Knowing how to teach guided reading can be very intimidating at first. 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 pull it off? While I was far from perfect and had lots to learn, I ended up finding joy in seeing students take flight with reading.

Guided reading is absolutely my favorite thing to teach, so I am going to share today how to teach guided reading. This post will also include some tips and ideas embedded in it, so this post can be helpful to those who are looking for ways to improve their guided reading lessons too.

How to Teach Guided Reading

Before I jump in, I want to note that I am an absolute believer that students should read for the most part of guided reading. The other activities are to support their reading growth, so those should be short and sweet.

To show you how to teach guided reading, I am going to go over each component of a guided reading lesson. Each component is in the header, and then I will break it down and also provide some helpful tips.

Start with Prereading Activities

Prereading activities are all about getting students engaged into the text, introducing new words that will help support them during reading, and also reviewing sight words to help support their reading. Prereading activities typically should only be about five to seven minutes max.

introducing new sight words

Whenever there is new sight words to introduce from a book, this is the time to do that.

mix and fix it word work activity

If you are doing a reread or retargeting sight words from a previous book, you can also review those sight words during this time. That way, they can notice those words you just reviewed as they read. Some ways to review sight words include having students mix up the letters of a word in a soup bowl and put them back together.

Missing Letters Sight Word Activities

Another activity is to have them look for the missing letters. It is also helpful to have the students write the sight word. Just to make it clear, I don’t mean do all these activities at once in a lesson. Just one activity will do, and keep the words you review to a minimum to stay on track with the time.

During this time, you also want to get students interested in the book. Asking students about the topic for non-fiction, taking a picture walk, or asking students to 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, asking reading comprehension questions such as questions about the characters are another way to get students interested in the book again.

Additionally, it is a good idea to introduce new vocabulary during this time too.

Teach a Reading Strategy

While I have seen some people say to teach the reading strategy after students read, I fully believe it makes more logical sense to teach it before they read. That way, they have opportunity to apply it while it is fresh on their mind.

Think about it. Are you going to remember to apply a newly taught skill very easily the next day or week? Probably not. Teaching the reading strategy means they will have a chance to apply it right then and there. More is always retained by actually doing.

Reading strategies should only take about three minutes too. You basically want to introduce the strategy, model it, and then have the students do a quick practice of it.

Here is an example of teaching a reading strategy below.

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 not understandable.) 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/ poster and discuss it.) When something does not make sense when we are reading or we realize we made a mistake, we can hop back to reread always. (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 take over the lesson. The key is to hop back and review that reading strategy every now and then for reinforcing it. Pun intended.

Guided Reading Anchor Chart for Reading Strategies

A good way to provide a visual for the reading strategy is to use either a poster or anchor chart. An anchor chart can ask a question to get students thinking, and their responses can be recorded on it if desired. This activity with the anchor chart is good for introducing the reading strategy for the first time.

Guided Reading Strategy Posters

Posters are another way to display the reading strategy as you teach it. These are also good for reference when reviewing the reading strategy.

Prompting During Reading

You can also reinforce these reading strategies with 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 the reading strategies, so you know just want to say to quickly guide students to apply that strategy. You don’t want to take over their independent reading with a lecture here. A quick prompt is all that is needed.

Performance Assessment During Reading

Performance assessment during guided reading is simply observing students as they read. Checklists and running records are the two assessment tools to use for this. Performance assessment will save you tons of guided reading time when it comes to evaluating students for their reading levels. That way, you know when to bump them up to the next level.

Level A Mastery Checklist

Now sadly, I know sometimes schools want us to apply way too many formal assessments that don’t always provide much value to actually guiding your instruction on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, we have to do what we are told because at the end of the day, we got to make a living. I get that.

You can’t minimize the time spent on those required formal assessments. However, performance assessment will minimize your need to shut down guided reading that day to take assessments that you need on a daily basis to guide your instruction.

Assessments for Guided Reading

Though a lot can be observed as students read, some assessments will need to be done sometimes because you will need to evaluate students on things that might not get covered from the performance assessment, but you can cover a lot of ground with performance assessment for other things by just observing with either a checklist or running record. Sight words, phonics skills, and more can be assessed through observing students as they read. Sometimes, you may still need to do an assessment for things like the sight words, but you can eliminate doing that as frequently. That way, you get more guided reading lessons complete throughout the year. More guided reading lessons means your students have more time to grow in their reading skills.

After the Book

After students have completed independent reading, its time to zoom 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.

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, and 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 them to make sure you are covering all these on a regular basis.

Guided Writing Dictated Sentence

Dictated Sentences for Guided Writing

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 with 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 challenge students to write the sentence without support if you think they need more challenge.

Beginning Middle and Ending Sounds

Phonemic awareness activities are also important for 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. Also, alphabet books are another method. You can make it tactile by having students trace the letters with their fingers. With these, 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 know those already.

Phonemic Awareness Activities

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 quick and effective activity is to have students clap out syllables.

Blending Words Activity

Word work activities are another 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 put away too! Plus, they are still hands-on and engaging.

guided reading letter subbing activity for word work

Some examples of word work activities include subbing sounds. This word munch activity has students spinning for a letter and covering up the first letter of a word to sub the sound with it.

Sorting by Beginning Sound

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.

Building Sight Words

guided reading word building activity

Word building is another good activity. You can actually use this activity to practice sight words too.

guided reading swapping letters activity for word work

Another word work activity is to have 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 with word decoding and word recognition. It helps students to 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.

Guided Reading Level Mastery Checklist

Between assessments and performance assessments, you can check off what students have mastered on this mastery checklist. Simply bump students up when they have sufficiently mastered that reading level.

Being Successful with Teaching Guided Reading

Being routine and consistent with these practices each day will have students growing in their reading abilities. Its important to constantly monitor progress and regroup as needed to best support them and to keep them growing.

Guided Reading Mega Bundle with Lesson Plans and Activities

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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 with 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. I also have it on sale for $20 currently. The regular price is $32. Click here or the bundle picture to link to the resource.

It is my hope that this bundle will help support teachers with teaching guided reading with their students. It was created with a lot of love.


Guided Reading Freebie

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If you would like to test drive my guided reading bundle, I have a decent size sample 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 or click the image of the free resource.

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Jolene Mathew from The Candy Class