I’ve got a question for you, and it’s a popular one among teachers today: Are you Team Leveled Readers or are you Team Decodables? It’s my hope that you’re the last one, but if I am honest, I avoided decodable books for a long time. I just couldn’t see the purpose behind them because I was so rooted in a balanced literacy approach. At the time, I thought all students needed a “balance” during my small group time - a little phonics work followed up with a leveled reader to hit the comprehension component.
I thought that if I gave students strategies to solve words (like looking at the picture or just the beginning sound), the fluency and comprehension would eventually come…
…but it never really did. But then… I leaned more into the research. The research said that in order for our students to become fluent, they MUST be able to connect the letters they see to their sounds. The only way we do this is with explicit phonics instruction. To ensure a well-rounded phonics lesson, we as teachers need a comprehensive approach that incorporates various components such as phonemic awareness, cumulative review, explicit teaching, decodable text, and dictation. In this blog post, We will explore how we can use Just Right Reader decodable texts to effectively support these components, fostering a solid foundation for reading success.
I want to start by saying that I have used Just Right Reader for the past two years and have seen a great deal of success with my students. Not only do the books contain tips and tricks to ensure I’m hitting all of the important literacy components, but they also compliment the scope and sequence that I created and use to guide our reading instruction here at Literacy Edventures. At the end of this blog post, be sure to check out the link that shows you what a lesson might look like in action.
But first things first -
Let’s break down the lesson.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Just Right Reader offers engaging activities that promote phonemic awareness, such as sound blending, segmenting, rhyming, and syllables. These interactive exercises help students develop a strong auditory foundation, enabling them to recognize and manipulate sounds in words effortlessly.
I love starting my lessons with a phonemic awareness warm up. We know from research that blending and segmenting phonemes is one of the best exercises we can do to encourage decoding. We also know that it's crucial to apply those skills to print as soon as possible.
In this lesson, I conduct a quick phonemic awareness warm up using words that connect to both the phonics skill and decodable text we will be reading later on in the lesson. For an added bonus, we use popits to make it fun and engaging.
Cumulative review is essential in reinforcing previously-learned phonics skills. Just Right Reader incorporates regular review activities that revisit previous phonics concepts. By revisiting these skills, students solidify their understanding and build connections between new and previously-learned phonics patterns. One aspect I love about their decodables is the fact that the previously-taught phonics patterns are incorporated in the texts that are teaching them the new skill.
In this lesson, I do a quick visual drill to solidify and review previously-taught sounds. I then follow up with a blending drill where students and I segment and blend words together.
Explicit teaching involves providing clear and direct instruction on specific phonics skills. Just Right Reader offers explicit teaching lessons that introduce new phonics concepts in a systematic and structured manner. These lessons provide step-by-step guidance, ensuring that students grasp the targeted skills effectively.
The lesson I used during this lesson was lesson number eleven. This provided a guide as I worked through the lesson. In this portion of the lesson, I remind students that the digraph sh is one sound. It is made by putting two consonants together to make a brand new sound. We then connect that sound to print by using Elkonin boxes to map and write several words. I chose to use words from the text Cass and the Wish, which is the book we read in the application piece of the lesson.
Decodable texts play a vital role in phonics instruction, as they allow students to practice applying their newly-acquired phonics skills in context. Just Right Reader provides a wide range of decodable books that align with the phonics pattern focus. These books are carefully designed to include controlled vocabulary and predictable text, enabling students to practice their decoding skills with confidence.
I begin the lesson by introducing and discussing the title. I also discuss new vocabulary and provide students with a quick overview of the book. I help students make a connection with the title by asking them if they have ever made a wish before and if so, did it come true?
We then read the book. We choral read the first page and then I ask students to independently read the text, stopping at the designated stopping areas. Just Right Reader suggests using sticky notes as visual cues that allow students time to “stop and think.” During this time, I ask questions, check for understanding, and review vocabulary.
We end the lesson by simply retelling the story. The students are always so excited to find out that yes, Cass got her wish!
Dictation exercises are an excellent way to assess students' phonics knowledge and spelling skills. Just Right Reader incorporates dictation activities that require students to listen to a word or sentence and write it down. This component helps students reinforce their phonics skills while simultaneously developing their spelling abilities. I did not include dictation in this specific lesson due to time constraints, but my suggestion is to add dictation into your lessons at least three times per week.
A comprehensive phonics lesson should encompass various components to ensure students' mastery of phonics skills. Just Right Reader offers a valuable resource that incorporates phonemic awareness activities, cumulative review, explicit teaching, decodable text, and dictation exercises.
By utilizing this Just Right Reader, educators can provide their students with a well-rounded phonics experience, setting them on the path to becoming confident and proficient readers.
Click here to check out a Just Right Reader lesson in action.
Amie is a K-5 Literacy Coach who’s passionate about creating hands-on + engaging literacy activities that follow the science. She taught in the classroom for 5 years before moving into her current coaching role where she has been for 10 years. Amie holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Radford University and a master’s degree in literacy education k-12. Amie is both Orton-Gillingham and LETRS trained. Aside from being a literacy coach within her district, Amie mentors and supports teachers and school districts through her business Literacy Edventures, and her Route2Reading Membership.