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Deedee Wills - Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

Small Group Success in the Science of Reading World

In today’s episode of the Classroom Collaborative Podcast, Deedee and Adam discuss what small group instruction should look like and how it has been modified by our knowledge of the science of reading research.
As we discussed how to structure our small group time, we talked about what activities to keep and which activities to modify!

Small Group Instruction in the Age of the Science of Reading

All right, well, welcome to the show, everyone.

That’s us planning as we record what we’re going to talk about.


But you can see Deedee in a stocking hat.

It’s frigging, freezing everywhere in this country right now.

Circle in Colorado and in Illinois.

I saw our friend Bryce from Texas just posted that they even got snow.

It’s like I can’t remember what he posted that the temperature in Dallas was, but it was.


Like it’s very cold.

Unseasonably cold there too.

Oh my goodness.

Well, I guess.

I guess that’s what winter’s about, so that’s OK.

Whoever’s making the the temperature right now is is dealing with it some conspiracy, probably.

Yeah, for.



Oh, my gosh.

I don’t know if you’ve watched it yet.

We just watched Olivia Landon and I, the movie Leave the World Behind that’s on Netflix.

Have you seen that?


It’s pretty it, the indie.

I’m not going to spoil everyone I, you know, me and my love of conspiracy stuff and wonder what’s going on.


But it’s it’s it’s a new one.

It’s been out for a little while.

A month or so stars Julia Roberts is the star of it.

But it it the basis of it is what would happen if there was a shutdown of all cell phones, Internet, network and and like if our satellites just weren’t working?


Like what?



So it’s it was good.

But it got you thinking Olivia afterwards she’s like that kind of scared me dad.

And I said, well unfortunately, I think it could.

It could.

I don’t mean to get a do, but oh, it was good.

All right, yeah.

Just live with your fear.


Just live with.

Your fear reassure you.

Suck it up, buttercup.


Anyway, so yeah, let’s talk about small groups.

Someone commented on your your primary collaborative.

Hey, I’m back.

It’s me, DD Wills.

Do you Remember Me Post?

Yeah, I know.

I don’t know what happened 2023, what did it happen to me?


I just disappeared.

I wasn’t even on my Facebook group.

So yeah, I’m making a a commitment to be back in, but in in with the people, but one of the things.

While you’re talking, I’m going to look it up so we give that person acknowledgement.

OK, awesome.


Yeah, They were asking about, you know, what a small group look like, which is is really a is something that I’m really focused on right now because when I’m working with classrooms, that’s what I’m doing.

So right now I’m doing an intervention group two days a week and I have actually two groups.


I have a intervention group and then which is sort of what I would call your basic and then I have one that’s approaching grade levels.

So those are the two groups that I’m working with.

And you know going through, you know first all starts with assessments, so you have to know what they know and what they don’t know.


So not being their classroom teacher, I don’t have my finger directly on the pulse, so I need super quick assessments in order to figure out you know where they are and what kind of holes they have.

So I like one minute assessment.

So you set a timer for one minute, you ask them for letter naming fluency, you ask for and Dibbles has free assessments that are available so you can grab those from Dibbles.


But you can do letter naming, fluency, nonsense word fluency.

And then they also have like an encoding fluency as well.

So segmenting and blending fluencies.

I’m not a huge fan of their segmenting fluency, but I mean, who am I?


I just think that some of those sounds are really hard for kindergarten.

It’s hard for adults, let alone kindergarten.

So and it’s also kind of regional.

So, like how I pronounce a word, It might be very different than somebody in another region might pronounce a word.

My girlfriend Kim.


That’s it.

There’s like she has all these extra syllables.

Dog Dog is is like a multiplied syllable spelling word.

And and dog has a you know has a diphthong in it when you.

Remember when we were, we were doing teach it and I think we were in Florida in her grandbaby at the time.


I mean Matthew was little and he called into this.

He goes, grandma, I got a new dog.


We were like.

I know.

We were like, wait, there’s an AW in there?

So Speaking of.

Assessments that we did not plan this but look I’m I’m drinking out of my ESGI mug who who is a sponsor of our our podcast.


So if y’all are listening this and haven’t tried ESGI for your super simple one minute if you use our promo code podcast it’ll save you.

Actually gets you 60 days free to try out ESGI with no credit card.


I’m not planning on giving them a plug right now, but I thought since we’re talking about assessments, they.

Know but.

It leads into our small group discussion for sure exactly, but I know you’ve been a fan of ESGI for decades.

I have as well.

If you if you ever want to find the easiest way to give an assessment to your students, y’all, you got to check out ESGI and that promo code podcast.


If you enter that free for 60 days and then when you decide to purchase because I say I say when, not if, because you’re going to want to get it.

Yeah, it’s kind of.

You actually save on your first year too.

And I should know exactly what that is, but I don’t have the top of my head.

I know it’s a good chunk, I want to say it’s like $50.00 but it may be more than that.


It’s a huge chunk.

So I mean it is actually funny that you mention ESGI because lo and behold, I use the class report in order for me to figure out you know, where to begin because you know, I I’m not doing the one minute testing for the entire class, I’m looking at the.


So just kind of back up a little bit.

I am looking at because it’s mid year and I’m I’m not going to test her entire class with the Dibbles report.

What I did is I went through when I looked at naming, letter naming at the beginning of the year.


So that’s an A test in ESG I I could see what her report was and then I’m kind of looking at the latest test to see if there’s growth.

So those students who did not show growth in name it, uppercase, lowercase and letter sounds are not significant growth.


Then those are the students I wanted to test because I wanted to see, you know, you can have a student.

I’ve had this happen before where I have a student who starts off the year knowing, you know, or or exceeding the benchmark for letter naming and sound identification.


And then you test them, you know, three months later and there hasn’t been growth.

So that’s that tells us that there’s been some memorization that maybe has taken years for that student to learn and yet they’re not gathering the information as we’re we’re delivering instructions.


So that tells us that we need to do something maybe a little different.

So I tested the students who came in with like nothing or near nothing and then where they were still still kind of behind.

And then I went ahead and tested the students who didn’t show a whole lot of growth throughout the year.

So those students, it was a total of like 8 students that I looked at and and those one minute Dibbles assessments are really, really telling.


So after I did those assessments, then I went in and put the total in ESGI so that I would just have a display.

I need a place to park data, and that’s one thing I love about ESGI is you can just park your data there so that later on when you’re planning you can really look at an aerial view of your whole class and then it helps you to know what to do.


It’s so.

Easy to to customize, right?

Like doing that.

Like you can take it and do that for you, and then another teacher can do it the way they want to.

And even though there’s preloaded stuff in there, I mean there’s over 3000 preloaded assessments, it really is super simple to make it your own for no matter what you’re trying to assess and gather data on.


So within, you know, within Dibbles, of course we can’t create a Dibbles, you know, a Dibbles thing in there because that is trademarked.

And I don’t know what happens if you do that, but they take away, I don’t want to know.

But you know, you can put in a test for a one minute letter naming fluency, you can do a one one minute phoneme segmentation, fluency and so on and so forth.


And if you keep that within your school district, you don’t share it.

You know, I I share things across the whole universe.

No, I’m kidding.

The whole ESGI platform.

But you can keep it for your own school and it’s a great way for you to just park your data.


Once I parked the data there, then I went through and I took highlighters and I highlighted, you know, the ones that I thought would be my group, one within each of those subsets.

So I looked at letter naming fluency.

I highlighted those who were looking like they could use some letter naming fluency practice, and those students who could need some phonemic awareness, fluency practice or phony segmentation, I should say.


And so on and so forth.

So I I highlighted them all and now I have my small group.

Right now I get.

For that teacher that you’re coming in and doing this, that’s so fun.

Well, you know, thank you.

I, you know, I’m happy to do it one because as you know, if you are a chef, right, and you make recipes, you got to test them out, you got to test them out with real ingredients.


It helps.



It helps you stay relevant, right?

Like, I I’ve noticed that with with me running my program, like tutoring and teaching and then even we talked about in the last episode, subbing now.

Like, I I I mean, I I’m not doubting myself as an educator.


I have.

I I think I have good things to share.

So when I go out and speak, I’ve always got ideas that I share with teachers and I’m trying to gather stuff from Trisha’s classroom to share.

But when you go out as a speaker, it’s kind of nice to have something in your back pocket.

To say, hey, yesterday when I was in my classroom or the day before when I was subbing with this group of kids, it it really keeps you up on the time.


So the fact that like you just said, you are creating products, you’re putting stuff out there for teachers, we all know you that you sell stuff on TPT in your own website, but it’s real.

I mean it’s real because you’re in the classroom testing it out.

So I think what you’re doing is is fantastic and thank you.


It gives your.

Public relevance, too.

When you are doing it with kids, all of a sudden you see things that didn’t pop up when you were creating in your bubble behind.

Your computer, yeah.


And so I’m like, oh, wait a minute.


Like, I thought this was good, but this would make it easy.

What I always love is make How do I make it easier for teachers?

Because you know, if anybody could do what I do right?

Anybody could do what you do.

However, they don’t have time.

And also perhaps maybe some teachers don’t think of shortcuts that we have developed along the way to make it easier one for students to grasp the skill.


Am I really, Is this really assessing what I needed to assess, or is this really practicing that skill the way I want it to be practiced at?

Like, is it really achieving the goal, One.

And two, is it meaningful?

You know, there’s a whole lot of things out there that, you know, you can put in front of a student, but is it meaningful to the student?


Does it excite them?

Does it engage them?

And how can we add that little layer special sauce to make it fun?

So that’s the reason why I like to stay within classrooms working with students.

It’s I’m a I’m not a chef.

I’m like the worst cook on the planet.

But if I were a chef, I would want to make sure that I was, you know, cooking the recipe, not just writing it down, right.



And then?

It’s funny to say that I’m sorry, this is total random thought.

But Olivia, my daughter, has been.

It’s almost a year now.

She decided she wanted to try to go vegetarian and.

She’s been, yeah.

I mean, yeah, almost longer than that, right?


Well, she did for a little while, then went back and then did for a little while and then.

But this now, it’s been going on for a long time and I’m, I’m so proud of her.

She’s sticking to it for her own reason.

She wants to and yeah, she last night I was cooking dinner and I had I was making I don’t remember what I was making for Trish and I and it was something meat and and Landon is a pick eater.


So I was cooking.

I said Liv, Liv just got home from volleyball practice yesterday afternoon and I was like, hey, do you want some of your like vegan meatballs that she has.

I know it sounds weird, but they’re like meatless meatballs and they’re they’re frozen.

So it’s not like I had to make anything right.

But I, I I threw them in the pan.


I had it like sauteed on top of the stove as I’m cooking the other stuff and I I get them done.

And I I threw some like marinara sauce on there, some Parmesan cheese.

And I was like flipping around in the pan and I was like, you ready for these lips, some homemade meatballs.

And her and Trisha both looked at me and they go homemade.


And I was like, I just made them, didn’t I?

They were like, dead.

Definitely like the meatballs.

Yeah, there you go.

That’s my extent of as a chef is I can, I can throw together an awesome meatball dish.

Yeah, really.

So once you have them kind of color-coded on the spreadsheet or a recording document, something I like to look at, be able to see the whole class at one time and then I color code who’s going to be my intensive, who’s going to be my next group And now I can see where is my letter naming fluency group.


So this is going to be really different than what you would do in small group when you were talking about guided reading.

Because what would happen with guided reading is that you would you would level students by text level.

And So what you can have in that group of five students is students who have a variety of needs.


You have the student in that group who’s really good at guessing and so they pass that text level or student who was really proficient with those particular set of words and they were able to use a lot of strategies that really had nothing to do with reading, right?


So that was so always so hard because you would have a student who was really good with phonemic segmentation and students who weren’t really good with that in that small group.

And so then you had to do everything in that small group maybe, Right.

So instead now I have a letter naming fluency.


So I can pull these four students and do a 5 minute strategy group or five minute practice group.

So I’m going to do 5 minute activity.

That’s letter naming fluency.

And then I’m going to say go back to your small group.

Now I’m going to pull a small group that has four or five students who is going to do phoneme segmentation and then I’m going to work with them for 5 minutes and then I’m going to go back.


Research tells us that it’s better to do them in small chunks frequently than to do them in long chunks infrequently.

So that’s the reason why we now have instead of having three groups that are 20 minutes long, we can pull small strategy groups.


Now there is a chance, pretty strong chance that you’re gonna have a student who belongs in both groups, or more than you know, more than one groups or maybe in three groups, right?

So if you’re looking, you’re saying hmm, these four students are all in the letter sound segment fluency and also the, you know, phoneme segmentation and the phoneme blending and also the encoding.


Then you can make up a small group that in involves here’s you know we’re going to do 3 minutes of letter naming fluency, 3 minutes of this.

So then you can kind of set up that group so that you maybe have have them there for a longer period of time.

I again probably wouldn’t recommend a 30 minute.


Let’s hammer through this because you’re going to lose students at 30 minutes.

But you might say, OK, I’m going to do 33 minute segments with this group.

Now I’m going to pull another group, 3, three minute segments with this group and now I’m going to maybe pull back that original group and finish up.


So although that transition time can be a little bit challenging, if you’re moving quickly, it shouldn’t be too bad.

And then of course you also have your decodable texts, which offer lots and lots of additional practice.

So you can also have students come up and do that small group decodable text with you, as in a longer chunk of time.


Does that make sense?

It makes total sense.

And I I think the transition time is what I was going to chime in on too because it’s it’s all about how you first of all, I mean we go back to the beginning of the year and put expectations in place and your schedule in place and routines in place.

How you structure this small group time with the rest of the kids is, is where that transition time can be a little bit more effective.


So I, I just look back on my phone it was a lady named Julie Moore who posted so excited for the podcast to begin again no snow here in Ohio, love to hear about small group work time and thoughts on differentiating phonics.

So you kind of talked about that in your, what I call and I think you maybe do your instructional groups, right, those kids you’re pulling to your.


Yeah, Those strategy groups.


And then that that question that always comes up, and I talk about this in my teach, play, learn workshop quite a bit, is, well, what are the rest of the kids doing?


Well, how do we make sure they’re busy?

Well, as long as you have your expectations in place and routines in place.

A lot of that time and what I found worked for me and it’s it’s changed over the years.


But what worked for me when I was at the end of my time in the classroom was I I chunked out like a big portion of my day for what we called our station time, right?

And it it allowed me to do like in the morning, we had an ELA station block.


In the afternoon, we had a math station block so that I could do short mini lessons based on whatever our unit of study topic book was or or read aloud.

And then they broke out into about an hour’s worth of stations where they were working in small groups.


We we call them our family groups, right?

They were out around the classroom.

Their family groups, mixed levels of ability chances for all the kids to kind of take leadership in different roles.

They worked really well together.

It strategically put kids in groups that way.

But that left me almost an hour to pull those little groups to my table to really differentiate phonics when the awareness whatever it was.


And then I did the same thing in the afternoon with math.

It left me about an hour to pull kids over for direct, explicit instruction on whatever the they needed at that time and my way for structuring this.

Actually, I I didn’t.

You know, you have those like, light bulb moments, but they come like and you’re like, why didn’t I think of that sooner?


I came near the end of my time, which I didn’t know was gonna be the end of my time in my classroom.

But our friend, we mentioned her earlier, Kim adds.

It was visiting my classroom and I remember her saying to me, hey, where do you, where do you keep your plans?

I’m just curious to see how you plan out your day.


And she had been out of the classroom at this point but loved her knowledge.

And I showed her my like my whole group plans and then my little binder that I had of my small group plans for my instructional groups and I had the entire week planned out And she this was on a Monday.

And she said to me she’s like how much time did you spend doing this.


And I said I spend a lot of time you know planning out the next week because our at our district, our.

But that time our plans had to be left out on Friday because our admin would make sure that our, you know in case we had a sub on Monday whatnot.

And I said, I have to have these ready to go.

And she said, that’s great, grand, wonderful.


But how have you planned out your entire week for your small groups?

And I said, well, what do you mean?

And she goes, you have every single day which kids you’re pulling for this group, this group, this group, you know, you’re an invention group, you’re on level group.

You’re exceeding group.

And I said, yeah, I I have time out.


And she goes, but let me save you some time and make your job a little easier.

And I said, OK, that’s that’s what I love to hear.

She said get your whole group plans done right.

Like have all that ready to go, your family group plans done, everything like that.

But your instructional groups just plan Monday only and plan it off the data that you collected this week.


And I said OK, but but what do you mean she goes, here’s the reason this will help you.

When you pull those kids on Monday, let’s say you pull DD over and based on your adding radio station, my watch thinks I’m talking to her.

She thinks I’m talking to her all the time.

I know when you based on the data you had from the previous week, DD fell into Group A for phonics instruction.


Right now you pull DD and her group over during your instruction groups and you realize that that data, you know maybe it was there but DDS kind of called on to this skill and after you’ve done this instructional group, she’s pretty smart lady.

She’s actually doing better with this skill based on what you’re doing right now and she’s showing a lot of growth already, right.


So then when you plan Monday as you’re getting or I’m sorry when you’re doing Monday’s instructional groups, you’re taking your everybody loves anecdotal notes right.

Taking down what you’re seeing, you’re realizing that DD might be on a better level with your.

Group instead?




Saved me so much time planning my instructional groups ’cause it allowed me to really hone in on individual and small group needs, ’cause I was, I was in that that boat of I plan it all out.

Group A is here.

I pull them here here.

Here, you’re here all week, whether you.


Need You’re here all week with that group when right?

Maybe you really don’t need to be.

And I love what you said.

Like I I wish I would have thought of this back when I was there.

What you just said about keeping the group time even smaller and pulling just for phonics, pulling just for letter recognition, because I was one of those people that I pulled that group and we covered so many different skills.


Yeah, my kids might not have been meeting all their goals because they weren’t at that same level for that specific skill.

Your your idea of 5 minutes at a time is is huge.

And my my favorite thing about that is, you know, I had students who were at such a drastic different level of others that I had to pull one-on-one sometimes.



Keep it short like that.

It it you have a lot of time to do that.


So like in your plans you could put on there, you know, letter naming fluency and the activity that you plan on doing and you could do all of those things, but leave the names, you know, dry erase marker so that as you are, as you’re going throughout the week, you can move students around as you need to.


So I think that’s Kim is so smart.

I I honestly think as you were talking when I was listening to you, first of all how much you can always listen, but I was also thinking I was also.

Thinking you were, you were reveling in the fact that I said Dee Dee’s a pretty smart lady, that’s what you were doing.

I know.

I was like, I was like, where’s my star you?


Put me in Group A what?


But I was thinking it would be a good idea for us to do maybe like, I know we’ve probably talked about it before, but revisiting centers or or independent practice or however, you know, stations, however we want to talk about it, we could do an episode on how like you implemented Kim’s family’s idea, I think.


And then I could talk about how I ran centers.

And then maybe somewhere in there there’ll be something that.

I mean hopefully a teacher who’s listening would be like, oh, I think I could, I could adapt that and use that for my own classroom.

That idea, that one snippet, that small idea.



So what if we, we put that on the agenda and you all who are listening, I mean we’re we’re on A roll, we’ve done two in 2024.

We’re we’re, it’s.


Quite scheduling.

I know, but.


I I want to go back to to make sure we addressed it was Julie’s question too about how does this work which we kind of covered but when you’re talking about going to that classroom and working with that teacher and and doing the this you know collecting the data.


I say data, you say data.

I don’t what it.

I’m curious to know what everybody else says, cuz I hear it both ways.

But what?

What does her time in?

I said time.

Really weird there.

What does her time in the classroom look like for you?


I I mean, I know you’re only there so often, right?

But does she have a specific set of, you know, like an ELA block where she’s doing that small group work or is it just an intervention?

I shouldn’t say just an intervention time, but you know what I mean.

So I don’t know if that addresses the question more.


What does that look like in a small group?

What are you seeing in that classroom you’re visiting?

And we’ll we’ll we’ll touch stations in another episode, But are there centers or stations going on while she’s pulling those groups?

Or what centers?

There are centers that are there.

And so that’s when I’m grade, right?


This kindergarten.

This is kindergarten.

I was thinking you were working.

In the second grade room, No, that wasn’t me.

That was some other person, you know, who’s wearing a stocking cap on a cold, wintry day.

No, it’s a it’s a kindergarten group.

And so she does have center activities and she is at a table with some students working with them.



So yeah, there is that time I’m there for two hours.

During one hour is when I’m working within small groups.

During the other hour I’m I’m working on some other skills.

But we haven’t quite come up with a a standard what are you going to do while you’re here?


So I’ve been doing some at times.

I’m doing interactive read aloud at time.

I’m doing scientific reading lessons.

So those types of things are happening.

I I’ve been asked by people if I would record myself doing those things.

It’s a matter of getting consent from the classroom and because I’m not their teacher, it’s not as easily given as when I was their teacher.


So that’s something that I’m I’m working on.

I wonder if you could.

I don’t know if anybody would want to listen to.

Just listen to it if you could.


Your audio, you know, I don’t know if that would help if people need to see the materials, but yeah, consent’s a tough one depending on where you are and.


And which I?

Get So it’s about an hour then that you’re that you both.

Is she pulling small groups?

You’re pulling small groups.

She’s pulling groups.

She’s doing more of a managed task like teaching them a game, doing something like that.


Less of the actual like she’s teaching them a game.

But the skills right there are not, are not always like I don’t know how much of the skill work she’s doing within that small group.

So I’m I’m, you know, within that hour I’m holding strategy groups and then I’m doing some decodable text work I like.


Strategy groups.

That’s a good word.

Yeah, I mean it’s and it maybe it’s maybe it’s not really strategy, maybe it’s more skill group is probably a better way to call it.

Can you tell?

I’d just call it something.

Maybe it’s still practice.

Here’s why I like strategy over skill is because every student has skills, right?


Every student, no matter what level, that have skills of their own and and not at kindergarten, they’re going to understand them.

But maybe at a maybe at a higher grade level they hear we’re working on these skills or we’re working on these skills.

Students might start to wonder, well, well, I have those skills.

I like strategies ’cause you’re teaching new strategies to meet the skills that they’re working on.



So one thing that I noticed in that I’m, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but one thing I noticed while I was doing that fluency is I had a whole group of students who were not solid on the vowel sound when they were doing that nonsense word decoding.

So they constantly were substituting the if sound for the F sound, right?


So they were the small, small no, not small, short A no short.

Oh my goodness.

I and E yeah, they were, they were, they were confusing those.

So every single time they got to a word they had a short E they put a short I.


So it told me right there like, in that moment I’m like, oh, I need to pull these four students and we’re going to work on vowel work, short vowel work.

When I was trained in Orton Gillingham, they called it vowel intensive.

So that’s something that I can do with those students, just kind of move them on.


Because right now they’re stuck.



Just saying they can’t.

I don’t think that’s a skill that or a strategy that ever goes away because I’m working with third graders that are still struggling with when to use E and I and me being A, how old am I now?

Am I 41?


Young spring chicken I’m. 42.

Do you always have to go back to that keyword?

I have to know, no.

But Trisha gives me such a hard time.

Like when I say pin or pin.

Like I always say like, hey, can you hand me a pin?

And she’s like, are you going to be writing?


Are you going to be sticking something?

Because I I do it too.

I constantly use everything is.

Sometimes it’s a big, it’s a big issue for for for regional as well.

Especially if you talk to our friend Hillary Statham.

Oh my gosh, she makes me laugh.


But boy, she hear little Southern accents precious.

So yeah, you know, doing that vowel intensive is something that is going to, if students don’t know their vowels solid, they’re not going to be able to decode.

And so that’s one thing that you could do.

So the way that I’ll just give people a real quick vowel intensive, you would do a whole lesson where maybe you would have in front of them five index cards, AEIOU right.


And then you would say a word and they would hold up the vowel that makes that sound that that’s in the middle, right.

You can even do it like headbands where they put it up on their forehead and so that it’s just a really quick.

So I’d say cat they grab, the AI would say.

I’m writing this down 10.


I would put, they would hold up to E The other thing that I think is really important, if you look at my mouth when I go eh and when I go eh, it’s different positions.

And so I know that, you know sometimes we get really bogged down on mouth positions and that sort of thing.


But if you can tell students to eager, if you have a little minute mini mirrors, just look at their mouth when they’re going eh and versus you know they’re doing eh versus eh, right, then I don’t think I did my mouth right, but they if you do the two, I did it opposite.

If you do the two sounds, they can look at how their mouth is made and that will help them.


If you don’t have little mini mirrors you can touch, they can touch their lips to say EH is an elephant versus EE as in itch.

And so they can feel those different sounds and see those different sounds, you know, that is the mouth positions is something that really helps speech pathologists teach students.


One of those underrated things for sure.

I I’m, I’m teaching virtually a little girl right now and she’s a four year old that I’m doing lessons with weekly and over the computer and it’s it’s so it’s it’s awesome for me to say hey look at look at the screen, not the camera, look at the screen look at my mouth.


And it has helped her tremendously.

Yeah, it’s really it’s going to help.

So you know when we’re talking about multi sensory and instruction that’s really kind of what we’re talking about is making sure that we make things very concrete for students.


They have to be very concrete.

So mouth positions are important.

If we’re, I think we’ve talked about this before and then that’ll be my last thing I say because I know that we’ve been to rambling for a bit, but no.

No, no.

You know when we talk about letter sounds, if we’re talking about the sound R, it’s hard for us to really show that sound.


But our mouths don’t hardly move at all.

My lips are not moving.

Everything’s done internally.

You can’t even, you can’t even see it.

And yet we see so many times I’ve been guilty as well is when we say what sound does our make and we go rah rah and my mouth is is moving and my mouth should not be moving.


And so that is it is something that as teachers we need to make sure we reel that in and that we are really concrete on those mouth positions and the sounds so that we can then pass that on to our students.

So Bah should not be our mouth is a movement both both our lips are moving.


But our our jaws not moving, should not be moving, is what I should say so and yet so many times have been guilty as well of going Bah.

There’s a lot that that U sound gets added to, isn’t there?

There is and you can.

You know how that would be confusing?


If I’m trying to to blend the word bag and I go BA now it’s really hard for me to go bag right like that, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t help me.

Where’s EU?

You didn’t write EU.


It makes it a lot harder for students.

So OK, it looks like we’re having like a little house on the Prairie Blizzard out here.

Do you remember those where they had to, like tie themselves to the barn so they would get lost?

All right.

Today hasn’t been so much with the wind, but I felt that the other day we we had crazy wind the other day where you could just hear, you could hear the house moving, you know, like those crazy moments.


It was nuts and hitting the windows and yeah, it’s been crazy.

It’s it’s amazing how like we’ve talked earlier in the show, like how many different areas are experiencing this right now.

Like, I feel like everybody I talk to is is freezing cold right now.


Freezing cold?

Well, anyhow, that’s all I have to say on the subject matter.


No, I had one more question though, and this might go back to the question she asked on the the primary collaborative group.

Is there a certain order that you’re pulling these strategy groups in?

Like are you pulling phonics before phonemic awareness?


Are you pulling decodables at a certain or does that?


Good question.

Actually that’s a really good question.

We didn’t plan.

That when I put you on the spot, look at that.

I know, you know, for letter naming, I think that’s kind of where it all begins, right.

So you know, research does tell us that letter naming is really important.

So if they don’t know the letter names, it’s sometimes harder for them to grasp the phonic sound that that’s associated.


And also you know some some letters have the sound within them.

So like if we say the letter M, you know we hear the M sound in there.

So that is that’s like a like AI don’t know what like a little like a helpful helpful cue.


Of course short vowels not at all right.

So that’s why vowels are so hard.

They’re they’re so they’re more they’re more short vowels are more abstract.

So I would do letter naming and then I would do phonemic segmentation and I would do phonemic segmentation, starting it with nonsense words, because you can have students who have memorized that chunk of CAT.


Not that you would use CAT, but CAT and they would know that’s cat.

Whether they can segment those and then blend, we don’t know.

Unless we ask them to do that.

And then all of a sudden it becomes a hot mess, right?

And so that’s would be the next thing.


I would do it with nonsense words, because while you’re doing it with nonsense words, you can also you’re reinforcing letter sounds as they’re segmenting them.

You’re reinforcing letter sounds and then they blend them together.

When you’re doing nonsense words, you want to make sure that you don’t position a letter where it’s not going to work according to phonics rules.


So if you’re doing like the letter C, and then you do the letter I and then you do you know the letter T, You know the C is going to supposed to be a soft sound, not a hard sound.

So we wouldn’t want to have it that way.

We would want to make sure that we’re really you know.

And same thing with GS.


You won’t watch out for the hard and soft GS.

And then of course the letter R at the end is also problematic.

We wouldn’t want to turn this into, you know, our controlled Val lesson.

That’s not what we’re doing.

And so and we wouldn’t want to ask them to blend something that wouldn’t follow the phonics rule that they would see.


So we would want to make sure we have C, you know, next to the A right and and and EU right.

We wouldn’t really even.

We probably wouldn’t even put it with an E because I don’t really have A.

There’s not a whole lot of words that that use that, right?


English is so easy.

Right, I said.

English is just so easy, isn’t it?

It is so easy.

And same thing with the G you know, be cognizant of where and often times if you’re.

If you’re not sure how to come up with these nonsense words, take a word that’s real like the word get and then just take off that ending sound and put another consonant at the end.


If if you’re kind of like, I don’t know and it’s just a lot to think about, then just take known words and then just change that ending sound.

So that will be helpful to come up with that.

A list of words that are going to follow those phonic skills.

So I would do those too and then I would do, I would do phonemic segmentation.


After that is probably what I would do if I was having them all at the same time, right?

If I’m like OK we’re I’m doing 3 strategy groups back-to-back with U5 students, with the U4 students, That’s probably how we would do it.

I like.


It, yeah.

I didn’t know if that helped answer that question a little bit more, but.

You know one yeah.

One skill that is, you know often times talked about is that phonemic segmentation.

I should have said the other one was phonemic blending.

That would be the the one phonemic segmentation is if I give you a word and you tell me the sounds that are in the word, right.


So I tell you I you’re and that’s all done auditory.

Now for a lot of our students that’s challenging.

That’s a very challenging skill for them.

And so we want to make sure that, you know, because that’s the precursor to writing, right?

If you can’t hear the sounds, you can’t write the sounds.


So I would put that next to the writing instructions.

So when you’re going to do, I would do that just before you did dictation, right.

So and you could do those actually together.

I would do those together.

So I would say, OK, your first word that you’re going to do is the word and this is where you will be using, you could do nonsense words, but you could use known words, right.


So the first word you’re going to do is the word nap, right?

I’m I’m gonna take a nap.

Always contextualize it.

I’m thinking about a nap right now, actually.

Adam, ’cause it’s so cool outside.

But always contextualize that in a sentence, use it in a sentence, and then have them segment it and then write it so that that would be done at the same time.


Because when it takes it from the segmenting is kind of abstract, right?

Then the writing is more concrete.

So you’ll want to take those two.

I would do those at the same.

So are you?

Are you pulling?

And I know we keep going on on with this, so I don’t mean to keep asking, but I’m asking for my own purpose.


Really I am that may.

If any of you are getting this too, then great.

But let’s say you have group ABC and D, right?

You have four groups are, and there are students in each group that needs some letter naming recognition.


Are you pulling Group A and covering everything you just talked about right now, and then pulling Group B?

Are you pulling Group A, working on just letter naming fluency, sending them back out, pulling Group B, working on just letter name fluency, sending them back out, and then pulling Group A back later to do those other strategies?


Or are you doing it all while you have them at your table?

Well, you know, often times our students who have the highest needs have the hardest amount of self regulation, right?

So for them to sit through a 20 minute set of lessons would be challenging, right?


That would be. 5 minutes.

Quick letter naming fluency.


Go back what I would do.

You know if if this is your intensive group, they usually need all the things, right?

They need all the things and So what I would do is I would take my intensive group.

I would do maybe a 6 to 9 minute set of lessons that would cover maybe three different things.


OK, letter naming, nonsense, word reading, right?

I would do that and then I would have them come back and do more of the other.

I don’t know.

If you were saying when you were talking about all these different skills, if that was during one little Strategy Group session or multiple sending them back.



I think she still wants to talk to you.

Siri still wants to talk to you.

Every time I say.


I’m doing stuff.

Leave me alone.

To the word series, she pops up.

I think that I think that what I’m finding it with the group that I’m working with is that there’s one group that is it’s too much for them to sit for 20 minutes, so they need to have that break in between.


I’m noticing that there’s another group that I have that that needs it, but they can do that just prior to diving into a decodable text.

So and then I have another group who needs it, but they also need two other things, but they could probably go through and do 20 minutes no problem.


So it just it you just have to kid watch and see.

Am I losing?

Who am I losing?

First of all, are they now, you know, doing, you know, bunking Bronco in their chair and no longer are tuning me out?

And sometimes it’s not the students who, it’s not always the students who are having an outward demonstration behavior that shows that you’ve lost them.


Sometimes they’ll just kind of shut down.

And I sometimes will get a glast over when I’m asking, you know, when somebody is talking to me and my cognitive load is high, I glass over after a while, I need to have a little break.

And so, so same with these students.


So their cognitive load is really high.

We need to make sure that we offer them those breaks so that they can go back to their centers, practice something that they’re really comfortable with and then come back.

And that’s that’s a great way to do it.

So, So the answer is.

It’s such a fine line of knowing when enough is enough and when you’ve hit that point of too much.


And that that all depends on you and your students, obviously.

But it is.

It’s tough.

I mean, donut, we say this all the time.

Don’t let everybody tell anybody ever tell you that teaching is easy because you’re dealing with.


I mean, it’s like squeezing a lemon.

For almost an hour and.

Oh my gosh.

We’ve only talked about this little tiny chunk of a school day, right?


You know, it’s like, it’s like squeezing a lemon.

You can squeeze it and then as you continue to squeeze, less and less is coming out of it.

It’s better just to get a new lemon and then come back right, instead of just keep squeezing and squeezing that extra second or two or minute or 10 minutes out of that lesson.


That’s a good analogy.

I’m stealing that.

That’s a good one.

We’ve got Lemon for a bit, yeah.

I don’t.

Even know I think this answers, I hope it answers her question and and then some.

I know there are a lot of comments on that primary collaborative post that people were excited about the podcast being back.


I’m so excited to be back talking to you.

I was looking forward to this today.

So yeah, let’s talk.

I don’t know about next time because we might have a special guest coming up soon, but.

Really exciting.

Stick around everyone.

We’ll we’ll talk more about how the actual centers are structured.


What is going on when you’re not with the rest of the kids who are not at your table.

I know I’ve got some ideas to share on that that I I work when I go out with teachers.

I know you’ve got ideas with that as well.

But yeah, good talks today.

This was this was very informative.

I’m so excited to go take these strategies with my, my, my little guys I work with.


Well, good.

I’m glad.

I’m glad.


All right, you guys have a great week and we’ll talk to you next time.




About the Podcast

The Classroom Collaborative Podcast is a show about teaching, classroom, and education. We tackle new classroom tips and tricks in every episode.

About Your Hosts

Deedee Wills is an early childhood educator, instructional coach, and international educational consultant. She is also the author of the award-winning blog, Mrs. Wills Kindergarten.

Adam Peterson is a kindergarten teacher, nationally recognized speaker, and educational consultant. He also the creator of the popular YouTube channel,

I hope you enjoyed this episode! See you on the next one!

Deedee & Adam

Deedee and Adam talk about how to set up small groups in the age of science of reading. What to keep and what to modify!

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Deedee and Adam talk about how to set up small groups in the age of science of reading. What to keep and what to modify!


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