Guided Reading and ELA Centers in 5th Grade!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

When I started at my new school last year, I came into a new reading program. I was used to doing almost all of my reading instruction WHOLE CLASS, but my school uses a guided reading model all the way up to 5th grade. I definitely had to rethink my reading block! I had done centers in the past, but wanted a really clear way to maximize the time and make the transitions clear for the students. 

Here's how I do my guided reading block!


We have Guided Reading/Centers Monday-Thursday from about 1:10-2:00 and I rotate through four groups. This means each center is 12 minutes long, with about 30 seconds for a transition. 12 minutes can fly by, so the students have to work on getting those transitions DOWN. I found a FANTASTIC resource by my friend Kristen of Chalk & Apples, and it has made centers SO easy. 

There are tons of different icons that can be easily swapped out on different days or weeks. I change mine up all the time! In a typical week, I do guided reading with leveled passages on Monday and Wednesday, and we do literature circles on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 


My students are grouped according to DRA levels, because that is what my school uses. You might use AR, Lexile, or another measure. I have four groups: Low, Low-Mid, High-Mid, and High. Each group has a number, but I assign the number randomly so it doesn't match up to skill level in any way. I have 24 students in my class this year, so there will be 6 kids in each group. If you have a larger class, you can still make it work by having your higher groups work on their own while you work with a lower group and just check in! 


I LOVE this close reading resource from Fifth in the Middle. I bought the entire bundle so I have TONS of options. 

Each reading comes in four reading levels, but they are on the same topic and look the same so students don't notice. There is also a paired text that I try to use for morning work toward the end of the week. 

There are several pages of activities for each passage, and I often have the students start these at the table with me after we've read the passage out loud. 

When it is their turn for guided reading, the students come to me at our back table with a pencil and a highlighter. I give them their sheets for that day and discuss what we will be looking for while we read (unfamiliar words usually) and we begin reading. I like to make sure each child reads, so however I have to break it up to make that happen. After reading through, I ask them to scan through again to find specific information. This changes week to week, so one time it might be looking for transition phrases, and another it might be looking for dates to create a timeline. Then, we talk about what everyone found and work on putting together the information on the worksheet. I, of course, provide a lot more scaffolding and support to my lower readers, while my high readers are able to do the activity on their own. 


On the days that we have literature circles, the students still come to the back table with me, but this time they bring their lit circle book (which varies) and their lit circle binder. In their binder, they keep all of their jobs and their reading schedule. I have used about a GAZILLION resources for lit circles (including online blogs), but this one from Pocketful of Primary is my absolute FAVORITE:

It is SOO easy to adapt to groups of different sizes and I found it very user-friendly for both the kiddos and for myself! I organize the jobs using a hanging file I found on Amazon.

You can find it here:


So what do the kiddos do during their other blocks of time? Here's some options I cycle through:


Partner Reading
Each student has a partner from their reading group that they meet up with for this activity. I typically use "I Survived" books or similar short chapter books. I stock up through Scholastic! I have 6 shared books for the entire class, and I place a sheet inside the front cover so the students can write their names and where they ended each day they read. I always have new books ready to go for the students who finish. I do this strictly for fluency, so I don't do quizzes or worksheets. 


Silent Reading (KBAR)

In my class, we call silent reading KBAR- Kick Back and Read. When we do a whole class KBAR, I sometimes take it outside. 

Spelling (Spelling City)
I typically use Spelling City for centers, but sometimes do a worksheet instead.


Vocabulary (Quizlet)
Quizlet is AMAZING. I love using this for vocabulary! The students really enjoy it as well. 

Keyboarding (KWT)

This is a tough one since monitoring the students' finger placement is so important. I don't do this OFTEN as a center, but throw it in now and again.


If we are working on a longer project (such as the state report), I have the students use this chunk of time for that. Otherwise, I sometimes provide a prompt or allow them to free write. Here's one of the resources I use:

If you've never used this site, CHECK IT OUT! It's one of the best ways to get some extra grammar practice into your day! Be aware that the initial set up takes a bit of time because the students have to select a bunch of their favorites from different categories: books, tv shows, movies. What's neat is the site uses their preferences and their name + their friends' names when building the practice sentences. The kids get a kick out of it!

Task Cards (small group)

Students work with their reading group and record their answers on individual answer sheets. I have a huge selection of task cards that I keep in one of these bad boys from Michael's:

Cursive (Can Do)
I love that my school teaches cursive, but in fifth grade, we don't have a lot of specific time for it. To keep the kid's practicing, I assign pages from our cursive book during centers.

Reading Comprehension (Reading Plus)
We use Reading Plus, but there are many online reading comprehension sites. Use whatever your district provides or what works for your class!

I will occasionally throw in a review game for the kids to play with their small group. The key is they have to be short and not too loud! 

Comment below if you have other questions or want to add some advice on running smooth ELA centers with Guided Reading!


  1. I would love to know what the sheets that you use for paired reading looks like.

  2. As a fifth grade teacher myself, this is super beneficial to recognize as a resource. I think the idea is an effective way of engaging students with classroom rotations and groups. This responsibility allows for students to have an even greater role and initiative in the productivity of the learning environment. Awesome!


Powered by Blogger.