Reading Process Classroom Environment Instructional Decision Making Sample Lessons by Level

Frequently Asked Questions

About Guided Reading
Below are responses to concerns that often arise in teaching Guided Reading.
Sections of this module to view related to the question are also noted in the responses.

  1. Why are there so many parts to each Guided Reading lesson?
  2. How do I fit all the parts of a Guided Reading lesson into 20-30 minutes?
  3. How do I keep the other students successfully engaged while I’m teaching a guided reading group?
  4. Why do the children all read at once instead of taking turns (“round robin”)?
  5. When do I move to the next book level with a group?
  6. What do I do when one child is significantly ahead or behind the others in a group?
  7. I have seven or eight children in some of my groups. How does that affect how I teach my lesson?
  8. How often should I take a running record during Guided Reading?
  9. What is the rest of the group doing while I take a running record?
  10. It takes too long to code every MSV on a running record before providing a teaching point. Is there a shortcut?


Why are there so many parts to each Guided Reading lesson?

Answer: Each part of a Guided Reading lesson supports children in learning how to solve problems while they are actually reading and writing connected text:
Familiar reading gives students the opportunity to practice what they already know;
the book introduction sets them up for success in increasingly challenging texts;
reading the new book allows them to work on meeting new challenges with guidance;
the teaching point focuses them on important strategies to use;
a short spurt of word work supports specific tools to immediately apply in reading or writing;
and writing takes advantage of the powerful reciprocal relationship between learning to read and learning to write.

Including all of these aspects also keeps the lesson moving at a fast pace and doesn’t demand too long an attention span on any one aspect.

Sections to view: Any guided reading sample lesson.
The purpose of each lesson segment is shown on the chart at the beginning of each sample lesson.
The teacher commentaries often explain why the teacher included the specifics of the lesson segment.

How do I fit all the parts of a Guided Reading lesson into 20-30 minutes?

Answer: It takes practice and discipline! Don’t get discouraged if this is difficult at first – the more familiar you become with how to teach guided reading, the easier it is to fit everything in.

Starting in levels 3-5, many teachers teach two-day lessons, with the focus on reading a new book on the first day and writing on the second day. This allows for maximizing the benefits of the reading-writing link, for familiar rereading of the new book (day 2), and for time to take a running record (day 2).

Below are some additional tips for time management:
Try using a timer for each part of the lesson. Notice where you are spending too much time and think about how you could adjust. The time children spend reading the new book and writing should be the longest segments of the lesson.
At the beginning of the year, establish (introduce, practice, and debrief) routines that minimize transition time and interruptions (see additional FAQ below on these topics).
Plan in advance. Have your specific lesson plans mapped out, and have all your materials handy and ready to go.
You may want to start the lesson with familiar rereading routines that the children know how to begin before you even get to the group.
Be as succinct as possible in your explanations to children. Learn the basic prompts you need at different levels and for different purposes, and use the same language over and over. Children will learn better from hearing fewer words and a consistent message, and you will save time.

Sections to view: Any guided reading sample lesson.
Watch the lesson clips of whichever lesson segments you think are taking too long. Book introductions and word work are prime suspects!
Watch the teaching points segments to note the economy of language of the teachers.

How do I keep the other students successfully engaged while I’m teaching a guided reading group?

Answer: This is a big question, and the entire Engagement and Independence (Classroom Environment) section is devoted to helping to answer it. Some major points:
Provide activities (centers/stations or independent work) that reflect the following characteristics: open-ended, multi-leveled, involve student choice, have clear and consistent procedures, allow for students to support one another, and embed skills in meaningful contexts.
Establish (teach, practice, and debrief) routines at the beginning of the year for the above activities, and continue to reinforce them as needed.

Sections to view: Engagement and Independence (Classroom Environment)
See especially Part 4, Authentic, Meaningful Tasks in Reading and Writing:
teachers talk about how they establish rituals and routines, and discuss the literacy stations they use during guided reading
Examples of effective literacy stations are shown
Characteristics of Effective Centers are established (checklist provided in Supporting Documents)

Why do the children all read at once instead of taking turns (“round robin”)?

Answer: There are many reasons to have the children all read simultaneously on their own. Here are a few:
Each child spends the full time reading – not waiting for his or her turn. This greatly increases the amount of time children are actually reading.
The child is not made to feel self-conscious, embarrassed, nervous, or have any other emotions associated with performance when she is reading to herself only. Her attention can be directed fully to reading.
Children are more focused on meaning when they are reading to themselves. When they read to others they are conscious of performing.
Children have opportunities to problem solve. When they read to themselves, they can go back, reread, and try different strategies, without anyone having to wait for them or other children wanting to chime in.
The teacher can prompt more effectively one to one than in front of the whole group.
Listening to other children read, especially if they are making errors, can add confusion for a child just learning to read.
It can be boring to listen to others who read more haltingly, and frustrating to try to read along with those who read more fluently.

Instead of having oral reading occur in guided reading groups, use other opportunities for students to engage in performance reading, such as readers’ theater, poetry sharing, choral reading from interactive writing and poetry, and other authentic purposes for reading aloud.

Sections to view: Any guided reading sample lesson.
Watch the lesson clip of students reading the new book. Notice the type of problem solving work the students do and how the teacher interacts to support them. Think about how having children read individually and simultaneously allows for this type of interaction.

When do I move to the next book level with a group?

Answer: The Book and Reader Characteristics Chart at each set of levels explains the expectations that need to be met by a reader at that set of levels. As children exhibit the behaviors associated with that level, they are ready to move up. Use your running records and the notes that you take while the children are reading to help you make those decisions. First, note the behaviors the children control. Secondarily, note the accuracy and self-correction rates. When students are consistently rereading their books at independent levels, they should be ready to move ahead. However, be sure that children have read different kinds of books at each level that expose them to all the different types of challenges. For example, some children may read books with lots of natural language easily at a level, but struggle with books at the same level where they need to make more visual analysis.

To be sure that you are gradually exposing children to new challenges, it is helpful to plan the progression of books to use within a level when you start a new level with a group. Thinking about the children in your group, you can make decisions about the scaffolding they are likely to need.

Sections to view: View the Book and Characteristics Chart for the level.
Level 5 Sample Lesson Day 1 Teacher Commentary – Sequencing Books.
The teacher explains her thinking in planning a progression of books from Level 4 to Level 5.

What do I do when one child is significantly ahead or behind the others in a group?

Answer: Children will progress at different rates, so you may need to change the composition of groups often. Don’t wait for quarterly benchmarks or other systemic assessments to make changes. Move a child from one group to another as soon as needed. This type of flexible grouping will also help avoid tracking students into fixed categories as readers.

Some teachers have found it helpful to have a child in two groups simultaneously for a short time, while the student is transitioning to a higher level, or when the child has fallen behind the rest of the group. This “double dose” of guided reading may give the child the support needed to accelerate in progress.

You can also provide more attention to one child than to the rest for a while in a group. For example, take running records more often with that child, provide more prompting while reading the new book, or monitor the student’s writing more closely.

You might try finding a mentor for a child who needs extra support – a volunteer, specialist, another child in the class, or a student in an older grade. Have this mentor come at the beginning of each day to listen to the child read the books that were taken home to reread at night. This will motivate the child as well as provide important additional reading practice. When the mentor is a struggling reader in an upper grade, the mentor will benefit from this arrangement as well, gaining in confidence and motivation to read by being given the responsibility to guide a younger reader.

I have seven or eight children in some of my groups. How does that affect how I teach my lesson?

Answer: Unless the students are all consistently advancing at rapid rates, first try to figure out a way to have fewer children in each group. Can you add another group in order to make each group smaller, even if you can’t meet with every group every day? Have you considered mixing students from different classrooms to allow for a better distribution of children? At the very least, make sure that children who are not meeting grade-level expectations are in smaller groups.

In a large group, you might decide to focus on half of the children each lesson. While you still check in with every child during reading of the new book, you would take notes primarily on the 3-4 children who are the focus. Especially if you are new to teaching guided reading, this will help you to learn about the students’ strengths and needs and better support them.

How often should I take a running record during Guided Reading?

Answer: There is no one right way to organize taking running records during guided reading. But many teachers find it works to take a running record every other day on one child. The first day they introduce a new book, and the next day they take a running record on the child’s reading of that book. At this rate, if you have 5 children in a group, you will be able to have a running record on each child about once every two weeks. Added to the informal notes you take during the new reading of a book and students’ familiar reading, this provides sufficient information to make adjustments that support all the students. If a particular child is having difficulties in a group, you might take a running record on that child’s reading more often.

What is the rest of the group doing while I take a running record?

Answer: We usually take the running record while the other children are rereading familiar books. Every child is able to read independently during this time, because the familiar books are within the children’s independent reading range, and children generally enjoy choosing their favorite books to reread. The time is productive because rereading allows children to build fluency, reinforce high-frequency vocabulary, and practice problem-solving strategies. Teachers can also take a few seconds to check in with the children about the books they are reading.

Sections to view: Any guided reading sample lesson.

  • Watch the lesson clip of familiar rereading. Notice how the teacher, although focused on taking the running record with one child, is still able to monitor what the rest of the children are doing.


It takes too long to code every MSV on a running record before providing a teaching point. Is there a shortcut?

Answer: Analyze MSV after the lesson is over. You will begin to see patterns in what a child does. With practice, you will then begin to recognize which information systems a child is using while you are taking the running record. At that point it will not be as important to circle each instance of MSV, because you will be noticing the patterns during the child’s reading. You can always begin to circle the information systems again when you are puzzled by a child’s behaviors or he/she is not advancing.

Sections to view: Any guided reading sample lesson.

  • Watch the interview with the teacher about the running record. Especially in the Level 11 Day 2 and Level 13 Day 2 teacher commentary clips on the running record, you will see the teacher walk through how she analyzed the child’s behaviors from her notations on the running record.