Differentiation and the Science of Reading?! This post is like my pedagogical dream!!! Over the last month, I have introduced you to the key components of the Science of Reading and shared some ideas on how to quickly and efficiently use them in your classrooms.
In this post, we will incorporate the Science of Reading into our differentiated literacy groups. The beauty of this routine is that small group learning is practically made for the Science of Reading!!!
Before We Begin…
The first step to differentiating is of course to set up your groups. In order to do that, you need to assess your students, place them into groups, and set goals for each group.
Looking for an easy way to assess your students’ phonics skills?
It includes a student copy, a teacher copy, and a scoring guide.
The Science of Reading has five components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Although all five are important to a child’s overall success, I would address them in the following order: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. In other words, address any concerns with phonics before tackling comprehension or vocabulary. I am NOT saying that comprehension and vocabulary are not just as important, but if a child cannot decode the words on the page, it is going to be near impossible to understand a text to its fullest, even with pictures and context clues. (The Science of Reading research backs this up.)
For those of you who know me, you know that differentiated instruction is kind of my thing. There are so many ways to differentiate, whether by skill or level or perhaps even by learning modality. Today, we will dive into my top three ways to differentiate all while incorporating the Science of Reading.
1) Differentiate by Target Skill
This is probably my favorite way to group students. Rather than solely grouping by level, I group by skill. These skills are directly from the Science of Reading, so they should include one of the five Science of Reading components.
In primary grades, I typically group students based on their target phonics skills. For example, in a first-grade classroom, one group may work on fluency, another group may work on multi-syllable words using long vowels, a third group on consonant digraphs, and a fourth on CVC words or perhaps even phonemic awareness. My point here is that each group is working on a specific phonics skill in all of their rotations. Take a look at the table below to see an example schedule.
|Target Skill Group||Station 1:|
|Fluency||Fluency Strategies||Online Reading Practice (RazKids, Epic, etc.)||Differentiated Fluency Passages|
|Multi-Syllable Words||Segmenting and Blending||Nearpod Games with Multi-Syllable Words Practice||Phonics Printable Worksheets|
|Consonant Digraphs||Spelling and Decoding Consonant Digraphs||Consonant Digraphs Nearpod Games||Consonant Digraphs Printable Worksheets|
Try the free sample!
|CVC Words||Short Vowels and Elkonin Boxes||CVC Nearpod Games||CVC Printable Activities|
In the upper grades, the Science of Reading skills will look different, but the same routine can be used. For instance, each group could perhaps work on a different component of the Science of Reading. For instance, perhaps your MLLs (students learning English as a second language) may be working on vocabulary, your reading intervention group may be working on phonics, perhaps another group on fluency, and a fourth group on reading comprehension. Again, the table below shows a sample of what this could look like.
|Target Skill Group||Station 1:|
Try this free assessment.
|R-Controlled Vowels Nearpod Games||Differentiated Phonics and Fluency Passages|
|Fluency||Fluency Strategies||Online Learning Platform||Reading Workshop|
|Vocabulary||Content-Specific Vocabulary from your Curriculum||Online Learning Platform (i.e. Lexia, Imagine Learning, etc.)||Vocabulary Activities and Graphic Organizers|
|Comprehension||Graphic Organizers||Online Reading Platform (i.e. Freckle, Epic, etc.)||Book Clubs|
The reason I like grouping by skill is because it allows me to really hone in on what each individual group needs. I have found that you get more “bang for your buck” and therefore, see more progress this way.
2) Differentiate by Reading Level
This is a more traditional approach. First, you will need an assessment to identify your students’ reading levels. From there, you can group according to those levels. Regarding the Science of Reading, if you go about differentiating by level, you can make each rotation target a different component. (This is similar to the idea behind Daily 5.)
These components can be switched either daily or weekly. They could also be changed based on formative or summative assessments. The beauty of this routine is that each group, regardless of level, can work on as many Science of Reading components as you deem fit. You could have them work on all five components every day or every week. The choice is yours! Take a look at the primary and upper-grade sample schedules below. In these samples, I included three components, but just know that you can include as many as you wish.
|Leveled Groups||Station 1:|
|Above Grade Level||Point of View||Multi-Syllable Words||Differentiated|
|At Grade Level||Main Idea||Prefixes and Suffixes||Differentiated|
|Near Grade Level||Retelling||Re-Teach Current Phonics Skill||Differentiated|
|Below Grade Level||Explicit Information||CVC Words||Differentiated|
The hardest part about differentiating? The prep and time that are involved!!!
Let me do the prep for you.
There is a passage for each phonics skill (short vowels, consonant digraphs, long vowels, magic E, r-controlled vowels, and diphthongs). Each skill includes four levels.
|Leveled Groups||Station 1:|
|Above Grade Level||Author’s Purpose||Root Words||Partner Read|
|At Grade Level||Inferencing||Prefixes and Suffixes||Partner Read|
|Near Grade Level||Summarizing||Multi-Syllable Words||Partner Read|
|Below Grade Level||Main Idea||Targeted Phonics Skill||Partner Read|
3) Differentiate by Learning Modality
The last way to differentiate is by learning modality. The benefit of this routine is that it allows for student voice and choice. There is even an opportunity here to ask students how they learn best. Once you have discovered each student’s learning modality, it is time to group them up!
What I would do is have each day of the week target a different component of the Science of Reading. For instance, in an upper-grade classroom, I may have Monday and Tuesday target comprehension; Wednesday would focus on Vocabulary; Thursday on fluency; and Friday would be dedicated to word study or phonics. In a primary-grade classroom, I would dedicate each day to one of the five components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). Take a look at the sample schedule below. This one targets comprehension.
|Auditory||Teacher Read Aloud||Listening Center||Book Club Discussion|
|Visual||Graphic Organizers||Online Videos||“Book Ends”|
(book report-type art activities)
|Kinesthetic||Reader’s Theater||Task Cards|
(i.e. scoot games)
(i.e. Book Clubs)
|Tactile||Sketch Notes||Manipualtives||Learning Games|
“Differentiation made easy” is kind of my catchphrase, if you will. It stems from multiple conversations with educators about what is holding them back from differentiated instruction. Time. A lack of time is a common hurdle that educators face when planning small-group instruction but I am here to help. I can make differentiated centers manageable. With the ideas I have mentioned here, you can not only implement the Science of Reading but help reach every learner in your classroom.
Next month, we will focus on bringing some Halloween fun to your literacy instruction. Stay tuned!!!