How to Run Successful Reading Groups in Elementary

 As teachers, it often seems like there is a lot to do and never enough time. This is especially true when it comes to meeting the learning needs of our students.

Whether you have a class of ten or thirty, getting to talk and work individually with each student can seem near impossible. How are you supposed to meet the needs of all my students with such a large class size? How can you check in with students individually to make sure they are mastering the concepts?

The secret? Small groups.

Okay, maybe it’s not a secret – a lot of people utilize small groups. But, it is the best teacher tip for helping your readers. 

How do reading small groups work? 

Reading small groups can function in a lot of different ways, and the great thing is that you can constantly shift how it looks in your classroom. I would begin by assessing your students’ reading skills. Then decide how you want to group students (ie. homogeneous or heterogeneous groups, consider behavior as well). Then, give your groups a try and adjust as needed.

When I taught third and fourth graders, I had several students who mastered their reading skills and could read independently. When I recognized certain students needed less individual support, I shifted that small group to meet once or twice per week, rather than daily. When they weren’t meeting with me, they worked on a novel study because they had the skills to do this alone.

By shifting my higher readers to more independent work, I was able to dedicate more time with students who hadn’t met the first grade reading goals. I was still able to check in with my higher level readers, while also fostering their independence.


What should I do with students in my reading small groups?


Small groups are excellent for working on skills that students are struggling with. If you notice the entire class is struggling with a skill, then try reteaching it in a small group. If only certain students are struggling, group them together and review those skills with them.


One way to work on skills is by creating a reader’s response journal for the texts you are reading. This allows you and the students to focus on a skill for the text, and you can track students progress on different skills over time.


One of my favorite stories to read with students in guided reading groups is the Arthur chapter books. I have an entire bundle of ready-to-go reader response journals for the Arthur series. You can check out the guided reading resource here. I also enjoy reading September Sneakers by Ron Roy in my small groups as well. This novel study provides ample opportunities to work on reading skills. You can find the resource for September Sneakers here.



What do the independent students do while I am in my small group?


While you are in a small group with your students, you want your independent workers to be occupied. This will keep you from having to stop your small group several times. Make sure the activity is something they could easily do independently without asking for too much help.


One suggestion is to have students work on a reading skills based program, such as IXL or Education Galaxy. You can assign a specific skill you want students to complete that day, and they will work through the questions on the computer program. This can be kinda boring to do every day, so mix it up as needed.


Another great individual activity is novel study. Assign students a novel to read independently and then provide skills to work on for that novel. For example, students may read a chapter from a book and then do a character analysis where they assign adjectives to a character.


Not sure where to start with individual novel studies? Here are a couple of my favorite novels to have students read on their own, along with ready-to-go activities and materials for each book.


Ramona Quimby Age 8 by Beverly Cleary – This resource contains open-ended questions and vocabulary review for every chapter. It also contains activities for character analysis pages, compare/contrast, and character evolution.


Matilda by Roald Dahl – This resource contains a question page for each chapter, character analysis, compare/contrast of characters, character evolution page, and vocabulary.

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