How to Organize Your Structured Literacy Block
Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get done all that you need to accomplish with your students?
Creating a schedule that maximizes time and has sacred periods for instruction, free of interruptions, can be such a challenge.
This was one of my biggest stressors in the classroom.
There were two different blocks of time during my day in which I refused to budge, these were my non-negotiables in the classroom:
1 - Read Aloud Time
The gift of time to read aloud with my students will forever be time I cherished the most with them. The opportunity to fall in love with characters, feel an emotional pull with a story, and to connect with each other through the shared experience of a book is priceless to me. My favorite days were the days we just couldn’t bear to tear ourselves away from the story for even a moment, so I would read aloud as we waited outside of the lunch room or the specials class. Again, maximizing every minute.
2 - Literacy Block
We know this time is so critical for our students, but it could feel so frustrating at times. There was so much to accomplish during this time and each year I tried to find new and more effective ways to squeeze every minute out of that block.
It became easier once I adopted a Structured Literacy approach. The scheduling nightmare seemed to become a little more manageable. Since Structured Literacy lessons consist of specific activities, it was easier to figure out how to fit these into a schedule that met the needs of my readers every day.
Over the years, I worked with various reading/phonics programs. They all had one thing in common; my kids’ levels were all over the place.
While I am a fierce advocate for differentiated instruction, sometimes this went too far.
The result was I felt like I spent my time running from student to student to check in on their sorting or word work, but rarely had time to give them explicit instruction before I had to move onto the next student. This left my kids with gaps and holes in their decoding/encoding skills.
I want to share with you a method that differentiates for varied needs through small group instruction but also has an opportunity for whole group or universal instruction. This is a saving grace.
By introducing your whole class to one concept, one phonogram and syllable type at a time, you can keep your instruction systematic and cumulative.
Then, within this common concept you can differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each small group.
Step One -
It is so important to always begin with a whole group mini-lesson.
This allows you the opportunity to introduce the target syllable type and phonogram to the class. Together, you can review the target syllable type and phonogram through brainstorming words, making anchor charts, and possibly looking at a text that highlights these targets.
By focusing on one common target, you can devote more time to really digging into this syllable type and phonogram rather than feeling scattered and trying to teach to multiple phonograms.
Step Two -
The heart of the work is done in small group instruction.
Through ability grouping, below grade level, on grade level, and above grade level, you can easily differentiate a lesson to meet these varied needs.
In order to make this work, you can use centers or independent work to set up workshop stations easily.
Students can use games and workbook pages to review concepts and cement learning that took place during their small group instruction. These same activities can be used with classroom volunteers.
Step Three -
Give yourself some grace.
While the literacy block often feels like a blur, know that you are delivering valuable, amazing instruction for your students! It’s a sacred time and one that will make all of the difference in the world for your students!
I have tried a million different schedules, workshop models, center rotations, and small group instruction plans over the years and feel your pain! You’re not alone and you can do this!
How To Schedule Your Literacy Block -
We put together this >>>Suggested Schedule<<< that we hope can be the answer to all of your scheduling woes. It aligns perfectly with a Structured Literacy approach which is perfect for reaching the needs of your struggling readers, grade-level readers, and advanced readers.
The schedules were designed to help make delivering instruction to a whole group on a universal level while differentiating for targeted small groups easier.
The idea is that each component of the literacy lesson is numbered. We found this method helpful in putting together varied activities/targets that are necessary to get massive results for struggling readers + it broke up our lessons into manageable chunks.
This is a GAME CHANGER when you only have 20 minutes with a small group!
Suggested Small Group Plan
If you know us well, you know by now that we LOVE targeting our activities to meet the varying needs of our readers. In our small group plan, we put together three different levels.
Which targets your below grade level readers
Which targets your on grade level readers
Which targets students above grade level reading expectations.
You will see that there are certain elements of a structured and systematic lesson plan that you will repeat each day. It is important that you don’t skip these pieces. Components like the sound drill and Phonemic Awareness warm ups are essential – especially for our impacted readers.
I love using these schedules in conjunction with each other because it aligns my instruction for my students. I’m not feeling scattered trying to teach different phonetic rules or different concepts. I can really focus on going deep with one syllable type and one phonogram at a time, and this ensures that my instruction is systematic and cumulative.