Students are at your small group table for small group instruction, but what should you do first? Read on or press play, and I’ll share with you what the first minutes of small group instruction look like in my classroom.
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Small group instruction is where the magic happens. It helps address the needs of beginning and struggling readers in a general classroom setting and pushes students who are already reading fluently. So what’s the first thing I do?
Set Purpose for Learning
This is quick and easy, and I am intentionally using our learning objectives. I let students know what they will be learning and what I expect them to do with what they have learned. This does not have to be complicated at all. For example, if we are learning a new vowel, let’s say, is the letter ‘i’, I tell them that we’re going to practice the letter ‘i’.
We’re going to talk about the sound and we’re going to be decoding, dictating, and blending words that have the vowel ‘i’ in the middle.
The next thing that we do is phonological awareness. Now we know that phonological awareness is what makes our phonics instruction stick. Now this is also a quick routine, so this could be anywhere from two to four minutes, and then we’re on to the next thing. At the beginning of the year, I start with a more broad focus. This could be words in a sentence, alliteration, onset and rhyme. And as their skill progresses, we move into a more narrow focus into that phonemic awareness where we are focused on specific sound properties of words. So this could be sound substitution, sound deletion, sound edition, and more after chronological awareness.
We do letter-sound correspondence with our alphabet chart. This is super duper quick. It could be from a minute to a minute and a half. And that really just depends on if I have to correct some things. If they’re adding a schwa after the letter sound, that is my pet peeve. And this is extremely important. So we begin the year and we stay here for a long time. We say the letter name, the keyword picture, and the letter sound.
It’s very important that we don’t pull that too soon and transition to just saying the sounds. I have come across students who when I flash the letter, they can tell me the sound. If I say the sound, they can dictate the letter, but then they are unable to tell me the name of the letter. So it’s important that we don’t move on too fast when students struggle, this is a routine that they look back on. So this is the beginning of what my small group instruction looks like every day.
From this point on, we move into word study, and I don’t want to get too deep into that, but I’ll give you a quick overview of what word study looks like in my classroom. So this just means that we focus more heavily on phonics during this time. We’re learning the system of phoneme-grapheme correspondence (sound-symbol). For instance, we talk about the sound A and how do we write that? Oh, the symbol is the letter A. We learn how to decode new words. This is just translating print to speech. This is extremely important because phonics is one of the five pillars of effective reading instruction.
The goal is to provide our students with what I like to call word attack skills. Once they know how to approach your word, how to break it down, and how to decode it, then they are on the road to being able to recognize words without much effort at all. Word study is not an instructional program, but more of an instructional process.
This is just a quick snapshot of what the first few minutes of my small group look like. If you would like to take a peek at some of my fave PD books, including books on small-group instruction, you can check them out here!
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