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15 Guided Reading Activities and Strategies for Teachers

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  • Teaching Strategies

Finding activities that both teach students and keep them engaged can be difficult. However, guided reading activities can be a great way to support student reading development in a fun way. 

In these small-group sessions, students are grouped based on their reading ability and provided with targeted instruction to improve their decoding, word work and comprehension skills.

This article will provide 15 effective guided reading activities. We’ll also discuss the key elements of making this strategy successful. 

What is your role in the guided reading lesson plan? Why does guided reading work? We’ll answer all those questions and more. 

Let’s get started!

Key Elements of Guided Reading Activity

A teacher reading a book to a group of attentive children in a classroom

While guided reading activities can look very different from classroom to classroom, there are a few common elements. These include:

  • Book introduction: Before students begin reading, they are given instructions that set the purpose for reading and provide background knowledge or vocabulary needed to understand the reading book.
  • Reading of a new text: Teachers listen and observe students as they read the text independently or in small groups, providing guidance and support as needed.
  • Post-reading discussion: Reading teachers and students engage in a discussion about the text, focusing on comprehension and analysis of the content.
  • Follow-up activities: Opportunities are then provided for students to practice and apply what they have learned during the guided reading lesson. This might include writing responses, completing graphic organizers or engaging in further research and exploration related to the text.

Why Use Guided Reading

Guided reading isn’t a new strategy on the teaching scene. It’s been around for quite a while and has been thoroughly researched. 

Fountas and Pinnell (1996) showed that guided reading is an effective way to develop students' reading proficiency. This happens by providing a structured and supportive learning environment where students can practice their reading skills with the guidance of a teacher.

The purpose of guided reading is to help students develop critical reading skills such as decoding, fluency, segmenting and comprehension. These skills are able to flourish through small group instruction, scaffolding and feedback from teachers. 

Guided reading also allows teachers to target the specific needs of each student per their grade level. You will be better able to provide each student with the exact support they need to improve their reading skills.

Teacher’s Role in Guided Reading

So what exactly is your role when doing a guided reading activity?

Your role in guided reading activities is to facilitate more than it is to teach.

Some teachers also like doing whole-class guided reading activities. Particularly at the beginning of the year, this strategy can teach students what is expected of them during these activities. 

By selecting quality literature, you can support student learning of high-frequency words, digraphs and other phonics skills.                  

Here are some practical ways that you can facilitate during guided reading.

Before Reading

  • Activate prior knowledge of the topic
  • Encourage student predictions
  • Bring to attention relevant text layout, punctuation, chapter headings, illustrations, index or glossary
  • Clearly articulate the learning intention (i.e. what reading strategy students will focus on to help them read the text)

During Reading

  • Use running records and comprehension questions to monitor student progress and assess their understanding of the text
  • Assist students to monitor meaning using phonic, semantic, contextual and grammatical knowledge
  • Confirm students’ problem-solving attempts and successes
  • Give timely and specific teaching points to help students achieve the lesson focus

After Reading

  • Engage students in discussion about the text, including themes and ideas
  • Summarize the text and reviewing key concepts or vocabulary
  • Plan next steps for students' learning based on their performance

15 Guided Reading Activities

Now that you are familiar with this strategy, we’ll outline 15 effective guided reading activities for a whole group or individual instruction that you can put into your lesson plan today.

1. Prodigy English

Prodigy English is a guided reading activity designed to support students' decoding and word work skills. This online game can be set up to teach a specific skill by selecting a high-frequency word or word family, and then creating a game or challenge that incorporates that word.

The software does the rest of the work, adapting the content as the student shows their proficiency. 

This is easy to get started with from the teacher dashboard. Get started with a free teacher account.

 Father and daughter sitting on couch, bonding over the Prodigy English game on computer

2. Graphic Organizer Bundle

A graphic organizer bundle is a set of printable templates for higher-level guided reading groups. They help students organize their thoughts and ideas as they read.

Graphic organizers bundles can be useful for teaching across various grade levels and reading levels. Some examples of what you might include in yours include story maps, character webs, Venn diagrams and cause-and-effect charts.

3. Create a thesaurus or dictionary

An effective guided reading activity for students is to create their own thesaurus or dictionary based on a text they have read. This activity helps students to expand their vocabulary and reading comprehension and promotes their independence in learning new words. 

Students can start this activity by identifying words from the text that they don't know, and then research their meanings and synonyms. 

They can then compile their findings into a thesaurus or dictionary. They can keep this dictionary later on to support their reading and writing in the future.

Creating a thesaurus or dictionary can also be a sight word activity for first and second grade students. Through this activity, students can learn new words, their meanings and how to use them in sentences.

4. Cartography

Cartography is a guided reading activity where your students create a map of the story setting. Students use their knowledge of the story and its setting to create a detailed map, including key landmarks, buildings and other important features.

This activity supports students' comprehension skills, as well as their ability to visualize and create mental images of the setting. Not to mention that adding an art element will likely get your students very excited.

Two young girls happily drawing on a map with colorful markers

5. Comic Strip It

Another art option is to have your students create a comic strip that summarizes the key events in a text they read during guided reading. 

This activity can help students develop their summarization and storytelling skills, as well as their understanding of the text's structure and plot.

You might have students work in pairs or small groups to create their comic strips. Another option is to have them present their work to the class or share it with others in the form of a class-wide gallery walk. 

This activity can be modified for different grade levels by adjusting the level of detail required in the comic strips.

6. Diorama

If you want to do 3D art instead of drawing, your students could create a diorama that represents a scene or setting from a text that students’ have read during guided reading.

This activity will help develop their visualization and creativity skills, as well as their understanding of the text's description and setting.

Again, you can decide whether students do this individually or in small groups. And you can decide if they’ll then present their work to the class in some way.

Kids with paper cutouts in hand, standing near a blackboard, enjoying a fun craft project

7. Write a poem

In this guided reading activity, students are encouraged to use their creativity and language skills to write a poem related to the text they have read. 

This activity allows students to use their own words and express their understanding of the text in a unique and personal way.

You can provide students with examples of different types of poems, such as haikus, sonnets and free verse, and give them prompts related to the text they have read. 

This activity may need to be adapted depending on the grade level you’re teaching and the reading ability of your students.

8. Alternative to Rotating Reading Stations

The Alternative to Rotating Reading Stations is a flexible grouping approach that focuses on providing targeted instruction for small groups of students based on their individual needs.

You may find that this method makes it much easier to meet the diverse needs of your students and differentiate instruction to help each student reach their full potential.

You can group students based on their reading level, skills, interests, or any other factors that may impact their learning. 

Students might work independently or collaboratively with this activity.  You can provide individualized instruction or use a variety of instructional materials to support students' learning. 

There’s so many ways to customize it. Do a little experimenting to find what works best in your classroom!

9. Independent Reading Time Log

Encouraging students to log their independent reading time can help them take ownership of their reading and develop self-motivation and accountability.

You will give each student a log to record the titles of the books they read, the amount of time spent reading and their impressions of each book.

These logs can provide you with valuable insights into students' reading habits and preferences.

You can choose to have these completed during class by setting aside time for independent reading. Or you can offer incentives for completing logs and reaching reading goals at home.

10. Character interview

A character interview is an activity in guided reading where students take on the role of an interviewer and ask questions to a character from a book they have read. This activity aims to enhance students' comprehension of the story, character analysis and critical thinking skills.

This fun activity develops students' speaking and listening skills, as well as their ability to communicate effectively with others. 

It can be adapted to different grade levels and texts and can be done individually or in groups. 

For example, for first grade, a character interview activity can be done as a whole class or small group discussion after reading a picture book.

A teacher and a child engaged in guided reading inside a classroom

11. Guided Reading Picture Ladders

Guided reading picture ladders are an activity that involves creating a visual representation of a text's plot structure. 

The activity is designed to help students better understand the sequence of events in a story. It also reinforces comprehension skills, such as identifying the main idea and supporting details.

To implement this activity, you will create a ladder on chart paper with the story's title at the top and the events of the story written in order on the rungs. Students can then use the ladder to retell the story, identify the main events and discuss how they are connected.

12. Character Social Media Profiles

In this guided reading activity, students create social media profiles for characters from a text they have read. 

This activity allows students to analyze the character's traits, motivations, and relationships, while also practicing their writing skills. Not to mention that they see it less as classwork and more as something fun to do. 

Students can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to create the profiles. They can include posts, photos and other media that reflect the character's personality and experiences.

13. Review the Story

After reading a story, students are encouraged to discuss and analyze various elements of the story, such as the characters, plot, setting, themes and literary devices used by the author. 

This activity can be done in a group setting or individually. Additionally, it can be adapted to suit different grade levels and texts.

If you want to, you can collect these reviews to use as a reading resource for future students.

14. Newspaper report

A newspaper report is a great way to practice reading and writing skills. In this guided reading activity, students will retell an event from the story as if they are a reporter.

You can add to this activity by having students use graphic organizers, such as a story map, to help them identify the key elements of the news story and plan their newspaper report.

15. Diary entry

Crafting a diary entry is a guided reading activity that helps students understand and connect with the characters in the story.

To do this activity, instruct your students to imagine themselves as one of the characters in the book and write a diary entry from that character's point of view. 

Writing a diary entry will help your students develop their writing skills and creativity while also encouraging them to think critically about the story and its characters.

A young boy focused on writing in a notebook, expressing his thoughts and ideas

Unlocking Your Child’s Potential with Prodigy

Guided reading activities can take many forms and are often lots of fun for students. This element of fun often keeps students engaged and excited to learn. Try out a few of these activities to see which ones your students like best. 

Are you wanting to try reading activities but aren’t sure that you can make them work with the varied reading levels in your classroom? Prodigy has you covered!

Prodigy has an adaptive format that challenges students when they have mastered a concept or gives them extra practice if they are struggling. And it does all of this without extra work from you. 

All you need to do is set up your free teacher account, and we’ll do the rest! You can sit back and relax knowing that your students are engaging with great content that is aligned with US state standards for 1st through 8th grade. 

Get started today!

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