Small Group Reading

Using decodable books for focussed and regular small group reading sessions Small group reading (SGR) sessions are a regular feature of the Little Learners Love Literacy weekly plans

Frequently asked questions ....

Not sure about what decodable books are? Find more FAQs here.

Planning small group reading

We try to take the pressure off by providing notes and prompts at the back of the book, but there are some things you could do to plan and prepare in order to make the most of your reading session …

Plan your groups of children based on instructional need and select the right book for your group’s needs. All Little Learners decodable books fit into the Seven Stages sequence and have notes in the back to summarise the teaching focus.

Read the book yourself before you run an SGR session. Taking time to do this will make a difference – if you are familiar with the content, you can better prepare children before they start to read. For example, do they have any vocabulary or content knowledge gaps which might stop them from comprehending, are there any trickier words you might want to pre-teach before you begin?

Plan your timetable - allow enough time for a (mostly) uninterrupted session with your group by planning a 10-20 min session into your day, every day. And making sure the rest of your class are occupied with independent and/or partner work. How long should a session last? Depending on the age group – 10-20 mins. Extend to 30mins at the higher stages

Organise your resources so they are ready to grab and go! What resources do you need? • 1 copy of the decodable book for each child, and one for yourself.• Speed Sounds and Chants Mini Set• Printed Heart Words flashcards• (Character cards for fiction)• These notes and 6 copies of the book.• Print out the Speed words sheet.

Organise activities for the rest of the class - what do other children do whilst I run a small group reading session? Every classroom is different, for example you may or may not have a teacher’s aid or parent helpers etc. 

Sample small group reading notes ...As part of the Little Learners BIG WORLD nonfiction series, we compiled a set of teacher notes for each book to support small group reading sessions. These notes suggest a structure for your session and include some activities and talking points. You can view a sample here:

Before reading routines

Our top priority for any small group reading session is for children to understand what they are reading and to feel success.  don't be tempted to skip over Before reading activities - preparing children for the words (phonics, heart words, vocabulary) and concepts they are going to encounter will set them up for success. Every group will be slightly different (and every book), but eblow our our recommendations to get you started.

Phonics warm-up

We suggest a phonics warm-up of speed sounds and heart words - children will need to apply this knowledge to read the book.

1. Speed Sounds
Revise the previously taught Speed sounds with your group using the Speed Sounds and Chants Mini Set or referring to the list in the back of the book. Children say the phoneme when you show the card, or point and say the sound (if using back of book)

2. Heart words
Revise the Heart words that appear in this book using the Heart Words Flashcards or referring to the list in the back of the book. Point to the word and say the word. Children cannot decode these words yet - they have learned them 'by heart'. 
Unsure about heart words? Read more below. 

Decoding warm-up

.Refer to the Speed words in the back of the book to practise decoding some of the words. Select a few to read together. The Speed words list gives children practice reading decodable words with the focus phonemes and graphemes. Encourage children to sound out and blend words if they cannot read them automatically yet. 

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Additional teaching opportunities
Optional! Whilst you want to get started reading the book as soon as possible, you might want to re-teach or pre-teach to give the group the best chance of success reading the book. Pre-teaching is entirely dependent on the needs of your group. In many cases you can move straight from the warmup to talking about the book. Pre-teaching might include modelling and practising some trickier words in the book, teaching some vocabulary or concepts from the book. There is a vocabulary check in the back of each Little Learners decodable book which may be helpful here. This book contains two other double letter digraphs that are less common: tt as in mitts and zz as in fuzz. Write these words on your whiteboard, and model decoding them (/m/i/t/s/, 4 sounds; /f/u/z/, 3 sounds). Children then practise decoding with you. 

Talk about the book
Now it’s time to get excited about the book! Look at the front cover and: • Ask the children to read the title out loud, tracking under each word as the read it from left to right. • Explore the cover photo. Wat is a cat? Where might you find one? Do you have a cat at home? • Check for vocabulary comprehension (if necessary): What does fit mean? How do people get fit? Do you keep fit? Look at the front cover and: • ask children to read the title out loud, tracking under each word as they read it from left to right. • check for vocabulary comprehension. Ask: What does Puff mean? (In this context it’s the name of the dog, but it could mean a cloud of smoke, something inflated or fluffy, or to huff and puff.) • explore the picture. Ask: What do you think happens in a dog van? What do you think will happen to Puff? If you have a dog, does it go to the groomer?.

Talk about the book
Now it’s time to get excited about the book! Look at the front cover and: • Ask the children to read the title out loud, tracking under each word as the read it from left to right. • Explore the cover photo. Wat is a cat? Where might you find one? Do you have a cat at home? • Check for vocabulary comprehension (if necessary): What does fit mean? How do people get fit? Do you keep fit? Look at the front cover and: • ask children to read the title out loud, tracking under each word as they read it from left to right. • check for vocabulary comprehension. Ask: What does Puff mean? (In this context it’s the name of the dog, but it could mean a cloud of smoke, something inflated or fluffy, or to huff and puff.) • explore the picture. Ask: What do you think happens in a dog van? What do you think will happen to Puff? If you have a dog, does it go to the groomer?.

During reading

How do we read the book as a group?
Ask children to read each double page spread out loud together in a choral fashion, tracking under each word as they read. ‘Tune in’ to individual children as they read and support them when they make a mistake or get stuck on a word (see below).

Choral reading as a good technique for reading decodable books in a small group – every child is actively engaged and reading throughout the session. Whilst children are learning to read you need to hear them – hear them decode, hear their accuracy, speed and expression. If you can hear them, you can guide them to improve. Silent reading is only really appropriate for fluent, older readers who have already learnt the alphabetic code – these children wouldn’t be reading a decodable book in your small group sessions. So why not round robin? Round robin (or similar) where children take turns is not ideal. Yes, it might be easier for you to hear each child read this way, but ask yourself ‘how do children benefit from listening to each other read in this scenario?’ When children listen to another child read, they are hearing a model from a developing reader which may include errors and be slow/not fluent. And if the reading isn’t fluent, you might find children find it hard to comprehend the pages. You may also want to consider if struggling readers might be intimidated by this approach. Your small group time is precious, think about how you can make the most of it for modelling, teaching, guiding children and keep them active and switched on.

Stop the group at the end of each spread to check for understanding, including vocabulary. What you ask will depend on your group. Suggestion supplied for Little Learners BIG WORLD books. Make sure this is a quick stop and check... you don't want to kill the momentum of reading the book and you'll want to amke sure you finish the book and children achieve during the session.

Explore the pictures to extend comprehension.

You might want to re-read a sentence of passage to improve fluency, including expression – model this first and children echo you. Engage with the content (text and illustrations) and check for understanding as you go – there is so much to explore in all our books, but remember to keep the momentum going, ideally you will finish the book within your SGR session. What strategies should children use if they get stuck? SOUND OUT AND BLEND IS YOUR READING STREATEGY WHEN CHILDREN STRUGGLE. HELP INDIVIDUAL CHILDREN. Use opportunities to get all children involved. • Support them if they are stuck by asking them to sound out and then blend the sounds together to read the word. Help them to break up the word into sounds, if necessary. Don’t give them the word unless it is a Heart word. Tune in’ to individual children as they read. Support them if they are stuck by asking them to sound out and then blend the sounds together to read the word. Help them to break up the word into sounds, if necessary. You can use the mini speed sounds cards to remind them of a letter-sound correspondence by doing the chitter chatter chant. • Remind all children to track with their fingers under the words as they read, from left to right. Key reading behaviours • Track with finger – children should point underneath each word as they read it. Tracking along with the blending of words. • Sound out and blend • Re-read sections for fluency/comprehension • Use punctuation - Pause at full stops, expression with question marks and exclamation marks. Talking marks. Take a short breath at a comma. Louder if they word is bold or all capital letters perhaps.

After reading

CONGRATULATIONS!

Questions to talk about
• There are questions to talk about on page 14. Pick enough of these to check that • children have understood the book, and to spark a short conversation.
• Who is in a mess in this book?
• Where does Tess take Puff?
• Do you think Puff likes the hot jet? Why?
• What is in a mess at the end of the book?

 

Vocabulary checkUse the vocabulary check in the back of the book, if you need to. It includes a child-friendly definition of din. Ask: What word means a loud noise? (din) Can you think of other similar words? (racket, hullabaloo, noise, commotion)? In the Little Learners BIG WORLD nonfiction there is also a ‘Talk about it’page to explore adfter eading. Read the text to children (it is not decodable – it is designed for oral comprehension and vocabulary development). Read the fun fact to children and discuss the ‘Be curious’ questions. Children could draw or write their answers later.

After reading

What follow up activities can I do? Suggestions have been made. They are ideas, especially for those who are not using the rest of the LLLL program. No pressure to do these activities. They are ideas only More after-reading ideas …

Speed words
Refer to page 15 of the book. Encourage children to sound out each word until they can read it automatically. They can do this activity with a partner, too.

Children could move on to Read and Grab Word Game Box 2, working with the Stages 4 and Plus 4 word sets.

Word sort
Print the Speed words pdf and cut out the words. Ask children to sort the words into groups according to the medial vowel sound: /e/ (tells, well, yell, less, mess); /o/ (off, boss); /i/ (fills, will); /u/ (fuss). Partner reading • Give children a printout of the Speed words. Partner A points to words and Partner B reads them. Partner A ticks the words that their partner can read before they swap. They could choose one or two of these words and write them in a sentence for extension if they finish quickly. • Children can also re-read the book with their partner, taking it in turns to read a page each. These are great activities for building fluency. Word detective Children re-read the book and find all the words containing double letters ll, ss, ff or zz, then write a list of those words in their My Word Detective Book (pages 2–3). They can highlight or circle the double letters in each word in their list. Sound circle, sound detective, robot walk Word building Re-read the book. Use the Speed Sounds and Chants Stages 1–6 Mini Set to build (spell) some words from the book. Give the following prompts: • Pages 4–5: Build the word well. Change the w to t. What is your new word? (tell) • Pages 6–7: Build the word rubs. Take away the s. What is your new word? • Pages 8–9: Build the word puff. Change the p to r. What is your new word? (ruff) • Pages 12–13: Build the word less. Swap one letter to make the word mess. What did you need to change? Children could also move on to the Sound Swap Word Game, working with the Stage Plus 4 word chains. Quick write dictation Dictate a sentence from the book. Children write the sentence and draw a picture (demonstrating comprehension). You could use single words from the Speed words list for children who are not ready to write full sentences. Read, write and draw Routines and activities from the TARs Examples
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Useful links & resources

Useful links Reading decodable books videos Speed sounds and chants videos Book checklist Decodable books FAQs Decodable books free webinar Character cards downloads Heart words downloads LLARS reading assessment