Guided Reading on a Budget in Kindergarten and First Grade

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Guided Reading on a budget.

Guided Reading on a Budget (Free Download)

May 22 Deedee 4 min read

Guided reading on a budget is tough!  Some of the materials can get downright expensive!  I want to share a few ways YOU can do guided reading and not break the bank!

Guided Reading on a Budget

If you want to see how these binders look on the inside, you can get a glimpse over at Mrs. Jump’s Class blog by clicking HERE.

I started out at the Dollar Store!

I knew I needed some cookie sheets for my word work.  I have been using cookie sheets for years to organize my magnetic letters, but I gave mine to a teacher friend and I needed some for the upcoming week.  So Dollar Store… here I come!

Guided Reading: High-Frequency Words

When I start guided reading we usually do a little teaching and review of high-frequency words (AKA:  sight words).  On this particular day, I was armed with my cookie sheets, but I had not had the chance to load them up with magnets… No problem…I selected a few “lucky children” to load them up for me.

Guided Reading on a Budget

I used a Sharpie to write the capital letters, then the students put the lowercase letters over the top.

Guided Reading Leveled Texts (17)

Now I am ready for the lesson.

Guided Reading on a budget

At a glance, I know exactly the activities I will do with the word.  No further preparation is needed.Guided Reading on a Budget

Here is a visual of what these guided reading lessons look like.

Guided Reading on a budget

Guided Reading What is Missing

Guided Reading on a budget Guided Reading Leveled Texts (21)

These cookie sheets  fantastic $1 guided reading resources are perfect for writing on as well.  I seriously think the cheaper they are, the better they work.

Guided Reading Leveled Texts (24)

When we are done with the lesson, these cookie sheets stack up BEAUTIFULLY.  They are ready for the next group or if I am going to do a “Making Words” activity as part of my word work lesson.

Guided Reading on a budget

You can find these magnetic letters on Amazon by clicking HERE.  Or if you are on a budget, you can make your own!  I picked up these glass vase filler rounds at the Dollar Store.  I think you would need 3-4 bags to make a set for your small groups.  You can grab the letters for this for FREE by clicking HERE.

Guided Reading Resources

Guided Reading on a budget

I used  Modge Podge  to put the letters on and I put adhesive magnetic dots on the back of each letter so they would not slide around when I put them up.

Guided Reading:  The Books

When I was the literacy coach for my district, I helped set up our literacy room that was filled with guided reading texts.  Let. Me. Tell. YOU!  Those books are expensive.   A set of 6 can range from $36-$48 dollars!  This can VERY quickly eat through your budget.  Deanna Jump and I have written leveled texts to help fill up your guided reading resource shelf.

The books start with a level AA text.

Guided Reading on a Budget

and we have currently written texts through level E (we will continue to add books until we reach level J.)

Guided Reading on a budget.

We have fiction and nonfiction guided reading texts in each set.

Guided Reading:  Word Work

Early in the school year, you will probably focus on student names for the first few weeks.  Simply writing their name on a piece of card stock and cutting it into a puzzle is easy and is certainly within everyone’s budget.

Guided Reading on a budget

This is another similarly budget-friendly name activity.Guided Reading on a budget

Again, I used the glass vase filler beads for our word work.  This lesson is for 3 phoneme words.

Guided Reading on a budget

Guided Reading on a Budget

Guided Reading on a Budget

Guided Reading on a Budget

Guided Reading on a budget

You can even fancy these up with scrapbooking paper and a little Modge Podge.Guided Reading on a Budget

Guided Reading: Sentence Work

We don’t need anything fancy for this… just plain paper will do!  Students unscramble the sentence and illustrate it.  Then we save this paper because we need it for Day 2 which is sentence dictation.

Guided Reading on a budget

Guided Reading:  Sentence Writing

On Day 2 of the guided reading lessons, students write a sentence that has been dictated.  They use the previous sentence as a support.  This is a great opportunity to do some guided writing instruction.

Guided Reading on a budget

Guided Reading on a budget

More on Guided Reading!

Deanna Jump and I have been actively running small groups using the guided reading approach for the last 20 years.   Over the years, we have studied the work of Irene Fountas, Gay Su Pinnell, Debbie Diller, Debbie Miller, Linda Dorn, Carla Saffos, Jan Richardson, and Marie Clay.  This background knowledge, coupled with our combined 40 years experience (boy… I feel old), helped lead us towards the creation of these units.

Tips on how to do guiding reading on a budget. No need to break the bank! Here are some powerful tips with tools from the Dollar Store!

There you have it!  That is how we do guided reading on a budget.  You can see all of our leveled text resources:


  • Guided Reading Books for Kindergarten and First Grade

Have you checked out the Teachers Pay Teacher’s Blog?   This post was featured over there…  Check it out… so many GREAT posts over there.


  • Lynn Ritter May 22 at 5:18 pm

    Awesome post! Thank you so much!

    • Deedee May 22 at 5:35 pm

      You are welcome Lynn and THANK YOU!

      • Denise August 6 at 6:58 am

        Thank you for all the helpful information! What level do you recommend first grade teachers start with?

        • Deedee August 9 at 10:07 am

          Hi there! Most first grade students should start the year reading a level D. However, you will have some who are reading at a level B and some who are reading at a level H or higher. That is the beauty of small group reading. You can teach the students EXACTLY where they are. I hope that helps.

        • Deedee August 9 at 10:08 am

          Thank you so much, Denise!!!

  • Jackie Travis May 22 at 8:08 pm

    I wasn’t able to download the resource. Are you able to email it?

    • Deedee May 22 at 8:23 pm

      Here is the link Jackie. It will take you to Google Drive ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Ewan @ Right Place Property May 23 at 7:49 am

    These are really lovely ideas, thank you for the download. When my boy’s toddling around reading Shakespere, i’ll remember to think of you

  • Caroline May 23 at 4:31 pm

    Would you mind sharing the cute sound boxes page? I absolutely LOVE!

    • Deedee May 23 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you!!! Those are included in the leveled text units. These particular ones are from Level D. Here is the link!

      Guided Reading: Level D

    • Catherine October 2 at 6:32 am

      You are helping smooth my transition from 4th grade to First grade. I am so happy to make the change, but it is a BIG DEAL. Your ideas motivate and enable me to do the best I can for my students, and have some fun with them, too. Thank you for being so inspiring. I love that the pedagogy is here. These are not just “cute” projects.

      • Deedee October 2 at 9:02 am

        This is the sweetest comment! Thank you so much! My heart is HAPPY!!!

  • Jen Steinacher May 23 at 8:45 pm

    This is just what I was looking for! Will you be making a bundle with all of the levels when you are done? I would love to have that!

    • Deedee May 23 at 10:34 pm

      Thank you so much! We might do one big bundle when they are all finished. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jessica May 24 at 10:40 am

    Thank you for the great info ! How many packs of the letters dos you need to buy?

    • Deedee May 24 at 5:04 pm

      Each of the magnetic tubs have 4 complete alphabet sets. For my small group I usually try to keep it to no more than 5 students (unless it is my advanced group. I might go to 6 students with that group). I think 2 tubs would be more than enough!

  • Melissa Wernersbach June 25 at 10:32 am

    This is amazing!! I would love to see one of those Guided Reading binders up close! Do you create sections? How do you organize it? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Cyndy August 8 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for sharing your amazing ideas!

  • Guided Reading 2 Day Lesson Plans December 29 at 9:59 pm

    […] Question:  Where do you get your materials?   How can I start Guided Reading on a Budget? […]

  • Megan Ridgley March 29 at 4:46 pm

    When do you begin Guided Reading with Kinders? We start at the beginning of August and I was hoping to get Daily 5 going before the end of September. Do you think it is feasible to start guided reading then?

    • Deedee March 29 at 4:49 pm

      Yes! Exactly! As soon as they are working well in their centers/stations/Daily 5 you are good to go! I usually start guided reading around mid to late September!

  • cindy Revis June 27 at 7:31 pm

    Do you suggest laminating the books?

    • Deedee June 28 at 3:31 pm

      I didn’t, but Deanna did. It just depends on what works best for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jennifer July 14 at 6:20 am

    I was wondering if you still had a sample of the two day guiding reading bundle? Iโ€™m considering purchasing the bundle but was hoping to see a sample of the two day lesson. Thanks so much!

    • Deedee July 19 at 3:57 pm

      You bet! You can find a sample at the bottom of this blog post:

  • Robin October 15 at 6:45 am

    I have purchased both Guided Reading sets and I LOVE them! ๐Ÿ™‚ It has never been so easy to prepare for my guided reading groups! Thank you for all of your hard work!
    I was wondering, for your cookie sheets, what do you do with sight words that have more than one of the same letter?

    • Deedee October 18 at 7:56 pm

      I just add another letter to the sheet. I kept my master set of letters handy so I could grab one if I needed it. Definitely something that popped up later in the school year. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ava Cody October 24 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you for these!! Quick question if you do one book a week… but there are only 6 books at each level… how do you stretch it through a year? Do you move kids up every 6 weeks? Or do you supplement with other guided readers?
    Thank you!

    • Deedee October 27 at 5:59 pm

      Hi there, Some students do one book a week. Others do 2 books a week. Students move up once they can read that book at an independent level (as determined by the running record.) I hope that helps.

      I will be doing a Facebook live on guided reading on Tuesday of this week if you want to listen in. You can join by clicking:

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    My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching to different age groups and in different classroom environments. My heart belongs to early childhood education and I love working with other teachers who share this same love as me. Read More


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