How to Plan Small Group Structured Literacy with Developing Readers

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How are we feeling about small group literacy / structured literacy? Last week I shared some tips for planning small group reading with pre-reading students, and you can check out all the details on that post right here.

Before we dive into some game-changing tips for your small groups with students who are developing as young readers, I want to share a little secret…

All of the “good stuff” we talked about in here and here– you know, all about phonological awareness – that is still going to apply with these lessons! It’s still best practice to continue developing this highly important foundation even though we are moving into appropriate texts.

So let’s say your students are ready for decodable readers. They’re really mastering their sound-symbol knowledge and can sound out unfamiliar words using phonological blending. Where do we start?

Well, if you know me friend, then you know I love to follow a proven blueprint – I’m not about reinventing the wheel every time I plan a small group lesson. Here’s the basic overview of my small group lesson with developing readers:

  1. Review sound-symbols
  2. Decoding practice
  3. Heart word review
  4. Introduce and map new heart words
  5. Introduce book and read independently
  6. Comprehension / dictation

In all this lesson will run 15-20 minutes (yes, we move at a fast pace)! So let’s do a quick overview of each of these steps in the lesson.

I like for my readers to have a fairly strong development of sound-symbol knowledge before we dive into decodable books – so this portion of the lesson is usually just a minute or two.

I like to run through my alphabet book warm-up where I say the letter, target picture, then sound and students repeat. As they get the feel for this I eventually remove my model/prompt and let them do the heavy lifting.

We then move into decoding practice. I love to start with a list of words that follow the pattern in our decodable for the day. For example, if we are reading a short a decodable, we will mainly focus on short a words during this decoding practice.

Early on I will have my students read each sound aloud and then “scoop” the sounds together to read the word. As students are ready, I’ll move into teaching them to read each sound in their mind then just say the “scoop” or word out loud. This really helps to start building fluency as we are reading.

You can check out our short vowel decodable bundle where this work is already done for you!

Next up we review heart words (these are high frequency words that we have previously mapped and practiced). I love to vary this practice with quick games like heart word memory (cards with heart words written on them turned over and students take turns flipping them over, reading them, and seeing if they have a match).

After our review I’ll introduce any new heart words for the lesson and we’ll map them together and build them with magnetic letters. I love prepping these in baggies or small containers with just the letters the kiddos need to keep things moving quickly.

Now that we’re warmed up, we’re ready to dive into our decodable book for the day. I do a very short introduction to let them know what the text is about (I try to keep these to one sentence), and then we are off and reading independently while I listen and guide as needed.

After reading our decodable we move into comprehension questions (day 1 of lesson) or guided writing / dictation (day 2 of lesson). For guided writing / dictation, I ask a guiding question that leads us to our sentence for the day (usually directly from the book we read). Students repeat the sentence, count the number of words, then write the sentence.

And there you have it friends – a proven roadmap for small groups lessons that will help your developing readers blossom!

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