The Benefits of Reading Strategy Groups

Reading strategy groups are perhaps one of the most underutilized (yet most effective) ways to help students become more confident in their ability to use comprehension strategies in their independent reading. However, since many teachers are likely to be unfamiliar with this form of small group instruction, it is important to first answer a couple of common questions.

What are reading strategy groups?

Reading strategy groups are a type of small group instruction which enable teachers to target specific reading skills that particular groups of students need, regardless of their independent reading level. Before forming their strategy groups, teachers use a variety of assessments that specifically pinpoint information as it relates to their students’ abilities, comfort level, and mastery of such things as reading engagement, print work, fluency, and comprehension.

What are the benefits of incorporating reading strategy groups into the curriculum?

Reading strategy groups offer so many benefits to students — they are efficient, offer students practice reading at their independent level, and they focus on exactly what is needed. Reading strategy groups also remove the stigma of “high” and “low” groups. In addition, once teachers have mastered the structure of reading strategy groups, they can use them in other skill areas, including writing, phonics, and even math. Strategy groups are clearly a great addition to every teacher’s toolbox!

How do reading strategy groups differ from guided reading?

Like guided reading groups, strategy groups are another way to deliver targeted instruction in a small group. However, they are typically much shorter in length, are much more flexible in nature, and students are not grouped homogeneously according to their instructional reading levels. Instead, after the targeted instruction and/or intervention has been introduced by the teacher, students practice what was just learned at their individual independent reading levels. The purpose of the strategy group format is not to increase students’ reading levels, but to practice the targeted skill at their own individual comfort levels, as this makes them more engaged and self-sufficient readers.

Though the approach may be different, one isn’t necessarily better than the other; rather, they both serve a purpose in the classroom. The research supports the practice of using guided reading when students have been at a level for a while and the teacher wants to push them to the next level. On the other hand, reading strategy groups are recommended if the students have been at a reading level for a short time and teachers want to support the work students are doing at their independent reading level.

The Difference between Guided Reading and Reading Strategy Groups

guided reading vs strategy group graphic

What is the basic outline of a reading strategy group?

Although reading strategy groups differ in the strategy being taught as well as the make-up of the students involved, every group follows the same framework, as illustrated below.

a table outline of reading strategy group

What is the best way to get started?

While reading strategy groups may appear to be complicated at first glance, the fact is that they are quite simple to implement into your daily literacy routine. The best advice is to start simply. We suggest setting aside 10-15 minutes within your reading block and dedicate that time to working with just one strategy group. This time can be outside of your reading block as well; however, please note that whatever time slot you decide to use to implement this strategy, it should always be consistent and frequent.

Then, as you go about your regular teaching responsibilities, pay attention to those students who need that extra “push” to help them with a certain reading skill or strategy. When the time arrives for strategy groups, invite that group to come together with their texts as you help them tackle a pre-selected reading strategy. Remember — students can be at all different reading levels because the focus is on the strategy, not the level.

These strategy groups can and should change constantly, which is why they need to be flexible. The beauty of including the strategy group format into your literacy block is that you will be targeting just the students who need the extra support, thereby increasing their motivation and self-confidence as readers!

For more information on how to successfully implement reading strategy groups into your literacy block, check out PDI’s course, Targeted Instruction and Interventions with Reading Strategy Groups. If you would like to feel more confident in your quest to embed best practices into small reading strategy groups, then this is the course for you! By taking this course, you will find it much easier to incorporate these best practices into your daily teaching so that students can come together to learn and practice important reading strategies at their own level.

The Professional Development Institute has been in business for over 27 years and has trained more than 345,000 K-12 educators across the globe. We specialize in offering quality, affordable university-approved online courses that focus on the most relevant topics in education, while providing practical strategies that can be implemented in the classroom immediately. All PDI courses are graduate-level, instructor-led, and are conducted entirely online. Click here to check out PDI's entire list of courses!

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