5 Time Savers for Guided Reading

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Guided Reading Groups are some of the most precious minutes of our day. We want to make sure our kids are engaged from the moment they sit at our table until the moment they leave. We simply don’t have time to dig for a marker, prep a word activity, or find a missing book! Keep reading for 5 quick tips on how I make sure I don’t waste ANY time while my kids are with me. 

1. Get ’em Reading from the Beginning

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Give your kids something meaningful to do from the moment they sit at your table. You know how it is…some of your kids race to the table, some of your kids piddle around until the absolute last second. (I actually play this song as our transition time. They know they have to be at their Daily 5 Choice and at a level 0 by the time the song is done 🙂 ). 

But I digress…

I have these rings hanging on the wall by my table. The picture on the left are my differentiated sight word hooks. The kids know which color and level hook they need and I am able to assess them on their sight word fluency right then and there, if need be. The picture on the right are some of the Fluency Strips from the Moffatt Girls. These are simple fluency strips for those kids who are ready to work on stringing words in phrases. I actually used to just have these fluency strips in a basket ready to go at my table so that’s another option!

Other ideas:

  • basket of familiar texts for the kids to read and practice fluency
  • practice writing sight words/spelling words/word wall words

2. Make it Predictable and Be Prepared

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As with anything else in the classroom, procedures are KEY. I used to think that my kids needed things to be brand new and exciting. I was so wrong. Kids crave predictability and routine. I mentioned earlier that my kiddos know to be seated and ready to work by the time our transition song is complete. This means that all I have to do is say, “Alright!” to my group and they immediately put their rings back on the hook and pull out this basket. I’ll tell you more about how to make sure no one fights over getting the basket in a tip later in the post ;).

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Once the basket is at the table, each student gets one marker, one eraser, and one dry erase sentence strip. I found my sentence strips in the Dollar Spot at Target last year but I am sure you can find them online somewhere! We use these sentence strips to go over 2-3 familiar sight words or phonics skills, depending on the group’s needs. Again, with me simply saying, “Alright!” the strips, markers, and erasers go back in the basket and a friend places it back in its home. 

This means that in the first 3 minutes of my group, the kids have already been reading and writing and I have only needed to say, “Alright” and to name a few sight words. It. Is. Amazing.

Another super familiar routine is Word Work. I use this little container that I found at Dollar Tree.

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I fill each little tub inside with the letters from my letter organizers.

IMG_1986One container has mix-n-match Scrabble and Bananagram letters while the other has super basic cardstock letters (ignore the #s..it was a repurposed jewelry organizer 🙂 ). The kids love the Scrabble tiles but I prefer the cardstock so that they are exposed to lowercase letters, too.

Again, based on the needs of each group, I fill the letter tubs with letters to build a new sight word or for a Making Words activity. I follow the Jan Richardson steps in her The Next Step in Guided Reading book to teach new sight words. The kids know the routine of table writing, writing, mix-n-fix with the tiles so well that I am once again able to say VERY little and ensure that no time is wasted with redirection or explaining.

3. Rainbow Carts are Your Friend

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This one is super easy. I realize that my “command center” over here is not the most beautiful space. I mean, you can see I have not covered up the Sterilite container label or even shied away from having a trash can right by my rainbow cart. Nevertheless, this is my BABY at Guided Reading! Each drawer is color coded to my reading groups. I am a major Eric Carle fan from my days in Kindergarten so my groups are named after some of his Brown Bear, Brown Bear characters. No shame in my game! 

Each drawer for my group includes the texts for the day, the word tubs I mentioned earlier, any flash cards I might need, writing journals, witch fingers, etc. Seriously, anything I think I might need for that group on that day goes in the drawer. 

Obviously, I do not have a group for each drawer or else I would NEVER be finished with Guided Reading! So, what goes in the other drawers? Easy. I keep any material that is a constant “go-to.” I have a drawer with various alphabet/blend/digraph charts. Another drawer has comprehension and decoding strategy posters. Another drawer is full of the fun stuff like witch fingers, jewels, colored overlays, etc. I think you get the point that this little cart houses everything and it sits right behind my chair for easy, immediate access. This is another opportunity for kids to be familiar with the routine and procedure because they can help out a sub with reading groups while I’m gone!

4. Make ’em Work

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This one is the easiest to say but sometimes the SCARIEST to do! I am a control freak. I was so afraid of letting my students work for me because I was afraid it wasn’t going to be done the way I wanted it. I got over that real quick when I saw how willing they were to help. They will call you out on it if they don’t get to do their job on a certain day, too!

This chart hangs next to my table. At the beginning of each week, I mark the jobs for each  student. The students know to check the job chart on Mondays as soon as they come to the table because it makes everything else run more smoothly (Remember…PROCEDURES ARE SO IMPORTANT!!) 🙂 For my needs, there were not enough jobs for all students to work so I let them have “rest” weeks sometimes. 

This is another one of those things that once you implement them into your Guided Reading routine, you’ll find yourself being able to just stand up and return to the carpet for whole group time while your little worker bees continue tidying up the table without any reminders from you. 

5. Don’t Throw Out the Old!

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Probably the best thing I did for my sanity was keep all of my lesson plans. I use an adapted Jan Richardson plan to write my plans for each group. My school has a subscription to ReadingA-Z (if you’re not familiar with it, check it out and BEG your school to purchase it). I am able to search for a skill, topic, or even just a level and locate a text for my kids in seconds. I print out however many copies of the book I want and then sit down with my plan to write it up. After the lesson is finished, I take my materials and store them in a ziploc baggie.

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The bag has any worksheets I printed from ReadingA-Z, my lesson plan with any notes I have taken, all copies of the text, the title written on the bag, and a sticker to tell me what level it’s in. All of this then goes inside my oh-so-fancy crate.

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Stick with me long enough and I think you’ll realize that I am mostly about efficiency and am sometimes too lazy to make things cute :(.

Anyway…the baggie gets put inside this crate. Because of the color-coded system of labeling the leveled text, I am able to group my texts together by level. This basket (and the second basket that I overflowed to this past year) were absolute lifesavers. I’ll deny it if you ever tell on me, but there were a few times this year that I came in feeling too sick to function and was able to reach inside this crate and pull out a bag of books for my groups and have completed lesson plans ready to go before I could even sneeze. Absolutely worth it! (And if you have any suggestions on making this crate look more appealing, hit me up in the comment box below 😛 ).

What are your biggest time savers or basic tips for efficiency in Guided Reading? Let me know in the comments!

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