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What Does a Science of Reading Lesson Plan Look Like? Free File Too

What does a science of reading lesson plan look like? AND how do I teach it. Let me share some insight and give you some practical ideas for structured literacy instruction!

What Does a Science of Reading Lesson Plan Look Like?

The Science of Reading Lesson Approach or the Orton-Gillingham Approach to instruction feels like a trend or a fad.  However, it is really everything BUT a trend!  It feels like it is brand new, but it has been around for decades.  If you have been teaching for a few years, I am sure you have felt the pendulum swing of instructional approaches.  It feels a wee bit like diets… right?  Fats are bad… fats are good.  Carbs are the devil, healthy carbs are the answer.  

Here is the deal with science, it is ever-evolving.  After all, if science did not advance, we would still be bloodletting for the common cold.  Whew!  I am thankful I was not walking the planet in the 1800’s.

Tools, such as MRI’s help pinpoint what happens in the brains of efficient readers and more importantly, what happens in the brains of readers who struggle.

I’m going to give you the juice on structured literacy when it comes to the science of reading. I will also give you an idea of what a science of reading lesson plan can look like.

Table of Contents

What is the Science of Reading?

The science of reading provides a lesson structure that includes the best practices that are suggested for reading foundational skills.  These include comprehension skills, phonics skills, phonemic awareness skills, and language structure that is needed for students to become fluent readers. 

First of all, I’m a practitioner, not a scientist, but I do love to read the science of reading research that is out there.  I will share what I currently know.  I would like to encourage you to do some research as well.  I have linked a few books towards the end of this post that has helped me in my journey into the Science of Reading.  Additionally, I have undergone extensive training in the Orton-Gillingham Approach or Structured Literacy.

Science of Reading encompasses a comprehensive collection of scientific knowledge.  Contributions, research,  and insights from developmental psychologists, educational psychologists, cognitive scientists, and cognitive neuroscience experts, and more have come together to share the methods that best help children learn to read.  These include the earliest stages of spoken language to being able to successfully decode unfamiliar words.

Who needs a Science of Reading Curriculum?

Um… everyone.  Literally everyone!  Originally, the Orton-Gillingham approach  (which dates back to the early 20th century) was used to help teach students with Dyslexia and other language-based learning issues. 

Let me give you some statistics:

  • One in five students, or 15-20% of the population, has a language-based learning disability. 
  • 38% of all fourth-grade students are “below basic” reading skills. They are at or below the 40th percentile for their age group.

– Source:  National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Kindergarten teachers – take a moment to think about your intervention groups.  When I taught using the guided reading approach to balanced literacy, every year, I had a small group with 4-5 students (15%-20% of my class) who struggled.

But this 15%-20% grew over time, as stated before, by the time they reached fourth-grade, that percentage grew to 38%.  Something is not right.  And that something is the way we have historically taught reading.  

According to science, most reading difficulties can be prevented.

If you were like me, a person who ate, drank, and slept guided reading, you might be feeling all of the emotions… none of them positive.  I totally understand that.  I spent 18 years learning, teaching, and training teachers in guided reading.  Ouch! Yes, guided reading has enabled some students to learn to read, but let’s go back to that data, 38% of the students can’t read proficiently by the fourth-grade.

Here is where you take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and vow to learn more.

What does a science of reading lesson plan look like? AND how do I teach it. Let me share some insight and give you some practical ideas for structured literacy instruction!

How Do We Teach a Science of Reading Lesson?

First, we need to remember that this direct and systematic instruction approach to teaching helps all students but it REALLY is essential for students who experience learning difficulties. These lessons can be taught during a small group lesson or during your whole group instruction.

Students with a language based learning difference will benefit immensely from small group instruction because they need to practice the skill more frequently to build the neural pathways that are needed to become proficient readers.

We want to be sure our daily direct instruction is explicit and includes these five essential components:

  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Fluency
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Comprehension

Research tell us that the two BIGGEST predictors of reading success is alphabet recognition and phonemic awareness.  If phonics skills are the racecar, phonemic awareness is the fuel.  JUST knowing letters and sounds is worthless if students are not proficient in putting them together (blending) and taking words apart (segmenting). 

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that a word is made up of a series of individual sounds.  As kindergarten teachers and first-grade teachers, you should have a systematic and explicit phonemic awareness set of lessons.  I can highly recommend the activities that Deanna Jump has created.  You can find them by clicking:

What Does a Science of Reading Lesson Plan Look Like? Free File Too 2
This is an example of Deanna's Phonological Awareness Unit Level One

Phonics Instruction 

Phonics instruction involves direct and explicit instruction on the common sound-spelling relationships in English.  Research tells us that students who have explicit instruction vs implicit instruction far surpass their peers.  Explicit instruction is critical for students with learning differences.

  • Explicit Instruction involves telling students what they will learn, why it is important, guided practice, and individual practice.  It also involves feedback and progress monitoring (ongoing assessment).
  • Implicit Instruction is exposure and exploration.  This is wonderful for things like STEM activities or Maker Space, but not for phonics instruction.  You might also see examples of exploration during the centers time (for example sorting letters by their features).  Keep those sorts of exploration activities in your center time, not in your instruction time… make sense?


Explicit instruction also involves looking closely at high-frequency words.  The teacher and students will examine the orthography of the word or why the words are spelled like they are.   They will annotate those “rule breakers” so students can make sense of the word. 

You can find these Phonics Lessons below:

Fluency Practice

Students should be practicing fluency skills on a daily basis and in a spiral fashion.  Meaning,  they learn new skills and constantly review and practice previously learned skills:

  • letter encoding –  producing the sound when they see the letter EXAMPLE:  Student sees the letter m and says, “m says /m/.”
  • letter decoding – hearing a sound and identifying the letter(s) that comprise that sound. EXAMPLE:  Student hears /m/ and says,  “m says /m/.”
  • sight word decoding – student sees the word and reads it.  EXAMPLE:  Sees the word here and says, “here” or “h-e-r-e spells here.”
  • sight word encoding – student hears the word and writes it.  EXAMPLE: Student hears the word  “here, then writes the word “here”.
  • blending and segmenting decodable words – students practice decoding and encoding words.


Students are explicitly taught vocabulary. As we know, some students enter school with limited literacy exposure, so ongoing vocabulary instruction is essential.  During kindergarten, we dedicate time for vocabulary instruction during our interactive read-aloud reading lessons. We also teach vocabulary during science and social studies.  

However, there are also opportunities to teach vocabulary within decodable texts as well. For example, words like tab (a multiple-meaning word), lax, jest, quip, jot, swine, and glum are perfect for additional vocabulary instruction.

Building background knowledge and context for new vocabulary words is the ultimate goal of vocabulary study.

You can see an example of a vocabulary lesson by clicking:

Vocabulary instruction. Quick and easy lesson plans to teach vocabulary through authentic texts for kindergarten, first, and second grade. Students develop reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge with these engaging activities.


The Science of Reading supports teaching comprehension in the primary grade via an interactive read-aloud. Since students’ listening comprehension exceeds their ability to decode in kindergarten and first grade, it is suggested the teacher handles the heavy lifting of reading a piece of literature like Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and the students do the thinking work through the interactive read-aloud lesson.

Our interactive read aloud (close reading) has made planning time easier. Each day we offer detailed lesson plans for each teaching point. Students are guided through complex texts that explore language comprehension and strengthen each student’s oral language skills.

You can get a free week-long example of an interactive read aloud by clicking:

Lillys Purple Plastic Purse lesson plans ideas for kindergarten and first grade. Students respond to the book during reading and interactive writing. Predicting, character analysis and more! Fun week of activities for your Kevin Henkes author study!

Assessments! Make Your Instruction is Data-Driven!  

Continuous progress monitoring is essential! This informs your instruction. I like to track data in two different ways. I carry a clipboard when I am giving lessons. These anecdotal notes provide quick visual and diagnostic assessments, without stopping instruction and they tell me:
  • Can they name the letter (ID)?
  • Can they write the letter (letter formation)?
  • Can they produce the sound when they see the letter? (decoding)
  • Can they hear the sound and identify the letter?

In this way, I can see which specific skills I need to review again with the class or perhaps in my reading groups.

These two pages are included in the unit.

What Does a Science of Reading Lesson Plan Look Like? Free File Too 3
You can annotate the sheet however you wish.
What Does a Science of Reading Lesson Plan Look Like? Free File Too 4
Tip: Copy the handwriting paper onto dry erase sheets and keep it on your clipboard. Then when you need to provide a little instruction, it is handy!

If there was a time machine and you were talking to me in 2012, my answers around student mastery would have been different.  I would have said students should be able to decode sight words in kindergarten to show mastery.  Today, based on what the science of reading tells us, students should be able to encode AND decode.  With the right type of instruction, this is a realistic expectation.

If you have ESGI, you can also assess and store this data in the system.  I have created assessments in ESGI and they are included in your subscription.  
ESGI Science of Reading Assessments

6 Daily Science of Reading Lesson Plan Components

So when I went through my Orton-Gillingham training, to say I was overwhelmed would be a major understatement.  To be clear IT! IS! A! LOT!   My head was spinning. It felt like there were a million moving parts.  One thing I like to do is to take complicated instructional practices and streamline and simplify them so they are still effective, but manageable for busy teachers.  Let’s see if this helps:

Step 1 – Warm up (decoding)– spend 4-5 minutes reviewing previously taught skills:

  • Sound slides: 15-20 slides  Students make the path of motion with their arm as they say, “b says /b/”
  • Blending slides: 15-20 slides of real and nonsense words  Students tap the sounds and blend them together
  • High-frequency word slides: students tap or cheer the words, then read, “said, s-a-i-d, said.”

Flashcards are great, but if you are all thumbs… it is rough!  As I said before, I like to simplify things.  I decided to make a PowerPoint file for each instructional day.  Each PowerPoint has letters, blends, and high-frequency words.  I wanted to be sure that I really made sure we reviewed the past learning as well as the most recent skills.

Step 2:  Review Sounds (encoding) 2-minute oral review of previously taught sounds (this is all auditory):

  • Teacher says /m/
  • Students reply, “/m/ M says /m/ while kinesthetically writing the letter with the correct path of motion (air writing, backtracking, shaving cream…)

Step 3: Review High-Frequency Words (encoding) 2-minute review of previously taught high-frequency words:

  • The teacher writes a high-frequency word on the board.
  • The teacher asks the students to take a mental picture of the word. Then the teacher erases the word.
  • Students kinesthetically write the word without a model

Step 4: Examine the Orthography of New High-Frequency Words:  Time varies based on the number of words being taught (no more than 5 minutes)

  • Each day the teacher selects 3-4 of the new high-frequency words to explicitly teach.
  • Students learn how to spell these words via orthographic mapping vs. memorizing.
What does a science of reading lesson plan look like? AND how do I teach it. Let me share some insight and give you some practical ideas for structured literacy instruction!

Step 5:  Dictation (encoding) 10 minutes:

  • The teacher will dictate sounds, decodable words, and sentences for students to write.
  • Students write their best effort first, then they are shown a model to write it again.
Sentence dictation is a great way to practice phonics skills and sentence structure at the same time.  It also helps you to see which new sounds students have mastered and which sounds students might need additional time with.

TIP: It is helpful to print these pages back to back then laminate them.  Should you wish to use this as an assessment, you can print them out.  These are included in the unit as well.

Step 6: Decodable Book Practice 5 minutes:

Complex skills are practiced each day in the decodable books.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Students practice reading their weekly book each day with their reading coach (classroom partner.)
  • Each day they practice for a different reason depending on the time of year or classroom need.
    • everyday fluency practice
    • look for letters/digraphs/blends
    • look for high-frequency words
    • mark the capital letters
    • mark the punctuation

These decodable books can then go home with a student to practice.

Your daily time commitment is 30 minutes per day.  

These weekly books are available in print or as a digital version.  

They are part of the whole group lessons:

Science of Reading Lesson Tips

When you start teaching this way, do yourself some favors.  Don’t start out with every single step.  You. Will. Lose. Your. Mind.  AND it will be an overload for your students.  Expect each part of the lesson plan to take a bit longer.  Don’t let it drag out, but also give yourself some grace.  Routines tack time.  If your entire class is a handwriting hot mess case study, you will need to slow down to practice the letter path of motion.  You want to build muscle memory and that takes time.

Have your materials handy and ready for your students.  Try to avoid “handing out” materials before each lesson.  That drains your time!  I simply laminated the dictation page.  Make a few extras in case one goes missing (sigh… they are 5-6 years old… it will happen.)  Sometimes students learn… if I can’t find it, I can sit this one out.  So remove that as an option by having extras.


As I said, start slow.  The first week, just work on Step 1 and Step 6. Then add a step each week until you are up to speed.

Believe that they can and believe that YOU can.  I have heard a lot of teachers say, teaching students to read in this way feels overwhelming.  Everything feels overwhelming when it is new.  For me, I would rather feel overwhelmed and push through it, than feel the frustration and tears from students who struggle.  I would rather push through it than experience the classroom disruption of a student who is feeling unsuccessful and is acting out.

Also remember, the kids are MOVING during these lessons.  In the timeless words of the B52’s, “Everybody’s moving, everybody’s groovin’.” This is NOT a sit-and-get activity.  This is active learning.

You may want to have the lessons printed and ready to go as well!  Even after you print them, you will want to make slight shifts as you observe your students’ needs.  Are you noticing that students need more time with a certain sound or word?  Review it more often.  Be flexible!

You can get the free lesson plan covers by clicking HERE.

Science of Reading Lesson Plans Done for You

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend your weekends doing something other than lesson planning?  We have done the lesson plans for you!

Science of Reading Professional Development

Sometimes it may feel like you are drinking through a firehose when you try to wrap your head around this level of instruction. I would like to encourage you to dig deeper, but don’t wait. Sometimes when we wait for profection, we never get started. If you were my teaching BFF (and I hope that you are) I would tell you to get started (guilty and raising my hand.) Instead, start now and continue to learn about what is considered best practices and revise your teaching accordingly.

Here is a blog post on Guided Reading that might help you:

Here are few other blog posts I have written about the Science of Reading?

Here are some suggested books to get you rolling:

Here is an online resource to help you in your journey to learn about The Science of Reading”

Free Science of Reading Downloadable PDF

Sometimes I retain information a bit easier when I can print it out and mark it up (I know… I’m old.)  I have created a resource that has the information above plus additional information and the research behind it.  You can use this printable Science of Reading PDF to:

  • Deepen your understanding of the Science of Reading
  • Share it with your team members
  • Share it with your curriculum leaders
  • Share it with your administration

Please do not repost this PDF elsewhere on the internet or claim the words as your own.

Free Science of Reading PDF with an overview of routines and lessons
Get this FREE Science of REading PDF
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What does a science of reading lesson plan look like? AND how do I teach it. Let me share some insight and give you some practical ideas for structured literacy instruction!

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Deedee Wills

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!

Hi, I'm DeedeE.

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!

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31 Responses

  1. Thanks for the steps and the encouragement. I do some of the steps but it is I consistent and scattered. You blog post will help

    1. I am so glad you found this blog post helpful! I TOTALLY identify with scattered! Hang in there and let me know if you need anything else. 🙂

  2. Good day D , do you mind sharing one of your editable lesson plans ,like the colorful one above? that would really help me

    1. Hi Mary!

      The lesson plans are part of our Science of Reading Curriculum. I am sorry, I do not have a free editable lesson plan available.

  3. I can’t get the website to accept my name and email address for the free 400+ page curriculum map.

    This would be a huge helpful tool for me, thank you for sharing.

    1. The lesson plans are included in our Science of Reading curriculum. That program is linked within the blog post.

  4. Now that I starting to implement your units for SOR, I am curious about how to tweak my (literally) thousands of centers in my possession into SOR appropriate centers. Feeling like high frequency words are the biggest confusion for me right now. Anyone else?

    1. I know what you mean Lauren! This shift was hard for me! I think the place I would suggest starting is with your sight word list and how you group your instruction around it. I grouped sight words as closely as I could to phonics… naturally there are the outlaws. LOL. then I changed the sight word scope and sequence to match the phonics skills.

      I will be discussing this on the 3rd webinar in the series I am doing. This will take place this Thursday, February 10th. There is a link in this blog post to sign up if you have not already.

      I hope that helps.

  5. I can’t get the website to accept my name and email address for the free 400+ page curriculum map.
    Is there any way it can be sent to me?

    Thank you!

        1. Hi Beth,
          Are you looking for the curriculum map? If so, there is a place on the homepage of my blog to enter your name and email to receive the file. Let me know if you are looking for something else 🙂

  6. Good evening, can you share the happy planner binder rings and hole puncher used and did you use plastic covers?
    Thank you!

  7. I can’t get the website to accept my name and email address for the free 400+ page curriculum map

  8. Do you have a science of reading lesson plan template that could be used with my reading series?

  9. Hi!

    The link to the suggested ‘year long phonics’ does not take me to that unit to purchase. It circles back to this blog post. I have searched the website and TPT with no luck. Is this phonics unit still able to be purchased?

    Thank you!

  10. i had left a prior qs but am not clear on your reply. Here’s a clearer qs – if I buy your year-long curriculum, is it self-contained? MUST I buy anything else in order to use it? (You recommended I read your article for my answer, but your article has tons of links to other materials as well, so I dont have the answer to my qs.)

    1. Hi there!
      The whole-group reading curriculum includes daily lesson plans to teach throughout the entire year. There are weekly decodable books (36 weeks), and daily teaching PowerPoints to teach letters, sounds, blending, and high-frequency words. There are also other supportive anchor charts and resources. If you are wanting additional decodable books, those are a separate resource. Additionally, if you are wanting additional phonics instruction, that is a separate unit.

  11. I realize I have so many questions because I can not get the website to accept my name and email address for the free 400+ page curriculum map. Can you send me the link. Do you also have a science of reading lesson plan template that I could use? Thank you, I am finally understand more how to implement the program. Helen

    1. Hi Helen!

      I will send you an email with the curriculum guide and a lesson plan template.

      1. Hi there! Will you also send me the curriculum map and lesson plan template? I signed up and received your email but cannot find those downloads. Thanks!

  12. Hello! This article has been extremely helpful for me in guiding my teaching this year, as my district is in limbo, searching for a new literacy curriculum. I am wondering if you teach all aspects of each day’s lesson in a whole group, particularly the dictation? And how do you differentiate with the decodable readers? I have such a wide range of learners this year, with some children just beginning to recognize letters in their name and others reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. I break them up into small groups after the main lesson, but find I’m not able to get to all of the components each day with everyone. Any tips? Thank you!

    1. Hi Roxy!

      I’m so glad this was helpful. Let’s see if I can clarify for you.

      1.) Yes, all aspects of the routine are taught whole group. Everyone is moving quickly, so you will keep pace with about 60% of your classroom. Those students who need more support will be able to model after you have written the sound/word/sentence so everyone can see it.

      2.) Differentiation: The whole group decodable text can be read as a shared reading. However, small group is really where to you do some real differentiation. During small group you will select a book that aligns with where that student or students are.

      As far as your higher students, I have found that often they can decode (read it) but they can’t encode (write it). So the dictation is really helpful as they gain mastery in both skills.

      Will you let me know that helps?


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