Professional Development

September 11, 2021

How to Plan for a Successful First Day of Guided Reading

You’ve set up your classroom and small group area. You’ve found a solid set of decodable and leveled readers. You’ve assessed your students and formed guided reading groups. But do you know what the first day of guided reading looks like? When you call students’ names to your table, do you know what you’re going to do with five little faces looking at you?

The first day of guided reading is very exciting, but knowing exactly what to do can make the groups go much smoother. Having a well-planned first meeting with your guided reading groups can set the expectations for the rest of the year. Let’s dive into some things you can do on day one of guided reading to have a successful year!

Start With a Get to Know You Activity

By having students play a get to know you game, not only do they get to know each other better, but you get to know students’ interests, too! Then, you can easily connect with students on a personal level. One simple activity to try is “Would You Rather”. Just jot down a few questions and give everyone a chance to answer. Here are a few you could start with:

Would you rather…

  • read adventure books or fairy tales?
  • read nonfiction or fiction books?
  • listen to a book or read a book?
  • read to learn something new or read a story for fun?
  • read with a friend/family member or alone?

Set the Expectations for Your Group Time

Some students may have never participated in a guided reading group before. You will need to introduce the group and setting the expectations for how you will use the time together is important. Explicitly tell each group why they are meeting with you (so that they can practice problem-solving and learn how to implement reading strategies while reading). Then, give students an overview of what they will be doing each time they meet with you. You can find an example guided reading schedule on my blog HERE.

Practice Book Routines

Next, you’ll want to practice book routines with each reading group. Where will they get their books from? What will they do with them afterward? When you hand them the book, will they set it on the table and wait for you to ask them to open it? Give your readers a book to physically practice with. Then they will know exactly what to do each time they come to your table. This will save you tons of time later not having to constantly remind them!

For kindergarten students, you’ll also want them to review what to do with a book. Reviewing and teaching concepts about print will be very important for these young readers. We need our readers to understand how to open a book, when to turn the page, identifying letters, words, and sentences, and so much more!

Introduce Students to Literacy Manipulatives

Another activity to do during the first day of guided reading is to show students different literacy manipulatives they might use during guided reading groups. Give them a chance to touch and play with them, too. This will help save time in the future because these items won’t be brand new. Some items you may want to have out for the first meeting are:

  • alphabet chart
  • letter tiles
  • Elkonin boxes and cubes
  • Play-Doh
  • personal pointers
  • high-frequency word cards

You can get a FREE set of printable literacy manipulatives on my blog HERE. You can make a set of six to use with each group at your table or give each student their own set of literacy manipulatives to help prevent the spread of germs.

Let Students Know What Happens When They Miss a Station

If you have engaging and high-quality literacy stations, your students might be disappointed to miss out on a station while they’re with you during guided reading groups. You’ll want to make a plan for what you want students to do and let them know. When they know what happens when you pull them from a station, they’ll be more likely to be excited to go to your guided reading group.

There isn’t a right or a wrong way to handle what to do when students miss a station. You choose whatever you think will be best for your students. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Let students tuck the station activity away (if there is a student recording page) and finish it anytime they have free time in the week.
  • Let students work on that station during morning work time.
  • Allow students to choose to finish the station they were in or move on to the next one.

Getting Started with Guided Reading Books

After your first day of guided reading, you’ll be ready to start guided reading lessons with your students. I love getting to begin this part of their reading journey! To get started, you may want to begin with leveled readers while you help students get to know and understand what guided reading groups are all about.

You can use leveled readers to get started on the first day of guided reading.

I have a full set of guided reading books and lessons with everything the teacher and students need for lessons in my shop. There are guided reading kits for levels A-M in both digital and print versions.  

Grab them here: Kindergarten Guided Reading Bundle | First Grade Guided Reading Bundle | Second Grade Guided Reading Bundle

After you’ve gotten to know students’ reading skills and capabilities better, you may want to switch to decodable readers to better refine their reading skills. Decodable books allow students to practice specific phonics patterns and build strong reading foundational skills. To help get you going with decodable readers, I’ve created decodable texts and lessons that cover short vowels, digraphs, blends, and long vowels.

You can use decodable readers to get started on the first day of guided reading.

Each set has decodable texts in color, black and white, and digital versions. Each book has a corresponding scripted lesson plan so you know exactly what to do during guided reading lessons. Plus, each lesson includes phonics practice, word work, and a writing extension.

Check them out here: Short Vowel Decodables | Blends Decodables | Digraphs Decodables | Long Vowel Decodables | Decodable Books BUNDLE

There is no right and wrong way to begin your first day of guided reading groups. Get to know your readers. Introduce the time to them. Be intentional. You WILL make a difference in their reading journey!

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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2 Responses

  1. Quick question…..are these Science of Reading aligned? Is there a way to demonstrate this? Thank you for any and all help you are able to provide!

    1. Hi Amy! I’m not sure if you are referring to the decodable readers or the leveled kits. The decodable readers are and we are editing the leveled kits as we speak. Level A is complete!

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