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Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 17th

posted Dec 18, 2017, 7:51 AM by Courtney Richardson

A first-grade teacher emailed me last month asking for help with grouping. After assessing her students, she had more groups than she could manage. This is a common occurrence at all grade levels. Here are some tips for creating flexible small groups:
1. Use the Assessment Summary Charts to summarize the data on individual students. There is a chart for each reading stage, pre-A through fluent. You can download the charts from
2. Consider a range of instructional text levels when forming small instructional groups. Students are rarely at a specific level like a D or a P. They are more likely a C/D or P/Q/R. Look beyond the accuracy level and analyze the types of errors, the fluency, and the child’s comprehension. Once you determine the instructional ranges, select groups based on your focus. You might have a group of students reading at text levels P/Q who need to improve accuracy and fluency, or another group at Q/R who may need to work on deeper comprehension. 
3. If a student doesn’t fit well into any group, teach the student individually with the 10-minute lesson plan or work with your teammates to share students.
4. Consider regrouping every few weeks. As your students make progress, update the assessment summary chart and create new groupings. Keep your groups flexible and temporary. Always remember to Assess – Decide – Guide so that every student becomes a better reader.
I was recently asked this question: “Is there any research or reason you came up with that particular way of teaching sight words?” The procedures for teaching a sight word are grounded in the work of Marie Clay and Grace Fernaldt and my years of personal research and experience. I experimented with many procedures before I settled on the Four Steps, and I have found them to be efficient and effective. 
Some children develop a haphazard way of attending to print that can interfere with their developing a system of remembering and retrieving words. The Four Steps help children build a memory trace. The first procedure, What's Missing?, teaches children to study the word in detail, left to right. Mix and fix uses a kinesthetic-tactile approach by having children construct the word out of magnetic letters. Tracing on the table again engages tactile learning, and Write and Retrieve helps children build automaticity with writing and remembering the word. The Four Steps should be done in sequence because they utilize a gradual-release model of learning. 
See Emergent Video 6 (Next Step Forward in Guided Reading).