What Is Guided Reading? On this site, I will refer to guided reading as simply a time for teaching reading strategies in small groups. It may be abbreviated as GR, or called Reading Workshop or Reader's Workshop. How To Teach Guided Reading My site is primarily for management strategies, so this page will focus on the particulars of how to run guided reading groups. If you are unclear about what the basic components of language arts instruction are, or need resources for incorporating them into your classroom, start here on my literacy page. Here are some other resources for learning how to teach reading groups: The school district of Springfield, Illinois, provides excellent, easy-to-read information about teaching and managing guided reading. Click here for their Reading Workshop FAQs. Mandy Gregory has tried out a lot of different guided reading management strategies and reflects honestly on what she believes is best practice and workable in her classroom. Click here to view her 4th grade guided reading program. Good Materials To Have Your school system may not provide many materials for you to teach guided reading with: generally, you'll get 'little books', which are multiple copies of leveled readers to use in small groups. You may not even have even books for every child in the group. Fortunately, you don't have to have a lot of materials for GR, and you can make most of what you need. Some basic supplies that are helpful: -individual white-boards for each child (buy a piece of showerboard from a home improvement store and have them cut it into 12x12 squares: this costs less than $10 for a class set of boards that last for years) -novels or little books appropriate for your students' reading levels -letter tiles or paper photocopies of letters for making words activities Here are some more ideas for materials you can begin collecting- but are NOT neccesary. The photo above is from my DC-area classroom. I stored all of my materials for teaching GR here. -All of those black and white books are Watch-Me-Reads, an old reading series we no longer used but I utilized for small groups occasionally. Kids could take them home and read them to their families. -The blue file organizer held phonics-based file folder games. Sometimes I put the organizer out on the reading table and let the kids pick a file folder game to do for a warm- up while I got the rest of the class settled. -The yogurt cups held laminated pieces of yellow tissue paper, cut into various small sizes. Students used them to 'highlight' words they don't know, fit a particular spelling pattern, use a specific vowel sound, etc. -The wooden box held letter tiles used for making words. Buying them is too expensive for me, so I found some old math manipulatives in a school closet and wrote a letter or letter blend on each square. Students got a bag with two of each vowel, and then either specific consonants if I wanted them to anagram a particular word, or they could pick 5 randomly from the bag and make as many words as they possible. (That is a center activity, also, called 'Stir the Stew'). This is also an excellent warm-up. -The bottom shelf has two bins of "Speedy Readies"- very short books, easy books, poetry books, magazines, and other reading materials that students can get through quickly. If students finished a task before the rest of their group, they could pick a Speedy Ready. They should be ready to put it away at any time and re-join thegroup because all the books are quick reads, and they don't have to get up and return them to the classroom library. -Next to the Speedy Readies are laminated activity sheets I made to go with the Watch-Me- Reads. I often pulled them for subsitutes to use during reading lessons, or when I was not feeling well or had too much to do to teach three reading groups. Kids read the story and followed the self-explanatory directions on the papers. They usually worked alone but sometimes worked in pairs or with their small groups. Organizing Reading Group Materials and Teaching Area Above is another DC photo. While I stored all of my GR materials on the shelves, I kept a small rolling cart for the reading group supplies that I accessed daily. I just wheel the cart over to wherever I needed it (the GR table, the rug area, or if I moved to a small group of students instead of having them move to me). On top in the purple box is the reading series I used on occasion with my AGL kids. My binder with test scores, running records, small group notes, etc. is right behind them. I also kept markers, pens, pencils, and dry erase markers inside the purple box. (The box was a black-lightbulb box from Wal-Mart, I think: ask stores to let you have their empty boxes, and usually they're happy to get rid of them!). The top drawer of the cart held stuff for my BGL kids, middle for OGL, and bottom for AGL. That means that when it was time to teach a particular group, I just opened the drawer and had the current kid's readers, teacher's edition, and props needed right at my fingertips. Here is the small group reading area of a first grade teacher in my current school. She keeps all of her resources on the shelves behind the table and also uses a small rolling cart. Thanks, Mrs. Hanson! This is another small group reading area from Mrs. Paige's first grade class at my school. She uses plastic crates and a bookshelf to keep her materials. I like the small white board easel. How did first grade get those cool horseshoe tables, anyway? We don't have them in third! :-) Well, this is my classroom. I often do my small groups on the carpet. I sit in the same place I was at when I took the picture, in either a rocker or a regular chair. The kids can sprawl out on the carpet with large clipboards (which they love) or sit at the round table- wherever they are comfortable. Here's my language arts area in my classroom during SY 2005-2006. (it's directly behind where I was standing to take the picture of the reading group area). I took the picture at the end of the year so a lot of stuff is already put away, but you get the idea. The green crate has standardized test practice packets in it. The green books are language arts (grammar) books that I use a few times a year (I try to teach grammar in context rather than through boring textbooks like we had when we were in school!). The rest of the shelves held dictionaries, class sets of books (we were reading 'Ramona Forever' so those books were out), small group guided reading books, letter manips, sticky notes, etc. To the far right, you can see some of my book bins, which were in the reading area. I kept language arts and reading (and writing) in seperate areas because they each hadseperate workjobs, but now I'm using just one giant Literacy Area to store all of my supplies. Introducing Reading Group Routines and Center Procedures It's extremely important to spend plenty of time modeling and reinforcing your expectations for guided reading. Here are some tips for introducing your procedures. How To Group Students Homogenous grouping is traditional for GR, and there is much research to show it's effectiveness, especially for younger students. However, the older your students, the more fluent they are, presumably, and it becomes less neccesary to group them by ability- see research by Regie Routman. I prefer flexible grouping with my third graders because a) they don't feel 'labeled' or limited, and b) they practice just the skills they need. I give mini-benchmark tests for specific skills (cause/effect, fact/opinion, etc.) on a regular basis: kids read a short passage and answer 5 multiple choice questions. I grade them quickly, and then pull the kids who need to review it for a small group. You can have homogenous groups and also pull groups flexibly, especially if you don't schedule GR into your schedule rotation (see Workstations below). How Many Reading Groups Should You Have? If you're doing flexible grouping (see above), this is a non-issue. If you're doing homogenous grouping, 3 is the traditional number: below-, on-, and above-grade-level. Once students have become fluent readers (intermediate elementary), the tasks completed in GR groups will become more similar and ability grouping is less crucial (as opposed to 1st grade, for example, when some kids don't know letters and others are reading novels: you may need more reading groups at that grade level). If your groups are too large, or the range of abilities is too broad, you may need to have 4 groups. I did this one year because my on-grade-level group was always to difficult to teach because I had some kids who were barely out of the below-grade-level group and some who were almost ready for the above-grade-level group but not quite. You may also have a situation like I did last year, in which the below-grade-level group had to be split up. Most of the group was only a year or less behind, but I had two kids who were on a first grade level and had already been retained: they needed extra help that the rest of the group was too advanced for. There are some teachers who have as many 7 groups, but this seems really unmanageable to me. Determining A Rotation System There are a lot of choices: centers, workjobs, partner reading, partner work, making words, independent work, silent reading, etc. In the past, I have called the whole thing our Literacy Workshop, since it comprised a variety of elements. Look at what your school system requires (most have mandates about this), and then fine-tune the plan until it works for you. And- don't be afraid to change things mid-year or more than once throughout the year! Workstations: the easiest system I've found that is based on best practices: The most effective rotation system, in my experience, is described on the Centers page. In a nutshell: I reflected on best practices from workshops I've taken and research I read (mostly Regie Routman and Debbie Miller), and I stopped scheduling GR as one of the rotations. Students either read independently or complete centers in workstations during the whole GR time, and I call kids over when I am ready for them. There are seperate center groups and reading groups, and the schedule is much more flexible. In addition to the info on the Centers page, there is also more about this on the 2nd and 3rd tips in the next section, below. The traditional rotation system: You may want to use (or be mandated to use) the traditional rotation system. Here are some ideas based on things I've done that in the past. From the traditional standpoint, the number of rotations you need will depend on how many reading groups you have. I have very set procedures and routines in my classroom, as you can tell! But I'm very laid back with the format of reading groups. I dislike having to stop a lesson after 15 minutes. One year I saw each group for 30 minutes and only met with 2 groups a day (BGL first daily and OGL and AGL taking turns for the second slot, with the OGL kids seeing me more frequently than the AGL kids). That worked really well for that group. Most years, I generally don‟t keep a strict schedule with my high-OGL and AGL kids: sometimes I‟ll see them separately for ten or fifteen minutes while the others finish independent work and then switch; sometimes they‟ll all meet together with me; sometimes the AGL group will meet without me in a Book Club arrangement. These kids are normally pretty independent and I can often have one group at a table and one on the floor, going back and forth between the two groups in between assigned group tasks. Here's an example of a rotation if you have 4 reading groups (which is harder to arrange than if you have 3): st nd rd th 1 rotation 2 rotation 3 rotation 4 rotation BGL Small Group Indep. Work WorkJobs D.E.A.R. Low OGL Indep. Work WorkJobs D.E.A.R. Small Group High OGL WorkJobs D.E.A.R. Small Group Indep. Work AGL D.E.A.R. Small Group Indep Work WorkJobs You can do 3 rotations even if you have 4 groups when you‟re short on time: st nd rd 1 rotation 2 rotation 3 rotation BGL WorkJobs Small Group Indep. Work Low OGL Small Group Indep. Work WorkJobs High OGL Indep. Work Workjobs Small group AGL Indep. Work Workjobs Small group By the way, the order of the rotations isn‟t random. My BGL kids often had a hard time sitting still and concentrating for long periods of time, so right after whole-class instruction, I would send them directly to WorkJobs. I did try to schedule my struggling readers in the first and second rotation when I still had energy and I knew we won‟t run out of time (my last group often got shortchanged, time-wise). Transitioning Between Each Reading Group Rotation GENERAL TIPS: - Try the option of having the kids stay in one place and YOU move to them. This works great in small spaces. Here was my plan when I taught second grade: there were four groups of students, with about six in each group. At one set of desks, we did small group guided reading instruction. Another set of desks had kids doing independent work. The other two sets of desks had kids doing centers and reading for D.E.A.R. time, respectively. The kids moved from one group of desks to the next at the appropriate time. I loved the way this worked, with me coming to the reading group rather than having the reading group come to me (although that method is also very effective, if your kids can move around the room responsibly). - Consider doing guided reading (small group reading instruction) with your below grade level group first. The last group often gets shortchanged in terms of time, and your BGL kids cannot afford to have this happen to them. For that reason, having your above grade level group (or highest readers) last, but I actually have mine second. My AGL group is very creative and self-motivated, and meeting with them between my BGL and OGL groups gives me a break of sorts- they don‟t need as much structure and I can facilitate rather than teach. Sometimes my AGL kids meet in the reading area without me or with me just popping over every now and then so I can be sure my OGL kids get their full 20 minutes. - Decide what “feel” and rules you want to apply during small groups and discuss them with your students. Will you be more of a facilitator or teacher- meaning, will they be running the discussions or will they look to you to call on them? Do they need to raise their hands or call out? (You can have different rules with different groups or different lessons). Can they interrupt each other or piggyback on one another‟s comments? Guided reading groups can be very casual or they can be run like a regular directed- instruction lesson, whichever way feels best to you. The key is communicating to the kids what your expectations are. - Do NOT let any child interrupt a small group lesson for ANY reason other than an emergency! You will need to say this explicitly many times before the kids can do it consistently. Make sure you have also defined „emergency‟, which is a whole other topic!! Every child in your class should be able to articulate WHY it is important not to interrupt: they are keeping other students from learning. You need to focus completely on your group, and students ARE capable of cooperating with this. In the past I have had my students use sign language to ask permission to use the bathroom- I do allow this during groups because they are expected to wait until I look up and acknowledge them with a nod, which is not disruptive to the group I‟m teaching. (Nowdays, most school systems do not allow adults to deny children bathroom privileges at any time, for obvious reasons. When I started teaching, this was not the case and I didn't know better. I called a kid's bluff, thinking he didn't really have to go because he just went a half an hour earlier. Words can't describe how awful I felt when he had an accident. Never again have I told a child they couldn't use the bathroom- I just plan ways for them to do so that don't disrupt learning. See the Transitions page for more on this). - During small group instruction, position yourself so you can see the entire classroom and survey the room with your eyes often. I always glance up from the group once or twice a minute to make sure everyone is on task and that no one needs to go the bathroom- it only takes about two seconds each time and I do it when my group is not looking at me (another child is speaking, or they‟re reading/ writing) whenever possible. The more experiences you become at teaching, the more natural this will become until you do it automatically. WORKSTATION STRATEGY TIPS: - Have center groups that are seperate from reading groups. If all of your below- grade-level readers are in centers at the same time, they’ll have no one to help them. Choose mixed-ability center groups, taking into consideration personality and who works well together. Children in each center group can rotate through the various workstations together (see the Centers page). Reading groups can be flexible (pull the students who need to work on a specific skill, so groups are always different) or traditional, homogenous groups. Just have the whole class working on centers, and call each reading group to you when you are ready. They will leave their workstations while the others work, and return when you‟re ready for them to go back. This also allows you to send kids back to the workstation they were in if they have finished the reading group task early or have demonstrated mastery, allowing you to continue working with those who need additional support. - Don't schedule yourself (GR) as one of the rotations. See the tip above about center groups. Call the children you want to see when you are ready to see them: this allows more flexibility and opportunities to take advantage of teachable moments. TRADITIONAL READING GROUP ROTATION TIPS: - Keep a set order of group rotations: have children do guided reading, independent work, and centers (or whichever rotations you include) in the same order daily. This routine will make things flow more quickly because students know where to go without you telling them. - Allow five minutes in between groups to answer questions VERY quickly and get students settled in their new places. Don‟t start your lesson until everyone is more or less sitting in the proper place with the proper materials- you'll only be interupted repeatedly. Kids are usually excited to get to their group and move very quickly- have a warm-up on the board for your upcoming small group, such as to re-read the story with a partner, write two sentences telling what they think will happen next in the story, etc. This way they get their full 20 minutes even though you may only be teaching for 15. - Don’t allow transitions between groups to go for more than five minutes, tops- if one group ends at 10:25, you should be teaching the next by 10:30. And yes, this IS possible!! Transitions only take a long time when the kids are playing around, and usually students are so motivated to get that small group time with the teacher or to get to centers that they don’t stop to chat or stare out the window. - However, don‟t expect transitions between groups to be quick for the first two weeks. The first week I don‟t even teach the groups, I just monitor the kids in their various places (the ones at the table for small group read silently). Once I am sure they know the rotation order, how to take care of and clean up the centers, and how to work independently on an assignment, I expect the transitions to be very quick. Keeping The Rest of The Class On-Task - Create appropriate independent work assignments. This is really the key to behavior management during GR: if kids are engaged in developmentally-appropriate tasks, you won't have to worry about them acting up or playing around. Using the Workstations method (described on the Center page) makes this really simple, but there are other effective assignments. In the past, I have based my activities on the whole-class language arts lesson I taught before the guided reading groups began. That lesson was 45 minutes, which we spend in directed instruction and guided practice- when I thought they‟d gotten it, I began the reading groups. Whatever you choose to do, make sure the assignments are: *challenging but not so hard they have to ask for help *open-ended so that students cannot write one word and claim to be done *lengthy enough to last the FASTEST child a full 20 minutes (or however long your sessions are) *self-explanatory so children can work independently *quiet so you can teach GR - If someone in centers or independent work is off-task, attempt to make eye contact first. A stern look should get them back on track, and often misbehaving children are looking at the teacher, anyway, because they know they‟re doing something wrong. If you can‟t get eye contact, focus on the small group again for another thirty seconds or minute. If you look back up and the child is still misbehaving and won‟t look at you, you have a choice. You can not say anything and simply plan to give a checkmark or frown face or move the child to yellow (whatever your behavior plan) after the group. You could give your group a brief task (“Tell you partner about…”) and get up to whisper to the child. Or, you could call across the room to the misbehaving child. The last way is quite disruptive to the whole class, but can be very effective in the beginning of the year because it reinforces your expectations and lets the kids know you ARE watching them. - If students cannot work independently, sit them near you as you lead small groups or away from everyone in a corner so they can‟t distract others. You can also tell them no independent work, no centers- it‟s a package deal. My experience, however, is that independent work is very quick, only about 15 minutes, and the only kids who refuse to do it are those that have severe attention or behavior issues. Those children may need additional reinforcers to stay focused. -The consequence for continual off-task behavior in centers should be losing the privilege to use them. Only yo can determine what 'continually' means: Personally, if I have to speak to a child more than once in a day about playing around in centers, they don’t go to centers the following day. While the others do centers, that child can continue independent work or read silently instead. Again, this is about the seriousness of disrupting small group learning time. See the introducing center routines and GR procedures page for more. Assessing Guided Reading Work Use simple forms whenever possible. Some school systems have complicated forms, but if you can get away with it, write the skill at the top of a checklist and use a basic scale to indicate if kids are mastering what you teach (maybe S for secure, P for progressing, and E for emerging). The checklists are more for my use as evidence for my formal grades, as well as documentation of what kids are learning during reading groups, than they are for use on report cards. You can use any of the forms I made up here if you want. This one is a more structured evaluation I use to show if kids are meeting benchmark standards (SSS is the state standards- just put in your own title). This anecdote form is less structured and has space for more notes. For information about assessing center/ workstation assignments, see the Center Managemet page. See the Centers page for more information about making and running centers/ workstations. How to teach literacy, plus FREE resources to print and make!