Professional Development

May 9, 2020

How to Easily Implement Guided Reading and Reader’s Workshop

I chatted with a brand new teacher who was trying to figure out which reading instruction model she should choose: reader’s workshop or guided reading. Not to mention, there’s also the book club model (or literature circles). She read the professional development books, asked her teaching team for opinions, and searched Pinterest until her eyes crossed.

She didn’t realize that she did not have to choose one or the other.

Guided reading and reader’s workshop can coexist in the balanced literacy framework. They are not mutually exclusive. Let’s dig into both to better understand each of them and how they work together.

What is Guided Reading?

Guided reading ultimately serves as a time of coaching and guiding support so students can read at their instructional level and then advance. The teacher provides instruction to help the students move from instructional to independent on that specific reading level. Students receive explicit instruction on their instructional reading level, and the teacher gets an in-depth understanding of each students’ reading weaknesses and strengths. 

The teacher….
  • Chooses the text.
  • Provides an introduction and explicit instruction.
  • Sets an authentic purpose for reading.
  • Listens to students read independently, takes a running record on one, and jots down notes about the other group members’ reading.
  • Provides students with the right tools to advance their reading.
The students…
  • Learn in groups of two to six that are on the same instructional reading level.
  • Are challenged with a lesson tailored specifically for them to prevent frustration.
  • Read the text independently in a whisper voice two to three times.
  • Discuss the book to review comprehension skills, practice retelling, and share the connections they made.

The entire guided reading lesson also includes word work, sight word practice, comprehension skill development, and sometimes a quick write. You can find the complete and detailed structure of a guided reading lesson HERE

Students who are not at the guided reading table participate in literacy centers where they read independently and with partners, practice phonics skills, write, and practice other important components of literacy. 

Writing station set up that is simple and easy! I love how this teacher organizes and introduces her literacy stations. No more changing stations out each week!

What is Reader’s Workshop?

Think of reader’s workshop as a big umbrella of a reading block. It might have several components like read alouds, shared reading, independent reading, guided reading, listening to books, and buddy reading. You can implement it in several different ways, but it follows a similar routine as the basic writer’s workshop: 

The teacher…
  • Gives a whole group mini-lesson to teach a new (or review) reading skill or strategy.
  • Models the skill or strategy through a read aloud, similar to an interactive read aloud.
  • Confers with students during independent practice time, meets with small groups, and implements guided reading.
The students…
  • Participate in the shared reading poem or book or the interactive read aloud. 
  • Select their own books on an independent reading level
  • Read independently, read with a buddy, and might rotate through literacy stations. 
  • Practice implementing the specific strategy taught in the mini-lesson
  • Share what they read about, learned, had questions about, etc. based upon teacher guidance.

Reader’s workshop would also include explicit phonics instruction and word work instruction. It could be worked in as the mini-lesson, during guided reading, as a small group activity, or during conferences

How to Implement Both 

Guided reading fits into reader’s workshop as a crucial element. While students read independently, the teacher can meet with guided reading groups. You also will confer with students. Often times, you will notice that several students need help with one thing. When this happens, you can pull a strategy group for your guided reading group.

Figuring out a guided reading schedule for your groups can seem tricky and can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be! Read about these 3 tips that will be sure to help you think through and give you some freedom in your groups!

To determine how many groups you can meet with will depend on how long your reader’s workshop block is. Each guided reading lesson is about 20 minutes long. You’ll want to make sure you also have time to conference with about three students individually during independent reading time as well. 

Once the new teacher I was chatting with understood that guided reading can work into just about any type of reading block, she felt relieved that she had the freedom to pick and choose how to best serve her students. We all can do that. 

If you are looking to grow in your guided reading instruction, join my waitlist for my online professional development course, Guided Reading Unpacked!

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Reader’s workshop is an excellent choice to allow students some freedom in their learning while progressing forward in reading by conferencing individually with students. Guided reading gives you the in-depth opportunity to meet with several students on the same reading level at the same time. You can do both successfully. 

Happy Teaching,



Want to use the latest research to boost your readers during small groups? This FREE guide is packed with engaging ideas to help them grow!

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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