Problem: Getting a good, solid literacy block up and running seems so complex, I don’t even know where to start.
Solution: It doesn’t magically happen on the first day of school. It’s a process that takes the students and the teacher several weeks to ease into. Here’s a basic structure that I have found works well:
If your students are doing well with the activities in phase 1, you may be ready to move onto phase 2. In Phase 2, students start to build up a little more stamina for independent work. Begin to teach your students the activities they will do independently in centers/stations/seat work. Practice these activities as a group a few times. There is no point in starting small group instruction until you know that the rest of the class can carry on with meaningful independent work. Spend a few weeks in this phase. Whole group reading lessons get up and running now. You can choose to continue handwriting practice, or phase it out, depending on the needs of your students. You can continue teacher read-alouds as time permits.
By phase 3 students should be comfortable enough with their spelling practice activities that you can begin to differentiate their spelling lists. Lists may be completely different or you may have one core list and add or subtract words for students with different abilities. Reading small groups (or guided reading) start in this phase. Now that you’ve had time to get yourself and your students comfortable with whole group reading lessons, you’re ready to dig into whole group writing lessons. Student stamina for independent work continues to build.
If you are a new teacher or new to using small groups in your classroom, consider it an accomplishment if you get your class working at this level. It’s a challenge!