Classroom Solutions > Allie Magnuson > Guidelines and a Guide Dog for Guided Reading

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Guidelines and a Guide Dog for Guided Reading

GuidedReading01 In my classroom, guided reading is one of the most important parts of the day. It shows my students that I respect them as individuals, taking into account their own abilities, needs, interests, and learning styles. It facilitates more personal interaction, in a supportive atmosphere where they feel comfortable sharing what they think, making mistakes, asking for help, and absorbing what is being taught. Instead of making me the person who stands at the front of the room and dictates what must be done, guided reading allows me to do what I became a teacher to do: guide.


I'm going to share with you some guidelines for guided reading. Keep in mind that they are just guidelines and can be adjusted to your own preferences and needs.

But first, what exactly is guided reading?


  • Permanent groupings
  • Traditional instruction with teacher directing and in control
  • Round-robin reading, where students take turns
  • An emphasis on competition


  • Flexible groupings based on careful observations
  • A time to guide students as they learn to read
  • Independent reading in a group setting
  • An emphasis on cooperation
  • A combination of phonemic, phonological, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills and strategies

During guided reading, Miss Bindergarten becomes the "guide dog" who sits with the groups and lets students read and think with her. This puts students even more at ease. During the first lesson, I say, "Miss Bindergarten and I are going to help you learn to read. We are going to have so much fun learning letters, sounds, and words!"




In working with your class, you'll want to group the students in different ways, depending on what you're trying to achieve. The ideas for various groups below come from the book Guided Reading in Grades K–2 by Anthony D. Fredericks.

Whole Class Group

You can use the whole class as a group when you:

  • Introduce guided reading
  • Don't have a lot of time
  • Want to show the whole class a technique, skill, or strategy
  • Have enough copies of a book for every child
  • Want to model reading fluency

Non-Group (Individualized Instruction)

You can do guided reading one-on-one with a student when they:

  • Want to read a particular book
  • Want to read about a particular topic
  • Want more practice with a skill or strategy
  • Want to practice reading independently

Small Group

This is the group size you will work with most often. Use the small group when you want to:

  • Group students who have something in common together
  • Work on something in particular
  • Help your students become intrinsically motivated to read
  • Let your students determine their own groups
  • Inject a dose of variety
  • Follow up a whole-group activity


Small groups may be formed around a strategy, interest, skill, or ability — or randomly. Groups generally consists of 5–6 students. Remember, grouping is flexible. Students will join and leave groups based on your continual observation of their strengths and needs.

I usually have five literacy centers, one being guided reading. (I will be talking about centers in an upcoming post.) Each center has a color. When my students are in the purple center, they come to me.


An assessment . . . 

  • Group20Does not require reading skills
  • Can be used with any beginning book
  • Is used to determine a student's competencies, not deficiencies
  • Is a general guideline
  • Is administered individually
  • May not be necessary for every child
  • Does not have to be completed

Here is the basic survey assessment I use in my class:

  1. Show me the front of the book.
  2. Show me the top of the book.
  3. Show me where I start to read.
  4. Where do I go next?
  5. Show me a letter.
  6. Show me a capital __.
  7. Show me a lower case __.
  8. Why is this (capital letter) different from this (lower case letter)?
  9. What is the name of this letter?
  10. What sound does this letter make? Group01
  11. Show me a word.
  12. Show me the first letter of a word.
  13. Show me the last letter of a word.
  14. Show me a word that starts with ___.
  15. Show me the word ______.
  16. Show me a sentence.
  17. Show me the first word.
  18. Show me the last word.
  19. Show me a space between two words.
  20. Why is there a space here?
  21. (Period) What's this for?
  22. (Question mark) What's this for?
  23. (Exclamation mark) What's this for?
  24. (Quotation mark) What's this for?



Preliterate Reading Ability

Preliterate readers . . .

  • Know what letters are PictureBook
  • Know some letter sounds
  • Can identify some letters
  • Can say or sing the alphabet
  • Recognize print
  • Know what a word is
  • Listen to books read aloud
  • Use prior knowledge to make connections
  • Pretend to read


Books for preliterate readers have . . . BobBooks

  • Few, if any, words
  • Possibly letters or the full alphabet
  • Possibly interactive elements


I've compiled a list of suggested books for preliterate readers that have been helpful in my class.


Emergent Reading Ability

Emergent readers . . . 

  • SightWordReadersRecognize some familiar words
  • Are learning what print is and how it works 
  • Rely on picture clues
  • Use prior knowledge to make connections
  • Learn what to do when stuck (use strategies)
  • Retell stories that have been read to them


Books for emergent readers have . . .

  • Generally one line of text per page
  • AllByMyselfMostly familiar/high-frequency words
  • Large print
  • Large spacing
  • Repetitive text
  • Strong picture support 
  • Familiar context
  • Natural language
  • Few characters
  • Consistent text placement 

And I have a suggested list of books for emergent readers as well. I've found some other great resources at Meacham Emergent Readers and Very Emergent Readers. These printable booklets for emergent readers are also handy.


Early Reading Ability

Early readers . . .

  • BuzzBuzzBuzzNotice beginning and ending sounds
  • Begin to use meaning, structural, and visual cues 
  • Use prior knowledge to make connections
  • Learn more high-frequency words 
  • Link known with unknown words
  • Learn what to do when stuck (use strategies)
  • Self-correct


Books for early readers have . . .

  • 2–4 lines of text on a page
  • Longer lines of text
  • More high-frequency words
  • AngusAndTheCatLarge print 
  • Predictable to complex pattern
  • Picture support
  • More vocabulary than pictures
  • Familiar context
  • Natural language
  • Some text placement changes

 These books for early readers have been popular with my students.


Fluent Reading Ability

Fluent readers . . . CapsForSale

  • Have advanced reading ability
  • Read phrases
  • Understand punctuation
  • Make connections beyond prior knowledge
  • Have a large vocabulary
  • Predict and confirm
  • Use a variety of strategies
  • Self-monitor and self-correct
  • Interpret/analyze characters and plot


Books for fluent readers have . . . Clifford

  • More print on page 
  • Smaller print
  • Paragraphs
  • Variation in sentence structure
  • Complex punctuation
  • Challenging vocabulary
  • Literary language
  • Little or no picture support
  • Possibly chapters
  • Numerous characters


Discover some suggested books for fluent readers.GuidedReadingScholastic


Additional Resources  

For more on this topic, see Scholastic's guided reading programs. For downloadable mini books, eBooks, and other reading resources, see Maggie's PrintablesReading A-ZEbooks for Young Readers, and DLTK's mini book page. 

I highly recommend KEEP BOOKS, produced by the Ohio State University, and the Little Readers series, which offers hundreds of little books compiled by two veteran kindergarten teachers. 





1. Preparation

You . . .

  • Consider the type of group to assemble Group19
  • Select 4–6 students
  • Select a book and give each student a copy
  • Familiarize yourself with the text
  • Determine words to point out and strategies to be used
  • Determine who to observe

2. Introduction

You . . . Group06

  • Introduce book title, author, illustrator, and main idea

Your students . . .

  • Make connections to prior knowledge
  • Make predictions


  • "Does this remind you of anything?" 
  • "What does this make you think of?"
  • Group04"Is this similar to anything you've read before?"
  • "How is this like . . . ?"
  • "What do you know about . . . ?"
  • "What do you think the book will be about?"
  • "What do you think we will learn?"
  • "What would happen if . . . ?"
  • "I wonder . . . "


3. Word Work (If Applicable)

You . . .

  • Go through the book and point out unusual/unknown/difficult words or language structure

Your students . . .

  • Group11Locate the words in their own books using their fingers or tools such as word locators, markers, highlighters, highlighter tape, and pointers 
  • Listen to you say the words
  • Practice saying and writing words or letters using tools such as magnetic letters, dry-erase boards, Magna Doodles, Wikki Stix, sentence strips, and manipulatives  


  • "Can you show me . . .?"
  • "What comes to mind when you hear that word (or phrase)?"
  • "What do you think that means?"
  • "What do you think is happening in the story based on that word (or phrase)?"
  • "Does that word remind you of another word?"
  • "Did you notice any other words you might have trouble with?"


EZCReader LetterTinsCharts01  Charts02 SentenceBuilding WordBuilding LetterMatching01 LetterMatching02

4. Picture Walk (If Applicable)

You . . . Group17

  • Go through the book and and point out the pictures
  • Explain how the pictures are helping to tell the story

Your students . . .  

  • Discuss the meanings of pictures 
  • Make predictions based on the pictures 


  • "What do you notice?"
  • "Do you see something . . . ?"
  • "What do you recognize?"
  • "Can you tell me what you see?" 
  • "Looking at this picture, what do you think will happen?"


5. Reminder of Strategies

You . . .

  • Introduce a strategy or remind students of previously learned strategies that will help them when they read. Strategies are based on reading level or type of group. Any combination of the following comprehension and reading may be used.

Comprehension Strategies

  • Use what you already know
  • Combine what you already know with new information
  • Think and read at the same time
  • Create pictures in your mind
  • Ask questions and look for answers
  • Make predictions and draw conclusions
  • Decide what the main ideas are and what the author’s message is
  • Use reading strategies when you get stuck on a word or it doesn't make sense

Reading Strategies

  • Tap each word (finger read)
  • Check the pictures for:
    • Setting/time
    • Character information
    • Expressions/speech bubbles
    • Noises/sounds/movement
    • Confirmation of words read, miscues, and self-corrections
    • Information that leads to or confirms prediction
    • Information that tells if the text is fiction or expository writing
    • Information beyond text
    • Information that tells what else could be happening
    • Information that tells you if you would like to be in this story
  • Get mouth ready and sound it out
  • Take the word apart to look for smaller words/chunks/patterns that you know
  • Make connections with similar words
  • Think about what would make sense
  • Think about what would look and sound right
  • Think about the story and the topic
  • Look for hints in the story
  • Look the whole way through the word
  • Think about the sentence structure
  • Look at the punctuation
  • Reread the sentence
  • Read ahead to end of sentence or page, and then reread the sentence
  • Guess and read on to see if it makes sense
  • Ask a friend
  • Skip it!


6. Reading the Text

You . . .

  • Have students read the book independently or together
  • Pull aside one student at a time to listen to student read a section of the text aloud
  • Assist in problem-solving when needed
  • Take anecdotal records to note student behaviors, strategy use, and progress AnecdotalRecords
  • Gather information for reteaching

Your students . . .

  • Read or look at the book
  • Use strategies
  • Read for the teacher when called upon
  • Appeal for help in problem-solving

Pictured: A method of taking anecdotal records,
with lesson notes on the opposing side.


  • "Why did you stop?"
  • "How did you know that wasn't right?"
  • "Is something not working?"
  • "What can you try?"
  • "Is there something else you could do?"
  • "What else do you know that could help you?"
  • "What are some other ways you can figure it out?"
  • "What do you think would make sense?"
  • "What is happening in the story? Does that word fit here?"
  • "Can you reread this?"
  • "Do you know another word that would fit here?"
  • "Can you say that another way?"
  • "Can you create a picture of this in your mind?"
  • "Remember how we did this in the other book?"
  • "Have you heard a word like that before?"
  • "Do you see a part of the word you know?"
  • "Do you know a word that looks like that?"
  • "Is there a way you can check to see if you're right?"
  • "What is important about this?"
  • "What's happening here?"
  • "What makes you think that?"
  • "How is this similar to what we read before?"
  • "Were you right?"


  • "You made a mistake; try that again."
  • "You made a mistake; do you know where it is?"
  • "Make sure it makes sense."
  • "If it doesn't make sense, go back and read it again."
  • "Make sure it looks right."
  • "Look at the picture."
  • "Find the tricky part."
  • "Let's go back to the beginning and read all the words up to the tricky one."
  • "Read it again and make sure you're right."
  • "Say it in chunks."
  • "Make it sound like this."


  • "Good for you! You stopped. Why did you stop?"
  • "Good. You knew something was wrong!"
  • "You made it match!"
  • "I like the way you checked that out!"
  • "You're checking carefully. Great!"
  • "I like the way you stopped and noticed!"
  • "I like the way you're able to keep track of your reading."
  • "You're using good thinking skills here."
  • "That's what good readers do!"



There are a number of techniques you can use during guided reading sessions. The ideas below come from Creating Strategic Readers by Valerie Ellery. 

Choral Reading

Have students read the book quietly in unison instead of independently. Use this technique to:

  • Help students in preliterate or emergent groups support each other when they're not quite ready to read on their own yet

Beam Reading BeamReading

Use a laser pen or flashlight to shine light on each word as the text is being read aloud by the student. Use this technique to:

  •  Pace a student's reading  

Echo Reading (Neurological Impress Method)

Read a passage aloud while pointing to the words with your finger, and have the student read along with you at the same time. Use this technique to:

  • Help students read words as they are being learned

Rhythm Reading RhythmReading

Use maracas or other instruments to beat out the tempo of the text as it is being read aloud by the student. Use this technique to:

  • Maintain a rhythm

Whisper Reading WhisperPhones

Let students use whisper phones (also called phonics phones) while reading independently. Use this technique to:

  • Help students hear themselves read  


7. Review

You . . .

  • Return to the whole group
  • Make observations about skills or strategies you saw students use
  • Revisit a skill or strategy
  • Reread the book or have students retell the story
  • Discuss the book with your students
  • Elicit personal responses
  • Assess students' comprehension
  • Make a teaching point if needed
  • Guide interactive writing or other extension activity

Your students . . .

  • Share what they learned
  • Answer questions
  • Ask questions
  • React to story with personal responses
  • Check predictions
  • Point out areas that were problems



There are several categories of questions to use in discussing books with readers. The ones below come from Dr. Maggie Allen.

Remembering Questions GraphicOrganizer02

Ask remembering questions to draw upon knowledge

  • "Who . . . ?"
  • "What . . . ?"
  • "When . . . ?"
  • "Where . . . ?"
  • "Why . . . ?"
  • "How . . . ?"



Understanding Questions GraphicOrganizer01

Ask understanding questions to support comprehension.

  • "What is the difference between . . . ?"
  • "Can you describe . . . ?"
  • "What is meant by . . . ?"
  • "Does this make you think of anything else you have read? Why?"
  • "Does this remind you of anything that has happened to you?"
  • "Do any of the characters remind you of someone you know? Who? Why?"
  • "Does this make you think of things happening around us in the world?"
  • "How was (character) feeling when (point in story)? How do you know?"


Solving Questions GraphicOrganizer03

Ask solving questions to require application.

  • "What would happen if . . . ?"
  • "How would you . . . ?"
  • "Who would you choose?"
  • "How could we find out if it's true?"
  • "Would you like to be one of the characters? Who? Why?"
  • "What new information are you learning?"

Reasoning Questions

Ask reasoning questions to encourage analysis.

  • "Why . . . ?"
  • "What if . . . ?"
  • "What was the purpose of . . . ?"
  • "Why is this an important story to share?"
  • "What might be another way of thinking about this?"
  • "Did you change your mind about anything after reading this story?"

Creating Questions

Ask creating questions to invite synthesis of information.

  • "How could you . . . ?"
  • "I wonder how . . .  ?"
  • "Do you think that . . . ?"
  • "Do you think this story could really happen?"
  • "Which details were most important?"
  • "How would you explain this story to a friend?"
  • "Can you summarize the story in one sentence?"

Judging Questions

Ask judging questions to promote evaluation.

  • "Would you agree that . . . ?"
  • "What is your opinion about . . . ?"
  • "Which is better?"
  • "What was your favorite part? Why?"
  • "Was there anything you didn't like? Why not?"
  • "How did the ending make you feel?"
  • "What would you say to the author?"
  • "Would you recommend this book? Why?"
  • "Would you read another book by this author? Why?"


 8. Evaluation

Now it's time to ask yourself some questions:

  • Were the students grouped appropriately?
  • Did you have all the necessary materials and were they accessible?
  • Was the book appropriate for the ability level of the group and the skill or strategy being used?
  • Were the other students in the class actively engaged in learning while you met with the group?
  • Was your lesson well timed?
  • Did your students demonstrate application of skills and strategies?
  • Were adjustments made if needed?

And there you have it: some basic guidelines for a well-planned guided reading lesson. Guided reading is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your students. There is nothing like the joy of hearing a child read for the first time, or of seeing students gradually improve throughout the year. Knowing that you are helping your students become readers for life is great motivation to implement solid guided reading plans into your curriculum.

Do you do any of these things differently when you teach guided reading? Do you have any good strategies or techniques that really help? Let me know in the comments.

Guide yourself into a wonderful weekend!




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Allie Magnuson
Allie Magnuson
Las Vegas, NV
Grades PreK-K
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