Create the Best Guided Reading Schedule for YOU

Does guided reading ever feel like a chore to you? I know it does to me! Even though I love reading and teaching reading, it can be tricky. It will be tricky to make sure that every student is getting reading instruction that is at their level, interesting to them, and tailored to their reading needs. It can feel overwhelming when trying to come up with ideas and a schedule that is educational, but not overwhelming to plan. Through the years I have found some tips and tricks to make a 5th grade guided reading schedule that works for YOU.

Guided Reading Schedule Header
Guided Reading Schedule

Why Guided Reading?

Guided reading is the best way to make sure you reach all your students’ reading needs by teaching them reading strategies in small groups at their reading level.

How to create a guided reading schedule that works for you.

Perfect timing

It can be SO tempting to schedule tons of time for your guided reading block, sometimes districts even require you to spend a certain amount of time on reading instruction. Through the years I have found that timing is essential when it comes to having a schedule that works for you. An hour is all you need for your guided reading schedule.

Go any shorter and you don’t have enough time to teach effective instruction, any longer and students will start to get bored and you could be faced with management issues. The golden timing I have found when meeting with my different groups is 20 minutes. This gives me just enough time to discuss what they’ve read and go over their assignment, teach a mini lesson, introduce their next assignment, and listen to one or two students read. I’m not super rigid with how I spend my 20 minutes, but it definitely helps me stay on track to meet with all my groups.


I suggest never having more than five or six groups for guided reading. This can be tricky when you are trying to group students by level and you have a wide range of levels in your classroom. I have found that grouping students who are about one level above or below together works quite well. You may need to provide some extra scaffolding for those students on the lower end, but they often benefit from hearing the thoughts of students just a little bit higher than them.

In the higher grades, the difference between reading levels isn’t as drastic as it is in the younger grades so grouping can include 2-3 different levels. When I have a group with multiple levels in it I generally tend to choose books that are on the middle or higher end and then support those students who are slightly lower. I generally don’t meet with every group every day except for my lowest readers. In general I meet with each group two or three times a week with a day in between giving my students time to complete their reading and assignments, and giving me time to meet with my other groups. 

Centers and Other Work

A recipe for disaster is providing small group instruction without giving the rest of your students something to do. Talk about management problems galore! There are lots of ideas for what you can have your students do while you are meeting with your guided reading groups, but one of the most common ones is centers. You can set up centers or areas around the room with different literacy tasks that students can complete either independently or in a specific amount of time.

Buddy Reading for Guided Reading
Buddy Reading

Some examples of possible centers are grammar and mentor sentences, short passages, vocabulary, or writing. These can be an excellent way to teach some of the standards you know you won’t be able to get in your small group instruction. If centers aren’t really your thing, simply assigning a workbook or other small assignments can be a life saver. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you have put really clear procedures in place. Students need to know exactly what they are supposed to be doing where and when or they will come up with their own ideas of how to spend their time and that never ends well for us!

Use Pre-made lessons plans

You know the saying, “Don’t reinvent the wheel”? Well that applies to your guided reading lesson plans as well! If you are amazing at coming up with your own guided reading lesson plans for each group, go you! It takes time to just come up with one lesson plan! Add spending time and doing that for five or six groups would leave me almost no time for the rest of my planning. Search for Novel Studies on TpT or even reading activities. You can also check out pre-made novel studies here!

There is an amazing and FREE resource through the Warsaw school district that has guided reading plans for books at different levels. Check out the link below to see some of the plans they have. They don’t have every book, but what they have is pretty great and I’ll mention again completely free! Another trick is to use books that you’ve already read. If you want to tackle a book you’ve never read with one of your groups, I suggest only one or two at a time. 

Free Guided Reading Lesson Plans

Choose interesting books to the students

Have you ever read a really boring book? I know I have and to be honest my desire to finish that book was little to none. Just like us, our students hate reading books that are boring and this can be a problem in guided reading. When our students aren’t motivated to read a book, they are also unmotivated to learn the skills we are trying to teach them. Then guided reading becomes more of a battle with no winners.

It’s impossible to please every student, especially when students have so many different interests and preferences. There tends to be books that most students enjoy. Also, it’s important for YOU to enjoy the books you are teaching from! Neither you nor your students will get much out of a book you all dislike. Not sure what books are good for 5th grade? A simple google search will get you on your way! I’ve included a link below for a few lists that I think are pretty great. I also love looking at Common Sense Media’s website because they have reviews from kids and parents. 

50 Must Read Books for Fifth Graders

Common Sense Media: Best Books for Fifth Graders

Still Not Sure?

Are you still feeling pretty unsure about where to go with your guided reading groups? Here are a few more ideas to help you get started:

  • Reach out to your district literacy specialist 
  • Check out Teachers Pay Teacher if you’re wanting some quick and easy plans to implement
  • Find smaller reading passages for quick and easy planning

Don’t Give Up on Your Guided Reading Schedule!

To finish things up, give yourself some credit! Being a teacher, especially now, is already hard so just do your best! Getting good at Guided Reading takes time, and remember not to overwhelm yourself. Take it one step at a time and make sure you reach out to other teachers for support. You’ve got this!