Guided Reading vs. Strategy Groups

Small groups are an essential part of our reading routine.  With all of our readers on various levels, it’s impossible to meet everyone’s needs just in whole group.  Meeting with small groups allows us to directly focus on specific skills that specific groups of students need.  But what type of small groups should we be holding?  Guided reading groups?  Strategy groups?  What’s the difference between the two and when/how should we be using them?  Let’s take a quick dive into guided reading vs strategy groups and find out!

guided reading vs strategy groups

Guided Reading Groups:

  • Leveled groups based on instructional reading levels of each individual student
  • Typically 4-6 students per group who meet once or twice a week for 20 minutes
  • Students stay in the group long term (typically around a month or longer)
  • To form groups, data typically comes from running records or a ‘guided reading’ program assessment
  • Sessions are fast-paced and focused on more productive and intense reading
  • Teacher chooses an unfamiliar book for all students to read

Inside of a guided reading session, the focus is primarily to let students read!  The teacher may start the session off with some word work, vocabulary, or pre-reading content, but the majority of the time the students are reading while the teacher is listening and possibly probing for comprehension.  Students in each guided reading group will share similar reading traits.  The teacher will listen carefully as each student reads to find a teaching point of need to address when the reading time is over.  Since all students are reading the same book, the students can take in the teaching point and apply it directly to the text they are using.

Over the course of a few guided reading sessions, students will work on a variety of goals and strategies to help them make meaning of the texts.  When the teacher feels the student is ready, they can give running records to see how their progress is coming.

Reading Strategy Groups:

  • Group students based on standard/skill that’s needed at the moment
  • Students can be at different reading levels
  • Data typically comes from exit tickets, assessments, or classroom observations
  • Short term grouping, typically a week or two
  • One specific focus for the session
  • Amount of time can vary from 10-20 minutes in length per session

Inside of a reading strategy group, students come to the session with his/her own book of choice at their independent level.  The focus of the group is to teach a specific skill that is lacking, not assessing.  Teachers can also use familiar texts within the sessions as well.

The lessons begin with the teacher naming the strategy, demonstrating, and then inviting the students to try it out in their own book.  These lessons actually resemble mini-lessons very closely.  After the lesson, the students read quietly and the teacher listens and watches for the strategy being used.  The strategies taught in the lessons build upon one another just as they would in your regular lessons.

When to Use Each Group?

There is no right or wrong answer here.  It is honestly based on how the teacher wants to run his/her classroom.  Both groups have merit to them.  In my experience, most teachers will make guided reading groups their prominent choice and use strategy groups to fill gaps in data when they need to.  As long as you’re using fresh data and giving the students what they need and when they need it, you’re making the right choice!

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guided reading vs strategy groups


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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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