Wednesday, 28 October 2015

How to Engage Your Students During Guided Reading Instruction

guided reading teaching ideas

Hello!  I am so glad you have stopped by.  Perhaps you are coming to this post from my recent post over at Who’s Who and Who’s New.  There I blogged about 3 tools you need to add to your students’ tool kits for Guided Reading.  Over here on my blog I want to continue that conversation in more detail and outline a couple of go-to things in my teacher tool kit for Guided Reading. You can read the post on Who's Who and Who's New in full by clicking on this graphic below.  In this post I am going to go into a bit more detail so you may want to start there first.

guided reading teaching ideas

What's In My Student Tool Kit?  

I believe we need to motivate and engage our students in the act of reading, especially those students who don’t view themselves as readers yet.  Despite going over the 3 different ways first graders read: reading the words, reading the pictures and retelling the story, there are still many that proclaim “I can’t read!”  It is these kids who respond so well to the tools I use.  This is a recap of the 3 tools I am referring to.  

First off is the reading phone – it is a simple phone made from PVC pipe and when the student talks into it their voice is amplified.  It sounds really cool to them and they want to read into it.  It also drowns out the sounds of other readers so there is not as much  complaining about not being able to hear themselves when they read.

reading phones

Secondly, I love finger lights.  Students slip them on their pointer finger and use them to track the words as they read.  They are brilliant when working with students on word awareness.  Students can light up each word to show their understanding of the difference between a letter and a word.   I love to use them for both pre and post reading activities as well.  One of our favourite pre-reading activities is to skim and scan the text and light up either a word we can read or a word we don’t know.  This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary in the book.  A post reading activity I do with the finger lights is to hunt for a particular word – like a sight word or perhaps a word family word.  I sometimes ask simple comprehension questions and students find the answer in the book and light it up  All of these activities keep kids engaged and motivated in the process. 

fingers lights for reading

The last tool that I put in the hands of my students and they love to use are whiteboards and dry erase markers.  I use whiteboards ALL..THE..TIME.. in my classroom.  They are such an earth friendly alternative to constantly using paper.  With each guided reading session I always warm up with a review of sight words found in the text we are about to be reading.  I prepare the list ahead of the lesson and then have students find and print the word on their whiteboard.  Rather than looking in the text we find the word on the word wall and print it from there.  That will help them make the connection when they encounter the word in the book. I find my students will encounter a word in a book that they know is a word wall word.  They will glance at the word wall and it will come to them.  It is very important to foster that connection.  We also use our whiteboards both during the actual reading of the text and after to respond to the text.   My more capable readers may be writing ideas on their boards in response to a question they were asked to answer while reading.  At the end of the reading we often use them to respond to comprehension questions, build vocabulary or work on word skills like building word families.  The opportunities are endless.

These students are using the whiteboards to write about who might be in the book.

whiteboards for guided reading

It is important to make sure our students are properly equipped for the guided reading time but it is equally important that teachers have the tools they need at hand as well.  I want to share with you two things in my tool kit that are helping me address both the decoding skills of my students as well as the comprehension skills.

What's In My Teacher Tool Kit? ~ Teaching Decoding
decoding strategies posters, beanie baby decoding strategies

First grade readers are decoders in their purest form.  They have learned that to read they need to sound words out and once they have learned their letter sounds they are good to go, or so they think.  If you ask a first grader how to solve an unknown word they will say “sound it out” every time.  We need to teach them that there are lots of other ways to solve unknown words.   I do this by introducing them to the decoding strategies and the stuffed animals that go with each.  I created a set of Decoding Strategies Posters with animals to teach each strategy.  They are immediately hooked when the stuffed animals come down to the reading table as I model how to use a strategy.  For instance, when I introduce stretchy snake we actually take turns coiling him up and stretching him out as we stretch out words.  However, it is not practical to keep stretchy snake there at all times so I created a few student tools to go with the posters on the wall behind our guided reading table.  When we are working on a particular strategy I give students the decoding wand with the character on it.

decoding strategy wands, beanie baby decoding strategies

This acts as a reference to try that strategy when they come to an unknown word.  Later on they can use a book mark, which includes all the strategies, when they are more confident readers and have learned a number of strategies to try when decoding. 

decoding strategies bookmark, beanie baby decoding strategies

I teach the decoding strategies in approximately the same order every year ~ Eagle Eye, Stretchy Snake, Chunky Monkey, Lips the Fish, Skippy Frog, Flippy the Dolphin and lastly Tryin' Lion.

What's In My Teacher Tool Kit? ~ 

Teaching Comprehension

comprehension questions cards

When it come to teaching comprehension skills I have a confession to make.  Many times I struggled to figure out what exactly to ask my students or how to word it.  We do not use a particular reading series so I glean resources from many places.  Identifying key comprehension questions for text was sometimes a bit difficult.  That is why I decided to make myself a go-to resource for any non-fiction text, that covered all the different comprehension strategies that I teach.  Enter Comprehension Checks!  These question cards are placed on a ring and I keep them at my guided reading table and another set at our carpet area to use during shared reading.  

comprehension questions cards

The Comprehension Checks are colour coded and organized by reading strategy.  There are multiple questions for each strategy.  On each card you will find the question and then  “look fors” – what you might expect your student to say or think in order to answer the question.  This is what sets they prompts apart from other question cards.  I think it makes them more teacher friendly and takes some of the guess work away. 

comprehension questions cards

We are about to start our unit on story elements – Character/Setting/Problem/Solution.  The Analyzing Text and Demonstrating Understanding cards will be close at hand during my guided and shared reading lessons.  Here is a closer look at a Making Connections card: 

comprehension questions cards

If you are interested in either the Decoding Strategies Poster Set + or the Comprehension Checks you can click on any photo above or you can click directly on the product covers below.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post and would happily answer any questions you have or blog further if there is more that you are interested in knowing about how I teach Guided Reading. This post just hits the highlights.  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Until next time,


  1. And then I come here from your "Who's Who" post and find even more great ideas! YEA! Thanks again for the ideas AND for linking up! =)
    ~Heather aka HoJo~

    1. Thanks again! I hope you will stop by again :)