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.
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:
- Phonemic Awareness
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 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:
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:
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:
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:
Assessments! Make Your Instruction is Data-Driven!
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
- How To Teach Blending Letter Sounds And Word-Building In Kindergarten
- Tips On How To Teach A Kindergarten Interactive Read-Aloud Lesson
- Phonics And Phonemic Awareness | Are They The Same?
- Science of Reading: What is Word Mapping and How Do I Teach It?
Here are some suggested books to get you rolling:
A Fresh Look at Phonics, Grades K-2: Common Causes of Failure and 7 Ingredients for Success by Wiley Blevins
- Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates
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.
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
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. 🙂
Good day D , do you mind sharing one of your editable lesson plans ,like the colorful one above? that would really help me
The lesson plans are part of our Science of Reading Curriculum. I am sorry, I do not have a free editable lesson plan available.
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.
Oh no! I am sorry! I will email you the curriculum map.
where is the lesson plan?
The lesson plans are included in our Science of Reading curriculum. That program is linked within the blog post.
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?
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.
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?
I just sent it your way via email. 🙂
Can you send it to me too? [email protected]
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 🙂
Good evening, can you share the happy planner binder rings and hole puncher used and did you use plastic covers?
Yes! Here you go:
Hole Punch: https://amzn.to/3zzm0Zm
Thank you Mrs. Wills!
I can’t get the website to accept my name and email address for the free 400+ page curriculum map
I will email you.
Do you have a science of reading lesson plan template that could be used with my reading series?
I have a blank lesson plan template. Can you email me? [email protected]
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?
Yes! Here is the link for the year-long phonics: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Phonics-Worksheets-Lessons-for-Kindergarten-1st-Grade-Science-of-Reading-5752676