Sunday, October 5, 2014

Guided Reading…What Are the Other Kids Doing?

This is the third in my series of guided reading help/ideas/tips for teachers struggling with guided reading, or who need a new idea or two. Before going into the actual guided reading lessons, I know the main thing on any teacher's mind is, "What are the other kids going to be doing?".  

During guided reading have you ever had the feeling that the lions are loose in the rest of the room? It happens! The key is to really prepare kids well for independent work, as well as providing activities that are engaging.  The video below is one of the best ones I have seen on this issue. Be sure to check it out!  Below are also a few ideas that might help you give the rest of your class some fun learning activities while you are busy with guided reading. Oh yea, I've included a guided reading sheet for students reading on the third grade level as a freebie. Hope you enjoy!

Before we get to the activities you might want to use with students, I'd like to let you in on a little secret that has served me well with my own students during guided reading. It's pretty simple: Practice! If it's at the beginning of the year, or any time during the year when things have gone wrong, just stop. If there is any chaos in your room with students who are not in guided reading, then they don't really know what is expected. It's time to model the behavior you need during guided reading. Don't even do guided reading during this practice time. Go through each center using students to model the correct behavior. Talking level can be practiced as well, as partner reading and other activities necessitate quiet talking. Model exactly what you want to see if a student needs to go to the bathroom, doesn't know what to do, or other typical problems encountered. Make sure you have strategies ready that students can use instead of running to you. Post those strategies somewhere in the room. When all students have seen the correct behavior modeled, give students centers for up to a week, and monitor their behavior daily without guided reading going on. During this time, students are not allowed to come to you with questions. You are practicing for times when you are not going to be available. I tell students if blood is not involved, they don't need to talk to me when I am at guided reading. Yes, you will miss reading time while you practice, but you will be saving your sanity.  When students can go through the centers with no problem, it's time to add guided reading into the mix. There have been years when I had to extend this practice time to two weeks. It was worth it. Once kids know exactly what to do, learning goes wild, not your students!

Kids will break the rules (Surprise!!) So at the same time we are practicing what to do, I let students know what the consequenses of talking and playing around will be. My rules are, first I will say the student's name and the word, "warning". If the behavior continues the student must stay at his or her desk and miss activities. If the behavior continues the parent is called. The key here is, I have the student call his/her parent and tell them the problem. This is more powerful than you can imagine. The student is caught between a rock (me) and a hard place (mom). I can overhear the talking to they get, and believe me, they don't want to do it again. I get on the phone when the child is done, and thank the parent, and say I'm sure their child will not need to call again, since I know he/she is a great student and wants to do a good job. This makes me the good guy.  : )  When other kids know this is what will happen, you just don't have many problems during guided reading.   Again, practice this during your practice days. Ask one child to be chatty, go through the procedures, and even ask one child who is willing, to keep acting out until a parent is (pretend) called. During practice do this so the class can actually see what will happen. This practice alone will change the behavior of most students. However, when you do need to have students call a parent, make sure the real call is done privately. This is NOT meant to shame the student, only to help him/her know how important it is to follow the rules.

Why is this important? I consider guided reading time sacred. It is vital to student learning. If students are not taught to respect this time, they won't.

What Are the Other Kids Doing?  Ideas and links!

1. Reread their guided reading text: To increase fluency students must reread text a number of times. This can be done silently, or with a partner.

2. Listen to the guided reading text on tape: This is particularly helpful for struggling students as it helps them with new vocabulary. Listening to the text also helps struggling students hear the rhythm of the words and helps with fluency.

3. Students do independent reading: This is the perfect time for D.E.A.R time!

4.  Independent writing: Reading and writing are different sides of the same coin. Giving students the opportunity to create a story, respond to literature, or respond to a specific assignment is perfect for this time!

5.  Read with a parent volunteer: Parents often want to be included in their student's learning experience. Allowing parent volunteers to come in to listen to students read is a perfect way to include them, and help students.

6. Task Cards: Task cards lend themselves to SO many skills and activities. They can be done alone, in centers, or with a partner. What I like, is that kids can get out of their seats to get on the floor, go to a different table, anything to move and get some wiggles out! Most are self checking, or answer sheets can be turned in for a grade. They feel less like work and more like fun, so kids love them. To see task cards for different grade levels check out Dragon's Den for reading, math and science task cards.

7.  Literacy Games: There are tons of literacy games available (TPT has anything you could want), plus commercially available games are usually sitting around any school. You don't need to have centers (I know a lot of teachers just don't like centers) to use games. Set a specific amount of time students can play the game, and how many students may play a particular game at a time. I have to say that keeping the number of players to two helps with management! If you would like some great classroom timers for kids to use, check out classroom timers.

8. A "Must Do" activity: Kids need practice with new skills, and this might just mean a worksheet. During the morning include one worksheet activity that extends the guided learning goals. This might also include questions about the text that encourage students to dig deeper into the meaning, and their opinions about the text.

9. Word work: This can be done in many ways. For example, if you are working on prefixes/suffixes students might add words to a charts that show the word, the prefix/suffix added, and the new meaning.  Additions to the chart can be reviewed with the class at some point during the day.

10. Reader's Theater Group: Students group together to choose and practice a reader's theater to be given at the end of the day. It is particularly important, if you choose to use this activity, that students have a clear understanding of the rules. Be sure to see the video below!  A great site to use is: Free reader's theater scripts

This is a terrific video on classroom management during guided reading! I love this one!

Freebie Time!


  1. I have a friend who has a son that is enrolled in an early childhood education which is so naughty that is why my friend is called by the school and taught about her child's attitude. I salute the teachers by their patience to this kids. It is normal for a kid to be like that but with a proper approach of teacher and parents, it will be fixed.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that your friend is having this problem. No, it isn't normal, but it isn't all that unusual either. With firm, but loving guidance her child can be fine. She may need a little professional help to address the problem. The key is addressing the problem now, before he gets older. I have a blog post on dealing with a difficult child at: It is written for elementary age students, but your friend may be able to find something of help there. My own son was quite a handful when he was little, but with a lot of consistency (and no small amount of frustration on my part) by the time he was eight, he was fine. Today he is a wonderful adult, and I am proud of him every day. Don't give up!