Guided Reading: How Do I Know What to Teach?

This post is super important. It’s probably one of the biggest questions I’m asked about guided reading.  
How do I know what to teach? 
That’s a pretty big deal. Guided reading is meant to be strategic and responsive to students’ needs. If we’re just throwing out random strategies, without thought as to whether students have already mastered them, or if they’re ready for them, we’re spinning our wheels and wasting our most precious commodity: time. So choosing a strategy to focus on for guided reading is pretty important. 
There are a few factors to consider when you’re deciding what to teach in guided reading. 
*What strategies should students be able to demonstrate?
*What strategies are appropriate for the level of text?
*What strategies has this student mastered?
And a really important one:
*What is keeping this student from moving up a level?
This is where all of that record-keeping comes in. If you’re planning your first guided reading lessons with a group, start with the initial assessment data that you collected. If you used my reading behavior records, great! If you used something else, great! Pull out the records you have for all the members of that group and lay them in front of you.
Also, print out my Good Readers strategy sheets from my Guided Reading Freebie or product. It’s a good place to start and provides you an overview of common strategies for decoding and comprehension.

There are lots of other sources for reading strategies at each level, too. I found this great freebie on TPT, but in the past, I’ve referred to Fountas & Pinnel as well as Scholastic for these resources.

Then it’s time to use your data!

Decoding Example: 
Frequently (but not always!), below level 18, students who are struggling to move on are struggling with decoding skills. Comprehension is always important, but it’s not as common for students to be held back by comprehension at lower levels.
As you look across the assessment data for your group, think about this: what strategies are students using consistently across the group?
If students are consistently reading sight words accurately, using initial sounds to decode, and rereading to clarify meaning, then that’s not a place to start. You already know they can do these things without instruction. Instead, look at the errors they’re making. If you see several errors across the group where students misread vowel teams, or leave the endings off of words, then start there.
Comprehension Example:
Once you get to a level 20, it’s really a mixed bag. Students should have been comprehending prior to that, of course. But the level of complexity really increases and students have to apply increasingly complex strategies to understand. 
So again, look across the assessment data for your group. What strategies are students using consistently? If students are able to make reasonable predictions and identify genre, don’t start there. Instead, start with something that’s keeping kids from moving on. If students are struggling to analyze characters or make inferences about character feelings, then that’s a good place to start. 
As you move forward in your lessons with students, you’ll have more anecdotal notes and records to help you decide what to work on. Pay close attention to student reading behaviors and take good notes to maximize your instructional time!

I hope that helps! Please, I’d love to hear about your questions in the comments!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!



Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).


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