Guided Reading Groups in 5 Simple Steps


It is hard enough planning for whole group reading block and small group centers/stations.  We now also incorporate guided reading groups to differentiate and meet the needs of students in our class at their level.  It is hard to plan for these groups and get them in daily while monitoring students at their centers.  Your school/district may have certain requirements that you must follow when conducting reading groups, but here are five simple steps to hopefully make your groups run smoothly.

1. Warm-Up (2 minutes)

I like to start with a quick warm-up, usually phonemic awareness in nature.  Whether it be segmenting words into syllables or sounds, identifying beginning, middle, or ending sounds, or producing rhyming words.  A good set of picture cards is super useful for these activities.

For older students, your warm-up may be a “quick read” of a passage or short text.  Just a short something to get their minds geared into reading.

2. Word Work (3 minutes)

After the warm-up, I move onto word work or the phonics skill that particular group is working on.  It could be short vowels, r-controlled vowels, blends, or dipthongs, etc.  I create lines of practice on sentence strips (pictured below) to help my students work on decoding words with that phonics skill.  If the group has 4 students in it, I will make 5 lines.  I always make one more line than students in the group.  We “pass the lines” in a clockwise manner, until each student has read every line.

If your guided reading group leveled readers are written with a particular phonics skill in the text, make sure to include those words on your lines of practice, along with other words.  This way your students will have an easier time decoding those story words when you get to the fluency part of the lesson.

3. Vocabulary (3 minutes)

Vocabulary can mean a couple of things.  For most of our younger learners, these will be sight words.  For our older learners, it may be actual higher level vocabulary from their leveled reader.

I try to make the vocabulary portion of the reading group a game of some kind…

  • We play KABOOM, where the words are written on popsicle sticks and we take turns pulling and reading a stick.  If the student pulls out KABOOM, they have to put all of their sticks back.
  • Another game is Flip It.  Their words are written on note cards and laid face down on the table.  Students choose a card and flip it over, trying to read the word as quickly as they can.  You can change this one up and deal the cards to kids around the table.  They flip through them and read quickly.  The goal is to read all of their words with no mistakes.
  • For higher level vocabulary, each student gets a word and has to give a definition in their own words while their group mates try to guess the word.
  • Have each student in the group create a “All About ___” poster.  This includes the vocabulary word, its definition, syllables, synonyms or antonyms if applicable, an illustration, and using the word properly in the sentence.  (I use this as a check for understanding at the end of the week.)

4. Fluency (7 minutes)

Most of us are using a district adopted reading curriculum that includes leveled readers to be used in guided reading groups.  Your students reading level will determine the book they are reading.  There are a variety of ways you can have students read their leveled reader…

  • Read Around the Table – each student has a part to read and you read aloud in a clockwise direction (to alleviate anxiety, I assign students their parts first, allow them to practice for a minute, and then we read around the table)
  • Echo/Whisper Reading – one student reads aloud while the others whisper/echo their words
  • I Do/You Do –  one student reads aloud, then all students reread aloud what was just read
  • Leaning/Listening In – all students are quietly reading at their own pace as you “lean/listen in” around the table to each one for a few seconds at a time (my personal favorite)

My goal is to have their book completed by the end of the second time we meet, so they read the book at least twice in group with me.  Then this book will be a part of their small group centers the following week, to practice and strengthen their fluency.

5. Comprehension (3 minutes)

Comprehension should be a quick check for understanding on what they have currently read in their leveled reader.  Try to come up with higher level questions and not just basic “yes/no” responses.  At the end of the week, I hand each student a note card with one question on it.  You can either hold a discussion on the questions, or have students write their response on the note card.  I use this as my “ticket out” from reading group for the week.

In addition, you can include comprehension questions with your leveled readers the following week in small group centers.

Try our leveled Reading Comprehension Passages and Question Packs!

Phonics-Based Fluency Passages

Sight Word Fluency Passages

Practically 1st Grade Passages

1st Grade Reading Comprehension Passages

2nd Grade Reading Comprehension Passages

3rd Grade Reading Comprehension Passages

Keep in Mind…

(On a 5 day week/2 hour ELA Block)

  • Low (5 days a week)
  • Low/Average (5 days a week)
  • Average (4 days a week)
  • Average/High (3 days a week)
  • High (3 days a week)

Two important pieces to note…

  • Do not pull your lower students at the same time each day.  We want them to have access to all of the small group centers and not missing the same ones every day while in group with you.
  • Guided reading groups should be flexible in nature.  As you are progress monitoring and giving formal/informal assessments, students should be able to move up or down depending on their instructional needs.
Written by: Janessa Fletcher


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