Would you like to get started with guided reading, but you’re unsure how to form your guided reading groups? Follow this four-step method!
So far in our guided reading series we’ve covered three things:
1 – The ten reasons K-2 learners need guided reading
2 – Understanding the guided reading levels
3 – Where to find books for guided reading
We’ve laid the foundation. Now it’s time to get started! But first … how do you form guided reading groups?
This post will show you how.
The 4-step method to forming guided reading groups
STEP ONE – Determine the reading levels of your students.
The best way to do this is to take running records of each individual student until you’ve determined each child’s independent and instructional reading level.
What’s a running record? It’s a visual record of a child’s oral reading. Using a kind of shorthand, you record exactly what the reader said and did. Then you analyze the miscues (deviations from the text) to determine the percent accuracy.
That percent will tell you if the text is appropriate for that specific learner.
And if you just said, woah … you just threw a lot at me there – don’t worry. This Reading Mama and I have a whole series about how to take running records. Click on any image to take you straight to the post!
P.S. Please note that independent reading level is what your students can read all on their own. The instructional level is slightly higher than that, and it’s what your learners can read with support during a guided reading lesson.
STEP TWO – Analyze your running record data.
Then use that data to sort students into groups.
Does that form above look scary? It isn’t, I promise! Keep reading.
As you can see in the above screenshot, you have a space to write information about each of your readers. Print as many copies as you need. Then after you’ve filled in all the data, cut the boxes apart so you can manually form (and re-form) your groups.
The printable (which you get in the free download at the end of this post) was inspired by a free webinar given by Alison of Learning at the Primary Pond. I love how the form allows you to record essential data beyond the reading level.
Not only does the form give you a space to record the independent level, you also have spaces to record the highest instructional level, the second highest instructional level, AND information about reading rate and accuracy. Just rate your students on rate and comprehension from 1-4 and circle the number that fits best.
Why all this data? Isn’t it overkill?
Nope! And here’s why.
You could very well have eight students reading at level C – but that doesn’t mean they should be in the same reading group.
What if Sarah has a 98% accuracy rate at level C, but reads. very. slowly. like. this? Or what if Carter has a 97% accuracy with level C, but he can’t answer the simplest question? You wouldn’t want to put them in the same group with Max, who has a both high level of fluency and comprehension at the same level.
STEP 3 – Keep the following in mind as you form your groups.
- Plot your groups on a piece of paper. Name the groups as desired. I prefer to use color names because it’s easy to color code learning materials that are appropriate for each group. Use the planning sheet included in the file at the end of this post.
- Groups should be no more than 3-6 students. The lower the level, the more important it is to keep the group small.
- Work to have no more than 6 groups total. The ideal number is 4 groups – but I know how hard it is to divide your students that neatly!
- Remember that not every student will be in the perfectly ideal group for him/her. Otherwise you’d need at least ten groups! But with that handy data sheet above, you’re going to do the best you can.
- What if you have outliers – such as a student who is reading several levels above his/her peers, or one who is far below? You have some options. You can meet with that high achiever once a week in a long reading conference (rather than guided reading) or put him/her with a different teacher’s group which meets at the same time. For a struggling reader far below his/her peers, meet with him/her as often as possible – every day would be ideal. Have a short, focused lesson each day. If your school has the resources, make sure this learner meets with a reading specialist or tutor as often as possible.
- Remember that the groups are flexible!
STEP 4 – Readjust your groups as needed.
Guided reading groups aren’t set in stone – far from it! When you notice that one student is reading (and comprehending) more quickly than the other students at his/her level, it may be time to put him/her in a higher group. If a learner can’t keep up and is continually frustrated, put him/her in a lower group.
See all the posts in our free series here!