This blog post is part of a Science of Reading series. This post is written by Kristen Shawley.
My name is Kristen. I’m a first grade teacher in Maryland and I am excited to be implementing the Guided Phonics Science of Reading Program in my classroom this year!
In our school district, we have required curriculums for phonemic awareness (Heggerty) and phonics (Orton Gillingham – IMSE). These curriculums are used for our whole group instruction in those areas, so I do not use the Science of Reading Guided Phonics curriculum in a whole group, but I have been having great success with my students using components of this curriculum in small groups. I’ll be sharing how I organize and utilize the various components to meet the needs of my small groups in my classroom. I also think this routine for small groups could work very well to differentiate your small groups if you use the whole group plans in Tara’s Guided Phonics Program. Hopefully you can take away some new ideas that you can try in your classroom!
Science of Reading Material Organization
I have file boxes that I use to organize materials. Inside of the file boxes, I have hanging file folders for each phonics skill and then I put 10 copies of each book inside a gallon-sized Ziploc bag along with any other materials that I may want to use along with that book. I also keep an original copy of the book in that bag so I can quickly make copies as needed. This prep definitely took some time, but now I can just grab what I need for each group and load up my cart for a week or two at a time.
Science of Reading Cart
My Science of Reading cart is where I keep all of my lesson materials for my groups for the week. This allows me to have everything I need at my fingertips when I pull my small groups. Here are some detailed photos to show how I have my cart organized and the things that I have found to be most helpful for my students. I purchased my cart from Michaels. The accessories are from Amazon. I have it loaded up with my favorite SOR materials and some additional resources that my students and I use often.
I have mostly chosen to print and prep items that can be used over and over throughout the units. I love having so many options so that I can choose what works best for me and for my students. This also keeps things simple, so after putting the work in to prep these items, I’m really just adding books and some supplemental activities and I’m ready to go! Let’s take a look at the products that I keep on my cart at all times. I can grab these for my small groups or even send them with students to intervention groups.
Side of the Cart: On the side of the cart I have the Word Blender Strips (pictured above, left top) from the Guided Phonics endless mega bundle. These have made such a huge impact for those kiddos who struggle with blending sounds to read words. When I’m working with 2 or 3 students and I have fast finishers, I can hand them a set of these to work on independently. I also grab them for my small groups and use them with individual students for blending practice. I love how these cards make it so easy to differentiate and I can start pre-teaching things like reading words with digraphs while students are still working in the CVC decodable books.
I also have a set of onset and rime cards (pictured above, left middle) from Unit 2 and the high frequency word cards located at the end of the Guided Phonics Unit 2 Centers (pictured above, left bottom). I have the Unit 2 HF word cards separated by decodable vs. heart words based on the phonics skills students have learned in our whole group phonics lessons this year. This allows me to pull a set of those for a quick review for those students who need it. I can also give them to a pair of students to work on at dismissal time or during other transitions so that a stronger reader can help someone who needs more support.
Front of the Cart: The front of this cart comes with hooks and a shelf that make it easy to store those things that I tend to use daily. On the front of the cart, I keep letter cards with and without the picture cue. These are from the main SOR Guided Phonics curriculum and are great for a quick review at the beginning of the group time. I printed those from Unit 3 so that the digraphs are included. Once students master all of those, I don’t find the need for these as frequently. I also have a set of the Clip Art Guide from the Guided Phonics Endless Mega Bundle printed 16 to a page and cut in strips. This allows me to quickly check any pictures that I can’t figure out the corresponding word for when I’m using the center or growing bundle activities.
I also have 10 copies of the Alphabet Chart (p. 707 of the Extra Resources Section of the Unit 3 SOR Guided Phonics main curriculum). I chose to print the one from Unit 3 as it includes the digraphs. When we are doing activities like “Say it, Tap it, Map it, Write it” or dictation, some students will use the chart to help them remember how to write a letter that they may struggle with.
Science of Reading Cart (contd.)
Top Shelf: The top of the cart holds my small group toolkits. They are 5×7 IRIS photo boxes. In there, I have a small whiteboard, dry erase marker, pencil, pop its, eraser, blending strip (from the SOR Guided Phonics Curriculum), cubes for “map it” activities and a mesh screen. The screen is great for having students trace letter cards with their finger for a multi-sensory review. They can also put the screen behind and write letters on paper with a crayon to created textured letters.
The pop its that I have in there are no longer available, but you can substitute with another item to add some fun. I also have laminated copies of the All In One Say It, Tap It, Map It, Write It Mats that were a freebie. We use these to orthographically map high frequency words that students will encounter in their decodable texts. This is one of those resources that we use a lot and I love that I don’t need to copy new pages for each lesson. These will get us through most of the words we need to map!
I also have a Thirty One Fold N’ File on the top of the cart to hold the centers and activities that I use as a warm-up for our small groups. I have chosen to print activities that can by used for multiple lessons, or that I believe students will enjoy doing multiple times. All items are laminated and stored in gallon ziploc bags. I love to use these to reinforce phonics concepts that students have learned through our small groups, or even for practice of the concepts that we have covered through our Orton Gillingham instruction. Depending on the needs of the group, I will often pull activities that will be pre-teaching concepts that we have already covered in whole group phonics instruction, but that students have not seen in the decodable texts yet. I’ll go over these in more detail when I share how my lessons are structured.
Middle Shelf: On the middle shelf, I keep three books that I reference frequently in our small and whole group instruction. Our school district uses Heggerty for phonemic awareness instruction, so I like to have that handy on my cart to do quick phonemic awareness activities with my RTI and below-level groups. The other two books are absolute must-haves if you are diving into the science of reading. They go hand in hand and are excellent resources.
Uncovering the Logic of English explains English spelling rules and has helped me shift my mindset away from having students memorize sight words to teaching them rules and focusing on only memorizing those parts that are tricky.
Sounding Out the Sight Words takes those rules of English and applies them to high frequency / sight words. This book is much-loved in our classroom and students are often asking me to look up a particular word to figure out why it has a silent e at the end or why the vowel is making the sound that it is. The beauty of this book is that there are word lists and lessons based on phonics rules that you can follow. Or, you can follow Tara’s sequence or the sequence required by your school system and simply look up words as needed in the comprehensive index.
Bottom Shelf: On the bottom shelf, I have pop its, dice with onsets and rimes on them as a fun warm-up activity, cubes, small containers of playdough and erasers. These are just some fun extras that I keep on hand. We use the pop-its often for the “map it” part of activities.
Small Group Structure
I generally have about 30-40 minutes for small groups each day. While I am meeting with my small groups, my students are busy reading. If they have a decodable book from our group, they should first work on reading that independently or with a partner to prepare for their next group time with me. They also have book boxes with decodable books and books from our reading series that they can read. Students can also read or listen to books on Epic. I generally have time to meet with 2 to 3 groups daily, but every child is working on reading at least one decodable book every day. We all love this time and Tara’s decodables and activities have really helped everything fall into place this year so that I feel like my groups are intentional and are helping my students grow as readers!
As my students come to our group, I like to get them started on an activity to reinforce or pre-teach phonics skills that they will encounter in their decodable texts. Generally, these activities are things that I pull from the Fold ‘N File that I keep on the top shelf of the cart. Tara makes this part of the lesson SO easy because the materials are all perfectly aligned to the decodable texts! In an effort to save paper, ink and lamination costs, I have selected a few activities that can be used over multiple lessons.
For my struggling readers, I’m going to choose activities that go along with the text they will be reading. For my on-level (and above) readers, I may choose activities that match upcoming books for their group (for concepts that have already been taught through our whole group phonics lessons), or I may use these things to provide a quick enrichment activity for those above-level readers before they dive into their decodable text.
The Build It, Write It Mats are awesome for students to practice writing words. I have the clip art guides printed 4 to a page to put into this bag for quick reference. I chose to only copy 1 of each of these and I just distribute different ones to each student so they are each working on different words.
Flip and Cover It is another favorite activity. We play this a bit like BINGO. I will usually choose 2 different Flip and Cover it Mats so some students have one and some students have the other. I then hold up the word card and they read the word, look for the matching picture and cover it on their mat.
Pull It, Read It, Cover It is another great warm-up activity. Students work at their own pace to read the words and cover the matching picture. I just have one copy of each of these and students each work on a different one. If we aren’t sure about any of the pictures, I can quickly check the matching clipart guide from the front of my cart.
Say It, Tap It, Map It, Write It Variation: One additional activity that has become a fast favorite in my small groups is using a paint palette to say it, tap it, map it and write it. Students say the word, push down the playdough balls to tap the sounds, map the word with the magnetic bingo counters and then write the word with a dry erase marker. Then they can swipe the counters away with the magnetic wand and do another word. This activity is so easy to differentiate. I just printed out sets of the picture cards from the Pull It, Read It and Cover it activity and I can easily have students working on different sets based on their needs for reviewing concepts that have already been taught in our whole group instruction.
After the warm up activity, we will do phonemic awareness activities, word chains, orthographically map high frequency words and read the decodable book. I usually do a staggered start for students so they are each reading the book independently. Or, sometimes I will have students read in pairs and I can listen in as needed.
Planning For Groups
To plan for groups, I try to keep things VERY simple. Depending on the needs of the group, I gather the things that I plan to use over the upcoming 1-2 weeks and I just put those in the hanging file holder that I purchased and attached to the side of my cart with zip ties. Below are a few photos of materials that I pulled for my groups for next week.
These materials are for a small group of students who need additional practice with blending words and learning high frequency words. The CVC Word Families ALL-IN-ONE and CVC ALL-IN-ONE instant practice pages and the Guided Phonics Fluency All-In-One Mats are great fluency and blending practice activities. The Word Blender strips are so helpful for students who struggle to blend 3 sounds to read CVC words. This group is also working on reading decodable books, however, we spend more time building those missing foundational skills and working on fluency, so they generally work on the same book for 3-5 days. I meet with this group every day.
My next group has just started into Unit 3. This group needs a bit more support and reinforcement, so we will spend 2-3 days on each book. I have the Quick Lesson Guides (These are found in the Guided Phonics Curriculum) printed at ½ size and on a ring so I have easy access to the orthographic mapping and word chain activities. We will complete those before reading the decodable to provide more support to students. I also have the Character Guide printed and students each have a copy of the character guide that they can color as we meet new characters. I’ll be using some of the Nonfiction Decodable Texts and the Guided Phonics Poems with this group as well to give them additional practice reading words with digraphs.
My third group is for my on-level students. They are close to finishing up Unit 3 and will soon be moving on to Unit 4. For this group, I have pulled several decodable texts from Unit 3 as well as the corresponding Phonics Poems. In addition, this group will be working on syllable division and reading multisyllabic words. They LOVE marking and reading those BIG words. Finally, we will be working on silent / magic e in our whole group phonics in the next couple of weeks. I have pulled a couple of resources to reinforce those lessons with this group and to pre-teach concepts they will be learning in Unit 4 of Guided Phonics. I meet with this group 3 days a week.
My final group is my above-level group. They have finished up SOR Unit 5. This group meets with me briefly 2-3 times per week, but they work in pairs or a small group when I don’t pull them. In addition to reading the decodable texts, they are working writing, so I have the Comprehension Extensions pulled for them. They will also work on decoding multisyllabic words. This group LOVES the Character Guides as well, so I have those ready for them for their new unit. My meeting time with this group is usually very short. I generally just provide a quick introduction to the phonics concept and they will often read the book together, answer the questions on the back and work on the comprehension extension independently. I also check in with them to conference about their writing. My role with that group is a bit more of a guide.
I hope this gives you a little glimpse into my classroom and how the Guided Phonics Curriculum and the Science of Reading cart activities have helped enhance my small group time with my students. I have seen SO much growth this year and I know a huge part of that growth is because of the high-quality, SOR aligned activities that my students and I have access to!
Contributing Guest Author— Kristen Shawley
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