Professional Development

May 28, 2016

11 Tools to Help You Get Started With Reading Small Groups

Just the thought of getting started with guided reading small groups can be overwhelming. I know that was the case for me when I started teaching. You have to create a space for it You have to gather reading tools. Then, you have to create groups and write effective lessons. It’s a lot!

One area that sometimes becomes more complicated than it needs to be is guided reading tools and literacy manipulatives. I’m here to tell you guided reading tools can be simple. Over the years, I came to find the best tools for teaching guided reading and reading small groups. These guided reading tools were things I used almost daily from the beginning of the year as I started meeting with my groups. I’m excited to share them with you to help you get started!

Amazon affiliate links are used below. Don’t worry, they don’t cost you penny!

Sticky Notes

I used these unique-sized sticky notes almost every day with my guided reading groups.  Not only did I use them to write kids’ names on and organize them into groups in my guided reading binder, but I also would let students use them in books.

For example, at the beginning of the group, I would set a purpose for reading such as making a connection. As the students read their book and made a connection, they would place their sticky note there. We would then talk about their connections after.


I would use notecards to write new sight words on as I introduced a book. So if the book had  “can” and “the” in the book, I would write them on the notecards. Then we would practice reading them. I would then add them to the stack of sight word cards that we had already learned. At the beginning of each guided reading group time, we would play a quick sight word game with the stack as we all read the words.

Reading Small Groups Guide

One must-have tool for your lesson planning for your reading small groups is the Reading Small Groups Guide. It walks you through behaviors to support, phonics skills to practice, and comprehension skills to develop for the whole year for each grade level. You’ll want to keep this handy resource at your fingertips so you can move readers forward all year long. You can find it on my blog HERE!


These baskets are the perfect size for me to prepare each group’s materials.  They fit nicely on two shelves that sat behind my guided reading table. They fit the small books that the students would read, any sight words cards that I had prepped beforehand, and baggies of letter tiles or word sorts that we would do.

Teacher Caddy

Now normally, this teacher caddy is not something that I would ever see and think “I need that!”, but let me tell you–I love it! I received it at a training and have used it every year since! I would store the sight word notecard stack, highlight tape, oops! tape, reading glasses, and magnetic dry erase boards ALL in one place. If I needed to take my group to the floor instead of my table, I just grabbed the caddy and their group basket and was set! I love flexible guided reading tools!

Highlight Tape for Readers

After I introduced the high-frequency words on the notecards, we would go on sight word hunts in our books. Students would use the highlight tape to find the new sight words. The best part about this tape is that it’s reusable! You can make the pieces into tabs and stick them on a laminated notecard. Each student would have tabs ready to go!

Letter Tiles

Letter tiles are a must! We used them for word work and to build words that followed our phonics focus for the week or the phonics focus that was easily identified in the book we were using. These literacy manipulatives are one of my favorites and most-used.

Reading Glasses

On a whim, I purchased fake glasses from the Target dollar spot a few years ago. I told my students that they were our “reading glasses”. They helped them have “readers’ eyes”. Boy, were they fun! The cheapest little guided reading tool I ever purchased, my friends!

Magnetic Dry Erase Boards

At a wonderful training, I received this set of six magnetic dry erase boards. I don’t even think I knew there was such a thing because I had never been to Lakeshore. I was just used to seeing normal dry erase boards. Hands down, this a must-have! Both my students and I used magnetic letters on them often! They also fit so perfectly in my teacher caddy. Word work, sentence writing, illustrating pictures as our writing–a fantastic tool for my groups!

“Oops Tape”

A sweet teacher friend told me about “oops tape”.  It’s just white post it tape that is thick and is not see-through.  It does not ruin book pages. It’s perfect for when a book has a strange word that I would like to change, for modeling correct sentence writing, and for hiding words to reveal as we are working on decoding strategies in their little books. A roll like this lasts me at least all year, too!

Reading Small Groups Guide

This FREE guide for kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers helps you know exactly what students need to know and practice at any stage of reading. It walks you through behaviors to support, phonics skills to practice, and comprehension skills to develop for the whole year for each grade level.

Download it today and keep it at your reading groups table for convenience. You’ll want to keep this handy resource at your fingertips so you can move readers forward all year long.

Remember, you don’t have to have every possible tool to get started with your reading small groups. You can start with just a few basics and still have engaging, effective small group reading lessons.

Once you’re all set with guided reading tools, it’s time to start putting together lessons. If you want some help with reading small group lessons, I can do that! I have decodable guided reading kits that have everything you need for lessons. (You can find leveled kits HERE!)

Each set has decodable books, detailed lesson plans, phonics practice materials, teaching posters, and more. You can get each set individually or grab the bundle to save.

Grab your set and get started today. You’ll have everything you need to help students master important phonics skills and boost your readers!

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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22 Responses

  1. I want to say thank you for sharing your resources for my guiding reading group. I look forward in sharing my progress of my reading groups.

  2. Hi
    I am a new to this site. I was just surfing the web and stumble upon greatness. I am a kindergartner teacher and had problems with the structure of guiding reading, what to do when to do and how to do to benefit my student. I am a visual learner as to most of my student so I need something like this last year. My class will benefit from these strategy you have so graciously supplied us. Is there a cost for using this information if so how much? I look forward to reading your new ideas.

    1. Hi Elaine! I’m so glad you found my blog! I am very passionate about guided reading and love sharing tips and things I have learned along the way with other teachers! The guided reading resource cards are free for you! If you are looking for resources to purchase, you can find those here in my TpT store. Let me know if you have any other questions at all! I am always happy to help! 🙂

  3. Hi,
    I really like your ideas and look forward to implementing them in to my guided reading time. I like the idea of the teacher caddy. I am usually scrambling around for extra 3×5 cards for sight words or highlighters to mark words. During my guided reading I, too, use “reading glasses” and I also use “magic fingers” which are the funny witch fingers that I found at the dollar store around Halloween. We use them when we are reading to track our words. I also use a timer to keep me on schedule. Thanks again for sharing – best wishes for a successful school year!

    1. Yes! I always did guided reading every day for a 60 minute block. There were times that We would have an assembly or an early release and I would have to do a 45 minute block, though.

  4. Thank you for all of the tools but I have a question did you use a guided reading planning sheet or how did you plan what you were going to do my lesson plans for my school district doesn’t have one I work with special ed students grades 4 through 6 all reading below a second grade level

  5. Hi Amanda,
    I am trying to get the REading Resource cards but the link to get them isn’t working! Can you send the to me via email?
    Thank you for all your help! The ideas are fantastic!

      1. Thank you I cant wait to have my own class and start teaching. I am a substitute right now but will still use these when I can. I have teacher friends, and websights I am visiting to get tricks and helpful hints. All that you can pass my way would be appreciated.

  6. Two questions:

    1) my biggest issue is what to do with the rest of my class while my reading groups are in progress. What do you do? It seems like having them working on other things either produces sub-par work (compared to what I know they can do) or is work that doesn’t produce tangible results such as games. I want to make sure that the 45 minutes-1 hour that they aren’t being closely monitored by me because I’m with reading groups isn’t wasted.

    2) The “teacher caddy” link you included won’t work. Could you tell us the brand of the caddy so that we could look somewhere other than amazon?

    Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Erin! 1. I LOVED literacy stations and specifically, literacy stations that I didn’t have to switch out each week and re-teach. I went for purposeful practice! 2. Sorry about that caddy link! It’s from Lakeshore Learning! 🙂

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