What's Happening in Small Groups

This week, we wrapped up our second full week of reading small groups and literacy workshops. We are still working on whisper voices with our partners, and not interrupting my group, but overall, our small group time is a million times better than when we started!
I posted a picture on my Facebook page when I started groups, and many of you asked what I do in small groups to start the year, so here goes! :)
 A few years ago, our district was blessed to have Beverly Tyner as a consultant and we began using her small group model. Ever since I started using it, I've been hooked! The gains my students make in their reading are amazing, and I'll most likely have a hard time ever changing the way I do groups. This is the book we use the most:
Because I meet with all my students in small groups every day {and I know I'm blessed to only have 20 kids}, the bulk of my phonics instruction is done at this time. Any phonics I teach whole group is very short and sweet. I firmly believe that differentiating my phonics instruction during my small group time has led to higher reading achievement the past few years. Kids who come in knowing their letters aren't sitting through a long lesson on something they already know, and kids who come not knowing what a letter even is, aren't frustrated.
We do begin the year with her 26 alphabet lessons, which are not in the book above. I'm going to try and figure out where the lessons are available for purchase {I think she gave our county the lessons when they hired her, and mine are in my small group binder}. We teach letters in this order with Tyner:
Lessons 1-5: B, S, M, A, C
Lessons 6-10: D, F, T, R, I
Lessons 10-15: L, N, O, P, H
Lessons 15-20: W, U, G, J, K
Lessons 20-26: Q, E, V, X, Y, Z
Typically, I do the 26 lessons with all my groups because some of my students who come in knowing letters and sounds can't always segment or isolate sounds, so the skills covered in these lessons give us the base for when my 3 groups are all working on something different. *Side note - I don't do my lessons exactly like they are written. I adjust them to meet my needs based on my kids each year.
At my table, each student has a little box that has a dry erase marker, eraser, pencil, smelly marker, and magic rock {stones from the dollar store}. I got these boxes at Wal-Mart a few years ago on clearance for .10 each!

Each week we focus on 5 letters. When my students first come to group, they start working on matching uppercase to lowercase letters. Because my some of my students have limited interactions with the alphabet, I have the matches displayed on my mini pocket chart.

Excuse the marker stains all over my table and on this sweetie's arms ;)
After they match their letters, we point to each one, say the letter, and the sound. Then, we do our alphabet chart chant {you can grab the chart here}. We point to the letter, say the name, sound, and the picture. For example, a /a/ apple.
After our chant, we play guess my word. I say a the sounds of a word {for example, /b/ /i/ /g/} and the kids blend the sounds to tell me what word I've said. Then, we bring out Stretchy the Snake to do the opposite of blending - segmenting. Every year it never fails that my kids love Stretchy! My kids use their magic rock and Stretchy to practice stretching words. I give the kids a word, we say it, then bump the sounds. This past week, my high group started writing the letters for the sounds they heard on Stretchy. You can grab a free copy here from Deanna Jump :)
We keep our magic rock and use it with our sound and letter strips next. These strips were given to us when Dr. Tyner consulted for our district. We start with our picture strip. I say "Find the picture that starts with the sound /_/," and the kids cover the picture with their magic rock.

Then, I give my kids letter strips and say "Find the letter that is the first letter in ___." They find the letter, and cover it with their magic rock.
The last thing we do at group is work on production. Some days, I will give Stretchy back, and we'll use the other side to write letters that I call out. Every day, we work on handwriting using some simple sheets my friend Deeanna made. We use our smelly marker to rainbow the large letter {we pass to our neighbor 3 times}, then use our pencil to trace and write the smaller letters.
After our handwriting, we switch groups. Pretty simple right now, but when the 26 lessons are done, each of my three groups will be working on completely different phonics skills during small group {and we'll start actually reading books!}.
During my small group time, my kids not in group are working in literacy centers on skills targeted to their phonics needs. I'm hoping to have a post written soon showing what they're working on right now. As you can see in the backround, they're already pretty comfortable with it!
I hope this helps you visualize some of what I've mentioned before. I'd love to hear how you set-up your reading small groups!


  1. Thank you for sharing! I love those ideas. Where did you get the letter and picture strips?

    1. Dr. Tyner gave them to us as part of her program :)

    2. Yes, thank you. I just read back and realized you already gave that information!

  2. Great post! I love your small group focus on phonics at the start of the year!

  3. Super job!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!! Will use this for prek!!!!

  4. What grade do you teach? I taught kindergarten last year but am teaching first grade this year and want to use it again. I was hoping for some insight on where to start my first graders? Thanks.


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