Guided Reading Groups in a Special Ed Classroom

Categories: Language Arts

If you’ve ever optimistically tried to run whole group literacy lessons in a very diverse multi-level classroom, I don’t need to spend anytime convincing you that small group instruction is where it’s at. I’d venture to guess that the whole group even-though-everyone-is-at-a-different-level plan didn’t go so well. I’d even venture a guess that it crashed and burned. When you try to create effective instruction for a group a widely different levels, your instruction will likely be too easy for half the group and too hard for the other half. When things are too easy or too hard – what happens? Problem behaviors. Boredom and frustration don’t sit well with anyone (hence why I sometimes catch myself checking Facebook at a red light or pulling out my hair trying to build ikea furniture) so don’t expect your students to roll with it. You will be much more effective with small group instruction for your literacy programming.

Small group instruction is beneficial because:

  • targets individualized skills
  • more efficient
  • better able to assess students
  • can handle behavioral issues more easily
  • provide appropriate interventions and accommodations

Grouping students based on ability helps target truly appropriate skills. However you must also consider behavior, personalities, grade/age, and scheduling.

Consider Behavior

  • Consider the behavioral needs of each student.
  • Don’t group several students with major behavioral issues together.
  • Be sensitive to what type of behaviors set students off.
  • If you have a student with some more significant behavior issues: group with students who can easily work independently

Consider Grade/Age

It’s not appropriate to pair much older students with much younger students especially when the size difference of students is significant.

Consider Scheduling

  • Don’t group students together who have opposite schedules.
  • Make sure the whole group will be available at the same time consistently.

Within your daily schedule – look for a large chunk of time to run reading groups. Create independent work tasks or stations run by paraprofessionals. Alternate students between working with you at reading groups and independent word tasks or paraprofessional stations. Plan ahead which activities will be done at each station. Provided paraprofessionals with detailed schedules or lists for activities.

Tips for Running Small Groups

  • list out the activities to be done each day
  • provide reinforcement
  • don’t rush
  • have your materials ready to go
  • use visuals


  1. I would love to have more information on how you do this and what the activities are that you do in your guided reading groups. I have had a desire for guided reading groups the last few years but struggle with getting it put together.

  2. What do you use in their comprehension folders?

  3. This is my first year to teach community-based. I have LOVED and appreciated your leveled-curriculum products. They are amazing. I wonder if you have suggestions for those whose abilities surpass the Level 3 curriculum. I have looked and can pull lessons together, but have failed to find anything that has the routine and practice built in that your products have. Any suggestions you have will be very much appreciated!

  4. I will definitely work on a post for this!

  5. Sasha, I just love all your resources! Can I purchase the Guided Reading materials above? I love your organization, schedules, plans, etc.!!

  6. This is a very helpful post! How do you assess reading levels?


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