My day is filled with teaching and planning reading groups, where I work with students ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade. Even though their needs vary greatly (from letter sounds for kindergarteners to tackling multisyllabic words for 5th graders), one thing remains constant in our daily routine – the six essential components that I use for planning reading groups, firmly grounded in the science of reading.
Effective grouping of students is an essential aspect of planning for reading groups. We can gather valuable information about each student’s skill level using a common-word reading assessment. This data-driven approach allows us to group students based on their specific needs, ensuring targeted instruction and personalized support.
STEP 1: WARM UP
Phonological awareness is a key component of learning to read and an essential component in planning reading groups. Research has shown that developing strong phonological awareness skills is strongly associated with later reading success.
By incorporating phonological awareness activities during our warm-up, we provide students with the foundation for decoding and understanding written words. The activities from David Kilpatrick’s book, Equipped for Reading Success, are backed by research and designed to engage students in a brief but impactful practice.
STEP 2: SOUND REVIEW
Building upon the warm-up, the next thing to consider when planning reading groups is the sound review. This step reinforces the connection between letters and sounds. It aligns with the science of reading’s emphasis on explicit and systematic phonics instruction.
By quickly reviewing the target skill and previous skills, we help students solidify their understanding of phonetic patterns and enhance their ability to apply these skills in reading and decoding words.
STEP 3: CHAINING
Chaining, a powerful activity rooted in the science of reading, supports the development of phonological awareness and phonics skills in our reading groups. It is tailored to the specific target skill of each group. For example:
at → cat → cot → hot → hat → pat → pan → an.
Through this activity, students actively manipulate sounds and make small changes to build words, fostering a profound understanding of phonemes and their role in word formation.
The hands-on nature of chaining, coupled with the use of manipulatives like magnetic letters and whiteboards, engages students and enhances their ability to decode and read unfamiliar words confidently. It is an essential part in planning reading groups.
For an in-depth look at chaining, you can read this blog post.
STEP 4: WORD READING
This step allows students to apply their phonics knowledge and decoding skills to real words. Much like step 2, sometimes we do our word reading digitally, sometimes with flashcards. By focusing on specific vowel patterns and incorporating a spiral review of past skills, we reinforce the principles of systematic phonics instruction. Word reading enables students to develop automaticity and accuracy in recognizing and pronouncing words, which are critical for fluent reading.
STEP 5: DICTATION
Dictation serves as an essential step for encoding practice. By using the skills practiced in previous steps, such as sound review and word reading, students engage in the active process of encoding words.
I prefer to use sound boxes, similar to Elkonin boxes, where one sound goes in each box, rather than focusing solely on individual letters. This approach strengthens students’ understanding of phonics and spelling patterns, as they carefully segment and represent sounds within words.
Dictation not only enhances their spelling abilities but also provides valuable opportunities for students to apply grammar and sentence structure knowledge, reinforcing the interconnectedness of reading and writing. Don’t leave out this key piece when planning for reading groups!
STEP 6: READING IN CONTEXT
The final step of reading in context integrates all the skills learned throughout the routine. By selecting decodable texts that incorporate the target skills, we provide students with meaningful reading experiences. This step allows students to apply their decoding skills within a meaningful context that aligns to the spelling pattern they have been practicing.
SAVE TIME WITH PREMADE LESSONS
I’ve created a comprehensive approach that supports my students’ reading development by following these six steps in my reading groups. If you’re ready to enhance your own reading groups, I encourage you to explore the bonus lesson planning template that incorporates these components. It’s a valuable resource that can streamline your planning process.
Additionally, to save you precious planning time, I’ve included premade phonics lessons and syllable-type lessons using these six steps. They’re designed to seamlessly align with the science of reading, making your teaching experience more efficient and effective.
These six essential steps in reading groups provide a solid foundation for effective and research-based reading instruction. By incorporating elements of phonological awareness, phonics, decoding, spelling, and reading fluency, we address key components of the science of reading.
We can empower our students to become confident and proficient readers across different grade levels through targeted and systematic instruction. Let’s embrace these steps, rooted in the science of reading, as we take on planning reading groups and guiding our students on their journey to reading success.