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Guided Reading for Your Earliest Readers

Depending on the level of the group you are working with, guided reading can look very different!

In the earlier, emergent levels, the concentration of guided reading is on getting students to figure out how to actually read simple words, how to break down more challenging words and overall just figuring out what fix up strategies they should use as they read. There is also a focus on overall comprehension to ensure they are paying attention to what they are reading.

When students are truly reading and moving through more challenging texts, time can be spent on fluency and deeper comprehension discussions. Students should still be reading aloud, but not necessarily every page and with more of a focus on their rate, pace, expression, etc. Since the texts usually have more meaningful concepts, it is easier to have more meaningful conversations about the text!

Your earliest readers, though, who aren’t even at a Level A, need a very, very basic guided reading lesson. I love working with all levels of readers, but it is SO important to really set a good groundwork for your earliest readers. Sometimes these earliest readers may be preschoolers or kindergartners, but they also may be your ELL or struggling older students.


The Pre-A guided reading lessons should focus on a few things.  These little readers need to understand concept of print- do they know where to begin reading on each page/line? Not only do students need to know where to start on each page, but they also need to learn 1:1 correspondence with words. At this level, the little readers tend to love to make a real long never-ending sentence for each page/line when there are just two words in the sentence! This is why it is so important to teach these little friends to point to each word on the line/page and make sure that they are only saying a word when they point to one. 🙂

They also need to understand the difference between letters/words/sentences- this can be very challenging for these earlier readers- everything looks the same to them! You can check out this old blog post for a freebie to help your friends identify the differences.

They are also just learning their letter names/sounds and starting to identify them within words. Simple sight words are also being learned at this stage.  Time needs to be spent reading, writing and making simple sight words and CVC words.

I love giving each of my students their own reading folders full of stories at their level. This builds their confidence and they take great pride in their own folders! I use the running records frequently because once my little readers are ready to move on, I don’t want to hold them back! To become better readers, they need to be reading at their instructional level in the small guided reading groups.


Breaking down the guided reading lesson into before/during/after reading helps ensure that you are covering all steps that these earliest readers need! I broke down each part of my guided reading lessons for these little readers below.

It is so important to do a picture walk and really talk about the text before getting the little readers to read. Finding sight words and discussing what is in the pictures will help set up the students for a successful first read! Though these texts are super basic, there still is plenty to talk about beforehand.


The word work/vocabulary focus of each guided reading group can easily be adjusted based on each groups’ needs. Some of these earliest readers already know their letter names and sounds, but struggle with putting them together, so that can be a focus of the word work portion before reading the passages. Others still don’t know their letter names and sounds, so time may be spent just practicing those sounds.


During reading, each little reader needs to be reading on their own. Each child can whisper read while you listen in to each student and guide them when needed. This doesn’t mean tell them the word– this means help them by asking questions/providing prompts to get them to figure out the word!


Though these are super basic stories, as I said before, they still have something that you can discuss afterwards. I love the pictures my little readers end up adding to each of these pages! Going back and finding sight words by highlighting/circling/underlining is a great way to wrap up the lesson and review the words that were focused on for the day.


Thanks to Teaching Super Power for the fun graphics and From the Pond for the fonts!

If you are have little readers who just aren’t quite able to read a Level A yet, you can check this pack out here!
Guided%2BReading Level%2BPre A.001

Have a great day!


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Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

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Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


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