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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy

Grouping for Guided Reading
Miriam Bissu

You probably have found that your students have a range of reading ability, even if your class is homogeneously grouped. How do experienced teachers manage to address the needs of children with a range of ability? How can they individualize when there are so many students and so many reading levels in one room? 

Grouping for instruction by reading level is of the utmost importance. Students must receive instruction at their level for learning to take place. Small group instruction allows you to know your students' strengths and weaknesses and address their individual needs.

How to perform an individual informal reading assessment:

Approx. 20 minutes per child
Two to three children per day
Two weeks to assess complete class

During independent reading time or center time.

Sample texts of approximately 100 words from a leveled text. This could be a basal reader or children's trade book where the reading level has been determined. 

Photocopies of the samples for each child that you can write on to record child's reading.
Several different levels of sample texts.

1. Tell the children you are going to ask each of them to read to you so that you can help them become better readers. 

2. Start with a sample text which, based on your prior knowledge of the child, will not present too many challenges. If need be start with easier text and work your way up. 

3. Ask the child to read aloud to you while you follow along with a copy of the text.

4. Record the child's errors: miscues, substitutions, omissions, insertions and repetitions on his/her own sample of the text. Do not include proper names. Repeating the error consistently counts as one error. For example, if a child consistently read the word "The" as "Then", count it as one error. 

5. Count the number of errors per 100 words (approx.) 

6. Use the following guide to determine the child's level:

Per 100 words:

# Errors


  More than 5  Frustration Level
  3 to 5 Instruction Level
  Less than 3 Independent Level

7. Check comprehension at the instruction level by asking five questions about the text. The child will need to answer four out of five of the questions to demonstrate 80% comprehension, an acceptable level for instructional purposes. 

Note: If a child can decode but doesn't demonstrate 80% comprehension, assess the child's comprehension on a lower level. Children should be able to comprehend at a level of 80% for instructional purposes. Similarly, a child with 100% comprehension should be tried on a more difficult level for instructional purposes.

Make a list of the students and the instruction level they have achieved. Begin to cluster them into groups based on their level. In general, I have found that I have at least three different levels in one class. I usually limit my reading groups to 6 to 8 children who are on the same reading level. By grouping students in such small numbers you establish an environment in which learning can occur. You can address individual needs and provide instruction at a level appropriate to each student's level. Fewer students will "fall through the cracks."

I would encourage you to review the companion piece, Managing Guided Reading Groups. It should help you be more successful in your guided reading lessons.


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