I’ve recently had a lot of colleagues reach out and request ideas for planning structured literacy lessons. There are many ways to organize lessons in a structured way. As mentioned in the introduction of this blog, structured literacy lessons include many components, including phonology (speech sounds), orthography (writing system/spelling conventions), syntax (structure of sentences), and morphology (meaning of words/word elements).
Throughout my Orton Gillingham training and practicum, I developed a lesson plan template that works for me. Although the components of the lessons were (and continue to be) consistent, it’s important to find a flow that works for you. Attached below is a template that I use when tutoring, where my lessons are approximately 60 minutes long. I acknowledge that an hour-long lesson with a small group in a classroom isn’t realistic. If you are using a template such as mine, I would recommend planning out the flow of instruction, then breaking the lesson into logical chunks to complete over several days.
Here are the core components that I include in my lesson, with a brief description of each one.
I always like to start my lesson with a Phonemic Awareness activity. It is really important to make sure your focus for Phonemic Awareness is linked to your current lesson objective, or a review of a previous concept that was noted to need consolidation. I tend to do this section orally, as there are plenty of opportunities in the remaining lesson to link phonemes (sounds) with graphemes (letter and letter combinations).
When shown a phonogram card, students say the letter name(s) while simultaneously tracing/forming the letter (this can be done on a multisensory board, in the air, or on any textured surface). Students then give all associated phonemes in order of most common to least common. Keywords are taught and repeated until the phonic is known automatically. Students can also state any patterns they have been taught when presented with a phonogram (e.g., use <-ck> after a single, short vowel).
Auditory Drill (both oral and written)
In the Auditory Drill, the teacher says a phonogram, then the student repeats the phonogram. The student then orally gives the name of the letter/letter combinations that can represent that phonogram. I tend to do this activity orally after the Visual Drill, and again, later in the lesson, in written form as a warm-up before the Word Dictation section. To change it up, I sometimes have students find the letter tile/tiles to represent a phonogram rather than have them write it.
Syllable Work/Word Structure Work/Grammar
In this section of my lesson, I teach/consolidate larger, more structural concepts. I might review syllable types and have students do a word sort. I might use a word matrix to build words using a base + affixes. I might review a grammar concept such as nouns, verbs or adjectives. These overall foundational concepts are an important part of a structured literacy program and help students understand the framework within which phonology/orthography exists.
At this point in the lesson, I have the students practice blending with know phonograms. Please see my post on blending for a more detailed description of what this can look like.
Review Words to Read
In this section, students are presented with a selection of words to read. I tend to use a masking card to allow students to only see one row of words at a time. If a student comes to a word they do not know, they use a strategy:
- in beginning lessons, I have students first say a phoneme for each letter, then blend and read
- once students are solid with consonant sounds, I have them just say the vowel sound, then blend
- once students are solid with vowel and consonant sounds but are learning word pattern such as syllable types, I may ask them what they notice about the structure of the word (e.g., it is the pattern vowel-consonant-e), then read the word
Only known concepts should be included in the Review Words section.
Students need to be introduced to irregular words. Irregular words are words that are not phonemically regular. That being said, many so called “irregular words” can be explained by delving into morphology. When words are related in meaning, they are related in spelling. This knowledge can lead us on a path of inquiry to become “word detectives”, and find out why words are spelled the way they are. Some examples of this can be found in my “Scope and Sequence” section, where I have suggested tips for helping students understand the spelling of some of these “irregular words”.
The process for introducing irregular words is the following:
- teacher presents the new irregular word and asks student if they can read the word
- teacher and student discuss the meaning of the word, including its grammatical function
- teacher and student examine the word, and discuss related words (if applicable)
- map the part(s) of the word that are expected (phonemically regular), and the parts of the word that are unexpected (phonemically irregular) – where possible, find other related words to help explain the “irregular” component
- student reads word, builds word with tiles or letters, then writes the word for additional practice
New Concept and New Words to Read
Introducing a new concept depends on the level of your student. Ideally, you want to try to elicit a response based on your student’s current knowledge. We don’t wants students to guess, we want them to draw on their current understanding to make a reasonable hypothesis about a new concept.
For example, if I was introducing the phonogram <oy>, I would first present the keyword “boy”, which is a reasonably high frequency word. I would then ask the student to read the word if they can. Once read, I would underline the phonogram <oy>, and ask the student to identify the phoneme represented by the phonogram. If working with a very beginning student, I would read the keyword for them rather than have them attempt the word and read it incorrectly. I would then make a phonogram card for the concept, and write the keyword on the back.
Students then read a new word list, comprised of multiple examples of the new concepts. First start with single syllable words, then move on to polysyllabic words. Here is a sample word list that you might want to use for the phonogram <oy>:
Phrases and Sentences to Read
Students are first presented with phrases to read. In my Orton Gillingham training, I was taught to present different types of phrases for students to read. In early lessons, we presented noun phrases, verb phrases, and prepositional phrases. Students would practice reading each phrase, using a masking card if needed to see only one phrase at a time. If errors are made, students are stopped right away – if possible, attempt to elicit the correct response from student. Again, try not to tell the student what they did wrong, rather try to help them to use their own knowledge to correct their own mistake. Sometimes they may need a prompt in the form of a question to jog their memory. Sometimes they may need a full concept review. If full concept reviews are needed too often, however, you may need to readjust your pace and spend more time consolidating before you move on to a new concept.
Sentence reading follows the same procedure. If phrases and sentences are choppy or have little phrasing, have students reread for fluency. As in all components of the lesson, phrases and sentences should only contain taught concepts.
The Word Dictation section of the lesson is where students practice writing words containing the newly taught concept, and review previously taught concepts. I follow this procedure:
- teacher says the word, student repeats the word
- if the student knows how to spell the word, student orally spells word first – if correct, student then writes the word and says each grapheme aloud as they write
- if student does not know how to spell the word, student segments the phonemes, then states the grapheme for each phoneme heard
- student then writes the word and says each grapheme aloud as they write
- when finished writing, student reads word aloud and checks for errors
- if word is more complex (i.e., compound, polysyllabic or base + affix), student identifies each syllable and/or affix and completes above process, one syllable at a time
The writing procedure for dictated phrases/sentences is similar, but a bit more independent. First, I dictate the phrase/sentence, then the student needs to repeat the phrase/sentence until it is held in memory. This part is crucial – the goal is to have the student retain the phase/sentence throughout the writing process. The student then writes the phrase/sentence independently, implementing the same strategies as used above in Word Dictation. When finished, the student reads back all phrases/sentences, then uses an editing checklist to review their work.
I’ve attached a version of a C.H.O.P.S. editing checklist that I created. It has multiple versions included (ax chopping, vegetable chopping, and karate chopping). Each version has a strip version that can be used as a bookmark, and a “table tent” version that can be folded and placed on a table where students are working.
Reading of Connected Text (controlled)
The final lesson section is where students put it all together and read a connected text. The text should be controlled (only include concepts previously taught), particularly in very beginning lessons. As the student progresses, a small number of challenge words (multisyllabic words, words with unusual pronunciation, or content words) can be added in, but they should always be reviewed before reading. It is important to always direct students back to the concepts they know and have them problem solve as much as possible if they make an error. Again, try to avoid “telling” students the correct word, rather have them draw on their experience and known concepts to realize and correct their mistake. Review of concepts after an error is corrected is recommended. Texts should be re-read if choppy, and comprehension questions or discussions should always follow reading.
Lesson Plan Template
Here is a google form of my lesson plan template. Please feel free to adjust and use in a way that works best for your students.
This is so great Lee Ann! I’m really loving your posts about Structured Literacy. Thanks for sharing!