Most of the time, a student’s phonics development corresponds to his or her guided reading level.
This makes guided reading a great time for a little word study or writing, since students are usually grouped by their reading levels!
However, my groups often spend a long time reading the book during guided reading. It can be a real challenge to find time for word study or writing. Can you relate?
Word study, phonics instruction, vocabulary, writing, and other follow-up activities can be extremely valuable components of a guided reading lesson. But we may not always have time for them.
And really, I do think that this is okay. Because…
- The main purpose of guided reading is to get kids READING real texts!
- I teach word study at other times of the day, in small groups, so I don’t always have to include it during guided reading.
However, when you do have time to include phonics, word study, vocabulary study, or writing into your guided reading lessons, you’ll want your activities to be brief, engaging, and powerful.
So in today’s post, I’ll share 10 examples of quick, meaningful“follow-up” activities that you can use at the end of your guided reading lessons.
Many of the materials featured in today’s post can be found in my FREE guided reading toolkit, which you can sign up to receive here by clicking here:
Photo credit: Racorn, Shutterstock
Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Mix and Fix with Sight Words
I’ve done this activity for years, but it’s also one that Jan Richardson mentions frequently in The Next Step in Guided Reading.
The purpose of “Mix and Fix” (which I sometimes call “Make-Tornado-Fix”) is to help students practice making sight words. The activity is best used when students are first learning a sight word, as opposed to when they’ve already mastered one and just need to review it.
To use “Mix and Fix,” give students the magnetic letters they need to make the sight word. You’ll want to make sure you’ve separated the letters out beforehand, since you’ll likely have multiple students in your guided reading group and won’t want to waste time searching for the letters.
I have been saving plastic lunchmeat containers for the past year, because they are great for storing magnetic letters or other small items:
When students are first learning a word, you may want to allow them to copy from the model (write the word on an index card or whiteboard). After students finish, they should always do two things:
1. Check the word, using your model (letter by letter, left to right)
2. Read the word aloud
Then, students should mix up the letters and make it again (this time without looking at any model).
This is a fun, hands-on way to learn sight words that takes very little prep!
Trace and Write Sight Words
Speaking of sight words…I am a big believer in the power of having kids write sight words in addition to reading them. (I don’t mean 10 times each or rainbow writing – I’m talking about quickly writing them from memory during small group instruction.)
To introduce a sight word during guided reading, I help students read it from a card, do the “mix and fix” activity described above, trace it in the air, trace it on the table, and then write it on a whiteboard.
Then, in a subsequent lesson, I ask students to write the sight word from memory. This time I just have them write it on a whiteboard.
In her The Next Step in Guided Reading book, Jan Richardson gives some great tips about prompting kids to spell it correctly. For example, if students have been asked to write “there,” you can tell a child who is struggling that it has the word “the” in it. This helps them make connections between the different sight words they know and the ones that they’re learning.
Picture or Word Sorts
Sorts are another quick activity that you can use at the end of a guided reading lesson. You can use them to teach both phonological awareness and phonics.
Picture sorts are great for teaching students to hear and distinguish between:
- Beginning sounds
- Ending sounds
- Word families
Before students are able to read and write sound patterns, they need to be able to hear them! Picture sorts are a quick way to provide this valuable phonological awareness practice. Here’s an example of a short/long i picture sort from my Guided Reading Lesson Resources for Level G:
I like to keep pictures for sorting in an index card box. You can include sections for pictures that can be sorted by initial sounds, ending sounds, digraphs, blends. etc. I just write down in my plans which feature I want students to learn, and then grab the appropriate pictures out of my box.
Before I do the sort, I typically go through the stack of cards and have students practice naming each picture. I make sure that every child is saying each word. This helps them focus on really listening for the sounds in the word when we do the sort afterward (because they’re not wondering about the names for the pictures).
Next, I tell students what we’re going to be “listening for” during the sort, and I model sorting 2-4 pictures into the groups. I name each picture and emphasize whatever feature we’re focusing on.
Next, I give students turns sorting the pictures. We do just one picture at a time, and then I ask the group to state whether they agree or disagree with the way the picture was sorted.
Once all of the pictures are sorted, we “read” down each column by saying the name of the picture. I also introduce print at this point by putting a card with the letter or letters that go with the column. I have students explain the differences between the columns to a partner (i.e. “The words that start with ch go on this side, and the words that start with sh go on that side.”)
If time permits, students can choose one of the words from the sort to write on their whiteboards.
More advanced readers can work with word sorts, rather than picture sorts. Make sure that all students in the group are reading the words, not just looking for the letters or letter patterns.
Generally, I do not give each child in the group their own set of word cards for sorting. I have just one set for the whole group, and we sort them together. I can, however, send students back to their seats with their own sets so that they can practice sorting the words again as an independent or partner activity.
Sound Boxes and Segmenting Practice
Learning to orally segment CVC words into their individual sounds is an important phonological awareness skill for early readers. And since phonological awareness instruction can be most effective in a small group setting, guided reading is a great place to sneak in some practice.
Elkonin boxes are a quick and easy way to have students practice segmenting words. First, do some modeling. Say a CVC word aloud (like dog). Then say it again, this time breaking it up into its individual sounds (/d/ /o/ /g/). Touch one box for each sound you say.
Next, give students their own Elkonin box strips. Say a word aloud. Students can either touch one box for each sound, or push a counter into each box as they say each sound in the word.
You can download these Elkonin boxes in my free guided reading toolkit (click on the image below to sign up for it):
Once students are doing well with this skill orally, you can tie in some phonics. Say a word aloud. Then have students segment it, touching each box as they say each sound. They may need to practice twice. Then, have students write in a letter for each sound.
Breaking Words with Magnetic Letters
Magnetic letters are great because they can be physically manipulated to draw students’ attention to a particular feature of the word. I love using my tabletop white board (get the one I use HERE) for displaying magnetic letters and modeling how I work with them.
Modeling how to break words (and having students break words with their own letters) can be used to teach:
- Initial or final letter of a word
- Word families
- Inflected endings (-ing, -s, -ed, etc.)
- Multisyllabic words
Just make a word (use one from the day’s guided reading text, if possible), have students read it, model how to break up the word into its parts, draw students’ attention to the feature you’re teaching, put the word back together, and have students read it again.
Here’s an example of a short activity you could do with the inflected ending -ed:
T: “When we were reading The Three Little Pigs, I noticed a lot of words that ended in -ed, like puffed.” (Makes word with magnetic letters) “Let’s imagine that I got to this word and wasn’t sure what it said. In my mind, I could break it up into two parts, puff, and -ed.” (Model breaking up the word) “This last part is made up of -ed. That’s a word ending we see in a lot of words. In the word puffed, what sound does the -ed ending make?”
T: “Right. So we have puff and /t/. When I put them together, it says puffed.” (Puts word back together.) “Now let’s try this with the word huffed. Can you make the word and then break it up like we did with puffed?” (Hands students baggies of magnetic letters to make the word.)
Students should make the word, read it, break it up, and put it back together.
T: “Great job! When you are reading other books, look for that -ed ending. Break up the word in your mind, read each part, and then put the parts back together to make the whole word.”
In a future lesson, we could examine the -ed ending again in a word like “planned,” where the -ed makes the /d/ sound.
Manipulating Words with Magnetic Letters
Magnetic letters are also a great tool for teaching students to manipulate words and create new words.
Let’s imagine that you want to teach the word family -ike. You can put the letters ike up so students can read them. Then, you and the students can practice making many different words, like bike, like, strike, etc.
Activities like this help students begin to look for patterns in words (a very important skill!), because they learn that different words can contain the same spelling patterns.
Comparison t-charts teach students to think about the sounds in words, and then categorize them based upon words they already know.
For example, if students are ready to work on long vowels, give them each a t-chart and have them write fan and late at the top. Then, dictate one word at a time, having students decide if it has a short a or long a. Students write each word in the column where it belongs.
Jan Richardson calls these “analogy charts” in The Next Step in Guided Reading, and she says they’re great for teaching long vowels.
I can also see t-charts being used to compare words with blends, digraphs, word families, and inflected endings. A t-chart and several activity suggestions are included in your free guided reading toolkit download which you can get by clicking on the image below!
Sentence Write and Cut-Apart
Dictating a sentence for students to write is a great way to practice sight words, spelling patterns, and writing conventions (spacing, capital letters, periods). At the end of a guided reading lesson, have students write a sentence (preferably one that’s related to the text and includes at least one sight word they’re working on).
To assist beginning writers, you can use a highlighter or marker to draw a line for each word.
After students have written the sentence (preferably on a whiteboard, unless you want to keep track of their progress over time), go back and help them fix it up.
Next, write the sentence on a sentence strip. Cut the sentence apart into the individual words and have students read the sentence again. It’s easiest if you can display the words in a pocket chart, but you can also just put them on the table.
Last, mix up the words and have the students put the sentence back together correctly. Have them decide when the sentence is correct (keep a model for them to use as a comparison).
To make the activity more challenging, you can also cut apart some of the words (i.e. into syllables, or onset-rime) and have students put both the words and the sentence back in order.
Some students won’t need to work on phonics or word patterns during guided reading. Instead, you can use this time to work on vocabulary.
Choose a tier 2 or 3 vocabulary word from the text that students just read. Have students find it in the text, and discuss its meaning.
Display a vocabulary web so that students can see it clearly. Write the target word in the center. Then, have students help you fill out the other circles. Students should use words and phrases from the text (and their background knowledge) that help to explain what the word means, how the word would be used, and other words that it’s connected to.
At the end of the activity, have students practice coming up with a sentence or sentences that explains what the word means, using at least 1-2 of the words or phrases in the outside circles. Students can practice first with a partner, and then share with the group. Another alternative would be to compose a short paragraph as a group.
Doing a vocabulary four-square is another way to help students learn a new word from the day’s guided reading text. I like to have students do this as a group, rather than have them complete it individually.
I’ve seen LOTS of different ways to do a vocabulary four square. Since today’s post is geared toward primary readers, here’s the way I’d do it with young students:
- Discuss the word, and have students explain how it was used in the text.
- Write the word in the middle of the page.
- Have students help you draw a picture that represents the word.
- Have students help you write a few examples of how the word would be used.
- Have students brainstorm words that are the opposite of this word.
- Have students define the word in their own words.
To download a word web and the vocabulary four-square activity, make sure you’ve signed up for my free guided reading toolkit by clicking the image below!
And if you are looking for ready-to-go guided reading resources (with lots of word study and writing activities), click on any of the images below – or click HERE for individual levels/other bundle options!
I hope that at least a few of these ideas will be helpful additions to your guided reading lessons! Next week will be the last post in the series, and I’ll be writing about my own greatest challenge – overcoming the guided reading time crunch. See you then!
Update – the guided reading series is now complete! Check out the posts here:
What are the components of a guided reading lesson in a Kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom?
How to Craft Strong Book Introductions for Guided Reading
How to Effectively Coach Students During Guided Reading
What To Discuss After Students Finish A Book During Guided Reading
10 Post-Reading Activities for K-2 Guided Reading Lessons
Overcoming The Guided Reading Time Crunch
Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (1996). Guided reading: Good first teaching for all children. Heinemann, 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH.
Richardson, J. (2009). The next step in guided reading: Focused assessments and targeted lessons for helping every student become a better reader. Scholastic Incorporated.
*The authors of this text are in no way affiliated with this blog – I am referencing their work as a means of explaining and supporting the ideas I set forth in this post.*
General instructional activities
To correspond with a typical reading lesson, comprehension strategy instruction can be organized into a three-part framework, with specific activities used before, during, and after reading.
Providing instruction such as the following example allows students to see, learn, and use a variety of comprehension strategies as they read. Note, however, that the framework is a general one and represents an array of strategies. All of the strategies in this framework do not have to be used with every text or in every reading situation.
Before reading, the teacher may:
- Motivate students through activities that may increase their interest (book talks, dramatic readings, or displays of art related to the text), making the text relevant to students in some way.
- Activate students' background knowledge important to the content of the text by discussing what students will read and what they already know about its topic and about the text organization.
Students, with some help from the teacher, may:
- Establish a purpose for reading.
- Identify and discuss difficult words, phrases, and concepts in the text.
- Preview the text (by surveying the title, illustrations, and unusual text structures) to make predictions about its content.
- Think, talk, and write about the topic of the text.
During reading, the teacher may:
- Remind students to use comprehension strategies as they read and to monitor their understanding.
- Ask questions that keep students on track and focus their attention on main ideas and important points in the text.
- Focus attention on parts in a text that require students to make inferences.
- Call on students to summarize key sections or events.
- Encourage students to return to any predictions they have made before reading to see if they are confirmed by the text.
Students, with some help from the teacher, may:
- Determine and summarize important ideas and supportive details.
- Make connections between and among important ideas in the text.
- Integrate new ideas with existing background knowledge.
- Ask themselves questions about the text.
- Sequence events and ideas in the text.
- Offer interpretations of and responses to the text.
- Check understanding by paraphrasing or restating important and/or difficult sentences and paragraphs.
- Visualize characters, settings, or events in a text.
After reading, the teacher may:
- Guide discussion of the reading.
- Ask students to recall and tell in their own words important parts of the text.
- Offer students opportunities to respond to the reading in various ways, including through writing, dramatic play, music, readers' theatre, videos, debate, or pantomime.
Students, with some help from the teacher, may:
- Evaluate and discuss the ideas encountered in the text.
- Apply and extend these ideas to other texts and real life situations.
- Summarize what was read by retelling the main ideas.
- Discuss ideas for further reading.
Activities and procedures for use with narrative texts
The following are some examples of specific procedures that you can use to help students improve their comprehension of narrative texts.
Retelling involves having students orally reconstruct a story that they have read.
Retelling requires students to activate their knowledge of how stories work and apply it to the new reading. As part of retelling, students engage in ordering and summarizing information and in making inferences. The teacher can use retelling as a way to assess how well students comprehend a story, then use this information to help students develop a deeper understanding of what they have read.
The teacher uses explicit instruction, explaining why retelling is useful, modeling the procedure, giving students opportunities to practice, and providing feedback. As the following chart shows, students' retellings should become more detailed as they become better readers.
Types of Retelling
The student can:
- identify and retell the beginning, middle, and end of a story in order.
- describe the setting.
- identify the problem and the resolution of a problem.
More complete retelling
The student can:
- identify and retell events and facts in a sequence.
- make inferences to fill in missing information.
- identify and retell causes of actions or events and their effects.
Most complete retelling
The student can:
- identify and retell a sequence of actions or events.
- make inferences to account for events or actions.
- offer an evaluation of the story.
Story maps are visual representations of the elements that make up a narrative. The purpose of a story map is to help students focus on the important elements of narratives-theme, characters, settings, problems, plot events, and resolution-and on the relationship among those elements.
Story maps to be used with younger students can be very simple-like the one that follows. These maps focus on a single element, such as the sequence of a simple plot.
With older students, the maps can be more complicated, focusing on several elements. As with retellings, the teacher uses explicit instruction to introduce the procedure, explaining why story maps are useful, then modeling the procedure, giving students opportunities to practice, and providing feedback.
Simple Story Map
Story Title: BEGINNING ⇒ MIDDLE ⇒ END (The story starts when-) (After that-) (The story ends-)
Similar to story maps, story frames are visual representations that focus students' attention on the structure of a story and on how the content of the story fits its structure.
Students use story frames as a way to activate their background knowledge of the elements of story structure and thus to organize and learn new information from a story. Simple story frames require students to provide basic information about the sequence of events in a story:
The problem in the story is ______.
This is a problem because ______.
The problem is solved when ______.
In the end ______.
More complex frames might involve having students supply more detailed information by summarizing sequences of actions or events, or providing factual information to explain problems or motivations.
The procedure encourages students to interact with each other, asking questions, seeking clarifications, and sharing evaluations. Again, as with story maps, the procedure can be simplified for use with younger students — it has been used successfully with grade-one students *— or made more sophisticated for use with older students.
And again, as with the other procedures that have been described, the procedure is introduced through explicit instruction, with the teacher first explaining why story frames are useful, then modeling when and where to use them, guiding students through practice opportunities, and providing corrective feedback along the way.
Directed Reading and Thinking Activity (DRTA)2
This procedure focuses on reading as a thinking process. Its intent is to teach children to make predictions throughout reading. Before reading, the teacher asks students to form a purpose for reading and to make predictions about the content of the story to be read.
During reading, the teacher stops students at strategic points in the story to ask students to make additional predictions and to verify, reject, or modify their purposes and predictions.
After reading, the teacher asks students to find and read aloud any part of the text that supports their predictions. Students must use the text to explain their reasoning and to prove the accuracy-or inaccuracy-of their predictions.
Often teachers have students use charts such as the following to record their predictions and information from the text that proves the prediction's accuracy:
|I Predict||Proof from theText|
Activities and procedures for use with expository text
The following are some procedures teachers use to help students improve their comprehension of expository texts.
The purpose of the K-W-L procedures is to help students become good readers by learning to do the things that good readers do. Specifically it helps students learn to activate their background knowledge and to set purposes for reading.
KWL stands for determining What I Know, What I Want to Learn, and reviewing What I Have Learned. The following chart shows the steps in each part of the procedure:
|What I Know||What I Want To Learn||What I Learned|
|Students discuss what they already know about a topic in the text they will be reading. The teacher has students list ideas and concepts related to the topic, then has them organize their ideas into broad categories.||Students discuss what they want to learn from reading the text and write down specific questions that they think may be answered in the text.||After reading the text, students discuss what they learned from it. They next write what they learned and answer s t u d e n t - g e n e r a t e d questions about topics that were addressed in the text.|
As they confirm the information in the Know column of the chart, students relate new information gained from their reading to knowledge they already have. As they generate questions for the Want column, they learn to set their own purposes for reading. Further, because they are reading to answer their own questions, students are more likely actively to monitor their comprehension. By putting information in their own words for the Learned column, students better understand what they know and what they do not know. Proceeding through these steps reinforces students' learning from text, involves them in doing what good readers do, and teaches them about their own reading processes.
Questioning the Author4
The Questioning the Author procedure involves discussion, strategy instruction, and self-explanation. It encourages students to reflect on what the author of a selection is trying to say so as to build a mental representation from that information. Teacher and students work collaboratively, reading to resolve confusion and to understand the meaning of the text.
Focusing on a segment of text, the students respond to teacher questions such as the following:
- What is the author trying to say?
- What does the author mean by this?
- o Why is the author saying this?
- What is the author getting at?
Through modeling, the teacher helps students to understand that some parts of a text can cause confusion and hinder comprehension. The teacher then discusses with students what they can do when comprehension problems occur. Students learn to "grapple" with text by emulating the teacher's questioning techniques.
Reciprocal Teaching is the name for a teaching procedure that is best described as a dialogue between the teacher and students. "Reciprocal" means simply that each person involved in the dialogue acts in response to the others. The dialogue focuses on a segment of a text the group is reading and is structured by the use of four comprehension strategies:
- asking questions,
- clarifying difficult words and ideas,
- summarizing what has been read, and
- predicting what might come next.
The teacher first models and explains how to apply a comprehension strategy, then gradually turns over the activity to the students. As the students become more competent, the teacher requires their participation at increasingly more challenging levels.
Reciprocal Teaching provides students with opportunities to observe the value of applying strategies in their "real" reading. In addition, it allows the teacher to identify problems individual students might have in using strategies and to provide instruction that is geared to individual needs.
Transactional Strategy Instruction6
Transactional Strategy Instruction (TSI) is a procedure that involves teaching students to construct meaning as they read by emulating good readers' use of comprehension strategies.
TSI helps students (1) set goals and plan for reading, (2) use background knowledge and text cues to construct meaning during reading, (3) monitor comprehension, (4) solve problems encountered during reading, and (5) evaluate progress. To accomplish these tasks, students are taught to use a set of reading strategies. The strategies typically include:
- predicting based on prior-knowledge activation,
- generating and asking questions,
- relating background knowledge to text content, and
Instruction occurs in small-group settings, with the strategies used as vehicles to coordinate dialogue about text as students read aloud. In their groups, students are encouraged to relate a text to their background knowledge, to summarize text, to describe any mental images they make during reading, and to predict what might happen next in the text. As students read aloud, they engage in and exchange individual interpretations of and responses to the reading.
The I-Chart Procedure7
The I-Chart Procedure is a technique that promotes critical thinking by encouraging students to apply reading strategies to learn from content-area texts.
The procedure is organized into three phases: Planning, Interacting, Integrating and Evaluating. Students begin the Planning phase by using content-area texts to identify a topic of study. They then generate questions they want to answer as they read. Next, they construct a large chart, similar to the following, on which to record information as they gather it. They complete the Planning phase by collecting materials about the topic.
Teacher Questions and Student Questions
|Topic||1||2||3||4||Other Interesting Facts/Figures||Other Questions|
|Sources||What we know|
In the Interacting phase, students record their background knowledge of the topic, as well as other information they might gather. In addition, the teacher elicits and records relevant student questions. Finally, the students read and discuss, with teacher guidance, the sources of information.
In the final phase, Integrating and Evaluating, students make summaries for each question on the chart, incorporating information they have gathered. Next, they compare their summaries with background knowledge, clarify statements as necessary, and discuss new knowledge they have acquired. Finally, they locate new information to address any unanswered questions and report their findings to the group.
In this procedure, the teacher directs and models the phases of the procedure. Gradually, however, the teacher releases responsibility for managing the procedure to students. The goal is for the reader to satisfactorily apply these comprehension strategies independently.