Reading Groups: What’s in the box?

Reading groups are a tricky thing to get down. You do all of the assessments and then try to match up kids reading ability and word study ability… right? Here is a peek into my world.

I have Three different groups operating with buckets of materials. I do all of my group work on the floor, since it allows me to work with more kids, move around freely and is more comfortable for us all.Group 1: This is my lowest group. I will walk you through the materials in their bucket. The materials change daily, but these are constants.

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This is my ring of speech sounds.

  • Give mouth movements
  • Give nasal sounds
  • Show if the sound is continuous or ends quickly
  • Shows voiced or unvoiced

This helped my student A LOT when we first started the year. It gives a student more indicators or what the phonemes should look, feel and sound like. We drill these if I notice incorrect mouth motions for phonemes. Catch it in speech, and the writing will come.

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These are sound drill cards. The only cards the group is drilled on are the ones they have been taught already. Children who are below where they should be need to be over-taught concepts consistently. This means we drill on a daily basis. On one side is the skill and the other is a “cheat sheet” for the word that goes along with the skill. The students learn to anchor to a word. Sometimes I stop them and ask for another word that follows that pattern/rhime etc…Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 7.00.48 PM.png

Next, I have a bag of words that follow patterns the group already knows. If I notice a student is having trouble with a certain word, I add it to the bag. Notice it includes several patterns. You may also wonder why my lowest kids are working on patterns that seem very advanced. I believe in teachable moments, and if a group really wants to know something… I teach it. Believe it or not this group knows a lot of things my advanced group doesn’t! ❤ There are around 20 words in my bag, and they change over time based on what I feel the group needs to see again. A good place to start is in their writing. If they are not consistantly spelling words correctly in a pattern they have already learned, it can make a come-back here.

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I do a few more things that rotate on a daily basis, but will introduce a new skill with this paper. This paper is a copy of a trace, copy, cover and overt drill.

  • Teach the rule: ar spells ar in the middle of a word. This teaches the generalization. There ARE exception, and the students LOVE to tell me when they find them.
  • The student will repeat after you “ar spells ar in the middle of a word” I also have them air trace it as they say it with me or write it with their finger on the carpet.
  • The student will trace each ar while saying “ar spells ar in the middle of a word.”
  • The student will copy the next line saying “ar says ar in the middle of a word.”
  • The student will cover the top two lines and write again while saying “ar spells ar in the middle of a word.”
  • Last, the student will close their eyes and write the patters at least three times while repeating the same thing. They love this one!

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Now, the students get to practice the skill in a fully decodable text. I have the students do this over a three day span. Fully decodable means that only previously taught skills, and the new skill will show up.

  • Day 1: Students highlight each word with he ar pattern in it. They will then read the text and apply the skill. I listen and watch the students. I assist when needed.
  • Day 2: Students underline each skill piece. Here, they underlined ar in each word. They then re-read the text while I listen and observe to practice applying the skill.
  • Day 3: Students will circle each word that follows the new skill. Students will re-read the text, and add it to their book-boxes to practice with outside of group if they are fluent with their new skill.

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So, we are done right? NO!

I have a text for each student on their level, so they have the opportunity to encounter a harder text on their DRA level. These are guided books, and I take running records from these. These books are used to observe and assist with reading skills.

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I also have children who do not like to read books, unless I make them. You thought teaching was easy right? So, here is a version of a book I created from a student-supplied idea. I took her sight words and addend them to the book. I also created cards from the words for her to practice in isolation. I will literally do ANYTHING to make reading enjoyable for my kids. Yes, that H should be lowercase. Not yet Mrs.Harris… teachable moment.

Some other things we do:

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I cannot over-emphasize the value of having anchors in your room! Some of them aren’t pretty, but they were spontaneous “I want to know!” moments.

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VPD What?!

V.P.D stands for Visual Processing Disorder and it is more common than we realize.

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When people think of eyesight, they usually think about acuity, as in 20/20 vision. But vision is much more than that. The brain, not the eyes, processes the visual world, including things like symbols, pictures and distances. Weaknesses in these brain functions are called visual processing disorder or visual processing issues.

Visual processing issues don’t just affect how a child learns. They also impact his ability to do ordinary things like sorting socks or playing a simple game of kickball. Visual processing issues can cause problems with socializing and self-esteem, too. Some kids may become frustrated and withdrawn.

Eight Types of Visual Processing Issues
Visual processing issues are complex. That’s because there are eight different types, and people can have more than one. These issues often go undetected because they don’t show up on vision tests. Here are the different types of visual processing issues scientists have identified:

  • Visual discrimination issues: Kids with this type have difficulty seeing the difference between two similar letters, shapes or objects. So they may mix up letters, confusing d and b, or p and q.
  • Visual figure-ground discrimination issues: Kids with this type may not be able to pull out a shape or character from its background. They may have trouble finding a specific piece of information on a page.
  • Visual sequencing issues: Kids with these issues have difficulty telling the order of symbols, words or images. They may struggle to write answers on a separate sheet or skip lines when reading. They also may reverse or misread letters, numbers and words.
  • Visual-motor processing issues: Kids with these issues have difficulty using feedback from the eyes to coordinate the movement of other parts of the body. Writing within the lines or margins can be tough. Kids also may bump into things and have trouble copying from a book.
  • Long- or short-term visual memory issues: Kids with either type have difficulty recalling what they’ve seen. Because of that they may struggle with reading and spelling. They may also have trouble remembering what they’ve read and using a calculator or keyboard.
  • Visual-spatial issues: Kids with these issues have difficulty telling where objects are in space. That includes how far things are from them and from each other. It also includes objects and characters described on paper or in a spoken narrative. Kids may also have a tough time reading maps and judging time.
  • Visual closure issues: Kids with these issues have difficulty identifying an object when only parts are visible. They may not recognize a truck if it’s missing wheels. Or a person in a drawing that is missing a facial feature. Kids may also have great difficulty with spelling because they can’t recognize a word if a letter is missing.
  • Letter and symbol reversal issues: Kids with these issues switch letters or numbers when writing or make letter substitutions when reading after age 8. They also have trouble with letter formation that affects reading, writing and math skills.

This information was pulled from

For more information go to the following links:



Where do I begin?

It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher or a parent, targeted instruction begins with proper assessments that tell you where the break-down is happening. So, if you are a teacher start here and if you are a parent ASK for these assessments or ones like them. Without a starting point intervention will not be successful.

The below assessment is called the PAST. The PAST is given to target where the break-down is. You can learn more about it here:


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Another test that will help determine where to start is the D.S.A

More information here:


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The more information the better! If a student is not progressing in the classroom they should be given at the very least these two assessments, or something like them to target instruction.


Here is the way we progress though these skills:

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If you are missing something, you will not move forward. If there are gaps, they must be filled BEFORE instruction on-level can occur.

If dyslexia is suspected then there are two other assessments that can be given by the classroom teacher:


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Quick Alphabetic recall:

Have the student write their alphabet quickly while saying each letter as they write it down in order neatly. Students should be able to do this in 30 seconds or less without looping back. They have 2 minutes to complete the task. If the student keeps looping back, incorrectly writing the letters out of order or cannot get through the task in 2 minutes it is a big red flag.


ALL of this can be done by the general education teacher!






I have learned so much about dyslexia in the last few months it is amazing! Here are a few things I learned that most people do not know and should:

  • Reading is NOT innate.
  • Our brains recycled areas to read with, but some people (15-20%) do NOT have the same neurological connections for reading as others.
  • Reading for dyslexics is completely different… they cannot simply try harder and succeed.
  • You can re-wired your brain! Your brain is amazingly placid.
  • Dyslexics CAN receive effective and targeted instruction in the general education classroom.
  • There are ways to intervene sooner and lessen the likelihood that a student slips further behind.
  • Programs that target dyslexic students should be readily available and common knowledge in the education field.
  • If you are only able to reach 80% of your students… you are failing 20% of your students. That is NOT good. Ever!
  • You want to strengthen not circumnavigate a dyslexics reading brain.
  • If you teach a dyslexic child with generalized education they WILL ALWAYS struggle and move further and further behind.
  • You CAN close the gap!


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