If every time you head over to your table to do guided reading, you have to clear piles of junk off of your table, let’s just be honest: you’re probably not going to be very consistent.
The purpose of having your space set up is to minimize transition time so you can maximize instructional time. Every minute wasted is precious: time is your most valuable and limited commodity!
There are a few things to consider when you’re making sure your space is ready for guided reading every day.
As you’re making your plan for your classroom, you’ll want to make sure that you select your guided reading (and small group) space carefully. Put yourself in the chair you’ll be sitting in. Do you have visibility of your classroom? Are there nooks that students can sit in where you won’t be able to see what’s happening?
For safety reasons, and management reasons, too, you’ll want to be able to see every part of your classroom, if at all possible. This minimizes the likelihood of disasters happening during guided reading.
If you have a guided reading table (a kidney table), then great! They’re an excellent space because they are shaped to help you have visual access to each of your readers. But if you don’t, you can use any table that works for you. I’ve done guided reading at rectangular tables, desks pushed together, and sitting on the carpet. You just want to make sure that you can communicate with each student well. Have a consistent space, too – this helps your groups learn the routine.
Enough seats for the kids in each group
I’ve been in classrooms that are short on seats. For each lesson, the kids dragged their noisy chairs across the room, from their desks to the table. It contributes to the chaos of the transition and keeps the other kids from getting started on whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing independently.
Sometimes the school just doesn’t provide enough chairs to have an extra six just sitting at your guided reading table all day. In that case, get creative! Make those cute crate seats or buy those little cubes from Target or Home Goods. I found really great kid-sized folding chairs at Wal-Mart. Whatever your budget, find a way to provide a dedicated spot for kids to sit in. It will simplify your transitions!
Access to tools students should use during guided reading
There are some things we want kids to use during guided reading. Whether this is comprehension strategy speaking stems, a word wall, or decoding tools, you want kids to have easy access to the tools they need to use to help themselves. If they have to turn around to see the chart on vowel teams, they probably won’t really use it and you won’t be building much of a habit.
Don’t have wall space? You can make a handy tools folder out of a file folder and the pages you want students to have access to. Glue them on and laminate. Then you can pull them out for each session.
Access to group materials
This is totally up to each teacher. Some people like to have their materials in baskets, and some use the vertical magazine holders. Some keep them in folders. The bottom line is: when you’re starting a group, you don’t want to spend three minutes digging around in a pile of stuff behind your table to find your guided reading book or your lesson plan.
To keep myself organized, I used an organized guided reading binder (more on that next time) and a series of plastic vertical magazine file organizers behind my table. The lesson plan and my copy of the book went in the binder, along with the necessary reading behavior record forms. The materials for the kids (each kid had a folder with their guided reading book in the pocket) went in the vertical organizers. Each group had a different organizer. This helps me stay on top of my materials and start guided reading quickly each day.
Here’s another tip: Have a set of pencils in a cup. Don’t ask kids to bring pencils them. It’s just a time-waster. Three kids arrive at the table with a pencil and two don’t. The two who didn’t have to go back and get one. It wastes your time and theirs, which is your most valuable commodity.
Instead, I buy a pack of unique pencils and put them in a pencil cup on my table. They are always sharpened and always available. And because they’re special, it’s to tell if someone had accidentally walked away with one of my guided reading pencils.
Keep teaching materials handy
I use a dry-erase board for minilessons, so I need to ensure that I have space for my dry-erase board, markers, and (except for those times I just use my hand) an eraser. I have a stack of little dry-erase boards (you can often find them at the Dollar Spot at Target) so each student could write on them, as well as post-its for student responses.
I organize most of these materials (including highlighters, dry-erase markers, post-its, and index cards) into a handy supply caddy that I found at Wal-Mart for a few dollars.
What do you keep at your guided reading table?
Check out the other posts in the series! I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!