Professional Development

February 27, 2021

7 Things I Learned About Virtual Guided Reading Groups

When things went bananas last year and we were thrown into distance learning, I was excited to figure out how to launch virtual guided reading groups. I had tons and tons of teachers just like you asking for my help in figuring how to do virtual guided reading to keep moving readers forward.

Just like a lot of things in teaching, I quickly realized I had to change my expectations and tweak some practices to make it work. I jumped headfirst into helping you all figure this out last summer as I dug in deep doing guided reading groups, even outside of the classroom! Today, I’m sharing a few things I learned about virtual guided reading groups in hopes that you’ll pick up a few helpful tips!

1.Connecting with students matters.

Just like in the regular classroom, virtual students may be shy or hesitant to talk on video and read with others around. Connecting with students while distance learning matters, especially if you want to see what each reader is capable of.

When I led one of my virtual guided reading groups, I had a girl who was shy and very quiet. Once I got her to connect with not only me, but with the other students in her group, she really perked up and participated well!

Take the time to connect with students and help them make connections with their peers. It may not be on the lesson plan, but your lesson will be so much better if you do!

2. Take time to teach students how the virtual guided reading groups will work.

Use the first few lessons with your virtual guided reading groups to introduce what this time will look like. Walk them through each part of the lesson to help make things move more quickly later. For example:

  • Show them the supplies they need and have them practice getting those items ready.
  • Have students practice moving to breakout rooms and then back to the main group.
  • Model how to turn the pages of digital books and let the students practice.
  • Let students practice holding up word work or quick writes so that you can actually see what they did. You can make it fun by asking them to draw silly things to hold up and show you!

3. You may not get through the whole lesson in 20 minutes.

Another thing I have learned about teaching virtual guided reading lessons is that you won’t get through the entire guided reading lesson in 20 minutes. And that is okay! Even in-person guided reading lessons sometimes don’t get finished.

In my post about practical tips for guided reading schedules, I shared several tips to help your guided reading schedule. Two of them you might want to try are:

  1. Move the most important part of your lesson to the beginning. If you keep running out of time for the same piece of the lesson, try moving it to the beginning of the lesson during the group’s next meeting time.
  2. Add and subtract minutes from different parts of the lesson to focus more on an area your readers might need.

It’s okay to switch things up to best meet the needs of your students.

4. Plan for students to talk about something unrelated to guided reading. It happens.

Kids will be kids! During one of my virtual guided reading lessons, one student saved enough money to buy a new harmonica. He was so excited to tell his reading group about it that I knew it would be distracting. So, I used the last two minutes I planned for a miscellaneous chat to let him share all about it and play it for his friends.

If you are scheduling back-to-back guided reading groups, be sure to give yourself a few minutes for the random conversations students will have. This ties into making connections with students!

5. The quality of the book matters.

Be sure to choose quality digital books that are either on the students’ instructional level or meeting a strategy need. Young readers will stay engaged in the lesson and the book when the book is engaging and high quality. I shared some ideas for getting books to students while distance learning on my blog HERE.

6. Keep virtual guided reading groups small.

Next, I learned I can guide the group through the lesson more effectively when it had fewer students. In the classroom, the ideal guided reading group may go up to six students. For virtual guided reading, you might try to keep the number of students between two to four if you can.

7. Readers are still growing in virtual guided reading groups.

Even if you don’t make it through the whole lesson or have technical issues or whatever the setback is, your readers are growing! They are growing in confidence, knowledge, and skills. Each time you meet with them to support them in their reading journey and encourage them, they are growing.

Friends, I know distance learning has so many challenges, but no matter where you are on your virtual guided reading group journey, you are making a difference in your students’ lives. Keep trying. Keep learning. You will master this!

If you want some help, here are a few great blog posts and resources to guide you in your teaching:

Virtual Guided Reading for Distance Learning: A step-by-step guide with tips, tools, and lesson ideas

6 Steps to Launching Guided Reading Distance Learning

Best Practices for Virtual Guided Reading Assessments

What do you still have questions about with virtual guided reading groups? What is working well for you? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Happy Teaching,


8 Get to Know You Games for Distance Learning

Getting to know your students can be trickier while distance learning. Grab this FREE printable with eight get-to-know-you games and activities so that you can start connecting with students, help them get to know each other, and build a positive classroom community.

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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