Modifying Guided Reading for ELLs

During my most recent practicum I was in a class environment with a high ESL population. This meant that for language class many days of the week, half of the class would go into a separate classroom with an ESL teacher and the other half would remain with myself and my AT. However on some days of the week the students would all remain in the regular classroom and participate in the whole class’ language activity or lesson. I had a chance to teach both of these groups and see the difference between the two. My teacher did not have a chance to lead guided reading groups while I was there for my placement but I know that she was hoping to start doing this more and I could imagine it being very difficult with the vast range of reading and writing abilities some of these students had.

I decided to do a little research on guided reading with ESL students to see what has already been determine and whether or not the results are positive. An article by Avalos, Plasencia, Chavez, and Rascón (2007) discusses modifications of guided reading to utilize it in an ESL setting. Avalos et., al said, “English-language learners (ELLs) also benefit from these aspects of guided reading; however, when a modified approach is used, they gain additional language-learning opportunities that native speakers typically acquire implicitly.” (2007) They give a star diagram providing the main benefits for ELL students from modified guided reading. They are as follows; Detailed vocabulary instruction, L2 Text structure, Targeted CALP instruction, Cultural relevance, and Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

The steps that differ from a regular guided-reading lesson are as follows (I bolded certain words that I felt got across the main objective of each step):

  1. Analyze the text: Avalos et. al., say that a teacher should prepare for all of the aspects that will be covered with the text. Examples of these are; shared and student readings, word work, and writing responses. This can be helpful because the teacher will hopefully catch any problem areas in the text that the ELL students may have extra difficulty with. They can then ensure that they address this in the best way they see fit.
  2. Introducing the text: Depending on the students reading level in the group, and their cultural backgrounds, the introduction may be very brief or could take a little longer for the teacher to introduce the topic, setting etc. I found throughout my placement in a class with many ELL students, I often said words that I assumed that they knew and the class would like at me with a very puzzled face. This was partly due to the fact that I was not used to working with students who came from another country in recent years and I had to explain many words or concepts to them several times simply because it was new vocabulary to them.
  3. Shared Reading: Through shared reading the teacher has a chance to model fluent reading to the students in a smaller group setting. This can also help facilitate discussions and the students will hopefully make connections.
  4. Reading the text: Now the students have a chance to read the text on their own. The teacher can keep anecdotal records to keep track of progress or habits that students are displaying while reading.
  5. Returning to the Text: This can be done in the form of discussing the text and what the students have now read on their own. Thoughts, ideas, and questions can be shared during this time.
  6. Responding to the Text: Extensions that can go along with a specific text can be very helpful for ELLs to further develop their understanding of concepts in the text, as well as language skills.
  7. Word Work: The last step that Avalos et. al, speak about is word work, which has a goal of teaching systematic phonics by practicing


After I had the chance to dissect these steps provided by Avalos et. al, (2007) I really can see the importance of taking the preparation steps when working with ELLs. Although I never had the chance to lead a guided reading group in either of my placements, I would love the chance to do so in the near future to see how it would actually play out. I also think that having the opportunity to lead a guided reading group within a class with ELLs would be such a rewarding experience because students in this situation will hopefully be progressing in their language skills at hopefully a quicker rate, even though they are beginning at a much lower level then students who are not ELL. I hope this information was helpful for teachers out there who have several ELL students and are looking for ways to modify reading groups to make it more effective for these students! I would recommend checking out the Avalos et. al., article in full for more information as I have only given a quick recap/summary above!


Avalos, M., Plasencia, A., Chavez, & C., Rascón, J. (2007). Modified Guided Reading: Gateway to English as a Second Language and Literacy Learning. The Reading Teacher, 61(4), 318-329.


Organization: Key to successfully leading guided reading

Classrooms can often get overly cluttered and filled with many of the learning tools that teachers may have. Many times this makes it difficult for teachers to effectively utilize all of the resources they have because they may not be able to easily locate them when they need them, or they may simply forget about them. I believe that being organized is one of the most important qualities that a teacher should posses because there is always so much going on in schools at all times. Extra curricular activities, school assemblies, field trips, EQAO and many other things can be interruptions that disturb the regular classroom routine, therefore I think it is essential to keep the classroom space in order as much as possible. In my mind, this is setting the class up for success, in terms of both the students and the teacher.

            One way to ensure that guided reading is a regular occurrence in a primary classroom is to have the materials ready and available so that it makes for an easy transition into the guided reading time, as well as out of it into another lesson or activity. Setting up is one thing that can be time consuming and deter teachers from doing something because they don’t want to waste time getting everything in order for the students. I have found some helpful strategies that teachers can employ to set themselves up for success.

  1. Reading Table- kidney-shaped tables or semi-circle tables work great for working with a group of students at a time. This way all of the students can clearly see you and what you are doing, and you can also do the same for them. Your attention can easily shift from one student to another without wasting anytime.
  2. Guided reading bins- Books for the children to choose from during silent reading time should be sorted by reading level. Having bins on shelves in the classroom can be an easy way to sort the books so that the children have easy access to them. My AT during my first practicum (grade 1/2) did this and it worked very well with her students. They all were aware of what reading level they were at and what bin to select books from. One thing I would make sure to do more of though is to add and change books in these bins more often. I noticed the students would be reading the same books everyday and I think that because the bins didn’t have a lot of books, they were limited on books they found interesting that were also appropriate reading level for them.


3. Leveled folders- These folders can be created for all of the levels that would be found in that grade, with slots for the students cards in there. That way as the year goes on the students can progress through the different levels. My AT had the students in groups of about 4-5 students and they were given a different animal as their group name. One day she would work with the elephants, another day the lions, etc. I thought this was a neat way to get the children excited about the reading groups, however these appeared to be permanent groups to me which didn’t allow for the children in the lower leveled groups to progress to a higher group. My placement there was early on in the school year however, so maybe part way through the year the teacher was going to reassess the groups and make appropriate changes.

4. Dish rack- This is one of the best creative ideas I have seen to organize any kind of material. This can be used in many ways but it is a great way to keep all the reading group folders easily accessible and can also all be stowed away quickly and neatly.



I would love to hear of more creative ways you choose to organize your classroom in other ways, not strictly related to literacy centres and resources! Comment in the space below with some new ideas that I can feature in my next blog entry discussing organization!


Connell, G. (2013, September 25). Guided Reading Organization Made Easy. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from


Tips and Tricks!


            I have recently been thinking about what might be some new creative ways to implement guided reading in the classroom and took to the internet to find some ideas. I cam across an article on the scholastic website that gives some tips for teachers and is aimed at grades K-2. This article written by Sharon Taylor specified the steps that should be followed to promote guided reading in the classroom and they are as follows:

  1. Determine the objective. Basically the goal of the lesson is to be explicitly determined and the skills and strategies that are most appropriate can be selected to put into action. Some of these skills and strategies provided are:
  • Reading and recognizing sight words
  • Using picture cues
  • Making predictions
  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Retelling

Some of my favourites from this short list are using picture cues and activating prior knowledge. Especially when working with primary grades, I feel that children really need to take in the entire pages when trying to determine the words on each page. Pictures are there to be aesthetically pleasing, but also to assist with piecing together parts of the text, likely in this case, the storyline. I think it is important to draw children’s attention to the pictures in the book, sometimes even before reading the text. This way the children can make predictions and whether they are right or not, they are still activating their prior knowledge.

  1. Selecting reading materials that match the instructional level of your students groups.

I think that this is very important because I have seen the damage it can cause for a child’s self-esteem if they are always trying to read material that they are unable to. This can cause lots of frustration for the child and can create a negative opinion on reading itself. I think that it is crucial to try and foster a love for learning in children while they are still in the primary grades. Reading is necessary throughout all their years of education and they will have a much easier time if they enjoy reading as opposed to dreading it.

  1. Plan before-reading, during-reading, and after-reading activities.

Taylor recommends that you plan activities to go along with the reading whether it be before you begin to read, while you are reading, or after reading. I agree with this step and had the chance to do many read-aloud with follow-up activities with my entire grade 1/2 class. I also felt that it was beneficial to begin the read-aloud by asking the students a few questions on the topic of the book, maybe asking for predictions based on the cover and some illustrations in the book.

On the website there are also suggestions for materials that could be very helpful that I had not thought of previously. Here are some of these suggestions:

Highlighters- used for sight words and other key vocabulary words


Pointers- can help students track print as they read the text


Dry Erase Boards and Markers- Can write responses to questions throughout guided reading lesson

Whisper Phones- Students can practice reading the text to themselve using whisper phones while the teacher works with other students in the group.

whisper phones

  • I have never heard of these tools but think younger students would definitely love the idea and I would be interested to try it out! I looked more into what a whisper phone is and they can easily be made out of PVC pipes cut into smaller pieces. I have attached a link to the website with more detailed instructions!

Whisper Phones DIY!

I have found these tips helpful in the way that they have provided suggestions within each step. I think the portion that I found most helpful was the materials that were suggested as I had never thought to use some of these simple tools that most classrooms have to assist with guided reading. I think incorporating as many tools as possible can get the students excited about reading and can definitely help many students focus and stay on task more when working with the small groups.

I hope that by providing my input on these tips you have gained a few new ideas to implement with your students or children! Happy reading!


Taylor, S. (2011, November 25). Tips on Implementing Guided Reading Lessons. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from




Is guided reading appropriate for Junior grades?

To begin this blog I would just like to provide my readers with a little background information about the topic itself and the experience I have personally had with it.

Guided reading is defined as “an instructional context supporting each reader’s development of effective strategies for processing novel texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty” (Fountas & Pinell, 1996, p. 25). Throughout my experience in a classroom, I have really only seen guided reading in the primary grades. I am currently completing a practicum in a grade 6 class and there has been little if any work involving the teacher and a small group of students. With that being said, approximately 50% of this class goes to a separate ESL class almost everyday for language so I am unaware of what type of work they do while they are there.

My first practicum was in a grade 1/2 split and there were a lot of students who were still at the very early stages of learning to read. I think that this had a huge influence on how much my AT prioritized time for independent reading so that she could lead a small guided reading group. I also had a chance to read with some of the children who were at a lower level and found it very interesting to read one on one with them. I was able to see the strategies they used to try and “guess” what a word was by using the pictures and repeating previous words they had seen in the story. Many times when I had to correct the student on a word, the sentence they had said did not make sense at all. I realized that they were so focused on reading one word to the next that they were barely comprehending what was happening on each page and throughout the book.

Comparing this with my current practicum in a grade 6 class, I rarely have the opportunity to read one-on-one with students because they are mostly strong independent readers. Several times when I have been teaching other subjects such as science or religion, I will have students read paragraphs aloud to the entire class while everyone is following along. Typically the same students volunteer to read but occasionally I will call upon other students. As stated by Rasinki, Rikli and Johnston (2009) “Recent research has suggested that the issue of reading fluency goes beyond the primary grades.”. They have given many examples of students in junior and even intermediate grades that are still struggling with literacy at these ages. I think that we focus on literacy the most during the primary years, however this does not make it any less important in the older grades. There are always some students who are late at developing these skills and I think that many teachers will overlook this if they assume that students have already learned how to read when they were in early elementary schools. The results from the study done by Rasinki, Rikli & Johnston (2009), continued to reinstate how important reading fluency is in relationship to reading comprehension. Various grade levels were assessed and it was an important skill in all of these grades.

Something my current AT does do with her class ever so often is read aloud a novel to the class. She will read to them for 15 minutes and does not do it everyday. Many of the students are really excited about the book so they look forward to this time. Others appear to be in another world and focusing on something else during the quiet time. I think my AT believes that it is beneficial for the students to have a chance to actively listen, and whether or not they all do is really up to them. A couple of weeks ago my AT and I were in a workshop that introduced us to the Daily 5 and the implementation of that using Writer’s Notebook. Last week we decided to start this with the students and will continue to do so this upcoming week. Although it is late in the year, this is a new program that I believe many teachers are trying to start up with their students, therefore it may not be until next September that teachers are really able to begin it at the beginning of the school year.

The main difference between the way that my two AT’s worked with their students for literacy was that the grade 6’s appeared to be well beyond the point of requiring one-on-one guidance for the most part. There were of course a couple exceptions to this but these students all worked with an EA separately on their literacy work. The grade 1/2 students definitely needed the guided support at their reading level in order for them to continue improving their reading capacities. I also really liked how my AT in the grade 1/2 class still met with the students at all grade levels, even the high flyers! This made it so that no students felt lesser or greater than others in any way.

Personally I like the concept of guided reading groups in the classroom, however I definitely see the challenges that my current AT is facing fitting it into the classroom schedule with all of the other subject areas that need to be covered, as well as EQAO preparation starting. I think it is much more challenging for teachers of older grades to have guided reading on a regular basis and primary teachers make it a higher priority because the curriculum focuses on basic reading skills at those grade levels.



With this being said, I would love for teachers of all grade levels to have the chance to devote as much time and effort to literacy but it is simply not possible with the current curriculum. Hopefully as time goes on there are more tools for teachers to more effectively be able to spend more time on reading, but also cover the rest of the subject areas.


Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (1996). Guided reading: Good first teaching for all children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Rasinki, T., Rikli, A., & Johnston, S. (2009). Reading Fluency: More Than Automaticity? More Than a Concern for the Primary Grades? Literacy Research and Instruction 48(4), 350-361.