This post originally appeared on the blog Hanging Around in Primary. 

Guided reading is an essential part of your reading instruction but it’s usually only a small chunk of time each day. You need to make the most of that time! So how do you do that? I am sharing 3 things you should have at your guided reading table to save you time and to help keep your students engaged.  

What is at my Guided Reading Table?

1.  Tools to teach DECODING STRATEGIES

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. 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 figure out unknown words. I do this during guided reading by introducing them to different decoding strategies and the stuffed animals that go with each. I created a set of Decoding Strategies Posters with animals to teach each strategy. Students are immediately hooked when the stuffed animals are used to model strategies. For instance, when I introduce Stretchy Snake we take turns coiling him up and stretching him out as we stretch out words.  

decoding strategy wands, beanie baby decoding strategies

However, it is not practical to keep the stuffed animal on the tables or you will have the opposite of engagement – total distraction!  To keep the strategies foremost in their mind I created a few student tools to go with the posters. When we are working on a particular strategy I give the students a decoding wand with the character on it.  Later on, when they are more confident readers with a variety of strategies in their toolkit, they can use a bookmark.

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. Click any of the images to check out the resource or click {HERE}


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 invest the time and make myself this handy (and portable) resource for any non-fiction text, that covered all the different comprehension strategies that I teach. Enter Comprehension Checks!  I placed the question cards on a ring and keep a set at my guided reading table.  I leave another set at our carpet area to use during shared reading.  

comprehension questions cards

The Comprehension Checks are color 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 students to say or think in order to answer the question. This extra information makes the cards more teacher friendly. 

comprehension questions cards
comprehension questions cards

3.  Tools to teach PHONEMIC AWARENESS

This tool isn’t necessarily aimed at teaching guided reading, but it is an essential precursor to reading. In Kindergarten and at the beginning of First Grade, not all of your students are ready for a traditional guided reading group. Instead, they need to develop foundational phonemic awareness skills so that they can begin to decode words and read. In this case, teachers do not need to provide their students with books and questions, but rather they need to be armed with word lists and lots of them.  
I always start the year with at least a couple of groups who need to start here and I wanted to keep them engaged during their instruction.  In order to practice phonemic awareness skills, I created a set of word lists for each phonemic awareness skill I was working on, incorporating fun themes like animals to keep it interesting. Each color coded set covers a different skill and includes several word lists for that skill. This ended the painful practice of trying to generate word lists on the fly. We have all done that! You can check out the resource by clicking {HERE} or on the image below. 

I hope you have found some new resources to make your guided reading time more effective and engaging.  If you are looking for ideas for things your students should use to increase engagement during guided reading then check out this post by clicking on the image below.

Christina Hermer is a 1st Grade teacher in Ontario, Canada. She has been teaching since 1994 and has had the good fortune to work mostly in first grade.  She enjoys creating curriculum resources for learners that are hands-on and engaging, which can be found in her TpT store. Christina loves to share about how she uses those resources and other practical teaching tips on her blog Hanging Around in Primary. You can also follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest for lots of teacher tips, tricks, and ideas!