How to Manage Small Reading Groups

While working with small guided reading groups, it is important that the rest of your students remain focused and on task to achieve their reading goals too.  But don't worry, with some careful planning and organizing, your small groups can be easily managed.

I have a few tips to share about running guided reading groups while your small groups continue to thrive on their own!

Guided reading helps students become more successful readers at their instructional reading level.  Students engage in text at their instructional reading level and are guided by the teacher in a small group that allows for personal one-on-one interaction with the teacher.
A student's instructional reading level can be determined by doing a running record.  A student's independent reading level will be at a 95-100% accuracy level and an instructional level will be at a 90-94% accuracy level.  If students fall below 90% accuracy, they will fall into a frustration reading level and will require extensive, one-on-one support (which would not be recommended for guided reading groups).

Once you have completed running records for each of your students, you can group them according to their instructional reading levels.  Each group will be reading the same text while in guided reading groups, so you want to make sure you have them grouped properly.  While they are independently reading, of course they can read at their independent level!  But while working in your small group, students should work at their instructional levels.  You can use this formula to determine the instructional and independent reading levels:
I meet with two guided reading groups a day, for about 30 minutes with each group.  Over the years I have tweaked this schedule in many ways, depending on the number of groups that I have and also depending on the amount of time I have.  Ideally, I have about an hour and a half for my reading groups.  

It took me a while to realize that it's okay if I don't see every group everyday!  When I was trying to squeeze every group into an hour schedule, I felt rushed and was not able to give each group the attention I felt they needed.  Not seeing each group every day does take some getting used to, but keeping good notes and data on each group helps!  And the flexibility of this schedule also allows me to switch and meet with groups more than the two times a week that is scheduled, if I find it necessary.

Here is a breakdown of what a small guided reading lesson looks like in my classroom:

I hear all the time from teachers, "I just don't think the rest of my groups can work independently while I'm with a guided reading group for that long."  But, if you know me, you know that I feel very strongly about setting up procedures at the beginning of the year.  And the same goes for small reading groups; if your students know what is expected of them while you are working with a small group, their own small groups will run smoothly...without interrupting you!

So here is a breakdown of reading groups in my classroom:

So what are the other groups working on while I'm meeting with guided reading groups?  The group that I will be meeting with in the second half hour works on vocabulary for 30 minutes.  The other small groups work for 20 minutes on fluency, comprehension, and independent reading (which includes book clubs in my classroom).  Read below to find out more...
While I am working with a guided reading group, students are working on vocabulary for 30 minutes.  My students keep a vocabulary notebook and all of their vocabulary work goes in their notebook.  I collect from each group on a different day to do a quick check of their vocab notebooks.  One vocabulary activity that I have students complete is word ladders from Tim Rasinski.  You can check them out HERE.  And I also use a pack of vocabulary materials for upper elementary students from Chalk & Apples on Teachers Pay Teachers that you can find HERE.

To work on fluency, students do a few things throughout the week for 20 minutes.  I have students do timed reading where they work on a cold and hot read with a partner in their group.  I love THESE timers for students to use to time each other.  I find passages from Reading A to Z, which is a subscription site that my school has a subscription to.  There are also some great resources available from Hello Literacy on TpT for passages too!

I also have students use the app AudioBoom to record themselves reading text.  I LOVE this app and use it for much more than just fluency practice!  I have a basket of picture books available for students to choose from.  They practice reading in a few ways before they actually begin recording themselves.  They read quietly in their head, they then use a feedback phone (you can find these HERE) to practice their accuracy and expression, and then they record themselves using AudioBoom.  Once they record themselves, I am able to turn their recording into a QR code very easily right from my computer, and I attach that code to the back of the book. I then add the books that have codes on the back to a basket for students to grab for a listening center.  They love listening to friends read the stories and they also love to be the storyteller too!  This is an amazing way to work on expression!
Students also work on comprehension for about 20 minutes.  To work on comprehension, my students work on close reading.  They read the same high interest passage for three days.  They have a different focus for each of the repeated readings and work on a response page to enhance their comprehension.  You can find the close reading passages that I use HERE.  You can grab a free starter pack to help you get close reading started HERE.  And I also have a detailed blog post about close reading HERE.
Students also work on independent reading or book clubs for about 20 minutes.  Students can be reading or responding to their book club selections or they are actually having a book club with their group.  You can find the resources that I use for book clubs HERE.  You can read a post about how I get book clubs started in my classroom HERE.

I hope that this helps with planning and managing your guided reading groups.  I have a FREE Guided Reading Binder available to help you get organized  There are data tracking sheets, group and individual student note pages, and more; all to help you get organized.  The guided reading lesson and week at a glance seen above are also available with this download.  Click below for your free Guided Reading Binder!

Happy Teaching!

Please note that this post does contain affiliate links.  This means that if you purchase an item mentioned in this post I may receive a small comission. 



  1. This is absolutely amazing! I have been looking to revamp my literacy center and you, my friend have done a lot of the hard work already! I particularly love the fluency portion, where each child's fluency work doubles as a QR book reading for others...this feel of an authentic audience will truly make a difference. Thank you thank you!!

    1. Yes! The kids love that others will listen to their stories!! I'm so glad this will be helpful as you revamp your centers!

  2. Love love this! What's the font you used in your section headers? 😂

    1. Hi , Crystal! It is from Babbling Abby, called BabblingAbbyTwo.😊

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  4. I am trying to implement these activities this year for my 4th graders. Do you have the vocabulary match the reading you do during guided reading or does the class all receive vocabulary words separate from the story?

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