Launching guided reading groups in my first grade classroom has been quite an adventure this year.

I know, I know… guided reading is often said to be in stark contradiction to the Common Core, but the truth is that for early readers there is a definite need to have the students reading books with lots of words they can read, and some words they can’t. It is in this small group, at the student level, where you can really provide them coaching and strategies to meet the challenges of the text.

Forming Guided Reading Groups

I formed guided reading groups for my students based primarily on reading level (we use the DRA2 in my school).  I had several students (2 groups worth) who were reading at approximately the same level, so I split this group based on other needs. For example, three of the students at that level were having difficulty blending words, so I grouped them together. I ended up with 6 reading groups, with 1-4 students in each group.

Now, onto the fun stuff! We began reading … a lot!

The feeling I get from the research I have done, and my own experience, is that the more they read, the better they get! A wise teacher friend of mine once said “If you want to teach them to swim, you don’t stand by the edge of the pool and talk about it.. you get them in the water. They need to be reading to learn to read.” That comment has really influenced my approach to teaching reading. My previous approach was to generally introduce 2 books a week. I would do a picture walk and first read on day one, second read and oral retell/comprehension day 2, and written comprehension day 3. I worried that this approach did not have my students reading enough, so I abandoned this approach for another: Read a lot of books! I now (in most cases) introduce a new book each day, and my students:

  •  love reading group
  • are excited to see what new book they will be reading
  • are becoming more accurate, fluent, and thoughtful readers
  • are expecting to read lots of books, and are building reading stamina


In order to manage progress monitoring and increasing the time spent reading, I created a student “star” chair (by taping a star picture to the back of a regular old chair). The students rotate through this chair, and each day, I listen to the student in the star chair read, and make notes about his/her progress.

I choose to set my reading group instruction up in order to include most (if not all) of the components of balanced literacy each day: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency & comprehension.

Guided Reading Group Lesson Schedule

3 minutes fluency- Students choose and read a familiar text, select a favorite or important part to read, or even reread a poem I have introduced to the class.

3 minutes- Phonics/Phonemic awareness warm up.  Writing on white boards, building words with letter tiles etc. (I try to link this to the new text students will be reading).

1 minute new book introduction- This is QUICK! I read the title, tell the students the character names, and for some of my struggling readers, do a quick “word walk” (“Can you find the word “said” on this page) to get them ready to read. I then give the students a one line “hook” to get them interested (“I wonder if they will ever find spot”).

5 minutes reading- All students are whisper reading to themselves during this time. This is when I take a quick running record of the student in the star chair.  It is a little noisy, but it is more distracting to me than it is to my students.  While the students are reading, I place a reading comprehension discussion card in the center of the table. When the students are done reading the book, they look to the card, and find a page that helps them to answer the question. They practice rereading the page they chose until all readers are done reading.

3 minutes comprehension discussion- Students read the page they chose and their ideas reasoning in regards to the question/ prompt.

Students then bring this book home to practice reading each day.

Using Questioning Strategies to Promote Independence and Discussion

Since the students have practice the question prompts, I am beginning to support the star student to become a “discussion director” by helping them to choose the question card/ prompt for the group. This is really just the beginning of developing the student independence and discourse in reading group, but I am excited about their engagement and love of reading, as well as reading progress so far.  As for the written comprehension piece, I am really working to build oral comprehension and decoding strategies at this point in the year. When they are ready, I will introduce more of a formal written comprehension piece, but it will likely be completed independently.

What are the other kids doing during all this time? Stay tuned, I’ll post about that soon!

Guided Reading Discussion & Response

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