How to Teach Guided Reading - Simply Skilled Teaching

How to Teach Guided Reading

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If you’re new to Guided Reading, welcome! This instructional approach to teaching reading is not new, but it can transform the way you instruct your students. Best of all, as you learn how to teach Guided Reading effectively, it can transform the way your kiddos experience the process of learning to read. 

What’s the Story on Guided Reading?

Once upon a time, a teacher was born. I love teaching, and from the beginning I knew that teaching kids to read would be a huge part of my job as a second grade teacher. It’s a noble goal and I pursued it with all my heart, but I soon encountered a big, classroom-sized obstacle. Whole-class instruction just didn’t cut it when it came to giving my students the individualized reading instruction they needed. That’s what led me look into how to teach Guided Reading in my own classroom.

It took hard work and some trial and error to make it successful, but I persevered and developed an effective system for teaching my Guided Reading groups. When I began to focus on streamlining my instruction and built a routine that simplified my reading blocks, it transformed the way I taught reading. In fact, it resulted in all of my students leaving my classroom reading at or above their reading benchmarks.

The Moral of the Story…Learn from My Mistakes!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE helping educators like you learn how to get started with Guided Reading. I love sharing my secrets to help you  incorporate a rigorous, streamlined Guided Reading framework into your own teaching strategy! The best part is: you can learn from my early mistakes! With this series of posts on how to teach Guided Reading, I’ll share a broad overview of the components of a successful framework. With a rigorous, streamlined approach, Guided Reading could become the best time of day for you and your students!

Chapter One….

To get started with Guided Reading, begin by understanding the basics of how Guided Reading works.

  • Start Small—With Small Groups

    Guided Reading is based on a small group approach to reading instruction. The small group is the key that unlocks another foundational feature of Guided Reading: differentiated instruction. The small group strategy is the reason you’re able to differentiate your instruction and give individual attention to each of the kiddos in your class. Organizing leveled groups from Strategic Intervention groups to your Advanced groups provide flexibility and allow you to target your teaching.

  • Begin With Pre-Assessment—Determine the Baseline Level of Each Student

    To get the ball rolling and start Guided Reading, pre-assess each of your students within the first couple of weeks of school. Use benchmark assessments to determine each child’s baseline reading level; then group them accordingly and teach your heart out! Pre-assessments, or screening assessments, can help you gauge each student’s baseline level when they arrive in your classroom. Yet you’ll also use assessment data to inform your ongoing instruction. Frequent progress monitoring assessment helps you differentiate your instruction, because it lets you plan strategies to meet students at their specific level. Best of all, ongoing assessment data will tell you when they’re ready to advance to the next level group!

  • Next, Group Students by Ability Level

    Form Guided Reading groups by grouping students based on ability level. This allows you to provide targeted instruction that meets students where they are in their reading development. No more deer-in-the-headlight looks from struggling readers who can’t keep up. No more fluent readers staring out the window and daydreaming, bored with another review of a strategy they’ve already mastered! You’ll give each individual student the time and instruction they need to make meaningful reading progress. 

When you start Guided Reading and implement it effectively, you’ll discover how ability-based groups join readers at their level, moving at a similar pace toward shared literacy goals. You’ll also see how it offers the flexibility of moving students forward when they’re ready to advance.

Done right, ability-based small group reading instruction results in engaged, independent learners who thrive and progress. But leveling and grouping students is just the beginning. The learning activities you do during Guided Reading can keep your kiddos alert and engaged. Check out this post about Guided Reading Activities That Engage and Excite.

I’ll share more in a future post about Guided Reading Lesson Plans as well as How to Increase Reading Fluency and how to use Guided Reading Level Books. Later, we’ll look at how Literacy Stations keep your independent learners engaged and on task while you’re in Guided Reading. There’s much more to the story of how to teach Guided Reading. So watch for more posts in this series!

Whether you’re a newbie who’s just starting out or a Guided Reading veteran who needs a more streamlined system, I’m on a mission to give your Guided Reading story a happy ending!


Go in-depth and learn how to teach Guided Reading using my streamlined, step-by-step approach! Check out my online professional development workshop, Guided Reading that Works.

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Anna DiGilio

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I'm Anna DiGilio

Hi, I'm Anna! I was a primary teacher for over twenty-three years, wife of a firefighter, mother of twin teenage boys, obsessed with being creative and helping teachers and love my Saturday morning quiet cup of coffee!
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Hi, I'm Anna! I was a primary teacher for over twenty-three years, wife of a firefighter, mother of twin teenage boys, obsessed with being creative and helping teachers and love my Saturday morning quiet cup of coffee!
Thanks for stopping by!

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