5 Small Group Instruction Tips for Easy Guided Reading Practices

Reading is one of the most important skills a student can work on. Why? Because no matter what you are teaching, reading is involved. From story problems to textbooks, students are going to be reading in some capacity. So, how do we ensure our students are getting better at reading? Through small group instruction and guided reading! 

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What is Guided Reading? 

Guided reading is using small group instruction to help your students become better readers by setting a purpose, working on fluency, comprehension, and more! What is the best way to use small group instruction and guided reading together? I’m glad you asked. 

1: Warm Up Before Your Small Group Instruction 

The first thing I always did with my students was I started with a warm up game or activity. You can use any warm up activity you want, but having one is important because then students know exactly what to do when they get to your table. Personally, I loved starting with Super Speed. This game was developed by Whole Brain Teaching and I love it because it focuses on sight words. When you use this game, you are able to practice sight words with your students incredibly quickly. You can get this game on the Whole Brain Thinking website


What I did was make a copy of the sight words for each of my students and cut them out for them. Then, when they came to my table, they would get their cards out and know they had one minute to practice. I made getting the cards out a game too. Whoever got their cards out first was able to go first. Now, this warmup wasn’t for everyone every day, I would have about half of my group work on this each day while the others got their things ready for the center activity or followed along with their groupmate. For those of you in my Learning Made Easy class you know I like to keep my guided reading groups to four to six students so it doesn’t take too much time to do a warm up during your small group instruction. 

2: Use Key Visual Resources 

We all know that students learn differently whether it’s hands-on, auditory, or visual. Because every student is different, it’s good to have a variety of learning styles or a combination of them. I have found having visuals is always helpful to students. Some of the visuals I always used included: 

  • Reading Friends: I used these with my younger students (kindergarten through second grade), but it is also great for ELL students who are just learning to read. These reading friends help your students implement phonics skills that you are working on. 
  • Comprehension Super Friends: This has all of the comprehension strategies turned into superheroes. These are available on a poster as well as a bookmark for your students so they know which strategy to use while they are reading. 
  • Punctuation Pals: My students often skipped over the punctuation when they read which impacted their inflection which in turn affected their comprehension. I would keep these on a ring. As we talked about punctuation, I would use these little punctuation pals and talk about what the punctuation pal does. 

You can get all of these visuals free by following this link! Having these resources in your classroom will be great for your guided reading small instruction. 

3: Tracking Small Group Instruction with Data Pages

I had to have a way to track my students’ data and take notes in one place. I know I have had the sticky note storm in my binders and novels and everywhere else. Therefore, I could never find what I needed. So, I developed my own Ultimate Classroom Binder which is amazing for everything you need for planning and tracking your data. You can grab this Ultimate Classroom Binder and have all the resources you need for free! Once you download and use it, you’ll have one binder where all of your information is saved which makes showing parents their student’s progress easy. It also helps when you have PLC meetings as well. 

4: Getting Student Materials Together 

Now when I say materials, I’m not talking about markers and glue sticks and all the little office things. I’m talking about the materials they are going to need to keep themselves organized. For example, they are going to need a folder for their literacy centers. My students had a guided reading folder with interactive notebooks that they used while they were reading. 


The interactive notebooks were  great for journaling while they were reading. Even though it wasn’t always interactive, they had all of their writing in one spot so it is so easy to find. This was great for conferences because I could show parents what they were doing really well and what they needed help with. Using interactive notebooks with your small group instruction is also great for giving students notes. I would give students little sticky notes in their interactive notebook to comment on something they did well as well as what they needed to work on. 

5: Include Centers with Guided Reading and Small Group Instruction 

Now, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my blogs, watched a Facebook Live, or Tuned into a Podcast. I could never do my small group instruction with guided reading without literacy centers. While I have my small group of students working with me, what are all of my other students doing? I can’t just let them run around because then nothing would get done. So, I use my literacy centers and include small group instruction with guided reading.

I am very meticulous when it comes to the type of activities I have in my centers. They have simple designs that are easy to follow  but have rigorous content that will help students enrich and review materials. These center activities will always be something that students can do independently so you can focus on your small group instruction. However, they aren’t just the same thing over and over again. I always have a variety of activities in both Volume 1 and Volume 2 that are very simple and spaced out so students don’t feel like they are doing the same thing over and over again.


Small group instruction is great for differentiation and increasing several reading skills which is why guided reading is so important. Whether you are using guided reading for the first time in your classroom or you have always done it, these are simple tips that will help you make your guided reading time better. By using small group instruction, visuals, and of course centers to keep everyone busy and learning you’ll see your students strive in no time!

Until next time…

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