How to: Guided Reading for Distance and Hybrid Learning

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Last spring was an absolute whirlwind. A total caffeine-fueled haze of emotions and adrenaline for most of us. We made it through, but just barely. We slept little, found sticky notes taped to the backs of our pillows from our midnight epiphanies, and (let’s be honest) drank way too much. This year, it looks like many teachers are in it for the long haul friends, and we know we can’t sustain our (metaphorical) spring fever through an entire school year. So, it’s time to get organized, plan like we’ve never planned before, and bring our calm, cool and collected selves to the virtual or f2f classroom so we can serve our families. (Although I still condone adding that extra shot of espresso at ALL TIMES.

So, over the summer I wrote a de-briefing blog post, that was a quick rundown of what we learned this past spring. If you missed it, make sure to catch The Do’s and Don’t’s of Distance Learning so we’ll all be on the same page. Today I’ll be expanding that post and going into more detail on how to make guided reading work in any format. I know we’re dealing with SO many different versions of school this fall so I’m working hard to make this advice evergreen and versatile for us all. Plus, I’ve got several different formats for y’all this week. So if you’re a visual or auditory learner head you can pop over to watch this YouTube Tutorial I created just for you! 😉 No stone unturned and no kid left behind on this topic y’all — we will get our kids reading and LOVING IT no matter what!


Like I’ve hammered home before, planning is your biggest and best tool in the classroom. This year it’s going to be more important than ever so you don’t drag yourself to winter break by your fingernails pulling your hair out along the way. We can do this y’all. We’ve just got to GET ORGANIZED. 

My district, and perhaps yours too, did not require me to schedule Guided Reading sessions for students via distancing learning last spring. However, they did ask that I offer one-on-one sessions to kids and try to schedule those with families. I decided independently that I could use that time best by engaging students in guided reading to boost and maintain their literacy skills. Because who doesn’t want to escape into a story these days? 

Whether or not you’re “required” to have guided reading on your schedule, I implore you to consider it. Especially if you’ve done it before (or even if you haven’t), you know how wonderful and precious this time can be with students. It’s great bonding time for teacher and student, allows you to evaluate student abilities and level, plus gives students the one-on-one attention they need and crave to succeed. Plus, Mom and Dad deserve a break too. It’s a win-win for everyone!

But, it won’t have any of those wonderful benefits if you don’t plan.

Remember the old adage:

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

Luckily (you’re welcome), I have spent the past couple of years creating and, more importantly, perfecting what I believe to be the best guided reading organizational products on the market. I’ve got the Guided Reading Binder that will help you plan for your whole class, keep all your notes in one place, and evaluate student abilities while you teach them individually. AND for the students who have a bit more work to do to catch up to grade level, check out my Reading Intervention Binder. Honestly, I expect that quite a few of our students will be behind this year. It shouldn’t be a shock to us that levels will drop when the world is so unpredictable. Students need routine to thrive and, while we aren’t in control of most things around here, we can plan ahead and provide a bit of routine to our kiddos who so desperately need it. 

PLUS, I’m converting both of the resources above to digital resources so you can print and use at home OR cast to your screen for students to see via virtual platforms as well. 

In addition to my own resources, I’ve used Jan Richardson’s The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading for years as my go-to resource for planning and prepping quality lessons for students. I go deeper into how I’m currently using this in my YouTube video if you’re interested. 


Here’s a tricky element to virtual guided reading sessions with your students this year: scheduling WITH their families. In the spring, I discovered early on that I should NOT expect myself to have a 20-minute one-on-one guided reading session with every student every week. I was doomed to fail in that attempt. It was simply an unreasonable expectation. However, I did manage to more or less stick to a two-week rotation. Meaning, I was able to schedule every student for a 20-minute session twice a month. Now, to be totally truthful, not every family will take you up on this offer. And that’s their choice. They don’t have to schedule this time with you and, trust me, I know it feels like you don’t get equal time with each student. We’ve just got to accept it and hope parents are reading with their kiddos before bedtime to cement those skills. 

But if your parents are willing and available to schedule this time between you and the student, I have a couple options that were fairly easy to integrate into the communication I already had with parents on a regular basis. 

Here’s two I recommend that are FREE:

  • Calendly has extended their FREE integration with Zoom through September.
  • Sign Up Genius is free as well. Plus, it sends reminder emails to parents AND integrates right into Zoom. 

You’re welcome 😉 


Of course you also need to plan what you’ll actually DO with students once you schedule time and get yourself organized. Sticking with the theme “Don’t Work So Hard! This Year Is Already Difficult Enough”, I recommend books from Reading A-Z! They offer great options to easily cast on the screen during a Zoom or Google Hangout, however you’re meeting your kids virtually this year. 

Friends, we will get through this together.  It’s crazy, yes, but we’re strong AND talented AND ready to prepare our students for another great year of learning! Stay safe out there — plan and prepare! And when in doubt, always say yes to that extra shot of espresso! 😉 

One Comment

  1. Great ideas! Do you have any suggestions for someone with some students online and most in person? How do I include those online (1-2) in a guided reading group? Any ideas are appreciated!

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