Prescriptive Systematic Intervention
Prescriptive Systematic Intervention
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Small Groups Explained in 5 Steps

Small Groups Explained in 5 Steps


If you have read anything recently digital learning is the wave of the future and for many of us teachers we are finding that our future starts in about three or so weeks. While many of us long to be in our classrooms with our students, teaching face to face, that is not the reality of right now and we are diving feet first into delivering a digital education to our students.

Now compacting digital education with the fact that most of you reading this might be primary educators, reading specialists or folks who teach children how to read, the idea of being away from students during the most crucial time of their lives as readers is heartbreaking. We know that students need direct and explicit instruction to support their reading outcomes. Human contact and multiple at bats with students is what we are used to, but now all we are left with is video conferencing and video tutorials to help students access and learn some of their most crucial content.

While the prospects of this are probably really scary, causing you some anxiety and your head maybe spinning, I want to assure all of you that I am here to help. Throughout this Summer I've tirelessly workeIf you are ready and I am ready, then let's dive into logistics!d with students over video conferencing and feel I am successfully supporting students in their reading even if we cannot be together. The children I work with are consistently growing, they are engaged, and we all leave our sessions happy.

Today I want to share with you one product and a freebie to help you get started on your journey with delivering structured foundational reading content and small group content without the need to buy every flashy product being marketed to us right now.

If you are ready and I am ready, then let's dive into logistics!

  1. I make teaching phonics and phonemic awareness a priority each day and I do it live. For phonemic awareness I defer to Heggerty Phonics. In my humble opinion they do it the best and their scope and sequence aligns with common core, their lessons span the entire year and tends to be on point for students ZPD. Additionally Heggerty has all their assessments free online for student beginning, middle and end of year data. They have assessments PK-2.

  2. I use Orton Gillingham practices and follow the sequencing in the Recipe For Reading .

  3. To deliver live instruction I use a document camera. My compact camera is called an OkioCam, it runs off of a google app and is easy to set up and put away. A secondary option that many users find user friendly and less expensive is a HUE Camera.

  4. I always have on hand Green, Yellow and Red Markers, a white board and white board marker. I do not over complicate my practice with magnets or too many manipulatives. I keep it super simple.

  5. I use Raz Kids for comprehension and passages by Emily Gibbons at Literacy Nest for decoding practice. I want to make sure that you know that during foundations practice we use a decodable and during small reading groups we use Raz Kids. If you do not have Raz Kids, Epic! is a great alternative and I believe it is still free for educators.

Here is How to Teach Foundations or Small Group in 7 Steps:

  1. I GO - YOU GO: We begin with Heggerty and focus on content for ( 5- 8 minutes). Heggerty, when you become proficient and students understand the routines, can be accomplished in 8 -10 minutes. Pro-Tip: an alternative is to do half the skills in each section, this help with time.

  2. I DO, WE DO: Start with running through the alphabet or known sounds that you have practiced underneath the document camera. Segway into vowel drills if needed. (3 - 5 minutes)

  3. I DO - WE DO (SCAFFOLD AWAY FROM) Run through the blending board using Read Write Grow's blending cards. The cards are easy to follow and are organized by color: green (beginning sound), yellow (middle or vowel sound), and red (final sound). I teach kids that, "Green means go" and that "We always read from left to right." While these seem like small cues, they help our auditory and visual processors who may need the scaffold of a visual or sound cue to help their directionality. (3 - 5 minutes). You only add cards of explicitly taught sounds.

  4. Model and Practice: Introduce a new sound pattern or skill for the day. For example if the sound is ar then I would go "A -R, ar, car". Students would read words I write on my white board with the sound pattern ( 5 words max!).

  5. Sight Word, Dictation, Sentence Writing: I try to sneak in at least 2 -3 new words a week, it is all about exposure. Students write the new word 5 times. We then move into dictation for our spelling pattern, then end with a sentence using the sight word and focus sound. (5 minutes)

  6. Decodable Sentences or Passages: Again I use decodable passages from The Literacy Nest and in the Recipe for Reading there are sentences that can easily be transferred to slides, so students can practice their reading. (5 - 8 minutes)

  7. Sight Word Game: How Fast Can You Go! Students go through rapid naming automaticity for their sight words, I always set aside words they miss and re-add them into practice. (2 minutes max)


I hope you are still with me! I jam through the same routine each day with my students in whole group! If you find that there is not enough time, you can move some parts of this 30 - 35 minute foundations block to differentiated reading times, wherein students are receiving the EXACT support that they need. The Blending Cards Set come with all skills from kindergarten to second grade because reading is such a fluid process, it is more of a continuum of skills. I want you to be able to build out sets of cards that you grab and teach from based on the levels within your classroom.

So How Are Small Reading Groups Different

Would it surprise you if I said that there are ONLY 3 modifications to the above list when it comes to small group reading. Here is what I eliminate or change:

  1. No Heggerty (this is held only in whole group)

  2. Phonics skill is tailored to the groups specific level

  3. In lieu of a decodable we use a literature text to work on comprehension.

Everything else stays the same. I like to think that students who can anticipate the structure of their class time are more receptive to learning and they show up happy to learn because each day is predictable and structured. Children enjoy these things.

So I Want to Use The Blending Cards In Class and At Home

It dawned on me that students cannot share materials and when at home you may want them to practice blending. I made blending mats, so students can solely organize their cards and blend sounds, there is also an option for blending and writing words with an expo marker, then as students progress further into their phonics skills I made a mat for students to tap out syllables and write longer, multisyllabic words.

I made materials, all materials, so student materials mirror teacher materials and because you are modeling with the EXACT same materials you send home or back to their desk to practice with, again students feel capable of doing the work they need to without us hovering.

In order to quickly change cards, I LITERALLY cut the spine out of a Dollar Store Binder and that is what I use. Nothing fancy. I can quickly flip sounds, while my students blend their sounds together. You can make a tri-pod out of a binder, but for ease of use online, the cards need to lay flat. That is my best practice. I really try not to overthink things that are working well.

Students write their words for dictation either on a template that I made (free at the end of this post) or in a journal. It really is up to you. I use Sharpie Brush Tip Markers to write and model in my journal. I can say my teacher writing is increasingly better every time I model.

Sight words are on mini card stock notecards. I have a class stack and stacks for each of my small groups. These are also what I have my vowel cards on for Vowel Drill. I use lots of post-its too. I try to have green, yellow/orange and red/pink post-its on hand.

You can print these materials on card stock and avoid lamination for student facing materials. I have my teacher sets laminated, HOWEVER depending on your lighting, there can be glare when the cards are under the document camera!

As Always, Thank you for trusting me and taking the time to learn with me. If you have questions, find me on Facebook, leave me a comment, or if this post was helpful, please share it with a friend. Also, I said five, but I think I snuck in 7, I hope you can forgive me!


Until Next Time



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  • Malorie Stuart on

    Hi Theresa, you can purchase the blending board in the Shop.

  • Theresa on

    I love this. Where is the copy of the student blending board? Thank you!

  • Theresa on

    I love this. Where is the copy of the student blending board? Thank you!

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