How To Get The Most out of Teaching Guided Reading

Teaching Guided Reading

Guided reading: You either love it and teach it with fidelity, or you find it a waste of time. No matter what you think of it, the reality is guided reading time is incredibly valuable, and you should protect this chunk of time each day. Here are a few strategies that will help you get the most out of your guided reading instruction.

What is Guided Reading Anyway?

Ok. This may sound elementary – but the beginning is always a good place to start. Guided reading is small-group instruction where a teacher works with a group of students who are at similar instructional levels using systems and strategies to teach them to become stronger readers.

The goal of guided reading is to move students towards independence. During guided reading, the focus is on comprehension, while also using problem-solving strategies to decode words, sentence structure, and new or challenging concepts.

Selecting Guided Reading Texts

Texts should be just a bit above their independent reading level. Texts should be accessible, but provide enough challenge for students to need guidance. Be sure to purposely plan and select texts that are a variety of genres and topics.

How to Structure Guided Reading

Grouping Students

Carefully group students based on their reading levels. Groups of students should be no more than 5 or 6 students. Ideally, it is best to form about 3 groups of students, with a maximum of 4.

Meeting with Groups

You should aim to meet with groups for about 15 minutes at a time. If you have students reading below level, you should meet with them every day or at least four days per school week. You should meet with your on-level students at least 2-3 days per week, and your above level readers 1-2 days per week.

Here is what a guided reading schedule looked like in my classroom:

Meet WithGroup 1Group 1Group 1Group 1Assessment & Conferences
Meet WithGroup 2Group 2Group 2 Assessment & Conferences
Meet WithGroup 3 Group 3 Assessment & Conferences

Always meet with your lowest readers first. You want to make sure you protect this time because guided reading can have the biggest impact on these students.

Guided Reading Schedule

Group 1Preview & PredictBegin reading & discussingFinish reading and discussing.Reread, retell, skill or strategy focus with something written.
Group 2Preview & PredictRead & DiscussReread, retell, quick skill or strategy practice.(Students can complete skill or strategy practice independently if needed.)
Group 3Preview, predict, begin reading(Option: Have students read a portion of the text independently).Finish reading, retell, introduce skill or strategy practice if needed.(Students can complete skill or strategy practice independently if needed.)

Teaching Guided Reading Do’s and Don’ts


  • Have students read independently in your group.
  • Have students whisper read out loud to the teacher one-at-a-time
  • Increase the difficulty of texts as students progress. Scaffold!
  • Model how readers think.
  • Engage in every part of the reading process.
  • Expose students to a wide variety of texts.
  • Provide many opportunities for students to have discussions
  • Move students towards leading the group
  • Provide opportunities for independence and leadership


  • Choral Read
  • Read texts that are too easy and do not challenge students
  • Focus solely on decoding
  • Make all discussions teacher-led.

Choosing Dynamic Materials

It is important to teach guided reading using materials that are engaging and leveled.

To keep things engaging, make sure your materials should cover a wide range of topics, themes, and genres. This will help students stay engaged and ensure there is something for everyone.

I like to use Lexile® leveled guided readers because the scale is based on a quantitative measure that can be applied consistently across texts. I designed my own Guided Readers using Lexile levels to differentiate each text at three levels. Using differentiated versions of the same text allows you to engage the entire classroom simultaneously, change up your reading groups as needed, and reference the texts in other lessons or activities.

If you are working with students remotely or in a virtual learning environment, it’s also important to find resources that can integrate seamlessly with classroom and distance learning. Make sure to evaluate the distance learning options, and choose readers that are printable and digital. I created my Guided Readers with digital and printable versions, including a digital flipbook with text read aloud, so that you’ll have everything you need for an entire year of guided reading.

Teach Guided Reading with Fidelity!

If you teach guided reading with fidelity, with the focus of moving your students towards independence, you will likely see amazing growth in your students. Best of all, it will help you develop stronger relationships with your students while sharing a love of reading.

Julie Magicore Signature

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