Guided Reading Activities for First Grade

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Guided reading can be an amazing way to target particular skills and concepts with children in a small-group context. This lesson gives you some ideas of what to do with your first graders in guided reading groups.

What Is Guided Reading?

Teaching reading is one of the most exciting but daunting aspects of teaching first grade. Students at this age are at a wide variety of levels in their capabilities and readiness. There are so many parts to good literacy instruction, but one of the most important ways you can help first graders along is via guided reading, or explicit instruction with small groups of students reading at approximately the same instructional level. Guided reading is a great way to give students your full attention and focus on the exact skills they are working on at a particular point in time. Before you work on guided reading with your first graders, make sure you:

  • Assess your students and group them according to levels.
  • Use your assessments to determine what skills and concepts you most want these students to work on.
  • Figure out a management structure so that the rest of your class is independently occupied.
  • Prepare books or other materials for your small group.

The activities below will help you have some ideas about exactly what to do with your small groups.

Activities For Decoding

Many first graders are hard at work on decoding, or the aspect of reading that has to do with articulating the words on a page. To work with small groups on decoding, try the following activities.

Books with Patterns

Read books where there are many words that follow similar spelling patterns. Encourage your readers to notice these patterns on their own and generate lists of words that they can read because they are in the same family.

Guess the Covered Word

Give your group members books with sticky notes covering one word on each page. When you get to these words, have them uncover one letter at a time and guess the word based on the sounds they are able to read.

Multi-sensory Activities

Give your students each a cookie sheet with several magnet letters and instruct them to spell a particular word. Have them manipulate the letters in this word to make different words with the same initial or ending sounds. You can also have students work in small groups writing words in sand with their fingers or building words out of M&Ms.

Activities For Fluency

Some first graders know a lot about decoding but have not yet achieved fluency, or speed and fluidity in their reading. Guided reading can be a great context for working on fluency skills, using these activities:

Readers Theater

Have your students act out a scene from a book or read from a script to dramatize the story. You can make scripts in advance or have your students write them.


Reading aloud the same text again and again is really good for fluency. In guided reading groups, you can have students reread in funny voices, instructing them to read a story or passage like a mouse or an elephant, for example.

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