Honor exceptional teachers and school leaders by nominating them for EL Education’s 2022 Educator Awards by June 30th!

Implementing the K-2 Reading Foundations Skills Block

This video shows the K-2 Skills block in action in Brenna Schneider and Katie Benton's Kindergarten and Second Grade classrooms at Lead Academy in Greenville, South Carolina.  It shows how the teachers prepare, assess and group students, select and manage materials, and foster students' self-management and smooth transitions during differentiated small group time. The video addresses common questions and challenges teachers face when implementing this component of the EL Education Language Arts curriculum at grades K-2, in particular how to make most strategic use of the differentiated small group time. 


- [Narrator] At Lead Academy in Greenville, South Carolina, foundational skills are taught in a way that meets the needs of all learners and that values how primary students learn best. The reading foundation skills block is one hour of daily instruction and one critical component of EL Education’s Language Arts curriculum. The skills block is structured with 15 to 20 minutes of whole-group instruction and 40 to 45 minutes of differentiated small-group instruction to ensure that all students are given systematic and targeted instruction to crack the alphabetic code. The skills block is based on the phases of reading and spelling development developed by Dr. Linnea Ehrie. These phases describe the types of alphabetic connections that readers are currently making. EL Education worked with Dr. Ehrie to break the phases down into micro-phases that more specifically track student’s progression along the continuum as they become increasingly proficient readers.

- What I like about the EL curriculum is that it does provide us with kind of a professional development, in realizing exactly how it is that kids learn how to read.

- This curriculum is really designed around understanding student’s microphases and understanding the micro phases in general. And the nonce you understand those microphases and where those student’s fall, it’s much easier to pinpoint what they need.

- [Narrator] In this video you will learn how the hour of skills block unfolds. How to use various assessments to inform grouping and instructional planning. Which curricular resources are available to you. Yearly cycles and the K to 2 continuum. And the power of a self managed classroom and smooth transitions with song.

- ♪ When we read the story you will grow ♪ at the end you’ll say back what you know. ♪ Our song told us that we are going to gather around, and we are going to listen to a story and read a story that we all can retell.

- [Narrator] Whole group instruction includes a brief opening, followed by ten to fifteen minutes of work time.

- The reason why we start together is to acclimate the students or introduce them to a new topic. It could be that we’re introducing a new sight word that day, that we’re introducing a de-codable reader. It’s important that we spend those fifteen twenty minutes together kind of going over what is on grade level. And then we break up into smaller groups.

- [Narrator] During work times students practice skills such as phoneme and grapheme identification, analyzing spelling patterns, or fluency.

- This is showing us it’s in lowercase, so we need to find a lowercase I, okay?

- [Narrator] During differentiated small group instruction, teachers work with a small group of students in the same micro phase. Students who are not working with the teacher engage in purposeful Independent rotations. Including accountable independent reading, word work, writing practice, and reading fluency.

- After they move from the whole group lesson into the small differentiated rotations, that’s the meat of our skills block time. It’s 45 minutes and that’s where they’re getting to work with groups and getting to work on activities that are differentiated based on their abilities.

- [Narrator] Students are grouped by micro-phases which are informed by bench mark assessments. The assessment conversion chart allows teachers to determine the skills students need to build in order to move along the K to 2 continuum of lessons.

- Not only are their benchmark assessments in skills block but there are also ongoing assessments as well. We use snapshot assessments as well as cycle assessments.

- We are able to gather information on a regular and weekly basis on where their progress is headed and where they’ve been, and what specific skills they need to work on.

- [Narrator] Embedded assessment lets teachers intentionally select targeted activities from the differentiated small group section of the lessons, the activity bank, the differentiation pack, and their own resources, to meet the specific needs of students based on their micro-phases.

- Did anyone find any other ies words on these two pages? No, I didn’t see any other ones either.

- [Narrator] While students engage in purposeful Independent rotations, teacher meets with approximately three small groups per day. Students who need the most support meet with the teacher every day. For each group, the teacher refers to the suggested activities provided in the lesson including reteaching or extending the whole group lesson. Or activities from the activity bank, or differentiation pack.

- They do look forward to working with one another, but also working during that whole group time and getting to spend that quality time with me each day.

- Let’s take a look at our second learn chart that we were going to identify words that did not play fair.

- [Narrator] During closing and assessment students identify what they did to become more proficient readers, and set and reflect on personal goals.

- [Child] So you stayed on topic?

- Yes.

- So what did you do when you got stuck on a word? Sonom.

- [Sonom] I sounded it out in my head.

- You sounded it out in your head. Could we have sounded it out, out loud as well?

- [Many Kids] Wha-i-ff...

- [Narrator] Each of the years four modules are broken up into five day cycles, each with an intentional sequence of instructional practices repeated throughout the year.

- Everything comes back around, so then it becomes much more fluid and natural for the teacher and the students because they know what to expect and we as the teachers know what to expect as well.

- [Narrator] Predictable cycles and repeated instructional practices both help foster and require a self managed classroom.

- Creating a self managed classroom is extremely important during skills block. We spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year not only setting those norms, and the students set those norms on their own, we also practiced what it looks like to transition and what it looks like to just uphold those norms without the activities being there. And then when we did marry the two and practice our norms with our activities, it was just great to see that they really could manage themselves to accomplish something without the teacher reminding them to do their work.

- They also like taking that responsibility and ownership for their learning, and realizing that oh hey, I’m in charge of my learning now. I’m in charge of my own behavior. I’m in charge of my management. And that’s a very empowering position for a second grader to be in.

- [Narrator] Throughout the skills block, songs provide joyful, smooth, and efficient transitions from whole group to differentiated small group instruction, and in between rotations.

- They know that their voices need to be singing versus talking.

- [Children Singing] ♪ Everybody do your share. ♪

- My students love going to skills block, they love being challenged and that brings them joy.

- I really love this curriculum. Thinking back to August and where some of my kids were, I had kids that came in that couldn’t read, couldn’t speak English, and I am just so impressed with the progress that my students have made.

- I know a lot more specifically what their needs are, and I can plan in a much more intentional fashion to meet those needs and meet those students where they are and get them where they need to be.

Read More

Created By

EL Education

Resource Downloads

Please log in to access the downloadable resources.

Related School