Making Guided Reading Work

In the typical day of an elementary school teacher, there is so much to teach and do! Too often, there are aspects of instruction that need to be shortened or eliminated because of unexpected schedule changes, meetings, assemblies, and school delays…just to name a few! Sadly, when these situations arise, the time that seems to be cut most often is guided reading. However, in my experience as a teacher and a Wolfpack WORKS coach, this precious time with the children should be the ONE NON-NEGOTIABLE of the day.

“Yes, yes, yes!” are the whispers you hear as you walk into any K-2 classroom as a child is called back to the teacher’s table for guided reading.  During this time, the teacher teaches high-frequency words, phonics skills, comprehension, fluency, writing, vocabulary and decoding skills–often in 20 minutes with 6 children.

Since January, guided reading has been the focus of my coaching work with almost all of my teachers.  As I reflect on the time spent with my beginning teachers as a Wolfpack WORKS coach, my 5 tips for a successful guided reading time are:

  1. PLAN! When you are well planned, the lesson will be more focused and you will be able to accomplish more. Plan your introduction to the text, the purpose for reading, the high-frequency words you will preview, the new vocabulary words in the text, and varying levels of comprehension questions.
  2. Be flexible! Formal or standardized assessments do not always give an accurate or full picture of a reader. You will have to move students around into different groups depending on what they need as readers. If the books you are choosing for your guided reading group are too easy or too hard for particular students, move them to a different group!
  3. Set a timer! Remember that your students who are not with you in a guided reading group are working independently. Most of them will not be able to stay on task over 20 minutes.
  4. Give students an opportunity to talk! Whether it is activating background knowledge or discussing the text with a partner, these conversations are crucial for a deeper understanding of the text.
  5. Have an extension activity after reading. This activity should be directly related to the text. It can be done independently – and possibly after students leave the guided reading table.

As a Wolfpack WORKS coach, when I am asked how to grow readers, my answer is to implement guided reading consistently! You will see growth in your readers if you stop eliminating or minimizing this part of the day. Guided reading is your “best bang for the buck” and the most valuable 20 minutes you will spend with your students!


Megan Ray


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