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 :). 


  1. Thanks so much for this series! I bought your novel study bundle this summer and I have been using those with my 5th graders as a whole group read aloud. It's a great addition to my ELA block and my kids really enjoy it. It has also been fun for me using books I probably never would have read aloud otherwise (Freak the Mighty, Locomotion).

    I have an 8:1:1 self-contained class but my biggest struggle with reading groups is having only 1 student at a certain reading level. For example I currently have students at levels E, F, H, K, N, P (2 students) and Q. How would you recommend grouping them for small groups?

    Thanks Martina!

  2. Thank you so much for your sweet words! So glad you love teaching with novels. I wish I could get the whole world reading with novels!

    As for groups, I know what a struggle than can be! I don't have the same range, but my 6th graders do range from levels O-Z. My struggling readers tend to vary the most. That being said, I would pull the E, F, and H and pick a text that is an F and really try to dig deep with all of them. I have found (sometimes the hard way) that it's not always the text, but what you do with it. For me, my goal is always just making them love reading, so who cares if your K is reading a G! :). Just have them really analyze what they're reading. That's how I feel about the novels too! When I read Holes, with my 5th graders, it was technically to low and too high for more than 1/2 my class, but how they had to write and response during that time was how I differentiated and really pushed them as readers and writers.

    I know you are probably already doing some of these things, or thinking about them, but sometimes it's just nice to hear it from someone else's voice! Hope this helps!



  3. I was wondering what your Super Stallion time looks like? I work in a relatively small school, that is relatively new and we are trying to implement an intervention block but we are struggling with a good format. Any advice or help would begreat! I would be happy to chat via email

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for reading my post.

      So my Super Stallion time is a SUPER work in progress. K-3 in our building uses "Burst Groups." I literally have no clue what they are, but they divide the kids up based on their DIBELS scores, each teacher then prints the lessons for their groups of kids, and then teach the lessons.

      Fourth and Fifth grade, have three classes each. Again, they have them divided into three groups: Intensive, Proficient, and Enrichment.

      The intensive kids do rotations with their teacher, so he meets with 2 small groups per day to work on skills they need (his group is also the smallest so he can really meet their needs). The proficient kids' teachers does novel studies, in a whole group setting. The enrichment teacher uses Junior Great books. Essentially, they read a short story, have a socratic seminar, and write.

      My whole set up is different because I'm in 6th grade, and I have been making it up as I go. In general, it's like a controlled Daily 5. There are four days a week of intervention and my kids go to one station each day: Meet with their literature circle, Lexia, Read to Self, or Teacher. I make the schedule, so I can control the groups. I despise rotations and kids moving to different stations during a set time in one session, so I like that they focus on one station each day. Sometimes my 6th graders get bored and/or restless and I will do some whole group close reading or discussions to break it up.

      Hope that helps, but feel free to ask more questions if you need clarification.



  4. I love your blog, and I could really use some advice! I am an 8th grade ELA teacher and have 47 minute class periods. I am desperate to implement guided reading into my classroom, and my biggest stumbling block at this point is wrapping my head around the scheduling of the class period and week and what the rest of my class is doing while I'm meeting with small groups. I see that your kids have Daily 5 Choices--so once they choose, is that their activity for the remainder of the ELA time? I notice you mentioned in the above comment that you don't like kids moving to different stations during a set time, and I agree. I think that would invite behavior issues that would interfere with my small group time. So would you suggest that I schedule certain students to complete certain stations each day while I meet with small group OR allow them the choice of station or daily 5, but do not allow them to move to more than one station per day. I'm not sure if my question makes sense--my mind is all over the place trying to get this under control so that I can help my readers!! Thank you so very much!!

  5. How do you hold the kids accountable at each station?