Planning how to teach guided reading can be an intimidating task in the beginning. My first year of teaching, I was extremely nervous that I was going to fail. I had never taught a child how to read. Would I be able to do it? While I was far from perfect and had lots to learn, I ended up finding joy watching students take flight while reading.
Without a doubt, guided reading is my favorite thing to teach, so I am going to share today how to teach guided reading. I will also include some tips and ideas that can be helpful to those looking for ways to improve their guided reading teaching skills too.
Before I jump in, I want to mention that I am a firm believer that students should read for the majority of guided reading. Other activities are to support their reading growth, and those should be short and sweet.
To show you how to teach guided reading, I am going to show you the framework by going over each component of a guided reading lesson, with tips and resources for each.
Before you begin to plan, keep in mind that prereading activities should be kept to a minimum of 5-7 minutes. The goals of prereading activities are to get students engaged with the text, teach new words, and review or introduce sight words that will help support them during reading.
Whenever there is new sight words to introduce from a book, this is the time to do that.
If you are retargeting sight words from a previous guided reading lesson, you can review those sight words during this time as well. That will allow students to notice the words you just reviewed as they read. One way to review sight words is to have students mix up the letters of a word in a soup bowl and put them back together.
Another activity is to have them look for the missing letters. It is also helpful to have the students write the sight word.
Additionally, it is a good idea to introduce new vocabulary during this time too, but remember to get to the reading. Don’t plan to do all these activities in one lesson. Completing one prereading activity will do, so keep the words you review to a minimum to stay on track with the time.
You also want students to get acquainted with the book. Asking students about the topic, taking a picture walk, or having students make a prediction about the book based on the cover are some ways to introduce the book.
If students will be reading the book again later, ask reading comprehension questions, such as questions about the characters, to pique the student’s interest in the story.
Teach a Reading Strategy
While I have heard some teachers say to teach the reading strategy after students read, I believe it makes sense to teach it before they read. This gives students the opportunity to apply it while it is still fresh in their mind. Would you remember to apply a newly taught skill the next day? Probably not. Teaching the reading strategy first means they will have a chance to apply it meaningfully. Being able to apply a concept immediately always encourages successful retention.
Reading strategy explanations should only take about three minutes. You want to introduce the strategy, model it, then have the students practice it quickly.
An example of how to teach a reading strategy:
We are going to hop through part of the book. I am going to read the sentence. (Read a sentence from the book but make a mistake on purpose that makes the sentence wrong.) Now that does not make sense. I am going to hop back and reread because I might have made a mistake. (Reread the sentence correctly.) Now that makes sense. I used the Hop Back Rabbit reading strategy. (Show the anchor chart or poster and discuss it.) When something does not make sense while we are reading or we realize we made a mistake, we can always hop back to reread. (Have students practice the strategy by choral reading a sentence from the book. Then pause and say, “Let’s hop back rabbit.” Have students read the sentence again.)
As you can see, teaching the reading strategy does not need to consume the lesson. The key is to hop back and review that reading strategy every now and then to reinforce it. Pun intended.
The best way to provide a visual to support the reading strategy is to use a poster or anchor chart. Posters can display the reading strategy as you teach it. These are also good for reference while reviewing strategies.
An anchor chart can ask a question to get students thinking, and their responses can be recorded too if desired.
This activity with the anchor chart is great for introducing reading strategies for the first time.
Prompting Strategies During Reading
You can reinforce reading strategies with the feedback you give to students as they read independently. When a student makes a mistake and keeps on reading, you could say a prompt. An example is to say, “Hop back rabbit to reread it.”
It is handy to have some prompts on hand for reading strategies, so you know just what to say to quickly guide students to apply that strategy. Remember, don’t take over their independent reading with a lecture. A quick prompt is all that is needed to redirect.
Performance Assessment During Reading
Performance assessments during guided reading are to simply observe students as they read and record it. Checklists and running records are the two assessment tools to use for this. Performance assessments will let you evaluate students and their reading levels, saving you a ton of valuable guided reading time. They also tell you when your student is ready to move on to the next reading level.
Now sadly, sometimes schools want us to apply several formal assessments that don’t always provide much value in actually guiding our instruction on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, we must do what we are told because, at the end of the day, we still have to make a living.
You can’t minimize the time spent on those required formal assessments. However, performance assessments will minimize your need to opt out of guided reading due to time constraints. Since performance assessments are quick, they allow you to get the information that you need daily to guide your day to day instruction.
Though sight words, phonics skills, and more can be assessed through observing students as they read, some other assessments will need to be done to evaluate skills that may not be measured by performance assessments. For example, you might still need to do an assessment for things like letter sound mastery, but you can do them less often if you are completing performance assessments. Minimizing your assessment time will help you get more guided reading lessons completed throughout the year. More guided reading lessons mean your students have more time to grow their reading skills.
After the Book
After students have completed independent reading, it’s time to zone in on reading comprehension. This can be done with a prompt or by simply asking students to tell you about the book in their own words. You only need a few minutes dedicated to this part of the lesson to make sure that they understood the story.
Extensions that Support Guided Reading
About ten minutes, give or take, should be used towards activities that support reading growth. These activities should include guided writing, word work, or phonemic awareness activities. You don’t have to include all three components with each lesson, but it is good to include two if time allows. You can also make a schedule, alternating between activities, to make sure you are covering them all on a regular basis.
Guided writing is not the same as writing workshop. It should consist of a dictated sentence that incorporates sight words and graphemes that students are currently working on at their reading level. On the first day, students can build the dictated sentence. The next day, students can write the sentence with support. You can also have students write the sentence without support if you think they need more challenge.
Phonemic awareness activities play an important role in supporting reading growth.
If students have not mastered their alphabet, this is the time to work on that with them. Alphabet charts are a quick and easy tool that can be used to reinforce letter recognition and sounds. Alphabet books are another great resource. You can make it tactile by having students trace the letters with their fingers. During alphabet activities, you simply focus on a letter or two at a time. It is always best to start with the letters in a student’s name if they don’t already know them.
Other phonemic awareness activities should include rhyming and syllable activities. Asking students to identify words that rhyme by putting their thumbs up is a quick activity that can be done in a minute or two. Another effective activity is to have students clap out syllables.
Word work tasks are also an important extension to support students with understanding phonics concepts. As a tip, I like the concept of using mats because they don’t involve prepping and managing a million pieces. They are easy to whip out quickly and to put away too! Plus, they are still hands-on and engaging.
Some examples of word work activities include subbing sounds. This word munch activity has students spinning for a letter, covering up the first letter in the word, and substituting the sound with it.
Another activity is to have students sort pictures by sound. You do need picture cards for this activity, so it does involve a little prep. If you laminate them, you can reuse the pictures cards for sorting every year.
Word building is also a good activity to use for word work. You can actually use this activity to practice sight words too.
Word work can be having students swap out letters for other letters to create a different word. I like to call this Extreme Word Make-Over. For example, sad gets changed to bad. Then bad gets changed to pad. Pad then gets changed to pat. Then pat gets changed to bat. This reinforces the concepts of beginning, middle, and ending sounds.
These activities will help students strengthen their word decoding and word recognition skills. It helps students extend the guided reading lesson with guided writing, word work, and phonemic awareness activities.
Knowing When to Move Students Up a Level
Having a mastery checklist for each reading level will easily guide you when it comes to pairing students with the right reading level.
Between occasional assessments and performance assessments, you can check off what students have mastered using this mastery checklist. Simply bump students up when they have sufficiently mastered that reading level.
Being Successful with Teaching Guided Reading
Keeping routine and consistency with these practices each day will allow students to grow their reading abilities. It’s important to constantly monitor progress and regroup as needed to best support student learning and growth.
To better support teachers, I put together a resource that includes all the activities and tools needed for guided reading levels AA-D in one large mega bundle. It includes everything, but the books! Literally, it is full of over 1,700 pages. There are many activities in a one page mat format. I tried to keep it as low prep as possible without compromising on the quality of the activities. Click here or the bundle picture to follow the link to the resource.
It is my hope that this bundle will help support teachers through planning and teaching guided reading to their students. It was created with a lot of love.
If you would like to test drive my guided reading bundle, I have a decent size guided reading freebie that you can receive for free when you sign-up for my free newsletter. You can do that here. Make sure to check your downloads folder for it. Click here to sign-up!
Now before I close out, I also want to let you know about my free tech course. This free course shows you a simple three-step system for setting up the use of technology in your classroom. With the abundance of tech options out there, it can get overwhelming in the primary grades. The key is to wisely pick just a small amount of tools and add on from there later on if desired. This course will help you get a system in place, includes some free tech resources to utilize with the system, and even includes short student tutorials to get your class on board. Find more information about it here.
Thanks for stopping by The Candy Class. Be blessed!
Jolene Mathew from The Candy Class