Are you comfortable teaching small-group reading? Do you always know what you’re going to do and have no problem planning your lessons? Or, do you struggle to plan your lessons and visualize how they will work in your small groups?
With the shift happening in guided reading to follow the research behind the science of reading, you might be wondering what a lesson should look like and what components should be included in a small group reading lesson.
If you’re looking for a small group reading routine that works and incorporates all of the key components of reading, let’s go!
P.S. If you prefer watching a video, you can scroll down to watch me explain my small group reading sessions in more detail!
The Way Things Used to Be…
I used to really dread guided reading. Back when I started teaching, over seventeen years ago, we didn’t explicitly teach reading the way we do now with a list of sequential phonics skills. Back then, there was a lot of guesswork and I didn’t have an effective routine. This made teaching reading difficult, frustrating, and challenging.
That was then, and this is now!
I want to share with you an effective routine you can follow in your lessons that adheres to the science of reading and the pillars of reading instruction. It’s going to make your small group reading instruction SO. MUCH. EASIER.
FREE Small Group LESSON
So that you can try out this routine, I also made you a freebie. It has all you need to teach the CH digraph in a small group, and you can follow along with this post or my YouTube video below to see how best to use it.
Just fill out the form below and you’ll get the link in your email. *It’s best to use your personal email, as some districts may block external emails.
If you’re just starting your small group sessions, you can also check out exactly what I teach each year in my very first small group reading lesson, 7 STEPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FIRST SMALL GROUP READING SESSION!
Here are 7 Key Components to Include in Your Small Group Reading Lessons:
1. Reread familiar texts
This is not a part of your formal lesson. I have students come to the table with their book baggie. As they wait for me to begin the lesson, they know it’s part of our routine to begin independently rereading previously read texts. During this time, I may be taking notes on the previous group, checking in on my other centers, or anything else needing my attention.
2. Review previously learned skills
Once we get started, I like to begin with a quick review of previous skills. In each group basket, I keep high-frequency word cards and letter cards that we’ve previously covered. I use these to do a quick review of the letters, sounds, and words, always taking notes to see if we need to spend any time reteaching skills.
The sound cards below are in my Vowel Teams Decodable Lessons pack.
Find out more about my small group reading baskets in this post: SETTING UP YOUR SMALL GROUP READING CORNER: 5 MUST HAVES!
3. Phonological awareness activity
Phonological awareness is the understanding that words are made up of sounds and the ability to isolate, blend, and segment the sounds. For this step, I like to use blending and segmenting activities. Later, I introduce phoneme manipulation or sound-swapping activities, too.
It’s easy to incorporate the target phonics skill in your phonemic awareness activity, using my Decodable Lessons. You can say the sounds of a word in the word bank, and have kids blend the sounds, then find the word, highlighting the grapheme.
4. Teach new focus skill
Now it’s time to teach your focus skill of the day! Here you will be explicitly teaching the sound/symbol correspondence. Be sure to talk about the articulation, and point out what our mouths do while they make that particular sound. Using little mirrors is a great way to show this!
Be sure to follow an I Do, We Do, You Do approach to allow for a gradual release of responsibility.
To help teach each new skill, I’ve created 2-sided teaching cards for my Decodable Lessons Bundle. One side has a teacher script you can read, and the other has an example to model with students.
5. Apply it with decoding
Next, we move into decoding where you apply the skills in reading words with your focus skills.
You can use…
The important thing is to give your students many opportunities to practice that skill when reading text.
One way to do this is to use decodable texts. These are texts that have words students can decode because they’ve already learned the phonics skills needed to decode those words. Before reading these texts, I go over high-frequency sight words, and sometimes words that might not be decodable for my students.
In the picture below, you can see how we “map” out high-frequency words. Each box represents one sound, with hearts over the parts that are “tricky” and lines for silent letters. Read this post to learn more about how to teach High-Frequency Sight Words in a way that aligns with the science of reading.
It’s ok to have a word or two that isn’t decodable! After all, kids need to stretch their brains and learn to attack new words. But for our earliest readers, we want to get them into the habit of decoding by paying attention to every letter, not guessing! Decodable texts promote this.
Even for non-decodable words, teach students to say the sounds for every letter/ grapheme they know. In a later post, I’ll describe how set for variability, or the ability to correct slight mispronunciations when decoding, can help your students with reading non-decodable words.
After reading, you want to make sure that your students understand what they read. One thing I notice students often struggle with is summarizing. Take this time to practice summarizing by first modeling it and then asking your students to summarize.
You’ll also want to check comprehension by asking specific questions about the text. Don’t forget to ask students to go back and find evidence in the text that supports their answer!
7. Encode or writing
Encoding, or spelling and writing, can be applied in a few ways. You can have students use magnetic letters to build words. You can also have students write words on a whiteboard or in a notebook.
I like to have my students write a few words with the target skill, then do a sentence using dictation. I dictate a sentence that uses words with the target skill, have students repeat me several times, then write it as I give them immediate feedback.
Please note: You may not get to each of these components every single time you meet with your small groups. I often spread the steps over two days. It will depend, day by day, on what your students need. It’s all about flexibility. Use this as a guide and modify as needed!
When you complete the lesson, you want to give your student a copy of the text to keep in their book baggies, if possible, so they can practice reading them independently, and at the beginning of the next small-group lesson.
I use the decodable story cards for this. These have the same passages that were in the lesson (some are shortened, for space). They’re a great way for kids to practice rereading for fluency!
Watch the video below to see me move through the steps of an entire lesson using the /ch/ digraph! And get the FREE Phonics & Fluency Lesson I use as an example throughout this video!
What is a must-do for you during your small group reading lessons? I’d love to know! Comment below and share.