3 Steps to Incorporate Writing in Reading Lessons with Small Groups

Small group reading is such a HUGE part of literacy instruction. I often hear from teachers who are wondering what’s best to do in these small groups after they’ve read the text. My answer… reinforce phonics skills with writing! Reading and writing go hand in hand. Incorporating writing into your reading lessons reinforces these important skills!

I talk a lot about Writing Workshops, but there are multiple types of writing done in the classroom and each serves a different purpose.

These include… 

  • Writing Workshop
  • Handwriting and letter formation
  • Shared and interactive writing
  • Writing during small-group reading 

In this post, we’re focusing on the last one on that list… how you can incorporate writing into your reading lessons with small groups.

While the purpose of a writing workshop is for students to learn the writing process through different genres, writing in reading lessons with a small group is teacher-directed and the focus is to practice phonics skills or respond to reading.

Here are Three Steps to Follow for Successful Small-Group Writing in Your Classroom:

Your small group reading lesson should begin with quick phonemic awareness, followed by teaching/reinforcing of the target phonics skill, then applied in a decodable text (and don’t forget comprehension and fluency!).

The target phonics skill from that decodable text is what you will work on in your reinforcing writing activities. 

Decodable texts are simple books or passages that contain specific sound-letter patterns students have learned. They serve to reinforce and help students practice these specific skills.

If you want to learn tips for help with decoding, check out STEP-BY-STEP DECODING: WHEN KIDS GET STUCK ON A WORD.  

Step #1. Write high-frequency words

High-frequency sight words are important to learn and review. Many of the most common words won’t be decodable to your early learners for a long time so you can introduce them as you also teach phonics skills.

Although students don’t have to spell these words accurately yet, writing them helps your students orthographically map the words, so it’s an important exercise during your small-group reading.

Below is a look into one of the beginning sets of my Phonics & Fluency pages (scroll down for a free sample). In this resource, I introduce the word THE, map it, and students read it in a sentence, along with decodable words with the target short \a\ sound.

I like to have students practice writing one to two high-frequency words per small-group writing session. Typically, we’ll do both a review word, as well as a new word.

For more help with high-frequency words, check out my SIGHT WORDS PRACTICE FLUENCY FLASH CARDS: HIGH-FREQUENCY FRY WORDS 1-100

Step #2. Write words with the target phonics skill

After the decodable text, move on to writing, with the target phonics skill in mind.

I love to use word ladders in this step because they are a fun challenge! What are word ladders? A word ladder is a way to show students how they can change words by deleting, adding, or switching letters. This teaches and reinforces letter patterns through repetition. 

For example, start by writing the word TAG. Then have students change one letter to make the word BAG. Next, have students change one letter to make the word BAT. 

In the Phonics & Fluency pages, I have students first tap out the word and highlight the place where they hear a different sound. In the picture below, you’ll notice that the beginning of the word TAG changes to become BAG. Students highlight that beginning box and change that letter when writing the new word.

This is a great example of phoneme manipulation. Word ladders can help your beginning readers build phonics skills and increase spelling confidence. 

Step #3. Write a dictated sentence

Next, apply the phonics skill to writing sentences. Dictate a sentence with the phonics skill, and the high-frequency word if possible.

Let’s say the group is working on short \o\. The sentence might be, “Bob got a big box.” Here’s how the dictated sentence activity might go:

  • Have students echo you saying the sentence several times. I like to use silly voices to make it fun! Here are a few silly voice ideas you can go through, whisper, mouse, robot, and monster. 
  • Then, have them count the words in the sentence. If needed, have them draw a line for each word. 
  • Next, have students write the sentence. Encourage them to reread the sentence as they write. If they forget the next word, ask them to read the words they have so far to help them remember. This will teach them a strategy to use when you aren’t sitting with them. If this doesn’t trigger their memory, dictate and have them repeat the entire sentence rather than just telling them the next word. It’s important to build memory retention for complete sentences, which will help them when writing on their own.

TIP: If students have a hard time remembering the sentence, try a shorter sentence and build up the number of words to remember.

As they write, I watch and guide them as necessary. However, I also like to challenge them to try a whole sentence on their own before my help, to encourage rereading and monitoring their own writing.

I love to “gamify” my lessons and kids love to play games, so I tell them it’s a challenge: Can you show me the entire sentence without mistakes?

I have them write the sentence completely on their own and when they show me, I’ll tell them what they have an error with but not the exact error.

For example, if they wrote:

  • bob got a big box. I’ll say, “You have one error with capitalization.”
  • Bob got a bug box. I’ll say, “You have an error with a vowel sound.”
  • Bob got big box. I’ll say, “You’re missing a word.”

This helps students learn to reread and edit their own writing which, again, will help during independent writing. I want them to be able to transfer the skills in other writing times, so I keep this goal in mind when teaching strategies.

*I only choose to do this with one error. If they have many, I’ll show them the others.


Take this opportunity to reinforce stretching words out. Sometimes I include an unknown word for them to learn to take spelling risks, which will also help when writing independently.

Often, kids are scared, intimidated, or anxious to write a new word they don’t know how to spell. We want them to know that it’s okay that their spelling isn’t perfect as they’re learning. After giving them a chance to spell the word, write the correct spelling and praise students for any resemblance to the word!

If you find that your students are having difficulty, you can always scaffold! Work on the sentence together. 

Check out SENTENCE WRITING ACTIVITIES FOR KINDERGARTEN AND FIRST GRADE for more ideas to help with sentence writing!

Bonus Small-Group Writing Activity!

It’s important to learn how to write to respond to literature. With emergent readers and writers, this isn’t the primary focus of writing in reading lessons but when students are comfortable and more fluent with writing, ask them to write a response to the text.

Give them a prompt, such as:

  • “I like when…,”
  • “I think…,” 

While doing these writing activities, you can take notes on the spelling strategies your students are using. These observations will give you valuable insight into the phonics skills they need more practice with. Then, you can plan future lessons accordingly!

Small Group Reading and Writing Resource

Love these steps, tips, and activities? Excited to get started using them in your classroom?These Phonics & Fluency pages will help make your small-group reading lessons so much easier because they will walk you through the entire lesson with your students from targeting the phonics skill sound to reading it in context, incorporating comprehension, and writing!

You can grab them in my TpT store and Tejeda’s Tots Shop!

Want a free sample of them? Sign up below to get two lessons sent to your inbox!:

I hope these tips help you to incorporate writing into your small-group reading lessons! 

Remember, there are lots of different types of writing that will happen in your classroom and they all serve different purposes. These writing activities are great for reinforcing phonics skills or responding to reading in small group reading lessons! 

If you have any questions or ideas for how to incorporate writing into reading lessons with small groups, please leave them below!

4 responses to “3 Steps to Incorporate Writing in Reading Lessons with Small Groups”

  1. Adela Felag Avatar

    I am excited to use the small group reading activities.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thank you, Adela!

  2. Madhu Sharma Avatar
    Madhu Sharma

    Brenda, you’re very kind!! Thank you for your generosity! From Toronto, Canada.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Hi Madhu,
      You’re very welcome and thank you!
      Brenda 🙂

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