5 Tips for Guided Reading in Kindergarten

I have spent the last month or so working with a guided reading group in kindergarten.  Joining these friends has been the highlight of my day.  They are darling and hysterical and so very fun.
Can't decide if #3 or #5 is my favorite.  5 tips for guided reading in kindergarten.

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

1. Plan ahead

Y'all.  This is no joke.  Kindergarteners come at you 90 miles an hour.  You need a game plan before the little people come to you.  I can wing it okay, but it's a lot harder in Kindergarten because a large chunk of my mental energy is spent keeping everyone on task.  If you're going to think big picture about your students' growth and where you want them to be, planning is not optional.
If  you're looking to learn more about the how, what, and why of guided reading, Jan Richardson's The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is an excellent resource.  If you're looking to plan for groups more thoughtfully, I really love Debbie Diller's Making the Most of Small Groups.
The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is a must!! If you're not sure how to teach guided reading, this book will get you there. Excellent resource for how to plan strategically for guided reading groups.

2. Be ready to change plans

Having said that planning is important, be ready to switch gears.  I had several things I'd planned to focus on with my group of kinder friends, but one thing became glaringly evident: they were not checking their picture based guesses to make sure they matched.  Not even a little bit.  Real conversation:

Me: That's a great guess!  That matches the picture.  Does it match the letters?
Kinder friend: Yes!
Me: You're not even looking at the page.  How do you know it matches the letters?
Kinder friend: I just know.

My lesson focus shifted away from what I had originally planned to work on self monitoring because I know that's a key skill and one that often makes it difficult for kiddos to transition from level 3 to level 4 on the DRA.

3. Become an expert

This is a big one.  And probably the most important one.  There is no guided reading resource you can purchase that will negate the need for you understanding what readers need at varying levels.  What we see on the surface of guided reading books is that gradually there are more words on the page and those words get harder.  There is so much more to know about the needs of readers at these levels.  This book is a must:
Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.
One of the most valuable resources you can own is The Literacy Continuum by Fountas and Pinnell.  And here's why:
Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.

Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.

Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.
Let's be honest-did you even think there was that much to know about a Level D book???  I was shocked about how much is possible with these simple texts.

This book is not cheap, so it's best if your school gets a copy.  If that's not in the cards, then my best suggestion is to watch it on Heinemann.  They run matching online codes when they offer one at a big conference.  My school was able to get 7 copies for 30% list price and free shipping because we purchased online while there was a big conference going on somewhere else.

4. Extend the pattern

Group books are the best! One of the books we read was On the Farm.  It was all about animals that live on the farm.  Each page followed a predictable pattern.
I made a super simple page on my computer, so we could make an In the Zoo book that followed the same pattern.  Each child made his/her own page.  I copied the pages, so each child had his own book.  It gave us a chance to practice listening to and recording sounds, more practice with sight words, and an extra special book to add to book boxes for rereading.

Extending the pattern can happen on the fly, too.  Here was a quick extension for A Hug is as Warm as:
Each child took a turn whispering the word in my ear.  I drew the picture (which gave them a chance to make a prediction) then wrote the word (allowing them a chance to confirm the prediction.)

5. Question Students When They're Right

We as teachers have gotten so good with reading strategies that we're ready to swoop in when kids have trouble.  Only asking does that look right/does that make sense when students are wrong trains them to not think about what they're reading.  They don't need to question it because we're ready and waiting to swoop in when they're wrong.
Instead of confirming a student's correct approximation, ask her if it makes sense, and then if it sounds right.
At first they'll tell you no because they're used to only being asked that when they're wrong.  Your kiddos will look super confused BECAUSE THAT'S NOT HOW THIS WORKS.  You'll probably need to intervene because they'll be busy trying to work out what else the word could possibly be.  The good news is kindergarteners are super flexible and will catch on quickly.

Bonus Tip! Target dollar spot makes it fun.

I cannot overstate how much more engaged kindergarten friends are when you involve a little novelty.  Whether it's little erasers, fun sunglasses with the lenses removed, finger pointers, or whatever nonsense you find at the Target dollar spot, a little engagement goes a long way.