Learn how to teach Guided Reading in-person and virtually

Guided Reading Small Groups: Face-to-Face vs. Virtual

I am pumped to share some ideas on how you can still implement small groups, no matter your teaching situation. First, have grace (like a lot of it) with yourself as you are finding your groove. Guided reading is going to look different than in the past, and that is okay. Different is expected. Students can still receive a rich, quality lesson… different does not mean inadequate.

Teaching In-Person – “Roomies”

If you are teaching guided reading small groups in-person, here are my suggestions for you.

Smaller Group SizesTry grouping students in groups of 3-4 versus 6. You won’t be able to meet with each group each day but create a schedule that is manageable for you. Try using sit spots where students can join you on the floor while maintaining distance. It is easier to spread 3 children apart than 6.

Recycle and Reuse TextsTo limit passing books around, use the same book for 2-3 guided reading sessions. This helps with remembering facts and retelling the story elements/events. Since the text will be familiar, you can dive into close reading. You can teach and practice a variety of other reading skills/strategies with the same text. If you wish to change books each session, spiral the used books back later in the year to implement this same strategy.

Reading Time Your students can whisper read on the floor while you call on certain students to read aloud for you to assess their reading habits. If you cannot teach them on the floor, you can pull them together for your introduction, send them back to their seats where you will have to circulate to hear them read, and bring them back together to discuss and wrap up.

Not Ideal But…Have your students choral read (everyone reads together at the same time) or round-robin read (students will take turns reading the pages aloud). Again, this is not ideal, but if you have to teach guided reading from a distance, this may have to be an option for you. Students who are reading is better than nothing at all.

Devices If your school provides one-to-one devices (or students can bring them from home), you could use digital readers to conduct guided reading lessons. Some websites are BookNook, Reading A-Z, Raz-Kids, Epic, ReadWorks, and Newsela.

MaterialsThis is a great time to see if you can get students their own whiteboards, markers, and erasers. Make use of sheet protectors or lamination – anything that can help resources be reused week after week and that are easy to clean. Students will keep one master copy in their possession.

Teaching Virtual – “Zoomies”

If you are teaching small groups virtually, here are some practices that worked for me.

Group SizesSimilar to Roomies, try grouping students in smaller groups (2-4 students). You won’t be able to meet with each group each day but create a schedule that is manageable for you.

Breakout RoomsThis is a great feature if you are using or is getting this feature soon! You can then host guided reading groups in various breakout rooms. You can bounce into each one to monitor and engage with students. This is an option to get groups happening simultaneously. Students are able to help each other and be held accountable for the expectations you set.

Recycle and Reuse TextsUse the same text for 2-3 guided reading sessions. This helps with remembering facts and retelling the story elements/events. Since the text will be familiar, you can dive into close reading. You can teach and practice a variety of other reading skills/strategies with the same text. If you wish to change books each session, spiral the used books back later in the year to implement this same strategy.

Live InstructionTeaching live mini-lessons is key for guided reading. Even if you have the option to pre-record, I do not recommend this. Having students engage in real-time is where much of the learning occurs. You can also coach students as they need it, work through misconceptions, and give feedback.

Document CameraUsing a document camera was a game-changer for me. No, my school did not provide it for me, but it was well worth the investment and for sure a key piece as to how I made it through virtual teaching at the start of the pandemic. You can show your books to students if you do not have access to digital readers.

Digital ReadersIf you have access to digital book programs, you can share your screen to show them. Students can read the text, much like if you were showing a book underneath your document camera. Loaded passages into your secure platforms can operate much in the same way as a digital reader. Examples are BookNook, Reading A-Z, Raz-Kids, Epic, ReadWorks, and Newsela.

Not Ideal But…Have your students choral read (everyone reads together at the same time) or round-robin read (students will take turns reading the pages aloud). Again, this is not ideal, but if you have to teach guided reading from a distance, this may have to be an option for you. Students who are reading is better than nothing at all.

Reading TimeLeave your students on mute for them to read aloud. You can unmute students to listen to them read a portion aloud for you to take notes and document progress. If choral reading, your students can stay unmuted. You can provide real-time coaching.

Other MaterialsYou can use the online whiteboard feature as this option reduces the glare when writing on a whiteboard and holding it up for students to see. I know some schools have funded resource bags for students. If you have access to that, include sticky notes, index cards, master copies of reusable activities, a sheet protector, whiteboard and marker, a highlighter, and anything else you find handy to use at your guided reading table.


The process to teach online and in-person can overlap in some ways. It is different. It requires more work. But once you get a system that works for you, it does get easier. Will you be able to match the effectiveness of real, in-person reading instruction? Probably not. Create a schedule that is manageable for you and your students. If you can meet with your lowest readers once or twice per week, you’re doing GREAT and they will benefit in the long run.

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Hey, I'm Megan!

I am a literacy specialist and curriculum designer who loves sharing tips and ideas to help students thrive in literacy! It brings me joy to await those a-ha moments and to see light bulbs turn on!

I have a huge passion for reading and writing and love to co-mingle the two any chance I get! You can expect to learn new strategies and ways to keep your students engaged during your literacy block! I am so glad you’re here!

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