Do you ever find yourself feeling uninspired or at a loss, and yet your students are right there in front of you at your small group table? I’ve been there. But I want you to know that small group (or guided) reading is a tool through which we can reach all of our students, wherever they may be.
In my whole group, we may read parts of a story, answer text based questions, and engage in collaborative discussion but I also carry over those rich reading comprehension strategies to my small group table.
Over the years, I’ve learned some “go to” research based strategies. These tools allow me to know exactly what to do for each level of reader, grow them into becoming deep thinkers about texts, and use whatever text I want!
Here’s my easy 5-day plan using any close read text—I just using one page articles or stories that students can write on for ease of use—often called close reads. Just the one text will last you the whole week in small group instruction.
Day 1: Vocabulary and First Read
Begin by asking students guiding questions about the text and have students talk to each other answering the question using accountable talk—collaborative discussion. For example, when my students read “Michael Jordan and a Growth Mindset”, I ask “Have you ever faced challenges? What did you do?”
Tell them about what you’ll be reading about in the article. Next, have students skim the text and highlight words they don’t know. Then, engage students in discussing with a partner what they think the words mean.
Write the vocabulary words, and as you read, you’ll use contexts clues to determine the meaning of the words.
Day 2: First Read
Have students read each stanza silently or you can take this opportunity to listen to students read individually or use fluency building strategies such as choral reading or echo reading. Stop after each stanza and have students summarize for a “quick talk”—collaborative discussion—with their partner.
Summarizing is one of those essential tools I use for students to integrate knowledge with their first read. It’s essential for comprehending and moving on to the second read. Text chunking or annotating is also essential here. Students can write a sentence summary for each paragraph enabling to create a summary at the end.
Day 3: Second Read and Text-Based Questions
Begin small group with a “quick write,” recording everything they remember about the text. Have students re-read the text. Create or used text based questions from your articles. My favorites come from TpT , but Readworks.com works too!
Read aloud using fluency strategies such as choral reading, or have students whisper read for a second read. It’s essential for comprehension that students have experience with repeated reading for comprehension. You can also use annotating or chunking the text for the second read.
Model answering one of the text-based question. Have students answer the other one with a partner or independently. You can have your on- or beyond-level readers answer the text-based questions before coming to small group.
Day 4: Inference Text Based Questions
Once you’re beyond basic text-based questions, engage students with higher order questions, with a partner to scaffold learners. This day requires them to think deeper about a text.
Day 5: Creating questions
At this point, students are now ready to create and answer their own questions about the text. Students creating their own questions (with question stems) allows them to think creatively. It also motivates them as well. I love using student-created questions for quick writes the following day!
The key to teaching guided reading or small group reading—to grow your students—is to motivate and engage students using the strategies of repeated reading, summarizing, annotating, quick writes, and collaborative discussion.
Check out some of the resources I use for small group—these offer the step-by-step instructions and the questions already prepared for you—and they’re fun! There are articles about Michael Jordan, Growth Mindset, Mo Willems, Loch Ness, and Amelia Earhart. They take the guess work—and the work—off you!