Thursday, December 4, 2014

Organizing for Guided Reading

Guided Reading requires thoughtful planning and strategic organization. My goal is always to make it as simple as possible. Since you move from group to group so quickly, the amount of books and materials can become overwhelming. Finding a system that works for you is the key. There is no "one size fits all" organization system for Guided Reading. I've traveled between a few classrooms and aim to capture a few different organizational structures at Willow Creek that may help you. 

The Table

Most teachers utilize a kidney or u shaped table for Guided Reading. This invites children to be close to you, but also able to converse with each other. During their time spent reading to themselves, they can also scoot far enough away from each other while remaining at the table without disrupting their neighbor. Your materials should be easily accessible in that area. Guided Reading time is valuable and you don't want to waste time searching for materials when you could be guiding your readers. Also, place your table near a wall or easel helps give a surface for chart paper or anchor charts. These can serve as reminders for your readers or materials for interactive writing. 
Ms. Lowrie's Kindergarten table has everything she needs within reaching distance and minimizes distractions for the students in her group.

Mrs. Eldredge's Kindergarten table sits near her teacher desk where her materials are easily accessed. Her anchor charts hang near the table so students can reference them during the guided reading lesson.
This first grade teacher (Adventures in First Grade) uses stability balls as chairs for her kids. I used one stability ball at my Guided Reading table and I rotated students so they each had a turn. It also worked as an incentive for students since they had to show they could sit on the ball responsibly. I found that stability balls really helped my struggling readers, especially the more hyperactive ones.Students have to focus to sit on the ball, which helps use that excess energy they have stored up! Research has shown that movement helps blood flow to the brain, which is why stability balls can be so effective in schools. If you choose to use stability balls in your classroom, make sure you send letters home to parents explaining the new addition to the classroom. I never had a student fall off of the ball but I did receive parent permission before allowing a child to sit on it just in case!

The Materials

The materials you may need during Guided Reading include:

  • Leveled reader bags (with multiple copies of the same text)
  • Blank running record forms
  • Anecdotal note forms
  • Guided Reading lesson plans
  • White boards
  • Writing journals
  • Writing utensils 
  • Magnetic letters
I found it easiest to organize a basket for materials I needed as a teacher and then have one basket per group I saw. As groups came to my table, I simply pulled out their basket with the books they are reading, lesson plans, and previous running records or notes. Other teachers find a binder system just as effective. Personally, I needed something that I could quickly put away, so a binder system was a little more complicated for me. (I would just shove the papers inside the binder instead of organizing it correctly). Everyone's organizational style is different, so find what works best for you. Remember to keep it simple to minimize transition time and maximize instruction time.
Mrs. Hudspeth purchased these baskets in the Target Dollar Spot at the beginning of the school year. She has one basket for each group she sees. 
This is a peek inside her one of Mrs. Hudspeth's baskets. She has all of the leveled readers for that group for the week. She also has a binder for each group to hold notes, lesson plans, and running records. 

Mrs. Holsworth has a similar system using cardboard magazine boxes to hold each group's leveled readers.

Ms. Lowrie uses this cart to hold all of her materials. She has all of the leveled readers she needs in the pink basket on top, and group materials in the drawers below.

Mrs. Eldredge uses this wire shelving to hold all of her buckets for each group she sees. Everything for that group goes into one bucket. These shelves sit right next to her teacher table to be easily accessed.


In my previous post, I talked a little about how a reading teacher has to be a noticing teacher. Guided Reading requires a teacher to notice each individual's reading behaviors. To record those behaviors we can use running records and anecdotal notes. 

Mrs. Greer keeps her documentation in a folder for each group. In the pocket, you will find the teacher copy of group's leveled readers.

For documentation, Mrs. Holsworth utilizes a binder system with plastic dividers to keep her documentation. Student names are on post-its to allow for flexible grouping. Inside the pocket you will find the teacher copy of the leveled readers, guided reading lesson plans, note taking forms, and running records. Each group has their own color and all stay in one central location.

Mrs. Hudspeth keeps her documentation inside of each group's binder.

You can use a simple form like this to record a child's text reading. You should record each child's reading of a familiar text once a week. 
I found a half-sheet version of a running record form for free from TPT here
You can use a chart like this to track running record data over time. This will help inform your instructional decisions about individual students. You can download that form for free from TPT here.
This fluency graph from Hello Literacy is also another great way to track student progress over time. You can even have them color in their progress and set goals for the next week. I used a fluency graph and a reading level graph. Each running record I did with a child, they were able to fill out their graph themselves. They were so proud of the growth they were making!

You may want to keep a detailed lesson plan for your guided reading groups. This one is from a K & 1 ELL teacher, Ms. M.

I found several free templates on TPT for free here, here, and here 
I personally prefer lesson plans that lay out my whole week. I also like to have some sort of calendar to keep me accountable for getting to each group every day. Again, you want it to be simple and efficient. 

One important piece to make sure to include is anecdotal notes. This is an example of a form you can use for each individual child (from What the Teacher Wants blog). I liked to have my documentation all in one place so assessment and notes were on the same page. 

I have also seen teachers use spiral or composition notebooks, labels, or post-its for note taking. The simpler the better. Your notes should be short, sweet and to the point! 

Guided Reading can run very smoothly with a good organizational system in place, but you have to find what works for you and your kids. Try to find something that flows well with your classroom and doesn't take too much time to manage. I hope the ideas from other teachers in our school and bloggers helped give you some ideas. 

If you have any more suggestions or have a great system that wasn't mentioned above, email me! 

Good Luck! 


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