Helping out those Struggling First Grade Readers

Hi everyone! I know, it has been for-ever! I have been working like crazy on this and that, not trying to neglect my poor little ol' blog. :) Since my job was sort of created out of thin air this year, I've been working hard to develop a solid curriculum. You may remember that I work at a private school, so we don't have public funding, and we don't have a big system set up in our school...yet.  I read and I read and I read, trying to make sure I'm doing everything right. I just went to the best conference ever on dyslexia. I hope to go to more because I left there feeling so energized! So this is my disclaimer: I am not, nor do I in any way, claim to be an expert. At all! I am just trying to help my students become readers. :) So I'm a little nervous sharing with you all about what I do during the day, since many of you are experts!  I'm working in small groups or one on one with students who are reading below grade level or struggling to keep up in class because of reading issues. (I do have a few students with dyslexia who I meet with more intensely.) The lesson plans I'm about to show you are for my small groups of first graders who are reading below grade level, but progressing well. 

Here are two weeks worth of plans: 
(Remember, I only work 3 days this year and the other two are spend with my 2 year old)

(Earlier in the year there was a phonological awareness section)

1. Phonics 
We usually start our day with a phonics lesson. We've been working on silent e for the past couple weeks. Here, students are adding a little silent e snow person to each word. This is day two of this activity. The first day, I modeled with a few words and we did several words together. Here, they are doing it independently (with me listening to all of them closely). They also read to the group when they were done practicing. 

This will be available soon.


We also did this igloo activity that comes from my first grade January literacy center pack. 

Then we matched snowflake parts to make silent e words. (Also from my January pack)

Next week, we'll do a real and nonsense word sort with silent e words.

And another sorting activity where they sort by word family:

Here's a favorite of mine. The cover the snowflakes with different onsets to make as many words as they can. I do this first as a group activity where I model sounding out different matches. Then we do several as a group and finally, they do a bunch on their own.

 The last 3 will be available soon in my Winter Hands-on Pack!

I also just got this AMAZING unit from my friend Becca. If you are doing silent e, you will definitely want this. This unit has a ton of great activities for practicing silent e and it's ADORABLE! I wish I had this when I started my silent e unit a few weeks ago. It's perfect! 
Click on the picture to check it out:

I know this looks like a lot but one thing I've found is that these kiddos need practice, practice, practice! We do a little each day so I'm hoping it'll help with their fluency while reading these sound out words.

2. Sight words
Most of my students really struggle with memorizing these sight words so I always try to dedicate time to them. I usually pick a few words to focus on each week, but no more than 2 or 3. Here is a little worksheet I made for them to search for the word there. I really love this font by Carrie because it shows the shape of the word.

They love using beads to make words. I usually have the beads mixed up and they put the beads in order, read the word, then do it again and again. 

Classic magnetic letters is always a winner! Here I had a different word on each board. 2 were new words and three were review words from the previous weeks. THey had to put the letters in order, read the word, then write the word 3 times. Then we rotated seats. 


Play dough sight words are a favorite! Thanks Becca! :)

So are these sticker books from Sarah Cooley:

3. Fluency/ Shared Reading Activities

Depending on how much time I have, this activity may vary. I use these "fluency strips" to work on fluency (obviously), and to focus on our sight word of the week. I also try to integrate the phonics skill we're working on (some fluency strips with lots of silent e words, for example). Here, I used the words come and/or down in all of the strips. Again, trying to get those sight words mastered! (On this day, they all had to make the word come or down with their beads then read one fluency strip). They practice their fluency strip until they are, well, fluent. Then they read it to the group. 

I ended up copying these onto blue construction paper.

Here's a close up of one (that isn't on blue paper):

When I have a little more time, I love to write short stories or poems to use for shared reading. I try to use poems or stories with my sight word(s) of the week OR my phonics focus. They are not going to be winning any literary awards any time soon, but they get the job done. I try to make sure there is some type of story in there so we can work on comprehension too. :) 


The story on the left uses the words come and down a lot! I ended up using this poem for two weeks because that's how long it took them to be fluent. We had plenty of activities to do:

  • We visualized and drew what was happening
  • We searched for quotation marks and periods
  • We spent a day working on our cat and dog and narrator voices (because the characters are a cat and a dog).
  • We searched for the sight words and we searched for inflectional endings
See? Plenty to do! :)

The story on the right uses the words there and where. This is the student's copy. She is highlighting the sight words of the week. I hope to make a pack of these sometime in the future. (For now, you might want to check Classy Collaboration to download this one).

4. Guided Reading: This is the part where students get to practice all the strategies we've been working on.  During guided reading, we focus on a particular strategy. 

Click on the picture to read more about using strategies.

I start by reading the title and set a purpose for reading. We discuss any vocabulary, as needed. Then the kids "whisper read" first, then we read together. Sometimes I give them sticky notes to use, depending on what our focus is for the day. They love any chance to use a sticky note. :) After reading, we always do a quick comprehension activity (usually questions or a graphic organizer that helps illustrate a skill). I try to focus on a comprehension skill each week, but that doesn't always work out. 

I use several different resources during guided reading.  I love! That is where I get my leveled readers. There are SO many great books there. The students I work with need extra support when reading most of these books, but we love them! Here, I used one of their projectable books to read together. It was our first "How to" book, so I thought it would be best to do it together. There are tools on the side, like a highlighter. I used the highlighter to show all of the transitional words like first, second, next, finally, etc. After reading this story, we did a sequencing graphic organizer.  We were able to practice those "how to" words again (first, second, last, etc).

You can also print and read this one: also has some decodable readers. This one is a long a book!

A couple weeks ago, my friend Jenny wrote a great post about this website. You can read about it here.

Sometimes we read short stories that I write, like these: 

 We also use the first grade reading program (a basal with little leveled readers).  I don't have pictures of that though. 

I also use some phonics-based readers.
(This is from earlier in the year.)

5. Writing is not on my official lesson plan template, but it should be! I ALWAYS do writing in some way during my lesson, whether it be practicing writing complete sentences or response to reading. It is usually a small writing task, but so important. 

I hope this post helps you plan your reading time with your first grade students! I'd love to hear what you do with your firsties. :)

I have a few freebies over at A Classy Collaboration to share with you all. Head on over to grab yours!


  1. Your plans look very similar to mine each week- I'm a reading specialist for kdg & 1st grade! I love Reading A-Z too- so many great books on there!
    Aylin :)
    Learning to the Core

  2. I am going to use some of your tips for my coming evaluation! Love your ideas! When will the first "silent e" activity be available?! That's so cute!

  3. Good comments - I learned a lot from the analysis ! Does anyone know where my assistant could grab a blank a form form to use ?

  4. Hi Alaine! my friend used a template a form form using this