The school I work at developed and uses a phenomenal reading program called Sound Shapes Precision Phonics™. You can read more about the program here. This is the foundation for anything more we can in the lower elementary classroom. Sometimes, we have students who are still going through step program and learning the sounds of the letters. This often occurs when families haven't enrolled their children in our Montessori program until Kindergarten or 1st grade and are making up for lost time, as the typical age for starting this program is pre-school.
Once the sounds have been mastered in isolation, the students are ready to tackle the big challenge of reading an actual book, and they are excited! We start with a series called Phonics Practice Readers with four different sets and increasing difficulty. The sight words at this level are taught only by the teacher simply saying it in flow of the reading and giving the student room to learn it through repetition. Comprehension comes in through a variety of ways: hosting a class play over the simple story, discussing the story one on one or in a small group, and sequencing the three main events at the back of the book.
Now that your students have accomplished reading two vowel words, they're ready for the next step. We use High Noon Phonics Chapter Books to begin scaffolding students to read more independently and analytically. These books are great for students trying to gain fluency and still need phonics based books. The books consist of 6 chapters with increasing difficulty. They are also a very affordable option! Click here to learn more about the series.
I utilize the books by having the student read one chapter and then using a Reading Comprehension tool that I developed to answer questions. This tool gives students the chance to get familiar with a a paper-test format and answer "wh" questions in a very short manner. Each book can take up to a week for a student to get through. If you're interested in purchasing this comprehension tool for your classroom, click here.
I have set all contents in a filing system in our classroom. This allows the students to gather the materials they need. The answer guide is also a dynamic sheet that allows the students to answer all 10 questions for 6 chapters on one piece of paper, rather than using the whole test each time for each student. I store the tests back to back in sheet protectors so students can use them as they go and learn the skill of marking the answer on a different page.
This is a transition from the High Noon books, into a more difficult reading passage. Reading for Concepts are non-fiction texts with 7-8 questions on the back. The levels are not of varying difficulty, but can take students awhile to get the hang of the types of questions they ask. This is more outdated to me and isn't in typical lingo that you might find on a state test, but it can be a great resource for nonfiction texts and the students enjoy reading the stories! They have historical significance and feature increasingly difficult vocabulary. I would suggest these books as a 2nd or 3rd grade reading level. You can learn more about this program here. The same filing system can be used with this program too, so that is helpful when trying to conserve paper! This time, about 15 stories with 7-8 questions are featured on one piece of paper. All of the types of questions also align, for example "all of question one for all stories is a question about key vocabulary." It's easy to really hone in on which kind of questions are confusing students or where their struggle is.
Book Club, or guided reading groups, is a reverent place for reading. A guided reading group is a collection of students no more than 6 people, each with their own copy of the text. In the group, the students can take turns orally reading aloud, while the rest of the students track with their fingers. Discussions to encourage a connection to the story, or refining reading skills is key. There are also a variety of work you can set up in the classroom to extend learning in book club. Another utilization is for students to have assignments (depending on their age and ability level) to do a visual or written response, taking chapter quizzes or end of the book tests, a variety of projects, or a book presentation or play.
To group students according to similar reading abilities, the teacher must be flexible to change groups as needed. Sometimes a student just goes through a reading explosion and is ready for a more advanced group. It takes careful practice of the teacher to model appropriate behavior and poise when having a discussion about a book, as well as observation about if someone is getting "too good" for the group and becoming bored (boredom = behavior), or if they're struggling and losing all of their confidence.