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Phonics for Small Group Instruction

3 Nov

Phonics (1)
It’s two months into the school year, and we’re about to wrap up the first quarter in my building (Yikes! Where did the time go?!).With October in the rearview mirror, I’m reflecting on all the blog posts I never found time to finish and all the blog posts I’ve been wishing to write. My reading program is officially under way, so now I’m hoping to go back and share some the resources and tools I’ve been using.

Phonics is the target area of instruction for one of my reading groups. For those of you just getting started with phonics instruction, here are a few assessment ideas and instructional tools that may be helpful to you! (Pssst… there are many freebies & samples included below!)


(Download this FREE poster as part of my “Daily Phonics Posters” resource!)


At the beginning of the year, I used formal and informal assessments to determine an instructional scope and sequence for my phonics group. As with all my reading groups, I look at the assessments to establish my starting point and use the data to essentially drive my instruction each week.

Looking at my beginning-of-the-year Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) and Fountas & Pinnell running records for each student, I was able to identify consonant blends as a common area of weakness for my students. However, I needed to determine which blends and where to start, so I had to dig even deeper.

I absolutely LOVE the word lists offered by Intervention Depot! I use these lists as pre-/post- assessments to drive my instruction and monitor student progress. The different assessments (like the “Blends” word list pictured below) allow me to quickly analyze student errors and determine which vowel and sound patterns to focus on. There are many different word lists for short vowels, long vowels, consonant blends, and r-controlled vowels. The website also includes reading passages for each area, to assess automaticity and identification of sounds and patterns within context (these passages are also great for fluency!). As if that’s not awesome enough, the website also features additional assessments for skills such as syllable identification and phoneme segmentation.

I created an Intervention Depot binder with assessment pages copied and ready to go. This binder is a great resource to add to your “Literacy Toolbox” and keep by your side during small group instruction. Check it out… especially while it’s still a FREE resource!

Photo Sep 23, 2 00 46 PM


Once you have an instructional focus, there are many interventions you can use to reinforce phonics skills with your small groups. Keep in mind, the interventions you choose will depend on the grade-level, group size, and instructional target you’re working with, but here are a few ideas to get you started!

Word Building

Word building is an effective and hands-on way for students to practice phonics. You can use foam letters, magnetic letters, or even word building templates. Sometimes the word building will be guided (e.g., “add a /t/, take away the /e/, etc.), and sometimes I’ll just see how many words my students can build using the letters I give them.

Photo Sep 23, 2 01 56 PM

To take word building one step farther, students can record the words they build on graphic organizers or in writing notebooks. If we’re focusing on specific sounds or word families, I’ll have my students record the words they build on a “If I Can Spell _______, I Can Also Spell….” page (see below). This is a great way for students to make connections between the different words they are building and see how they can be sorted into word families.

IfICanSpell 10:31:2014

(Download the sample page for Ending Blends by clicking here or the image above!)

I also use “Build a Word” Buddy Bags with my students. This printable resource is a great alternative to foam or magnetic letters, especially if you have larger groups of students or you want to send the word-building activity home. Students can build words in partners or independently.


EndingBlends_BuildaWordBuddyBags 30 8:20:2014

(Download the sample page by clicking here or the image above! Directions are included.)

Word Hunts

Word hunts provide students with the opportunity to search for different phonics patterns in context. The best part about integrating this activity into your instruction is that you can pretty much use any text. Students can use books they’ve read throughout the week or you can provide them with a specific text.  Depending on the level of my students, I sometimes choose texts for them that showcase the specific phonics patterns.

My district purchased a site license for Reading A-Z, giving us access to some great decodable books that feature a variety of sound patterns. You can also purchase some great phonics poetry books, like this resource which focuses on word families. I love using phonics poetry, even if many of the poems sound silly due to the over-use of the specific target sound patterns. Any poetry would work though, especially if they’re hunting for common sounds like consonant blends and short vowels. (See the image below of how my students use my partner poems for word hunts!).

Blends MsJordanReads

Students can highlight blends within words and go on a hunt for specific blend patterns.

Students can hunt and highlight the words in the poem. If students can’t highlight the text, use highlighting tape! They can also just tally up the number of words that feature the target pattern/sound or “finger frame” the words to show a partner or the teacher. Typically, I have the students hunt for the words, highlight them, and then record them on a graphic organizer. The students can create their own graphic organizer in their writing notebooks, or you can provide one for them!

Let's Go On a Word Hunt_Blends 10:31:2014

(Download the sample “Let’s Go On a Word Hunt!” page by clicking here or the image above!)

Color & Sort 

Phonics “Color & Sort” pages are great for sound pattern reinforcement. Students color the words that showcase the phonics pattern and then record the words in the correct columns. You can print the page or upload to a SMART Board document for students to complete together!


(Download the sample Color & Sort page by clicking here or the image above!)

Daily Phonics

Daily Phonics is another ready-to-use resource for reinforcing phonics. I use this resource as a warm-up for my phonics group and have found that each week the students are getting quicker and stronger with their phonics identification skills. Once the students know how to complete the pages, they can complete independently within 5-10 minutes. If I feel they need more guidance, I’ll sometimes just display a page on the SMART Board for students to work together and complete.


(Download the sample page by clicking here or the image above!)

If you’re looking for new interventions to try, I’ve found that many of these simple activities are extremely effective and provide students with wonderful opportunities to practice their phonics skills. In my experience, with so many activities and interventions to choose from, you need to find what works for your students. It may be one specific intervention, or it may be a combination of a few.

If my students aren’t making progress with one intervention, I try something else. One intervention does NOT fit all! The intervention that ends up working for your students may come from a purchased intervention program, or it may come from a website like FCRR or Intervention Central. (It may even be something you create yourself!)

Additional Resources

I’m hoping to share more interventions as the year goes on, but if you’re looking for additional intervention resources to explore in the mean time, the FCRR website has a TON of free downloads for Phonics instruction. I have binders filled with research-based interventions from this website. Click HERE to check out their resources!

I would love to hear what interventions YOU use to teach phonics! Please share in the comments below. 🙂

Happy Teaching! 




NEW Daily Phonics Series + a TpT Sale!

6 May

Introducing Daily Phonics

For those of you who love my Daily Fluency series, I recently developed a Daily Phonics series for practice with identifying sounds and word patterns. This series of resources is perfect for any group of elementary students who need a little extra support with decoding and phonics. My RTI decoding and fluency students love these packets!


Each packet contains a directions page, posters, and 40 Daily Phonics pages (20 per month). The series will soon include pages for every month of the year!


Daily Phonics provides opportunities for students to identify:

  • short & long vowel sounds
  • beginning & end sounds
  • consonant blends
  • digraphs
  • diphthongs
  • r-controlled vowels
  • syllables

Students will also have daily practice with:

  • illustrating the word
  • writing the word 3x
  • unscrambling a sentence with the word in context
  • hunting for the word in a list of similar words


There are many ways to integrate this resource into your daily routines. If you have the printing resources, copy the packet and create folders for each student to complete at their desks or at home. (See images below!)


You can also create reusable Daily Phonics pages by laminating each page or using sheet protectors. Students can write on the pages with dry-erase markers and then wipe-off when they’re done. If you use iPads in the classroom, upload this packet as a PDF and use a PDF annotating program for students to complete independently. You can also project the pages and have students complete them for bell work, literacy centers, or Daily Five rotations… all you need is a SMARTBoard or an overhead projector! There are many possibilities for how to use this resource, so it’s up to you how you want to integrate it into your day-to-day routines.

(NOTE: For my groups who do Daily Fluency everyday, I do Daily Phonics just on Mondays so that they’re not spending too much time with these warm-up activities.)

Free Daily Phonics Posters

Download my FREE Daily Phonics posters here or by clicking the image below. These posters are included in each packet and  will help students with identifying the following phonics sounds: consonant blends, digraphs, diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels. Hang the posters up in your classroom or put them in your students’ Daily Phonics folders!



TpT Loves Teachers Sale

Everything in my store will be 20% off on May 6th & 7th. Use promo code TPTXO for an extra 10% off that already discounted prices.

ON SALE — Daily Phonics 20% OFF

Here are the packets that are complete and ready for purchase at a discounted price:


DailyPhonics_MarchApril_TpT 3:14:2014




The remaining packets in the series will be coming out this spring/summer so that you can kick-start your Daily Phonics routines starting Day 1 of the new school year. Keep checking back at my store or become a subscriber to receive email alerts when new products are posted!

LAST DAY for MsJordanReads Teacher Appreciation Giveaway!


Also, for those of you who have been busy and missed my posts last week, TODAY is the last day for my Teacher Appreciation Dansko Shoe Giveaway. If you haven’t entered this awesome giveaway yet, click HERE for a link to my blog post. I’ll be choosing a winner this evening (5/6/14)!

Happy Teaching!


Practicing Accuracy Using Similar Word Pairs!

16 Feb

Do your students make a lot of visual errors?

Visual discrimination is a tough for many readers who struggle with decoding. Many of the substitutions I see with my students include words with similar shapes, blends, vowels, or word chunks. I like to dig deeper to find out what TYPE of visual errors the students are making so that I can then help them train their eyes to read more accurately!

Reading Specialists are trained to analyze decoding miscues and determine interventions to address our students’ decoding needs, but this is something classroom teachers can do, too! Exploring informal assessments and interventions to address student needs is even more important now with the new Response to Intervention (RtI) mandates. Classroom teachers are expected to differentiate instruction at a higher-level and implement effective interventions to target student needs.

Here are a few ways to get you started with assessing, tracking, and practicing visual discrimination, tracking, and ACCURACY. Not only could your students make significant gains, but you’ll have valuable data to bring to instructional support meetings, building data days, and parent-teacher conferences!

Assessment with Accuracy Word Pairs

When to Assess:

Depending on your student population, you could assess your whole class, or individual students, as needed.

  • Fall/Winter/Spring – You can assess every student in the beginning of the year to get a snapshot of your class and create targeted intervention groups for Reading Workshop or Guided Reading. Follow-up with winter and spring “checks” to track achievement and compare accuracy scores.
  • As Needed – You can use this assessment to follow-up with a running record (formal or informal) for individual students who make A LOT of visual errors. This will allow you to “dig deeper” and find out their pattern of errors.

How to Assess Visual Errors:

  • Depending on the grade-level and stamina of the students you’re assessing. You may want to start with just a few word lists. I only do 3-4 word-lists with my second graders in one sitting, but 8-10 with my fifth graders. If I’m interested in getting a comprehensive assessment of ALL word pairs, I’ll break up my assessment over a couple of days. 
  • Pull one student at a time. Each student will read from the word lists while you mark a word correct (check mark) or incorrect (record the word/s they substituted).


(The downloads, shared below, include split columns for easier assessment and tracking! This was my personal tracking sheet version before I posted it on TpT and TN.)

  • After you complete the assessment, count up the number of word pairs the students read automatically (within 3 seconds) and correctly (more than 3 second, including self-corrections). Record the numbers on a tracking sheet. **If using the The Complete Packet for Assessment & Practice, use the tracking sheets and “Student Assessment Profile” to record all the data. 
  • Once all the corrects are recorded, you’ll want to take a closer look at the visual errors. Use a Miscue Analysis Menu to tally up the # of each type of visual miscue. (Download this FREE menu from my sample assessment packet, also listed below!)


Practice with Accuracy Word Pairs

Once you determine what type of visual errors your students are making, you can use that information to drive your instruction. If your students are substituting incorrect vowels for many of their miscues, you’ll want to review vowel sounds and patterns. If your students are substituting words with incorrect blends, perhaps you’ll want to work on making and breaking sounds with two and three-letter blends. The information you collect will only help you if you choose to use it. Integrate accuracy interventions into your small group instruction or 1:1 conference time with students. Send home practice materials or create Literacy Centers to address common visual discrimination issues in your classroom. You can build opportunities for practice into the structure you already have in place for Guided Reading or Reading Workshop.

Literacy Center Ideas:

  • Circle-a-Word – Students circle the visually similar words that are listed in a sentence. (Create sentences on a single page or use laminated sentence strips and have students circle with dry-erase marker.)
  • Highlight-a-Letter – Students highlight the differences between the pairs. (Provide printed copies of the word lists they can highlight, or laminate the word lists and have students can go over the letter differences with a dry-erase markers.)
  • Write-a-Sentence – Students write visually similar words in a sentence. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them create sentences that include BOTH words in the pair. Have them highlight the word pairs after they finish!)
  • Write-a-Story – Students write visually similar words in a story, poem, comic, etc. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them create a story, poem, comic, or another writing format of their choice using a full LIST of word pairs. Have them highlight the word pairs after they finish!).
  • Type-a-Word Pair – Students type similar word pairs. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them practice typing them on the computer. If they are computer savvy, they can even bold/italicize, change the font or format the color of the differences between the pairs.)
  • Rainbow Writing Pairs – Students use colored pencils to write similar word pairs. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them copy over using different colors to write the letters for the word pair differences.)

Additional Activities:

  • Speed Drills — Track pace & accuracy in a 1-3 minute assessment (use progress graphs to mark # of accuracy word pairs read correctly for each speed drill)
  • Practice Word Lists — Create take-home word list packets or individual keychains
  • Board Games — Pair popular board games with “Accuracy Word Pair” cards (cut word lists into rows so that word pairs are displayed on ONE card)
  • Power Points/Slideshows — Create individual slideshows for students to use on the computer. Include word pairs that were challenging or read incorrectly and then link them on your website or send them home on a CD-rom. Make changes as students master the tricky word pairs!)



Featured Product

Check out a 5-page SAMPLE from my newest product, “Accuracy Word Pairs: The Complete Packet for Assessment & Practice”:


(Interested in the COMPLETE version? Click the image below or click here to download the thumbnail preview!)


Do you have any additional ideas for practicing visual discrimination, tracking, and accuracy? Post them in the comments section to SHARE!

Happy Teaching!

msjordanreads signature

Crunch and Munch Words!

8 Oct
Crunch and Munch Words! | A word attack strategy for breaking apart words and decoding multi-syllable words. Includes reading strategy lesson ideas, graphic organizer, and free printables for the Crunch and Munch strategy.
Crunch and Munch Words! | A word attack strategy for breaking apart words and decoding multi-syllable words. Includes reading strategy lesson ideas, graphic organizer, and free printables for the Crunch and Munch strategy.

Do your students get stuck on multi-syllable words?

Do they tend to leave off word endings?

Do your students take the time to read through the WHOLE word?

“Crunch & Munch” is a great strategy for helping students decode challenging words, especially words with tricky prefixes and suffixes. I find that my younger students, who understand and use the basic decoding strategies (e.g., Beanie Baby strategies), transition to more challenging words and then get STUCK… again. They either give up or end up guessing using whatever few visual clues they can attend to quickly. Too often, the students are not visually monitoring and don’t take the time to read the words all the way through. For my older students, they know their decoding strategies too, but still get stuck on challenging content area vocabulary words, where you can’t just skip or plug in a similar word (I don’t blame them… some of those words are TOUGH!). “Crunch & Munch” is perfect for the students getting stuck, and even those who are NOT getting stuck but are just leaving off simple endings all. the. time. (i.e., -s, -ing, -ed, etc.). Those kids sometimes frustrate me because I know they’re capable of reading with accuracy, but this strategy helps them be more careful and helps them pay attention to all those silly endings. 🙂

What is the “Crunch & Munch” Decoding Strategy?

I can’t take credit for the idea behind “Crunch & Munch”! My wonderful and very creative colleague, Mrs. Jennifer Kam, came up with the idea of students munching words like a caterpillar eating a leaf. I absolutely loved the concept, and with her permission, decided to share my modified version with all of you!

“Crunch & Munch” is a strategy that basically breaks words down into their parts. Students can look at syllables and word chunks, or they can break it down even further and look at specific sounds and blends, like consonant clusters, beginning blends, and variant vowels. How you use introduce this strategy is up to you!

The idea is for students to not just read words in “one bite” but to slowly munch through each sound, blending the sounds together as they look at each word part. It helps them see the whole word and actually read the whole word. Leaving off endings can sometimes change the meaning of the whole sentence, and we want to break the habits of those students who do that. We also want to break the habits of those students who rely too heavily on a few visual cues and don’t cross-check their words! This strategy can be used as part of the monitoring process.

How Do Students Use “Crunch & Munch”?

To break down the words into parts, students can use sound boxes, such as the one below, or can just use their fingers to isolate sounds.

Here is an example of a challenge word that’s ready to be crunched and munched!

You can even start with the sound boxes and transition to the finger isolations when you see that students are able to break up words and blend the parts more easily. I call their pointer finger a “cover up finger,” and I emphasize how it’s a simple reading tool that’s always with them! Of course, I don’t want them using it for EVERY word… just the ones they get stuck on. It’s a perfect, “just-in-case” tool to whip out appropriately and as needed. 🙂

Although the strategy may slow them down at first, the goal is for students to train their eyes to read the word the WHOLE way through, for accuracy and to support their comprehension. With practice, the speed will pick up and the strategy will be part of the internal reading process that takes place in their heads. You’ll be able to tell when students can do this independently and naturally with their eyes, and at that point, the students don’t need to stop every time they get stuck, to write out the word or isolate sounds.

This “Crunch & Munch” strategy can be added to student “toolboxes” as they are exposed to new grade-level words throughout the year. Introduce it as a whole-group mini-lesson, or use it with your students in small groups. Of course, not all students will need this strategy, but it’s a great tool for them to add to their “toolboxes,” just in case.

Getting Started with “Crunch & Munch”!

When I first taught this to one of my 3rd grade Response to Intervention (RtI) decoding groups, I modeled it with Leo Lionni’s Fish Is Fish book!

I previewed and selected which words I wanted to model ahead of time and then showed them the decoding process of “Crunch & Munch” using a step-by-step think-aloud. I modeled stopping at each challenge word and breaking the word down into its parts, using my finger to isolate each chunk. For the first half of the book, I recorded all the words and word parts on my graphic organizer and just let the students actively listen and watch. For the second half of the book, we crunched and munched the challenging words together as a group! We recorded the remaining challenge words and their word parts on a shared graphic organizer (on chart paper using the same template), which they then used as a reference when they tried the strategy in pairs and independently. The “I Try… We Try… You Try!” model works great in getting the students started with this new strategy!

If you’re interested in using the Fish Is Fish book during the modeling stage, some of the words I selected for my remedial students were:

  • inseparable
  • triumphantly
  • discovered
  • argued
  • full-fledged
  • excitedly
  • extraordinary
  • mysteriously
  • impatiently
  • marvelous
  • feebly
  • weightless
  • luminous

To help introduce this strategy to your students, consider downloading the two-page freebie below. Your FREE download includes a Strategy Poster and a Graphic Organizer for students to use while breaking-up “Crunch & Munch” words into their respective word parts!

(Note: Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of Adobe and aren’t opening as a “Preview” on your Macs. A lot of readers have been having issues opening my files due to these issues!)

(Download your FREE two-page sample here or by clicking the images above!)

By the way… Do you like my caterpillar clipart? 🙂 It’s very simple and awkward looking, but represents my first attempt at clipart using Art Studio on my iPad! I’m hoping to do more of my own clipart in the future, but I need a little practice with the stylus pen first!


Looking for additional materials for teaching this strategy?

I took the concept one step farther and created a packet of supplemental materials to support instruction of this great word-attack strategy. I have posters, an instructional poem, and various other graphic organizers in this strategy pack available at my TpT store (View the thumbnail preview of all 32 pages here!)


Happy Teaching!

**This post contains affiliate links. Click HERE to learn what that means!

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