Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Organizing Reading Groups

This school year my school & entire county made major changes to our reading block.  In the past, we had homogenous classes and taught reading and writing as a whole group for the entire block.  But this year, we have heterogeneous classes and are expected to teach a short shared reading lesson and then pull small homogenous groups.

I have fallen in LOVE with teaching in small groups!

I know my students so much better in terms of their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Small groups allow me to meet the students’ needs much quicker and more thorough then ever before. 

While I pull small groups, my other students do Daily 5 rotations.  I do not run Daily 5 exactly how the sisters explain it in their book.  I had to make some changes to work for my class and my county’s curriculum. 
(A blog post will be coming soon on Daily 5 in my room!)

I have a horseshoe table that my school purchased for me this year.  This summer Lyndsey from A Year of Many FIrsts took a trip to Ikea, where we purchased the stools purchased below.  We don’t just use them at our small group table but around the room as well!


Pictured below are my small group signs.  These are always posted and help the kiddos keep track of which group they are in.

I used the full-page group signs for keeping track of my reading, phonics, and fluency groups. First, I print and laminate the signs. Since groups are flexible, I need to be able to adjust them frequently. I use dry erase markers to write on them! Three signs are for reading groups (in the first picture), one sign for my fluency group (in the second picture), and one sign for my phonics group(in the second picture). I use magnetic clips to keep them up and use clothespins to attach them to each other. I didn’t want to permanently attach them incase the number of groups I use changes.


Just about everyday I pull each of my small groups, typically for about 20-25 minutes.  Sometimes the times fluctuate depending on what the group is working on, if any students are absent, or if students are pulled by the speech teacher, special education teacher, occupational therapist, or ESOL teacher.  Below are my fluency and phonics groups.  These groups change often based on the skills being focused on or observations made. 

I meet with these groups in addition to small groups.  Not every day but when it fits in.  Sometimes these groups are given something specific to work on during a Daily 5 rotation.


When reading groups are not in session, this is what the ledge behind the horseshoe table looks like.  Pictured are my three reading group baskets, my notes binder, timer, and to the left my Buddy Binders which I frequently get the kiddos started on as they leave small group.  (This is an activity they can do during Daily 5.)


I used half-page group signs that I created.  I backed them on construction paper, laminated them, punched two holes, and used O-rings to attach to the baskets. 

While reading groups are in session, this is what the ledge behind the horseshoe table looks like.


I use the reading group baskets to organizing materials I will be using with each group in the next few days.  These help keep me sane and organized! 

Here’s a peek:

Currently my Turtles are using my Donavan’s Word Jar Book Companion Pack

They work on the comprehension questions & extension activities in this pack while applying skills & strategies.


Currently my Frogs are also using my Donavan’s Word Jar Book Companion Pack

They primarily work on the comprehension questions in this pack while applying skills & strategies.


Currently my Dragonflies are using my Print & Teach Pack.

This pack includes passages at three different levels- approaching, on-grade, and beyond.  My Dragonflies are currently working in the approaching level text.  This pack has been a huge help in my room since it includes all of the of the common core standards for informational text.  My Frogs and Turtles haven’t began to use this yet, but when they finish Donavan this is what we are moving into! 


The picture below shows the shelf underneath the ledge behind my horseshoe table.  This is where I store some of my go-to materials I use on a daily basis. 


The light blue bin is pictured below.  I use the markers and scissors when we build vocabulary on the sentence strips in the picture above.  The index cards I keep on hand incase I need to add any word cards to student’s rings of words to practice.  The red pens and erasable pens are for “special” days in small group.  They are a big deal for my kiddos so we use them sparingly as a motivator! The dry erase markers and erasers are used occasionally on laminated passages and frequently on white boards.


Below are the student supply bins on the shelf behind the horseshoe table.  Students know that these are their bins to go in whenever they need supplies in small group if I don’t put them out for them.



During small group I take frequent notes on the students’ strengths and weaknesses in fluency, applying strategies, word attack skills, writing, and following directions. 


I use quarter-page group signs for organizing independent work for my three reading groups. By having the groups turn in their work in separate bins, grading is much easier! I can grab a stack from a basket and have all of the same activity together. This makes it so convenient!


In small groups this year I have found myself using some packs I have previously created and also felt the need to create more to work on specific skills.  Pictured below are the resources I have used or have ready to use this year. 

resources i use

To download my reading group signs and for more information on how I use these in my room and resources I use in small groups,

Click here to download the freebie pack from my TPT Shop!


  1. Congrats on making the move to the new reading style. It can be a big change for some, but I agree that it's better for our students. I'm currently using this style in my classroom right now and I love the progress that I'm seeing.


  2. When do you fit in the county small group curriculum?

    1. Many of the books/skills suggested for use in small groups are used at other times in the day. We use them for morning work and content area. Students also use those texts during independent reading and working time.

  3. This was such an informative post. I'd love to be in your class. I really like your small group notes sheet. Do you have this available in any of your packets or would you be willing to share this please? Thanks!

  4. You must have very capable readers. My lowest are reading at least a full year behind (which means early to mid first grade level). Those are the ones I struggle to find materials for. Any suggestions?

    1. Erika- I would check out resources by Lyndsey at A Year of Many Firsts! Her Nonfiction Guru, Fiction Guru, and Close Reading packs would probably work great for you!

  5. So, do you use a curriculum series at all? I love this concept, but it has been hard to blend Daily 5 format with our series.

    1. My county just bought Wonders. They wrote a guide for us to use with that instead of following how Wonders is written. Some is great for my kiddos but I supplement a lot to meet their needs! We start each reading block with a 25-40 minute whole group activity (usually utilizing Wonders), followed by about 60-75 minutes of small group/Daily 5 time.

  6. Bt the way-LOVE the groggy clip art! ��

  7. This post came just in time for me. The Container Store is opening by me this weekend and I was hoping to find things to better organize my groups. Now I have a plan. Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the great post! It really helped me to better understand how to organize my reading groups. I loved the template you use to plan your groups and take notes. Did you make that or find it online somewhere? I would love a copy of it. Thanks!

  9. I had such a hard time this year and in the past with guided reading groups. My centers run perfectly but i have yet to master the art of "what we are going to focus on in small group". I saw this post when you posted it and I went and got the buckets and I tried it. It worked well for me, so I know by next school year starting out with this is going to be run smoothly.

  10. Hi Tracy! I came across your blog, as I used your zebra Whole Brain Rules posters in my safari-themed classroom last year!Super cute.And I love your blog! I just wrote a blog post (part of a Back 2 School Linky) on Behavior Management and shared these posters and gave you a shout out. Just wanted you to know. :) I blog at
    www.megownssecondgradesafari.blogspot.com if you want to check out the post! I teach 2nd grade too and LOVE it!
    -Monica :)

  11. Would you be willingl to share your small group note taking sheet? It would be perfect to use during guided reading. I tried to find it on your blog but couldn't locate it. Thanks.

  12. I love your set up! I'm also looking for your notes page. Where can we find it? Thanks