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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Literacy

Identifying Students for Placement in your Guided Reading Groups Part II
Arlyne LeSchack

My prior article, How to Identify Students for Placement in Your Guided Reading Groups, Part I, describes the first three levels of reading behaviors: Preconventional, Emergent and Developing. Those levels would be found in kindergarten and might continue into first grade. For struggling students you might even see some of those behaviors in second grade. This article will describe the reading behaviors in the next three reading levels. Together with the Developing stage, these levels might be found in your first grade class. When you group your students according to these behaviors, the groups should be flexible. Your assessment of students should be ongoing; this will not only keep students within the right group, but it will also help when the students are not with you, as when they are working on an independent literacy activity. Here are the next three groups and their behaviors:


  • Relies on print more than illustrations;

  • Uses word structure cues (e.g., prefix, suffix and base words);

  • Uses letter-sound cues and patterns (phonics);

  • Recognizes many high frequency words by sight;

  • Reads simple early-reader books;

  • Reads harder early-reader books;

  • Uses punctuation when reading orally;

  • Begins to self-correct;

  • Identifies basic genres (e.g. fiction, nonfiction, poetry);

  • Uses meaning cues (context);

  • Uses structure cues (grammar/syntax);

  • Reads and follows simple directions with guidance;

  • Identifies with characters in stories;

  • Retells beginning, middle and end with guidance;

  • Learns information from reading and shares with others;

  • Reads independently (10-15 minutes);

  • Explains why literature is liked or disliked;

  • Identifies own reading behaviors with guidance.

Feel free to use the behaviors listed above to give you ideas for reading activities, especially when the students are working independently. When you are with your guided reading group of six students, you will want the other students to be fully engaged in an appropriate literacy activity. Here is the next group and its associated reading behaviors:


  • Uses reading strategies appropriately depending on the text and purpose;
  • Uses word structure cues (e.g. prefixes, contractions and abbreviations);

  • Reads beginning chapter books;

  • Begins to read aloud fluently;

  • Uses reading strategies appropriately depending on text and purpose;

  • Begins to use meaning cues (context) to increase vocabulary;

  • Self-corrects for meaning;

  • Follows written directions;

  • Identifies chapter, title and table of contents (text organizers);

  • Retells story events in sequential order;

  • Responds to and makes personal connections with facts, characters and situations in literature;

  • Reads and finishes a variety of materials with guidance;

  • Chooses reading materials at an appropriate level with guidance;

  • Reads silently for short periods (15-30 minutes);

Identifies own reading strategies and sets goals with guidance.
For students to be able to choose their own appropriate reading material, at least part of your classroom library should be leveled. Use the ECLAS levels to help you and develop a color-coded system. For example, levels 1 and 2 can be easy, 3 and 4 medium and 5 and 6 harder and they can have red, green and yellow stickers. The students should know where to go for books at their own level. There should be chart indicating this near your classroom library.

Here's the next group. In my experience you will not see many of these behaviors in first grade, but think of this list as where you want your students to strive to be:


  • Uses word structure cues and letter sound cues;

  • Uses context cues, other reading strategies and resources (e.g. dictionary, thesaurus);

  • Self-corrects for meaning;

  • Adjusts strategies for type of text;

  • Uses resources (e.g. CD-ROM and nonfiction/factual texts) with guidance to locate and sort information;

  • Identifies glossary, captions and index (text organizers);

  • Uses alphabetical order to locate information;

  • Reads medium level chapter books;

  • Begins to read aloud with expression;

  • Reads silently at a rate appropriate for the complexity of the text;

  • Identifies different genres (e.g. realistic fiction, historical fiction and fantasy);

  • Demonstrates understanding of the difference between fact and opinion;

  • Summarizes with reference to setting, plot and characters (literary elements);

  • Responds to issues and ideas in literature as well as facts or story events;

  • Makes connections to other authors, books and other perspectives;

  • Reads and understands age appropriate content materials;

  • Chooses reading materials at an appropriate level;

  • Reads silently for extended periods (30-40 minutes);

  • Talks about own reading process and problem solving strategies;

  • Uses reflective questions to assess own learning;

  • Identifies own reading strategies and sets goals with guidance.

Try to take at least one guided reading group each day for 20 minutes. Introduce the text you've selected fully. As the students read the text independently, visit with each student individually to assess their reading and their use of reading strategies. Please feel free to write me at aleschack@aol.com if you have any questions about any of this.

To How to Place your Students in Guided Reading Groups Part III


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