Saturday, July 18, 2020

6 Steps to SUPERSTAR Guided Reading Lessons

6 Steps to Guided Reading Lessons that Rock
Teaching small reading groups doesn't have to be a chore. In fact, when guided reading is planned out properly, it can be an absolute joy to teach! You can make that dream of joyful teaching into reality. 

So where do we start to get this joy?

1. Assess All the Students

Yep. Assess everyone. That doesn't sound joyful, I know. The joy comes later...

Guided reading lessons need to be targeted for the students' skill levels in each group. One size does not fit all. Testing all students will help you target the needs for each student.

It's a lot, they all have different needs, but it has to be done. The hardest part is at the beginning of the year when you don't know your students' skill levels.
Guided Reading Test and Plan Materials

In first grade, I suggest assessing (other grade levels may require different testing):
  1. First Sound Fluency (beginning of the year and thereafter if needed)
  2. Nonsense Word Fluency (all year until reading fluency is 50 wpm or higher)
  3. Sight Word Fluency (all year until district grade level goal is met)
  4. Reading Fluency (start with established readers beginning of year and then all by 2nd quarter)
Other tests when needed:
  1. Phonemic Awareness Assessment (for struggling readers)
  2. Phonics Assessment (for students who struggle on assessments 1 and 2 above)
This may take a while at the beginning of the year. Gather the needed materials and get help if you can. If it's just you, work out a system. Batch your testing and start with testing everyone on sight words for example. Just test the first 25 words to start if you are short on time. It will give you an idea of where your students' skills are with sight words.

Check out our Fry Sight Word Test and Digital Center where students click on words and read them as you check them off on the (free) testing sheets mentioned above.
Fry Sight Word Test PowerPoint Digital Center
Our Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Resources K-2 has most of the testing materials you will need too plus so much more!

2. Group All the Students

Once you have your testing data, you are ready to organize students by similar needs and skill levels. Record your data on a spreadsheet, grade book page, or use the included spreadsheets in Targeted Guided Reading.

Get 4 different colored highlighters and start highlighting scores in like groups of 4. Then start looking for patterns and similarities. You can't feasibly have a group of 10 students, so you may have to get creative.

These are flexible groups. Gone are the days when students stayed in the same groups all year long. You will be testing regularly, and students' needs and their progress will change over the year. Your groups should change accordingly. One year, I had a student who started the year off very delayed in reading. It wasn't long before the intervention groups, the extra attention I gave her, the extra reading she received from parent volunteers, and countless other targeted strategies paid off. She started moving into new groups. By the end of the school year, this student was at the top of our class in reading. She beamed with confidence, and her confidence transferred to all subjects. 

Tip: Laminate stars, animal shapes, or whatever you like in different colors. Write student names (or numbers for privacy if you like) on them with dry-erase and slap a magnet on the back of each one. Keep them on the board.

Tip: You can easily see who is in what reading group by the colors or the shapes. Even if you move the colors around for reading with partners outside their group, you can still identify who is in what group.
Guided Reading Groups Sorting Idea

3. Plan All the Lessons

Now is the fun part. Yes, I know. That may sound a little weird, but teachers are problem solvers, right?

So, problem solve using your data. Identify one or 2 problems (skill areas) that need to be the focus for a 2 week period.
  • One group might need to focus on sight words and sound by sound blending.
  • Another group might need to work on phonemic awareness and first sound fluency.
  • Your top group may not need any of that. They may be ready for more fluency practice and retell.
Use this template from Targeted Guided Reading and fill in the targets and student names.
Targeted Guided Reading Plan Sheet
There is also a place for plans to reach the target (what activities will you do to teach and practice those skills?). If you don't have resources to help you find guided reading activities that target the skills in your plan, I've included a flipbook resource for you (also included as a full-page resource) that names the skills to target and activities that target that skill under each flap. There is a flipbook for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades in the Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Resources K-2. There are also plans 3rd through 5th grades in the Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Resources 3-5. Get kindergarten-5th grade with the bundle: Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Resources BUNDLE K-5
Guided Reading Activities Ideas
Targeted Skills and Suggested Activities Flipbook
Guided Reading Suggested Activities
Targeted Skills and Suggested Activities in Full-Sheet Format
Once you've selected the activities, make a note of how long you plan to spend on each activity (2 minutes, for example, is all it takes to quickly practice a phonemic awareness activity.)

4. Organize All the Things!

 Now that you have your activities planned to target your instruction, you can now gather your materials. And I mean ALL your materials need to be in one place.

If your materials are all in one place, ready to go, you can just grab and teach. You only have a short time with each group, so you don't want to waste even a minute searching for the markers.

Put your plan, books for the week, whiteboards, markers, and anything else that your plans call for in a tub, bin, or whatever container works best for you. Have your charts and magnetic letters nearby. You get the idea. I once had a group of teachers observe me as I taught guided reading and they were amazed at how much instruction I was able to squeeze into 12 minutes!
Organize your Guided Reading Materials

5. Instruct like a SUPERSTAR

You've already done the hard parts. You've tested, you've grouped, you've planned your targeted instruction, you've organized, and now you just need to add students and instruct! 
Put on your biggest smile and call those students to the table! Keep things smooth by keeping a routine that students come to expect. Keep the teacher voice off as much as possible, using short prompts like:
  • "sound" when a student needs to sound out a word
  • "sight word" when a student is trying to sound out a sight word
  • "try that again" when a mistake is made
  • or just point to words when a student has lost their place or needs to try again
  • etc.
Keep it moving with little talk or unnecessary directions. When you keep it moving, there is little downtime for your students to lose focus or to get off task. Praise them as much as possible. 

Tip: Make sure your students know their goals. If they are working on reading fluency, they should be able to say, "My goal is to improve my reading fluency because..." Or if their goal is to improve sight word fluency, they should be able to say, "My goal is to know the first 25 sight words by..." When students know their goal(s), they are much more likely to meet their goals!

If you need more about how to keep your guided reading instruction moving smoothly, check out:

Want to know what all the other students are doing while you teach? That's another blog post (see Must Do May Do An Alternative to Rotating Reading Centers).

6. Assess Again

Your plans are for 2 weeks of instruction. Toward the end of your 2 weeks, you need to assess again, but not everything! Test them on their goals. Did they meet their goals? Test them on the next target. If they are working on blending, test them on nonsense words again, and set a new goal. Test to see if their reading fluency has improved. If they are still struggling, test them on their phonemic awareness skills. There may be something missing there. But not everyone needs the same testing.

I found that in first grade, most students needed nonsense word testing for most of the first semester and some needed it the whole year. I also found that all students needed reading fluency and retell/comprehension testing all year. Sight word testing usually continues quarterly until all district words are mastered.

Happy Guided Reading! Pin this image (below) so you can come back to this post!
^ Steps to Guided Reading Lessons that Rock

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