upper elementary grades (and up), there is a desire to be social all the time, so use that in groups by pairing students. As you work with students in small group, remember that Round Robin reading is a thing of the past. Instead, use whisper phones or silent reading to keep all engaged and doing the work. 
Notice kids doing work and teacher guiding.
Be sure to keep materials close by and ready for use. I put each group's materials in a color coded basket. Included in the basket are the books or articles we're using, the students' interactive notebooks, word study notebooks, and work folders. I keep a basket of post-it notes, highlighters, pencils, markers, and index cards on my table with dry erase boards and other "craft" supplies in a small shelf nearby.  [This Post] shows the organization set up I've used, but here are a few of the pictures.
Vary how skills are presented.  Using mentor texts, anchor charts, task cards, and interactive notebooks keeps learning skills fresh and fun. I shared a set of books a while back called Chart Sense that I enjoyed using a lot this year.  I have also enjoyed using interactive materials from several great sellers on TPT.  Using mentor texts (even in middle school) is another great way to model, but also to celebrate old favorites or share great new literature. We often forget that high level picture books include fabulous vocabulary, figurative language, and text structures. [Here] is a great listing of books for starters, and Think Aloud is a wildly recommended teaching technique. Remember...
Assessment is not always a taboo word.  Assessment does not need to be a multiple choice test, and in fact, I'd encourage teachers to use more observation of oral reading (miscue analysis), work samples, and observation of strategy usage as your students' measure of success than a multiple choice test for your day to day planning.  Keeping an on-going checklist of what you want to see from your students helps you know if you're on the right track. Plus, checklists work well for parent conferences too. 

With guided reading, I love interactive notebooks for assessment too. We collect work samples for them all the time, and students can easily see their progress and refer to them later for instructional reminders. 

Running records can almost be taken daily, but that's really not necessary. If you can do 2-3 per quarter, then you'll have a good gauge of where your students are in order to accurately match them to text and give them appropriate book recommendations. Speaking of book recommendations, try very hard to know books.  Know what's popular with kids, hot new titles, and "book alikes". Good Reads is a great site for teachers (and for older readers).  

Another value of frequent running records is that you see and hear the errors your students are making. Using these errors to help you in future lessons helps the reader correct the errors versus repeating them as bad habits.  

The last tip I have is on scheduling. With a classroom of twenty four students, you will most likely have four reading groups of six students each, and obviously, you do not have two hours you can devote to guided reading when you need to teach word study and writing.  This means you will need to make choices on which groups to see when. Your most needy students should meet with the teacher daily or the most frequent amount possible followed by the next group up (4 times). The top two groups can alternate days and replace a guided reading block with literature circles. I love Daily Five for structuring the time, but I also like the Readers and Writers Workshop format.  Jennifer Myers has a wonderful blog post outlining her plan [here].

For more guided reading tips and ideas, check out the other posts my Reading Crew buddies have posted, and certainly, share your organization and teaching tips in the comments too.  
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3 comments

  1. I love how you mentioned that you need to see the neediest students everyday. We've been doing 30 min a day for the neediest, 20 min a day for strategic, and 15 minutes for on-level, and 15 min for advanced.

    Literacy Without Worksheets

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    1. That's another option. I think scheduling groups is another full post. I just shared a post on my Facebook not long ago by The Thinker Builder where he broke down is reading block and had visual schedules to show. I liked that. I love the Readers Writers Workshop idea too.

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