Guided Reading and Small Groups in Middle School PART III: Lessons and Novel Units

If you want to read my first two posts, click here for Part I and Part II. 

Hi friends, 

I am back with part 3 of this series on guided reading and small group in middle grades. This one is kind of different than the other two, but I think it is still relevant. 

I wanted to explain what I do during my lessons and how they then lead into my small group time. 

I will start by revisiting my ELA schedule. I have been blessed with the ability to make the schedule I have, because I teach middle school in an Elementary Schools, so our kids only switch a few times a day. 

Anyway, I have about 100-110 minutes with each class for ELA. 

My Schedule (ELA Routine-Twice a Day) 

10 min: ELA Bell Ringer
30 min: Collections (my ELA curriculum) Lesson
20 min: Round 1 (small group and Daily 5)
25 min: Novel Lesson- Reading (10 min), Socratic Seminar (7 min), Reading Response (8 min). 
20 min: Round 2 (small group and Daily 5)

Why is my ELA block broken up like this? 

Using the ideals of "The Daily 5," I wanted my lessons broken up and my workshop time broken up.

Sixth graders are no better inclined to sit for extensive amounts of time than any other grade. I wish my lessons were even shorter sometimes, but in general, I work hard to keep them engaged and moving when I can.

This is what I do for each section of time.

ELA Bell Ringers

I literally just made these, because I needed my ELA blocks to start out way better than they were.

I swear I am not product pushing when I say that they are the best thing I ever did. They are simple, routined, and engaging. My classes have been PERFECT ever since I started these.

CLICK HERE or on any of the image below to check them out.



CLICK HERE or on the image below to try out THREE FREE WEEKS. 


Collections is the curriculum my district purchased for all 6th graders. The rest of my school teaches Journey's because they are K-5. This is kind of a blessing and a curse at the same time.

I get to figure it out and do what works for me, but I don't really have anyone to collaborate with.

I found Collections to actually be a pretty good curriculum, once I started using it with fidelity. The stories are rigorous, everything is mapped out for me, there are TONS of online resources for me to teach with, and Collections Close Readers are amazing.

My favorite part of Collections is the actual "Collections." This means there are 5-6 stores, fiction and non-fiction, that are all about the same content. It's great for analysis, paired texts, writing, reading responses, presentations, class discussions, and cross-cirricular teaching.

On that same note, the stories are kind of long, and like I said, rigorous, so they take me awhile to get through, but here is how I tend to do it.

Day 1: (Each Collections lesson takes about 25-30 minutes each day)

This is the massive stack of books I have for my students. I have a white board that tells them what to get and they know to grab what we need for the day.

Now, it's a competition to see how high we they can get them :).

  • Review the performance task and the Collections vocabulary (see below). We talk about what they will be expected to do at the end (usually a writing analysis, media presentation, group presentation, or research/argumentative paper). 
  • Watch the History Channel video: There is a usually an engaging introduction video for us to watch (i.e. our Collections now is about Disasters, so we watched a tsunami video.
  • The chart paper stays up for the whole Collection. The vocabulary on top is for the whole Collection. The multicolored ones on bottom are from our stories and we define those in our reading notebooks. 

Day 2:
  • Story one vocabulary: We use the organizational structure below and we write, define, syllabify, and illustrate each word for the story before we read each one. They end up looking like the image below and we reference them throughout the whole story. They also always ace their vocabulary tests  :). 

Day 3: 
  • Introduce the Demonstration of Learning/Essential question. I tell the students what I want them to be looking for or thinking about while we are reading (i.e. What was the cause and three effects, using textual evidence, of the tsunami in the story?) 
  • I used to hate writing them on the board, but now I see the benefits :). I mostly just have to change my Demonstration of Learning each day. 
  • Listen to the audio of the story. I LOVE this. I ALWAYS read our novels, but I was getting so worn out reading the textbook and the novels for both of my classes. I love that they have audio for all of our stories. I just play it, and pause to talk about vocabulary and about evidence of the essential question. The best part about all of this is that I can read all the teacher notes on the side of the text, while the audio reads the story. 
  • Demonstration of Learning Socratic Seminar: Basically we have a class discussion about the questions, I chart their responses on the board (example below), and then students write their answer in their notebooks. The board is to help students write strong responses by utilizing each other's thinking. It's basically a BIG collaborative discussion. I LOVE the Socratic Seminar and use it for everything. 
Day 4: 
  • Demonstration of Learning and Essential Questions
  • Listen to Audio 
  • Socratic Seminar
  • Demonstration of Learning writing Response. 
Day 5: 
  • Demonstration of Learning and Essential Questions
  • Listen to Audio - Finish the story. They typically take me 3-4 days to finish reading each story. 
  • Socratic Seminar
  • Analyzing the text questions: There are typically 5 questions at the end that we discuss and or write/type about. 
Day 6: 
  • Comprehension and vocabulary test. Most of my students do REALLY well on these because we work on the story and vocabulary for 3-4 days. 
Day 7 and 8: 
  • Performance task (usually a writing analysis, media presentation, group presentation, or research/argumentative paper). 
Then we go to the next story and start all over with the process. The time frame can change, (i.e. poems, teachable moments :), shorter/longer stories, and tougher performance tasks). 

Novel Study

If you follow me and my teaching journey, you know I LOVE teaching with novels. At my previous school, I only used novels. I don't have that freedom anymore, but I still use them as my second lesson of the day. 

This is how my Novel Study Lesson section of the day goes: 
  • Introduce Essential/Guiding questions
  • Read the day's chapters (10-15 minutes).
  • Essential/Guiding question Socratic Seminar (7-8 minutes). Example below from The Crossover. 
  • Writing response in reading notebooks. Example below from a student's notebook for The Crossover.

I use all my own novel studies. I create them based on novels I love :). 99.9% of the time, my students end up loving them too. This year we read Freak the Mighty, A Long Walk to Water, and The Crossover, The Maze Runner, and Harry Potter 


Since this time, I have finished all my 6th grade reading units and but them into a bundle and I have also finally completed the full year long 6th grade curriculum. 

You can click on either of the images to check them out.


Organization and Reading Notebooks: 

I actually didn't make/implement this until second semester when my students' first notebooks were driving me CRAZY. The three sections are:
  1. Green: Bell Ringers
  2. Pink: Vocabulary
  3. Yellow: Reading Response 

Since this post, I have now made editable reading notebooks tabs. Just click below to check them out.

This is week one of their bell ringers:

 This is the Table of Contents for their reading response question. We always add to it together. After having a nightmare with reading notebooks this year, I have become a crazy person about their table of contents, pages numbers, not skipping lines, not skipping pages, etc. It's is SO much better now though.

I still have a few kids who live in their own little words, but, the time to get this organization was so worth it.

They know to write the title and date on the top of the page and it should ALWAYS match the table of contents.

The same concept and organization is applied to our vocabulary section of our notebooks as well. 

Well I think you know every.single.detail of my 6th grade ELA classes. 

I plan to do another 3-part series, on the Socratic seminar and how I implement this methodology into my Collections lessons and novel lessons. 

Happy Teaching friends. 

Guided Reading and Small Groups in Middle School PART II

Click here to check out PART I of this series to see what I do during guided reading, with my 6th grade students. 

During my last three years as a teacher, I think my BIGGEST struggle has been teaching small groups. I don't care what anyone says…. it is so freakin hard. There are kids off task, middles schoolers being middle schoolers, fake reading, and 45 students asking approximately 294,592,492 a day while you are trying to teach your groups.

That being said, small group instruction is one of the most beneficial things I have ever done, and over time, you get better at preventing and managing the above scenarios. If you stick with it, and learn as you go, you won't know how you ever taught without small groups before.

I typically have these amazing fantasy that I will start small groups by week 6 of school… bahaha… *full disclosure here*… it was more like week 12 for me. I used to feel guilty about this, but I don't anymore. My first year, I didn't really do small groups until week 26 maybe (ha!)

It takes time, practice, research, and patience, but over the last three years I have figured it out… kind of :).

How did I figure it out? 

The best thing I ever did was read "Daily 5" and "Reading in the Wild." These two books shape everything I do. Click on either for their link.


I could try and explain it, but I highly recommend just reading them (easy reads, so simple, and just common sense from both).

Now… the big question! What are the kids doing while you are meeting with groups?

Again, my routine is almost all based on The Daily 5 and Reading in the Wild. This is what works for me.

The Choices: 

Now if the creators of "Daily 5" came into my room, they probably wouldn't call it "Daily 5," but I do and this is what works in my middle school classroom.

After I teach my lessons, (see previous post for my schedule) I then ask students what they are going to do, do a quick Status of the Class check (ask them what they're reading and what page they're on), write it all down, and they get started. While they work on these, I meet with my groups.

They can choose the following options:

1.) Read to Self:

  • Students can read :). This is the only option they can choose for both of our rounds each day. 
  • I believe it will NEVER hurt them if they choose to read for both of our rounds. 
  • Some of my reluctant readers don't choose this option at the start of the year, but this system allows me to work to put books in their hands so they slowly start to choose this option more frequently. I really try not to force anything. 
  • Yes, I do still work ALL year long with some of my students to build up their love of reading, but it's minimal and it's just something I am ALWAYS working on with those students.  

2. Literature Circle: 
  • Students meet with their group to read their book together. 
  • Students might meet with their group to work on their literature circle homework together. 
  • Students might meet with their group to discuss the book
  • Students can also just read their Literature Circle group or work on their homework individually.
I used to do literature circles very differently when I was in self-contained 5th, but when it came to middle school ELA, I went to the expert: Lovin' Lit. She knows all about accountability, organization, and books for middle school. Her resources and blog are great for implementing literature circles in upper grades. 

This is a chart I made based on her roles. This is especially helpful for my 6th grade friends who struggle with organization and remembering information. 

3. Lexia
  • This is a computer literacy program our district purchased for us. It is self-paced. 
  • I love this option because many of my reluctant readers choose this. (That's not what I love it though! ha!). But it allows me to meet with my other kids at the start of the year and support them into being really independent. 
  • I then can start slowly working with my reluctant readers to show them that books are better than a computer program. Many of these students could be a disruption at the beginning of the year. This helps alleviate that, over time they get bored of the program and the novelty wears off, and I slowly get to try and build more readers. It's just a good teacher tool for me to have.  

4. Work on Writing 
  • Students can free write in their writing notebooks. 
  • They can conduct research for a writing topic.
  • They can type a writing piece they want to publish. 
  • They can work together on stories. 
  • They can write about their reading. 

For writing workshop I use Kelly Anne's Writing Workshop units. Writing is a different part of our day, but this is where I get my lessons, and where a lot of my students often get their ideas for their writing. 



5. Teacher
  • These students meet with me, and we work on all the stuff I mentioned in my previous post :).