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Guided Reading: Ask These 6 Questions Daily to Get Better Results

There is so much to know to make Guided Reading really work. It can be overwhelming to both Guided Reading beginners and veterans.

The questions we ask ourselves often determine what we focus on and, ultimately, our success. To produce better results with each Guided Reading lesson, start with asking better questions. Read on to find out what those questions are.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself

A great Guided Reading lesson doesn’t happen automatically. It requires knowledge, skill, and the willingness and patience to learn as we go and evolve. Self-assessment is part of this process. Here are six questions to ask each day to continue to get good results from Guided Reading:

  1. Why am I doing Guided Reading?
    The goal of Guided Reading is to instill in children a true love of reading. The teachers who accomplish the most with Guided Reading know this. This allows them to start each lesson with clarity and purpose—and committed to turning reading into fun.
  2. Have I placed the right students in the right group?
    This is essential to the success of any small group. Get this wrong and even the most experienced teacher won’t be able to accomplish much. Where to start? Take the time to look at the data to determine student reading levels. Then, group students according to their reading levels, their skills, and how they solve problems when reading. Shoot for four students per group, and no more than six.
  3. Have I selected an appropriate text?
    In general, students should be reading level-appropriate material. Selection should be based on several criteria: The student’s age or stage of reading development, whether students will be reading orally or independently, and evaluation of the actual text. In addition, a teacher can actually listen to a student read and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, too, that the text should give every student the opportunity to engage. Too easy and the kids won’t care; too difficult and they’ll get frustrated.
  4. Have I identified a strategy to teach today?
    It doesn’t matter if the small groups are formed correctly, the right text is selected, and children are engaged. Teachers must focus on teaching specific strategies to maximize their long-term results. Make sure each lesson supports readers in solving problems they may face, such as tackling new words or comprehending complex text.
  5. Is my lesson structured correctly?
    Every classroom is different. But, in general, all Guided Reading lessons should flow the same way. Teachers will ask students to read books they are familiar with and observe them and make notes while they are doing so. They will introduce the new text by walking students through the book’s format and getting them thinking about what’s inside. Each student should read quietly or silently and then be encouraged to talk about what they notice and to think deeply about the book. Throughout the lesson, the teacher is always listening closely and offering a few instructional tips based on observation.
  6. How can I better assess my readers?
    This is a big question, and there isn’t one single answer. It’s helpful to keep track of a student’s progress using a variety of assessment tools. Keep a running record as students read text during Guided Reading. Assess how well they can re-tell the text they read. Observe each child as they read independently to the group. And, ask students questions about the text to assess their comprehension.

Of course, these six questions aren’t a magic pill that will solve Guided Reading problems just by asking them. They must be followed up by purposeful, consistent action. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Take the next step today!

Gain a deeper understanding of how Guided Reading techniques can make reading more meaningful. Check out SDE’s webinar Zany, Brainy Strategies for Emergent Guided Reading (K–2) by reading expert Maria Banks.

Zany, Brainy Strategies for Emergent Guided Reading (Gr. K-2)

On-Demand. Watch Anytime!

Presented by Maria Banks


Join Maria as she shares recent research showing how our brains learn to read best. Learn about before, during, and after reading strategies that require readers to ask questions, make connections and inferences, visualize, and more. You’ll leave with a better understanding of how research-based guided reading techniques can make reading more meaningful and enjoyable for your students… and get a few tips to use right away!

Tech Specs

Student Mentor Texts

Ernest Hemingway once famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Young students learning to write can certainly relate. Sentence construction, spelling, grammar—there are many complex skills a child must master on the road to become a confident writer. The good news is that teachers don’t have to carry the burden of instilling those skills. Students can learn from each other.

Read on to explore the idea of student-mentor texts and how to use them to enrich writing instruction, strengthen specific writing skills, and build the confidence of emerging writers.

Show Me!  

The traditional view of writing instruction places students in their seats waiting for their teacher to show them how to create. However, reliance on this model of teaching has its limitations. It can turn students into passive recipients of learning who are highly dependent on their teachers. It can promote rote learning that depends on memorization and regurgitation of facts, not deep understanding. And, it can produce students who learn what’s being taught, but are unable to apply it in real life.

Learning to write is so much easier, and a lot more fun, when students are shown examples of a skill just taught. Isn’t that how many of us learn a new skill? By hearing how a peer crafted an introduction, organized a story, or used imagery, writer’s block vanishes and the wheels of creativity begin to turn. This is where a good student mentor text can make a real impact.

I CAN Do That!

A student mentor text is a piece of writing used to demonstrate a specific writing skill and motivate students to write something creatively similar. While under-utilized in most classrooms, student mentor texts can be one of the most valuable strategies in writing instruction. They’re not a substitute for good teaching, but rather a tool for enriching it and bringing it to life.

Thanks to student mentor texts, students learning to write do not have to start from scratch. They can learn from the work and experiences of other student writers and avoid the same mistakes. They can learn what works in certain circumstances and why and how to use that insight to create something new. In addition, they can develop skills in working collaboratively, giving and receiving feedback, and assessing their own writing.

Something magical happens when students witness classmates taking risks, solving problems, and persevering. The observing students become inspired, their confidence grows, and they overcome their fears. They realize they can do this, too. Student mentors invited to share their texts benefit as well. They feel worthy, recognized, and empowered.

And, don’t make the mistake of thinking only perfectly written pieces make good mentor texts. There is value and something to be learned from all writing—including the unpolished, the messy, and even the crumpled pieces of paper tossed away!

Finding Student Models Right at Your Fingertips

Student mentor texts are not commonly used to their full potential in today’s classrooms. lf used at all, they are often on an ad hoc basis, without much thought or planning. As a result, teachers don’t have a good model when designing a learning environment that prompts students to learn from each other.

Teachers getting started with student mentor texts often ask: How do I go about selecting a good student mentor? Our advice: Don’t limit your view. Any student can be a mentor—a top-achieving student with advanced skills, a struggling writer whose skills are lacking, and anyone in between. There are lessons to be learned from all. And opportunities for all writers to read their own work out loud, stand in the spotlight, and shine.

Once a strong mentor text is selected, hang onto it. Make it part of an ongoing collection of student writing and a piece included in writing instruction year after year. By taking the time to organize collected texts according to a genre or skill, great examples of student writing will be readily available for all to enjoy and learn from.

For a more detailed look at why and how you might use mentor texts in your classroom, check out SDE’s webinar “We Can Do This” Using Student-Written Mentor Texts to Teach and Inspire (Gr. K–2) by literacy expert Janiel Wagstaff.

Using Student-Written Mentor Texts to Teach and Inspire (Gr. K-2)

On-Demand. Watch Anytime!

Presented by Janiel Wagstaff


Why (and how) might you use students’ own writing as mentor texts for meaningful, explicit writing instruction? This fast-paced webinar will show you. Student-peers’ writing is a rich and relevant go-to resource for mining specific teaching points based on standards and students’ immediate needs, as well as for exploring the purpose and joys of writing across genres. Enrich your classroom climate, bolster students’ confidence, and motivate them using the student models right at your fingertips!

Tech Specs

Project-Based Learning: Think Twice Before Deciding It’s

We all can probably remember being in school and having to do projects. Each student in the class would be assigned the same thing—like create a poster about hurricanes or a diorama of whales. There were due dates to meet, rules to follow, and grades to be earned. And yes, in many cases, parents got involved by buying supplies or even finishing the project the night before it was due.

Enter project-based learning. Teachers all over the country, in every grade and subject area, are replacing the traditional project with projects that are student-centered and make learning real and relevant. Which leads project-based learning newbies wonder: How do they do it, given the fact that it’s a totally new way for students to learn and teachers to teach? Read on for the answer.

5 Tips for Project-Based Learning Success

Project-based learning is an exciting classroom-based approach to teaching in which students investigate real-world problems and gain deep knowledge. Research has shown that project-based learning students remember content longer, view themselves as better problem solvers, and perform better on tasks that require understanding and application of knowledge.

The move to this trending practice does not happen overnight. It takes time and trial-and-error. However, by introducing small projects, one at a time, teachers can gradually discover what works and what doesn’t in their classrooms.

To accelerate the process, here are five tips that make successful implementation of project-based learning easier. Let’s take a look.

  1. Start with a compelling question.
    A good question gives students a purpose and focuses their efforts. The question should be thought-provoking, attention-getting, and intriguing. When is it okay to turn immigrants away? Is our air really safe to breath? Or the question can challenge students to solve a problem: How can we get more people to vote?
  2. Give students a reason to learn.
    No busy work! Students don’t get excited about learning something simply because they will be asked it on a test. They will get excited about meaningful inquiry into a relevant topic that captures their fancy and triggers their curiosity.
  3. Give students a voice and choice.
    The importance of this cannot be overlooked. We’ve all seen students, when given the right challenge, take off running with an idea. The more choices and input they have, the more motivated they will be. So, allow them to select a topic, choose how to design and present the product, or decide which resources to use. It’s okay to guide them with a list of possible choices to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Provide opportunities to build key 21st century skills.
    Collaboration, communication, critical thinking—project-based learning is the perfect vehicle for exposing students to these skills. It’s not just a new way to learn. It’s a new way to think, work together, and to form the basis of how they will function in the real work world.
  5. Offer feedback and allow students to critique each other’s work.
    Through feedback and revision, students can learn an important life lesson—success doesn’t come easy. It often involves failure and returning to the drawing board. And this requires grit and persistence—two qualities that our children will need to tackle and overcome the challenges ahead.

Is changing to a project-based learning environment hard work? No doubt it is. But it’s doable. Try looking at project-based learning as a journey with many bumps in the road. But teachers who hang in there and continue to evaluate and revise their efforts will reap the benefits. And so will their students.

Learn the key elements of project-based learning and how it can transform your classroom. SDE offers a webinar that will bring you up-to-speed. Check out An Introduction to Project-Based Learning (Gr. K–5) by author and former classroom teacher Dedra Stafford.