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Guided Reading Rotations

April 10, 2016 14 Comments
Hi everyone!  Thank you so much for popping in today to read this post.  I have been meaning to write this for a few months now but wanted to make sure these rotations were running smoothly in my classroom before I shared them as a success story.  As primary teachers we are well acquainted with the necessity of guided reading as an essential part of reading instruction.  Working with a small group of students or one-on-one is the most effective means of teaching.  Unfortunately, with a new curriculum and structure this year for ELA something that kept going by the wayside for me was gasp…guided reading.  I was struggling on a weekly basis to meet with students and found that the only groups I was successfully meeting with were my struggling readers.

In this one year alone, I won’t lie, I have tried it all.  I tried Daily 5 rotations with word work, work on writing, read to self, and buddy read.  I tried a true reading workshop approach where all students were reading with their own book baskets and I would conference one-on-one or pull strategy groups.  This worked for a little while but as a general education teacher in an inclusion classroom the lack of a clear schedule did not work for my littles.  My special-ed students were being pulled for services, my struggling students would get pulled out for basic skills three times a week, which left me with willy nilly groups and weeks where I wouldn’t be able to listen to some of my babies read.  I was fed up.
I knew that I wanted to have a set time of the day where reading, just reading at students’ own levels, was taking place without all of the frills of other centers or activities.  But, I also knew that I needed and my students needed a schedule to keep us all accountable.  We have found so much success this year with our word study schedules that my teammates and I sat down and asked, “Why couldn’t we do that with guided reading too?”  So, my guided reading rotation schedules were born and let me tell you they are WONDERFUL!
Just like in word study, each of my students were placed into guided reading groups based on their DRA level and teacher observation.  I run four groups and my co-teacher has one group.  This worked out well for us because we can run groups Monday through Thursday and have Friday as an intensive instruction day for students who need extra support.
How Does It Work?
Every student in my class has a guided reading folder.  Inside of their folder they have, their guided reading book that is read with them during Meet with Teacher, listen to reading QR codes, and a reading response sheet.
Each group follows their schedule to determine the activity that they must complete on that day of the week.  One group meets with the teacher on Mondays, one group meets on Tuesday, one group on Wednesday, and one group on Thursday. Their schedules all reflect these different meeting days.
When they’re not meeting with the teacher they’re completing one of four different reading activities.
Read to Self
Read to self is always completed the day after the group meets with the teacher.  They are instructed on their guided reading book in their groups with the teacher so when they begin read to self the next day, they are already familiar with their guided reading book.  This gives them the confidence to read a more challenging book and rereading only helps with fluency and comprehension.  After they complete their reading of their guided reading book for the week, they are asked to read other books in their individual book baskets.  
This little one finished her guided reading book and was able to dig into a book of her choice.  Junie B. is making quite a splash in our room lately! 
Buddy Read
Read with a buddy is always the following day after read to self.  Students from the same reading group can pair up and reread their guided reading book together.  This is one of our favorite activities because my more fluent readers are now able to use their buddies to help them act out their stories.  This is the third time students are reading the same text, so they are able to read with more fluency and accuracy on their buddy read day.  After pairs reread their guided reading book, they can buddy read any book from their book baskets they want to.
Listen to Reading
On listen to reading days we choose to mix things up.  Some weeks, students are listening to their guided reading books on the HMH read aloud app that comes with our Journeys program.  Other weeks, I try and find QR codes that will bring them to a safe online read aloud of a favorite story.  We are currently reading folk tales, fairy tales, and fables so Sarah Barnett from Mrs. B’s First Grade has a fantastic product of read aloud QR codes that my firsties are gobbling up.
Make sure to check out her QR code products in her TpT store here!
Reading Response
The final activity on students’ guided reading schedules before they cycle back around and meet with the teacher again is reading response.  This reading response is completed completely independently and used alongside the guided reading book that they were given at the beginning of their rotation.  The skills used for reading response are things that have already been taught and comprehension strategies that students can independently practice with their book for the week.  I have several reading response activities from my reading workshop packet that I use but I have also compiled story maps and comprehension maps from other sources as well.  
Some of the reading response activities included in my TpT packet are:

Meet With the Teacher
The rotations start all over again once students meet with the teacher after their reading response day.  The first thing that I do is collect their guided reading book from the previous meeting and their reading response activity that they completed.  This gives me an opportunity to check in with them and assess their learning before we dive into a new book and a new skill for the next rotation.  When my students come to the teacher table, we’re reviewing sight words, learning new vocabulary for their next guided reading story, and stopping and jotting our beginning, middle, and end while we read.

Here’s a picture of a quick sight word review game that we’re playing before introducing our new guided reading text
Where Do I Get my Guided Reading Texts?
 Since my school is still using Houghton Mifflin Journeys, I try and pull some guided reading texts from them when the levels are available.  However, my students reading abilities vary much more than the resources they provide so this year I have become a fast fan of Reading A-Z.  If you don’t have a subscription, I highly recommend it.  The text levels are clearly laid out for you and the selection is great for my first graders.  I am hoping to make myself a little library so I won’t have to print, cut, and put together all new books for next year!
This system isn’t fancy but for now it’s working for me to organize all of my new Reading A-Z guided reading texts.  
When Do I Do Guided Reading?
Because of the nature and makeup of my class this year, I constantly have students coming in and out of my room.  The one time we’re all together is the first few minutes in the morning.  So, after winter break I made the startling decision to…wait for it…GIVE UP MORNING WORK!  I know, I know you might think it’s crazy.  But, I have to tell you it was the best thing that I have done yet!  My students come in, unpack, and go straight into morning meeting.  After our morning meeting routine, we transition smoothly and calmly into our 20 minute guided reading rotation.  
I only do one round a day that way each group completes their daily activity and is ready to move on to the rest of the day’s activities.  It’s such a calm and purposeful way to start the school day.  My students have really responded to the consistency of our guided reading rotations and the time that they have EVERY day to just read.
Some may wonder if I miss the word work or work on writing centers that usually accompany a reading rotation.  But, I must say that having this time to just work on reading, shows my students how truly important reading is to their school experience.  They understand that the only way to become better readers is to do just that; read.  We complete word study and writing workshop at other times in the day so my students are working on those areas at their own level during those times.  Not to mention the prep work is so minimal with these guided reading rotations.  
Thank you so much for staying with me and reading through this entire post. If you have any questions about what guided reading looks like in my classroom, I’d love to answer any questions that you may have in the comments below!  
If you’re interested in using these guided reading rotation schedules and other activities in your own classroom make sure to check out my packet in my TpT store by clicking the image below!


  • Unknown April 10, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    I absolutely love this idea, I too am guilty of just meeting with my struggling readers this year. The only thing I'm unsure about is that I know my principal would question me meeting with only 1 group a day. What do you do for the rest of your literacy block? Any suggestions on how I could make this work and meet with more than one group a day? Thanks!!!

    • Jayme April 10, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Jane! Thank you so much for reading my post. I understand what you're going through completely. This is just one small part of my literacy block. The rest of the block we are doing shared reading where we focus on comprehension skills and a comprehension activity, read aloud, word study, whole group phonics, and writing workshop. Word study and guided reading are taught in small groups with these rotation schedules. If you wanted, you could do two groups in one day and make it a 40 minute rotation instead of 20. Let me know if that's something that interests you and I can try and rework the schedules for you. Have a great day!

    • Unknown April 11, 2016 at 2:37 am

      Hi Jayme!
      Thank you so much for getting back to me! I'd love to see how you could work in 2 rotations. I currently do about a 30 minute whole group and then an hour of the daily 5 (with 3 rotations, about an hour) but I could easily add time to my whole group and go down to 40 minutes for guided reading. Let me know what you come up with. I'm happy to collaborate 😊! Thanks again!

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  • Unknown April 10, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    I really love the idea of how your kiddos have a center that is focused on reading each day. I too am contemplating throwing out the word work & writing to really give my kiddos more time to just read and respond. I was wondering if you every have any groups of high readers reading chapter books? I'm in second grade, so usually mid-year I have my above grade level groups on a chapter book. I was just wondering how that might look with a rotation like yours. Gives me something to think about! Thanks for the blog post!

  • Nicole April 12, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Jayme this was a great post!!! My guided reading also hit a snag but I was able to find something that works!!! Junie B is a hot ticket in mint class as well!!!

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    Hi! I’m Jayme! A former elementary teacher turned stay at home mom sharing toddler activities, mom tips, and educational resources to help you learn and play with your children. I believe in the power of PLAY and creating meaningful activities for you and your little ones to enjoy together.

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