logo

Rationale for Five-Day Lesson Plans

Introduction

On a March day, a first-grade teacher, Ms. H., calls over a small group of four girls to read with her. The rest of the children are engaged in literacy stations around the room. Every child actively participates in reading and writing activities geared to their particular strengths and needs. At the reading table, the girls warm up by reading a poem about mice from their journals and use highlighter tape to go on a word hunt for long i words. The teacher deftly transitions to a leveled text about Robots. After previewing a few pages and setting a purpose for reading, the girls whisper read the text. Mrs. H. listens in with each child and subtly notes difficult words on a post-it pad. After the group finishes, Ms. H. points out the word "many" in context. She asks, "What strategies could you use to figure out that word?" Lily eagerly answers that "I had to read it two times". Dayshawna adds, "I put the first sound in my mouth and tried to think 'what makes sense?' Nita comments, "I didn't see any chunks that I knew"... Ms. H. uses this opportunity to support the students' strategy use and connects the discussion to a specific strategy used that week in their core program. She confides later, "It's so hard to fit everything in-I have a hard time deciding how to manage it all." (taken from classroom observation notes, March 2006)

Another first grade teacher, Ms. M discussed the difficulties she had coordinating phonics instruction & her basal program with her diverse group of first-grade students-"..at the moment we are into curriculum driven instruction. I think good teaching has to be finding the balance between what is good for the child and what is expected instruction." (Quoted from teacher's reflection on using a developmental spelling inventory, October 2006)

How do classroom teachers plan daily literacy instruction that addresses the diverse needs of their students?

In this era of accountability, schools districts pressure teachers to implement literacy programs that comply with state and federal standards, and to demonstrate achievement with a diverse student population. Schools are re-examining their reading programs to include the five component areas of reading identified by the National Reading Panel report (2000): phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Public schools are not the only agencies examining the efficacy of their reading policies and programs. Commercial reading programs are present in an estimated 90% of US schools (EPIE, 1977; Shannon, 1983) Basal publishers heeded the National Reading Panel's report and adjusted their programs to reflect scientifically-based reading research.

The standard basal program is a mass-produced program designed to appeal to a wide audience and ultimately is limited in its ability to fine-tune instruction within a particular social, academic, and linguistic classroom context. School districts and basal publishers must address how to promote student achievement facing a complex array of cultural and academic variables.

To provide effective reading instruction within mixed-ability classrooms, teachers must differentiate instruction by scaffolding the lesson content, lesson products, and processes used for assessments and learning (Tomlinson, 1995; Tomlinson, 2001). Within the heterogeneous elementary classroom, a primary vehicle for differentiated reading instruction occurs during small-group instruction. Educators are seeking information to provide meaningful small-group instruction that is both student-centered and standards-driven. In a study by Moody, Vaughn, and Schumm (1997), general and special educators reported a desire for specific information on the content of small-group instruction, "We know how to group them because we have been told. But now we want to know what do you do once you get them into that group" (p. 352).

To assist classroom teachers, reading specialists, special educators, and administrators, a series of five-day lesson plans were developed for four elementary classrooms using popular basal programs. The selected programs were Harcourt (Kindergarten), Open Court (1st grade), Houghton Mifflin (2nd grade), and Scott Foresman (3rd grade). Each five-day plan demonstrates how to address small-group instruction for below-grade level readers using a selected basal. The lesson plans align with Virginia's mandated curriculum (Standards of Learning) and assessments (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS K-3).

The Virginia SOL's provide a set of curricular expectations and assessments to measure student achievement. Curriculum guides indicate what areas teachers are responsible for covering across grades K-12. To monitor student learning, the SOL's include a series of assessments given in grades 3, 5, 8, and certain courses in high school. The SOL assessments include English, Math, Science, History/Social Studies, and Computer technology. Test results are tied directly to overall school performance and are widely reported to families and the media. See Virginia's Department of Education website, www.pen.k12.va.us for more information. (Close)

Teachers in grades K-3 administer the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) to screen students for potential reading difficulties, monitor progress, and diagnose individual's relative strengths and weaknesses. The PALS Kindergarten assessment assigns a benchmark score based on performance on rhyming, beginning sounds, alphabet, and spelling measures. In grades one through three, the PALS assessment assigns students a benchmark score based on performance on word identification, spelling, and letter sounds (first grade only). In addition to these tasks, PALS 1-3 evaluates reading in context for accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Other diagnostic measures (e.g., alphabet knowledge, phonemic awareness tasks) are provided if needed. Students failing to achieve the benchmark score are eligible for additional reading support. With its online administration and scoring, teachers can generate individual and class reports that suggest instructional word study and reading levels, instructional groups, and assist in planning instruction. See www.pals.virginia.edu for more information. (Close)

The five-day lesson plans are based on the following assumptions:
  • Reading programs in grades 1-3 are aligned with Virginia's SOL's and student's reading achievement is assessed using PALS K-3 and the SOL assessment (3rd).
  • Daily reading instruction should include the five component areas of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension development.
  • In addition to PALS K-3, teachers rely on ongoing formal and informal assessments to monitor individual and class progress in reading, to diagnose specific reading difficulties, and to form flexible ability-based groups for directed small group instruction.
  • A basal series may be the core literacy program; however, additions or changes to the basal are implemented based on assessed need/s/. Literacy instruction occurs during an uninterrupted block of time ranging from 90-120 minutes.
  • The literacy block consists of whole and small group instruction, but the majority of time is allocated for teacher-directed small groups.
  • Small group instruction focuses on the specific strengths and weaknesses of the students identified through ongoing formal and informal assessments. Struggling readers receive daily small-group instruction in the regular classroom plus additional support from a trained reading specialist. Intervention supplements and does not supplant regular classroom instruction.
  • A skilled, qualified teacher plans instruction and meets daily with the lowest-achieving students. A minimum of 20 minutes per group is allotted for teacher-directed reading instruction. Depending on available resources, school personnel may meet less frequently with more advanced readers.
  • Creative process writing is beyond the scope of these lesson plans and is included at a different time during the school day.

The weekly plans provide a snapshot of regular classroom instruction and how a teacher might plan differentiated instruction for a specific subgroup of at-risk or struggling readers. Reading groups were formed using the PALS K-3 results. Students scoring at or near the bottom of each classroom were chosen to demonstrate small-group instruction.

Each lesson describes whole group and small group instruction and designates which of the five component areas of reading is taught. Modifications to the basal are noted in bold, italicized print within each lesson plan. A detailed list of basal modifications is available for each lesson. A description of each 5-day plan follows.

Harcourt Trophies (Kindergarten Classroom)

(click here to see a 5-Day Lesson Plan)

Class Description

The weeklong plan describes whole group reading instruction for a typical kindergarten classroom and small group instruction for a group of emergent students at-risk for reading failure. Small group assignments were based on the students' fall and mid-year PALS results (click here to see PALS-K results). Below grade-level readers were defined as students failing to meet the state's benchmark score on the PALS-K assessment. Based on PALS, selected small group members read instructionally at readiness to preprimer A. PALS-K results indicated weaknesses in rhyming, beginning sounds, alphabet knowledge, and spelling. To differentiate instruction, the teacher needs to emphasize the development of phonological awareness, alphabet recognition, phonics, and to provide appropriately leveled texts to develop concepts of print, e.g., voice to print match, directionality, etc.

Whole Group Instruction

Activities were derived directly from Harcourt, Theme 6, Week 1 (Animal Families). Whole group activities are designed to last 45-60 minutes and included oral language development, interactive writing, phonological awareness, and a group phonics lesson and high-frequency word lesson. Teacher read-alouds or shared reading occurs daily. During read-alouds, the teacher models and provides practice with comprehension strategies and vocabulary development. Shared reading occurs at least twice a week and provides a model of fluent reading for the students using enlarged text. During shared reading, students practice a phonological awareness or phonics-related skill related to the text. Harcourt included daily phonics and high-frequency word instruction. Phonics instruction introduced three initial consonant sounds across the week. To develop sight words, students learned two new high-frequency words during the week.

Small Group Instruction

Harcourt recommends daily small group instruction but provides little guidance on the format for these lessons. Our small group instruction targeted three students with the lowest PALS-K scores. Their PALS-K scores indicated these students needed help with phonological awareness (rhyming and syllable awareness), letter recognition and letter sounds and developing voice to print match.

This small group meets daily for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The rest of the class works independently or in literacy centers. If an instructional assistant is available, s/he will assist with small groups. The format for this small group's lessons included the following:

  • Alphabet recognition and letter-sound instruction (phonics)
  • Phonological awareness activities and
  • Reading to apply concepts of print, e.g., voice to print match (phonological awareness, phonics, and fluency)
How did the teacher differentiate instruction?

To differentiate instruction according to PALS-K results, enhancements were made to the Harcourt materials. Bold print indicates changes from the core program. In general, the Harcourt's phonics sequence and/or pacing were adjusted to reflect developmental spelling features tested by the PALS K. Also, additional interactive activities, e.g., sorting, manipulatives, graphic organizers etc. were infused into existing activities to enhance the modeling and practice of phonics, comprehension and vocabulary activities. To provide time for these additional activities, we eliminated redundant practice pages. For each day of the week, a complete list of modifications is included.

Open Court (First Grade Classroom)

(click here to see a 5-Day Lesson Plan)

Class Description

The weeklong plan describes whole group reading instruction for a typical first-grade classroom and small group instruction for a group of six struggling beginning readers. Small group assignments were based on the students' fall PALS-1 results (click here to see PALS -1 results). Below grade-level readers were defined as students failing to meet the state's benchmark score on the PALS assessment. Selected small group members read instructionally at readiness level. Test results indicated weaknesses in word identification, spelling/phonics, letter-sound knowledge, alphabet knowledge, and contextual reading. During small groups, the teacher will emphasize the development of phonemic awareness, and phonics skills and to provide appropriately leveled texts to develop fluency and word identification strategies. Vocabulary and comprehension instruction occurs primarily during whole group instruction.

Whole Group Instruction

Activities were derived directly from Open Court Level I, Unit 3. The teacher's edition focuses primarily on whole-group instruction and includes teacher-read-alouds and high frequency word activities. Read-alouds are intended for modeling and guided practice of featured comprehension strategies and vocabulary development. High-frequency words are taught with two to five words introduced or reviewed daily. The program differentiates instruction through Workshop time that targets independent and small-group instruction. No specific time frames are suggested for whole group or Workshop.

Small Group Instruction

Open Court recommends daily Workshop time to meet the needs of individual students but provides little guidance on the format for small-group lessons. Our small group instruction targets six students with the lowest PALS-1 scores (click here to see PALS-1 results). Test results indicated these students needed help with phonemic awareness, word identification, phonics/spelling, and reading in context. Each small group lesson requires approximately 20 to 25 minutes. The rest of the class works independently or in literacy centers. If an instructional assistant is available, s/he will also pull small groups. The format for each small group lesson included the following:

  • Alphabet strip review (Alphabet recognition)
  • Phonemic awareness activity
  • Letter and Sound recognition (Phonics) and
  • Reading in context (Phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency)
  • Word-level activity using high-frequency words (phonics and fluency)
How did the teacher differentiate instruction?

Modifications/enhancements were made to the Open Court materials in order to differentiate instruction according to PALS-1 assessment results. Bold print indicates changes from the core program. We incorporated extra read-alouds to provide exposure to text and additional practice for comprehension and vocabulary activities. To carve time for these additions, we condensed the basal's read-aloud activities with single read-alouds from multiple days to one. Alternate phonics activities were included to make the basal more interactive, e.g., sorting objects or to spend more time reading or writing connected text. For each day of the week, a complete list of modifications is included.

Houghton Mifflin (Second Grade Classroom)

(click here to see a 5-Day Lesson Plan)

Class Description

The weeklong plan describes whole group reading instruction for a heterogeneous second grade classroom and small group instruction for a group of below-grade level readers. Reading group assignments were based on the students' fall PALS results (click here to see PALS -2 results)*. The class' reading levels ranged from preprimer to 3rd grade and beyond. Below grade-level readers were defined as students failing to meet the state's benchmark score on the PALS assessment. Based on PALS, the small group members read instructionally at preprimer C to primer level and demonstrated confusions with phonics features that included blends and medial short vowels in CVC words. Since the small group is reading at or below early first grade material, the anthology selections will be at frustration level and require intensive support, e.g., partner reading or listening on tapes. To differentiate instruction, the teacher will need to provide appropriately leveled texts and emphasize the development of phonics and word identification skills.

*Note: Houghton Mifflin recommends its initial placement assessment; however the students are expected to proceed through each theme at the same time at the same pace regardless of reading level. Although H-M recommends specific below grade level texts and reteaching for phonics/spelling, the basal's changes were not sufficient to meet the instructional level of the selected small group.

Whole Group Instruction

Activities were derived directly from Houghton Mifflin Theme 2, Nature Walk (2.1 reading level). Whole group activities were designed to last 30-60 minutes and included read-alouds, modeling and guided practice of comprehension strategies, and vocabulary activities. The HM series included phonics and high-frequency word instruction three times per week.

Small Group Instruction

The basal suggests daily small group instruction but provides little guidance on the format of these lessons. Our small group lesson targets the five students reading at preprimer C to primer level and working with consonant blends in their spelling. Each small group lesson requires approximately 25 minutes. The format for each small group lesson included the following:

  • reading for practice activity (fluency),
  • targeted phonics/spelling instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics), and
  • reading instructional level text (fluency, vocabulary, comprehension)

How did the teacher differentiate instruction?

Enhancements were made to the basal materials in order to differentiate instruction according to assessment results. Bold print is used to highlight deviations from the core program. In general, additional readings, supplemental vocabulary and phonics activities were infused in the program to promote the modeling and applied practice of phonics, comprehension and vocabulary strategies. In order to provide time for these additional activities, we eliminated redundant practice pages. For each day of the week, a complete list of modifications is included.

Scott Foresman (Third Grade Classroom)

(click here to see a 5-Day Lesson Plan)

Class Description

The weeklong plan describes whole group reading instruction for a heterogeneous third grade classroom and small group instruction for a group of below-grade level readers. Reading group assignments were based on the students' fall PALS results (click here to see PALS -3 results). Students' reading levels ranged from primer to third grade and beyond. Below grade-level readers were defined as students failing to meet the state's benchmark score on the PALS assessment. Based on PALS-3, the selected small group members read instructionally at primer to first grade and demonstrated confusions with phonics features that included digraphs, blends and medial short vowels in CVC words. Since the small group is reading at or below first grade material, the anthology selections will be at frustration level and require intensive support, e.g., partner reading or listening on tapes. To differentiate instruction, the teacher will need to provide appropriately leveled texts and emphasize the development of phonics and word identification skills*.

*Although Scott Foresman recommends specific below grade level texts and reteaching for phonics/spelling, the basal' changes were not sufficient to meet the instructional level of the selected small group.

Whole Group Instruction

Activities were derived directly from Scott Foresman Unit 1, Week 2 (3.1 reading level). The teacher's edition did not provide a specific timeframe for its activities, so our whole group instruction was designed to last 30-60 minutes. The basal's routines include phonics, spelling, read-alouds, modeling and guided practice of comprehension strategies, and vocabulary activities. The Scott Foresman Links to Reading First (LRF) supplement suggests daily read-alouds as opposed to once a week suggested in the teacher's edition.

Small Group Instruction

The basal recommends daily small group instruction and provides a menu of activities in its LRF supplement. However neither the teacher's edition nor the LRF supplement provide guidance on the structure and timing of small-group instruction. Our small group lesson targets two students reading at primer to end of first grade and working with medial short vowels in their phonics and spelling. Each small group lesson requires approximately 20-25 minutes. The format for each small group lesson included the following:

  • reading for practice activity (fluency),
  • targeted phonics/spelling instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics), and
  • reading instructional level text (fluency, vocabulary, comprehension)

How did the teacher differentiate instruction?

Enhancements were made to the basal materials in order to differentiate instruction according to assessment results. Bold print is used to highlight deviations from the core program. In general, additional readings, fluency activities, supplemental vocabulary and phonics/spelling activities were included in the program to promote phonics, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary development. In order to provide time for these additional activities, we eliminated redundant practice pages and whole class phonics/spelling lessons. For each day of the week, a complete list of modifications is included.

Conclusion

The sample K-3 classrooms represent a range of abilities and needs. Although each basal program provided suggestions for supporting struggling learners, none of the commercial programs could anticipate the variety of abilities within each classroom. One characteristic of effective schools is providing struggling readers with targeted small-group instruction (Taylor, Pearson, Clark, Walpole, 2000). Vaughn et al. (2003) reported that small group instruction was more effective for struggling readers than large-group instruction and found small-group instruction (1:3) to be comparable to individualized tutoring (1:1). The sample five-day lesson plans demonstrate differentiated instruction for targeted groups of struggling readers. These lesson plans represent regular classroom instruction and do not address reading intervention. Struggling students will require additional support from a trained reading specialist working closely with the classroom teacher.

One question raised about the weekly plans might be "What constitutes fidelity to the core program?" If fidelity to the core program equals adherence to a set of materials where students are expected to move through the same sequence at the same pace at the same time regardless of assessed need, then the question quickly becomes: "What is driving instruction? Students assessed needs or a set of curricular materials designed for a mass audience?" The five-day plans rely on assessment results to drive instruction. If students are working below or beyond the basal requirements, then it is the teacher's responsibility and challenge to differentiate instruction for the class. The weekly plans are not intended to support or oppose the use of a particular program. They demonstrate what systematic explicit instruction reading instruction might look like with a specific population using a particular commercial program.

Our assumption behind the weekly plans shifts the burden of responsibility for instruction away from the basal program and back to the teacher. Allington & Johnston (2001) remind us that "good teachers, effective teachers matter much more than particular curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or "proven programs". Investing in good teachers is the most "research-based" strategy available." Instructional tools are only as effective as the hands that use them.

For more information regarding these lessons, contact www.readingfirst.virginia.edu.

References

Allington, R. L., & Johnston, P. H. (2001). What do we know about effective fourth grade teachers and their classrooms? In C. Roller (Ed.), Learning To Teach Reading: Setting the Research Agenda. (pp. 150-165). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

 

Educational Products Information Exchange. (1977). Report on a national study of the nature and the quality, of instructional materials most used by teachers and learners (Tech. Rep. No. 76). New York: EPIE Institute.

 

Harcourt Trophies (2003).    Harcourt, Inc.

 

Houghton Mifflin Reading (2003).  Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

Moody, S. W., Vaughn, S., & Schumm, J. S.  (1997).  Instructional grouping for reading:  Teacher’s views.  Remedial & Special Education, 18, 347-356. 

 

National Reading Panel (U.S.)  (2000).   Report of the National Reading Panel : Teaching children to read : an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington DC:  National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

 

Open Court Reading (2002). SRA/McGraw Hill.

 

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (2006). The Rector and The Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia.  See www.pals.virginia.edu .

 

Scott Foresman (2004). Pearson Education, Inc.

 

Shannon, P.  (1983). The use of commercial reading materials in American elementary schools.  Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 68-85. 

 

Standards of Learning (2003). Virginia State Board of Education. See www.pen.k12.va.us .

 

Taylor, B. M., Pearson, P. D., Clark, K., & Walpole, S. (2000). Effective Schools and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary grade reading instruction in low-income schools. Elementary School Journal, 101, 121-165.

 

Tomlinson, C. (1995a). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. (2nd Ed.) Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

Vaughn, S., Linan-Thompson, S., Kouzekanani, K.,  Bryant, D.P.,  Dickson, S., & Blozis, S.A. (2003).  Reading instruction grouping for students with reading difficulties. Remedial and Special Education, 24(5), 301-315.

Please feel free to download and use any of the activities and information that we have provided. You may contact the Reading First office at the University of Virginia if you have any questions.


Contact Reading First in Virginia
Top of the page

Copyright 2005-2009 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.. The University is an equal opportunity educator and employer. This information is subject to change without notice. For questions or comments on the content contact Reading First in Virginia. For questions or comments on the site itself contact the Webmaster.

pix pix