How to Utilize Guided Reading in Upper Elementary

Most primary teachers know and utilize guided reading in their classrooms on a regular basis; however, in my experience, upper elementary teachers didn’t always see the value or find the time to implement this important practice into their own routines. Who can blame them? With standardized testing and demands from administration, it is hard to weed through the requirements to determine how to best use your time and resources to meet your student’s needs. But guided reading can be part of an effective strategy for upper elementary reading.

Do You Need to Teach Guided Reading?

To answer this, you only need to know the answer to one question:

Are all of your students reading on or above grade level?

If the answer is “yes”, then you likely can skip guided reading. Your students do not need remediation or guidance in basic comprehension skills because they can already do this on their own! Your time is better spent doing other things, such as strategy groups, literature circles or Project-based Learning.

On the other hand, if some of your students are below, or significantly below grade level, you should consider implementing guided reading ASAP.

How to Know if Your Students are “On Level”

Different schools, districts, and states use different measures to determine student reading levels. Some common measures are Fountas and Pinnell, Flesh-Kincaid, and Lexile. My district used Lexile measures. Lexile measures use a quantitative measurement to analyze and level text complexity. I have found that this is an accurate way to determine text complexity and differentiate accordingly. The Common Core text complexity bands are rigorous and challenging, but they are also attainable.

Grade BandLexile® Bands Aligned to Common Core Expectations
K-1N/A
2-3420L-820L
4-5740L-1010L
6-8925L-1185L

So, if your teaching 4th or 5th grade and students are not able to independently read and respond to texts in the 740L-1010L range, they could benefit from Guided Reading instruction.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to implement effective guided reading, check out How To Get The Most out of Teaching Guided Reading.

What Do the On Level and Above Level Students Do?

If you re an upper elementary teacher, you likely will not need to do guided reading group for all of your students. So what do your other students do while you meet with your students that need more support?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Literature Circles
  • Centers, with the main focus on independent reading
  • Strategy Groups

Using Guided Reading Effectively

Remember, guided reading is not just another thing you have to add to your plate. It is a beneficial tool you can use to help your students meet grade-level expectations while developing a love of reading.

Guided reading can be an effective tool regardless of your grade level. If you’re interested in implementing guided reading, check out my Guided Reading Units for 2nd – 5th grade featuring Lexile leveled texts differentiated at three levels in four formats (digital flipbooks, printable readers, Google Slides & ink/paper-saving printable), comprehension questions, small group plans, fluency checks, and skill focused graphic organizers.

Guided Reading resource for Upper Elementary showing digital resource
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