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Science of Reading Small Group Instruction – 2023

The Science of Reading shows us that small group instruction is vital. Wondering what to teach during small group lessons? And what are the other students doing during this time? Read on to see what the Science of Reading supports in regards to small group instruction!

Why Small Groups?

Small group instruction provides targeted learning to focus on specific skills. Students are more able to focus, ask questions, and take risks in small groups. You can teach a specific skill in isolation, or, more preferably, reteach something that groups are making errors on. 

How Do I Group Students?

You can use district assessments, phonics screeners, or spelling tests to group students for small groups. Not sure what assessments to use? Ask your school administrators to be sure you are following the school-wide curriculum! 

Warning: Grouping Alert!

Yes- data supports small group intervention. However, be mindful when deciding upon when and how to group students. Yes- small group instruction is great for teaching like-ability students, but we need to be mindful! Labeling students can impact their self-esteem, widen the gap, and even restrict friendship choices. Whole group instruction takes away labeling students, as well as heterogeneous (mixed-ability) groupings. Not sure when and how to do this? One idea is to separate Word Study with Reading Groups. While Word Study could be homogeneous groupings, Reading Groups could have mixed-ability students in groups based on the other domains (vocabulary, comprehension, fluency).  

What Are the Other Students Doing?

You are focusing on a group of 6-8 students- great! But what about the rest of the class? Be sure to establish routine with students before even diving into small group instruction. Reading Groups time could have 3 rotations, and each needs to be established and practiced before becoming independent. Rotation ideas include learning apps (such as Lexia and Epic), high frequency word hands-on centers, listening comprehension centers, and vocabulary practice. 

10 Steps to an Effective Small Group Lesson

Now- what do we even do in small groups? These 10 quick tips will help you to provide quality instruction during your small group time!

1. Make a Template

Similar to managing rotations with the rest of the class, small group practices should be routine. This helps you! By having a template, you can reduce planning time, while also knowing that you are being an effective teacher.

2. Trick Words

First up on your template should be trick words. There are few things that are more frustrating to students in reading than coming across unknown, irregular words. Preview these words and practice reading them. 

3. Sound Spelling

Have students practice reading their keyword cards (ie. Fundations cards) and apply their alphabetic principle skills by identifying the letter’s name, keyword, and sound. 

4. Blend Words

Apply the sounds taught above to Blending Boards! Have students practice blending words using the key letters introduced. 

5. Word Reading

To become more fluent, create a grid for the words above and have students read them. 

6. Decodable Text

Based on the focus skill, provide students with a decodable text. They can read it first to themselves, then read aloud. 

7. Have Some Fun to Balance!

Practice phonemic awareness skills in a fun and hands-on way! To preview the words they will spell, practice segmenting sounds from their spelling lists with stones, chips, or counters to represent phonemes. 

8. Sound-Symbol Correspondence

It is time to get writing! Say the specific target sounds from the lesson and students can write the symbols that match. 

9. Spelling Time!

Now, let’s write some key words from the story. Be clear when presenting phonics words, as well as irregular words from the text.

10. Sentence Writing

It is key to have students apply these isolated skills to full sentences! Be sure to remind students to check for capitalization, punctuation, and proper spacing. 

In closing, we hope you found this post about science of reading small group instruction in the classroom helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these other posts:

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