Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guided Reading: What to do BEFORE you start your groups

I often receive questions/emails about how I set up and manage my guided reading groups in my first grade classroom.  I also receive questions on how I keep the rest of the class engaged while groups are going on.  Today, I am taking some time to go over these things with  you.  Perhaps you will get some new ideas for the upcoming school year!

So first, I will begin with 3 key components that must be in place prior to starting guided reading in your room.

#1 Key Component:  CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT---To successfully implement any sort of independent/small group activity that you want your students working on in class, you must have strong classroom management.  Rules and procedures must be known, practiced daily the first month of school {and as needed}, and be posted somewhere in you classroom as a visual for your students. I encourage establishing these things together as a class.  This will give your students ownership which will in turn help them remember them.  *To see a list of the procedures I teach the first month of school click HERE.  The students must also be able to demonstrate that they can follow the rules of the classroom prior to you starting small groups.

#2 Key Component:  SYSTEM IN PLACE FOR THE OTHER STUDENTS---Think about what it is you'd like for your other students to be working on during guided reading.  You want to make sure that whatever it may be, it's thoughtful and not just "fluff" or "busy work."  ie:  Having kids work on a packet of worksheets is not thoughtful work.  Having them work in small groups to do a literature circle or work in literacy centers are examples of thoughtful work.

#3 Key Component:  ORGANIZATION---We all know that there is NEVER enough time in our days as teachers.  It always seems impossible to fit in everything we want to teach.  Because we are strapped for time as it is, it's important to be organized so we aren't wasting any of our precious instructional time searching for materials.  When it comes to your guided reading groups, you probably have 15-20 minutes max per group.  By the time your kids get to the table and get situated, you've already lost 2-3 minutes.  Searching around for materials you want to use in group will just waste time {and leave your kiddos the opportunity to get off task, which will lead to MORE wasted time}.  It's important to have your materials READY and LABELED for each group.  I'm not saying you have to suddenly become some type-A crazy maniac with color-coded bins and matching labels tied on with cute burlap bows, but try to get a little organization in your life; even a pile for each group would be fantastic.

Once you have the above 3 key components in place, you are ready to begin your small groups.  I am going to devote the next section of this post to how I personally manage my groups in my room.  I will go into detail on how I set up/manage each component.  I am obviously not a guru on guided reading, but I will say that I've had 12 years to practice it.  During those 12 years, there was a lot of trial and error figuring out how to best execute it in my room with my students.

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT--We are a PBIS school.  I have written in detail about my classroom management system HERE.  In addition to PBIS, I create a "Class Promise" with my students each year.  This is just a few sentences about what the culture of the classroom should look like.  When someone isn't following it, I reference it.

SYSTEM IN PLACE FOR THE OTHER STUDENTS---This is always a tricky thing for teachers. It's hard to know what your other kids should be working on while you are running guided reading groups.  You want the time to be beneficial to them.  I've tried several things over the years and I finally found a great system that works for me and my kids.  Each day, I run two guided reading groups.  During one of my groups, the rest of the class is at literacy centers.  This is a 20 minute time frame.  They are working on ONE CENTER in the 20 minutes.  There is no switching, no choosing new centers, no loud voices, and no goofing around.  Everyone works hard for the 20 minutes.  Then I ring a bell and the kids clean up.  My group ends and they, along with everyone else, heads back to their seats and begin quiet reading time.  During quiet reading time, another guided reading group begins.  The kids at their seats read for 20 minutes.  I run my group for 20 minutes.  The same rules apply as centers--you do not get up, you use a quiet voice, and you READ.  At the end of 20 minutes, I ring a bell and we all clean up and head back to our seats to get ready for lunch.  This system works wonders for me because the kids know what to do.  We have spent the whole 1st quarter practicing this.  I do not start guided reading until 2nd quarter because I need to be able to float around and facilitate/monitor behavior as kids are learning to become independent at their centers and during quiet reading time.

**See more on literacy centers HERE**
**See more on quiet reading time HERE**

I use all of these centers throughout the year:

ORGANIZATION---No matter how you do it, a system is a must for keeping your materials organized and ready!  I keep my guided reading materials organized in large binders, by level, for quick access and on the go planning!  Everything I need is housed inside.  Worksheets are 3-hole punched.  Games and activity cards are laminated, rubber banded, and placed in clear sheet protectors inside.  The first page in each binder is a table of contents.  This outlines what is inside and in what order.  The binders are easy to take home if I need to plan for a group and have to leave work.  If you don't like binders, tubs are always an option.  Just find a system that you like.

So there you have it. 3 important things that must be in place prior to starting your guided reading groups!  What additional questions do you have?  Feel free to email me at

Check out the materials I use to run my 1st grade guided reading groups below!

Also available: Kindergarten Guided Reading Bundle!



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