Guided Reading Group Format

Dec 7, 2013

 The hours can pass so quickly when I start talking about school.  How does that happen?  The other happened again!  My friend, Jenny, from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad and I had a late night talking school.  One of our topics...guided reading.  She wanted to know how I had my routine set up and persuaded me to share.  So...I will share.
But I must preface by saying that this routine did not just happen.  I have learned so much, tweaked so much because of long conversations with my teammate Karen.  We both make changes based on what we hear/see each other doing.  I've learned a lot.
Also...when I first starting doing Title I, I really had to keep to my time limit.  So I started timing myself for the different components of small group.  When the timer went off, I moved on to my next planned activity.  I did this for awhile just to get my pace down because it was so easy for me to get caught up on a phonics skills they didn't understand or sight words that they didn't know.  Setting a timer, really helped me get into better habits until I didn't need the timer anymore.

My guided reading groups are 30 minutes with anywhere from 4 to 7 kids.  This is the routine in a nutshell:
Phonological Awareness
Phonics (letters/sounds)
Phonics (nonsense/real words)
Sight Words
Leveled reader (reading strategies)

Now...let's dig deeper.

My groups start with behavior rubrics and expectations. (this takes about less than 1 minute)  My "I can" statements fit in during the "A" of this behavior rubric.

My instruction starts with Phonological Awareness.  (This changes during the second half of my year when I start doing some 1 minute fluency passages).  This can take different forms depending on the time of year, need, and skill I am working on for the week.  Here are some things we do: blending, segmenting, sorting sounds, changing nursery rhymes.
Here are some materials we use during this time.

Sometimes we use mirrors to show sounds.

Sorting by /sh/ and /th/ sounds
This is how they change nursery rhymes such as "he put in his arm and pulled out a farm."

Once phonological awareness is complete, we transition typically with something like this: "Good readers need to hear and say the correct sounds or else it changes the word.  So let's look at these letters."

Then we move right into a quick phonics lesson.  We start by going through letter cards.  I remind them that we need to draw the letters in the air, see the letter, and say the letter/sound.

Then we talk about how these sounds come together to make words.  We practice putting these sounds together with nonsense words.  I have explained and showed them that these nonsense words help us because they are parts of bigger words. (And I catch my firsties finding them in our bigger words like "bucket" and "picnic")

We practice some together first.
We look at how the nonsense words are part of "big" words.

Then  1 minute on their own. Click image for a freebie.
Once we complete our nonsense word practice, we look at the phonics skill for the week.  Many times I do this with a sheet where they each highlight the skill and blend the word together.  Sometimes we use one sheet and do this together.  And (occasionally) I do a word sort.

Example of an individual sheet

Example of one we do together
Example of a Venn Diagram word sort

Then we transition to sight words.  I say something like "we need to be able to sound out words quickly when we get stuck, but some words we need to just know by heart."  Then we flip through our Snapword cards.

Phrases with Snapwords we have learned
So far, I have used up about 15 minutes of my guided reading group.  We now transition into our leveled reader.  Typically I say something like this "Now we use all these skills to read a book, as well as, our reading strategies."  The strategies were created together and are posted in two places.

We are ready for the leveled reader.  I try to read two different leveled readers a week.  I start with a picture walk or a "guess the covered word" activity.

Guess the covered word
Once introduced, we read the text chorally or individually.  This is their time to use all the skills we have practiced and modeled.  It is also a time for me to taking running records.

During the last couple of minutes of the group, I try to throw in some comprehension.  I really like for my group to sequence the story because I think it is a great way to get them to reread the text but also think about "what makes sense."

We always end our group by discussing effort.  They rate themselves and then we discuss if they need to make changes for the next day.

Thanks for reading!  How does your group flow?


  1. My reading centers have taken a big hit between having a split class and having many days with extra kids due to no subs in the building. The only place I have for them to sit is at my teacher table. I love how you start with behavior expectations. Such a great idea, I don't think I would have thought to do it. I also like having the I Can statements at the teacher table. It seems like it would make it much more meaningful since they review it and then work on that skill. You have given me so many good ideas! Thanks! One question, I thought you taught math...
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

  2. I really, really love this post. It is incredible to me how much you fit into your small group time! It makes me feel like a slacker, but in the best possible way. I'm reevaluating what quick routines I can add to my time to pack it full of meaningful learning. You have so many amazing ideas- even little things like the flash card folder to separate the new from the review that seem so simple, but I never thought of myself! Thank you so much for sharing how you do things-- you are constantly giving me great ideas :)

  3. So organized! Now how many groups do you get to meet with a day if each group takes 30 minutes? I am so struggling to fit everything in with only 80 minutes of language art block a day. That includes eveything language arts related!

    1. Hi Amna!
      I am happy to email you more specifics to questions, if you want to send me your email! But to answer you...I am the Title teacher. But I push in. So we take the entire class and break them up into their small groups. We have three going at one time in the classroom (sometimes 4). Then that knocks all the small groups out in the just 30 minutes. I do 4 reading groups a day, 2 math groups, and writer's workshop conferences. Hope that helps!

  4. Emily!!! This is amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing what you do, how you transition, and everything in between! I am definitely going to print out this post and study it over the next three weeks. Since I am still new at this, it is so great that teachers with more experience share what works, that gets me there faster. Thanks again, and have a wonderful weekend (stay warm).

  5. Can you tell us how you do your 1 min fluency reads now that half the year is over. Do the others in the group listen while one reads (so you have different passages for everyone) or do you call them up one at a time before you do their group? Thanks!! This was a very helpful post!. My email is if you would like to to reply by email.

  6. This post is amazing!! I am going to read it again just to let it soak in. :) So many great ideas! Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I hope that you can use some things from it. If you have any suggestions of what I could tweak, let me know!

  7. You are so organized! I saw in one of your responses above that you are the Title I teacher. I am our school's kindergarten Title I teacher. I was wondering if you are schoolwide or targeted. If you have one group and the teacher has another, who works with the other groups? Do you go to other classes and do the same thing? Our K-3 is departmentalized and the reading teachers have only 55 minutes for reading which is done whole group, no small groups. If we go in the classroom, it is as an "aide" as instruction is happening. I would love to do Title I groups like you do!

    1. Lee Ann-
      I only work with first grade right now, but in previous years I worked with multiple grade levels. We pull all of our resources to make the departmental classrooms work ; therefore, for our struggling readers--I have a group, the classroom teacher, the intervention specialist, and ELL teacher all have groups too. There are four groups going on at once! Our classes are only 70 minutes, so the rest of the time is spent in small group. I do go to other classes and do the same thing. I have guided math groups (we break the whole class into groups) and I also work with the writing teacher to do conferences. Please email me if you other questions. I would love to hear how you do it at your school.

  8. New teacher here! Just wondering if you could give more specifics on the timings you used when you first started. I am so amazed that you can fit so much into such a small amount of time! I love your new and review envelope. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Laurie-
      The times can vary some days depending on what I have planned. But when I really started to practice this routine, I set the timer and stuck to it (whether I was done with the activity or not). Over time I got better and better with the time management. If you want to email, we can go over exactly how much time I set for myself and how it changed a little over time.
      Thanks for asking!

  9. Em,

    I love this blog entry ! I can always learn a few new things ! I may
    ask some questions down the road. Here is one for now, do all of
    your teachers use the same words for phonics during the same week ?
    If so, what program ? I find that mine can be on different areas. So,
    do you design your own materials to follow along at your own pace ?

    Wendy D.

    ps. I particularly love the reading sheets in the individual sheet pic. Where can I find those ?

    Wendy D.
    Ms. D's Literacy Lab

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