Setting Purpose: From Engagement Text to Decodables | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G1:S2:C5:L27

Setting Purpose: From Engagement Text to Decodables

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Daily Learning Targets

  • Opening A: I can retell the events from the story "Sam's Box."
  • Opening B (optional): Using evidence from the text, I can answer questions about the story "Sam's Box."
  • Work Time A: I can read high-frequency words and words that "don't play fair." (RF.1.3)
    • I can read first-grade words that "don't play fair" in isolation.
    • I can decode regularly spelled one-syllable words by mapping graphemes to phonemes.
  • Work Time B: I can read the decodable text: "Sam's Box." (RF.1.3)
    • I can decode regularly spelled one-syllable words by mapping graphemes to phonemes.
    • I can read words with an "-s" ending.
    • I can read first-grade words that "don't play fair" in text.
    • I can read and understand grade-level texts.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Observe students during Work Time.
    • Determine whether they can independently find a given letter or word.
    • Also determine whether they can decode VC, CVC, CCVC, and CVCC words and identify familiar sounds in or automatically read high-frequency words.



1. Opening (3-5 minutes)

A. Engagement Text Read-aloud: "Sam's Box"

B. Comprehension Conversation (optional)

2. Work Time (10-15 minutes)

A. High-Frequency Words: "from," "wants," "says," "see," "he," "had"

B. Decodable Reader: Partner Search and Read

3. Closing and Assessment (2 minutes)

A. Reflecting on Learning

4. Differentiated Small Group Instruction and Rotations (40 minutes)

In Advance

  • Prepare:
    • Comprehension Conversation questions (if different from suggested questions)
    • High-Frequency Word Cards (see supporting Materials)
    • Interactive Word Wall (one to display)
    • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)
  • Predetermine partnerships for retelling during Opening A and Work Time B.


Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T)

  • action, blend, decode, high-frequency, proficient, skills (L)
  • apartment, binoculars, curious, peeked, peered (T)


  • Enlarged Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box" (one to display)
  • Engagement Text: "Sam's Box" (one for teacher read-aloud)
  • Movable letters (magnetic letters, Letter Cards in a pocket chart, or other letters that can be displayed and moved; one each for teacher modeling: letters for the words "from," "wants," "says," "see," "he," "had")
  • High-Frequency Word Cards (one of each; for teacher to place on Interactive Word Wall; see supporting Materials)
  • Interactive Word Wall (one to display)
  • Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box" (one per student)
  • Highlighters (one per student and one for teacher)
  • Highlighter tape (optional; for the teacher to use to highlight the Decodable Reader)
  • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engagement Text Read-aloud: "Sam's Box"

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of "The More We Get Together"):

"Gather around together, together, together. It's time to hear a story, a story, a story. It's time to hear a story and say back what you learned."

  • Display the Enlarged Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box."
  • Begin a read-aloud of the Engagement Text: "Sam's Box":

1. Teacher says: "Listen carefully as I read today's story, 'Sam's Box.' You will hear words in the story that we learned in our last lesson. After I am finished reading, you will retell the story to a partner and answer some questions about it."

2. Teacher reads the story aloud once or twice without interruption, pointing to the accompanying illustrations or each section.

3. Students turn to a partner and retell the story in their own words.

  • Consider providing a copy of the Decodable Reader to students who need help with retelling the story. The illustrations in the reader will show the sequence of the story; students can simply retell the details based on what they see in the illustrations.

B. Comprehension Conversation (optional)

  • Teacher asks the following suggested comprehension questions:
    • Recall:

"What did Sam's dad give him as a gift?" (a pair of binoculars)

"What kind of things did Sam see with his binoculars?" (a pot, a man, a pigeon, and a dog)

"What kind of dog did Sam see?" (a pug)

    • Vocabulary and Language:

"What does 'curious' mean in the sentence 'Sam was curious and asked his Dad, "What could be in the box?"'" (Sam was interested and/or eager to learn what was in the box.)

"What do you think it means to 'peek inside' a box?" (to look)

    • Digging Deeper: Extension Questions:

"Why did Sam run to the window after getting the binoculars?" (He wanted to use them right away.)

"How do you think Sam felt about getting the binoculars? How do you know?" (He felt happy and/or excited because he used them right away and immediately saw many things in the neighborhood.)

"The author used the words 'peeked' and 'peered' in the story. How might the meaning of those words be similar? How might they be different? Let's read where those words are used and see if we can figure that out." (Responses will vary : Peeked might be a quick, almost hidden look while peered might be a longer, more thoughtful look.)

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. High-Frequency Words: "from," "wants," "says," "see," "he," "had"

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of "The More We Get Together"):

"Now it's time to learn high-frequency words together; it's time to learn about words readers and writers use a lot."

  • Introduce the High-Frequency Words instructional practice:

1. Teacher builds the word with movable letters: "had."

2. Teacher invites students to decode together, sliding each letter down and making the sound while students "pull" the letters down from the air.

3. Teacher uses the word in a sentence.

4. Student volunteer(s) use the word in a sentence.

5. Teacher says: "This is a high-frequency word. That means we see it a lot in reading and use it a lot in writing. If we know a lot of these words, it will make reading and writing much easier."

6. Student volunteers share a sentence using the word: "had."

7. Teacher says: "This word 'plays fair' because it can be easily decoded." Teacher models by saying each sound and blending them together.

8. Teacher places the High-Frequency Word Card on the Interactive Word Wall.

9. Teacher identifies another high-frequency word: "says." Teacher says: "This word isn't like 'had.' This word doesn't play fair."

10. Teacher uses the word in a sentence.

11. Students turn to an elbow partner, and each partner uses the word in a sentence. Teacher supports as needed.

12. Teacher pronounces the word. Teacher says each sound in the word, emphasizing the beginning sound.

13. Teacher says: "The beginning sound of the word is /s/. The word begins with 's,' which makes the /s/ sound. The beginning of the word plays fair. We are able to easily decode part of the word."

14. Teacher pronounces the word again, emphasizing the ending sound. Teacher says: "The last letter of the word is 's,' but I hear the 'z' sound instead of /s/ when I say the word. The middle letter of the word is 'a,' but I hear the /e/ sound instead of /a/, like in the word 'bed.' That means this part of the word doesn't play fair; it's not easily decodable." Teacher says: "When parts of a word don't play fair, there are letter sound connections we know and can use to help us figure it out. That way, when we see it again, we will remember it and be able to read it, even though it isn't easily decodable."

15. Teacher repeats one of the sentences from steps 12-13. Teacher says: "You can also use information from the sentence to help you figure out the word."

16. Repeat steps 9-15 for remaining irregularly spelled and difficult-to-decode words ("he," "see," "wants," "from").

  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support: Consider providing picture cards of nouns in "Sam's Box" to aid comprehension.
  • Notice that the short /o/ sound in "from" sounds more like a short /u/. This may be confusing for students after reading and writing many short /o/ words in the previous lesson. Tell them that the "o" doesn't play fair and that this word is irregularly spelled.

B. Decodable Reader: Partner Search and Read

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of "The More We Get Together"):

"Now you will read a story, a story, a story. Now you will read a story with words that you know."

  • Begin the Decodable Reader: Partner Search and Read instructional practice:

1. Teacher displays the Enlarged Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box."

2. Teacher says: "This book is based on the Engagement Text: 'Sam's Box.' But this book is filled with words that YOU can read! There are decodable words, and there are some words that don't play fair, like 'has' and 'gone.'"

3. Teacher draws attention to words on the Interactive Word Wall.

4. Teacher distributes the Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box" and highlighters to each student.

5. Teacher says: "Before you read the book with your partner, we are going to be detectives. We are going to look for some of the high-frequency words. Remember, some of these words 'don't play fair,' which means they are not easily decodable."

6. Teacher models with a big book and thinks aloud as he or she notices one of the high-frequency words. Teacher highlights it with a highlighter or highlighter tape. Model again as needed.

7. Partners search for high-frequency words in the Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box" together and highlight in their own book.

8. Teacher circulates to help partners find words, focusing especially on those words that "don't play fair."

9. Teacher says: "Now you are ready to read the Decodable Reader with your partner. Some of the words in the story will be familiar because you have learned them in previous lessons. And some of the words you will see for the first time, but don't worry: Each of the words that you will see for the first time includes only phonemes (sounds) that you have learned. You just need to say the sound that goes with each of the letters you see in the word, then blend them together to read the word."

10. Teacher models with one new word from the book: "gift."

11. Students read from Decodable Reader: "Sam's Box" with a partner. Partners may take turns (by page or whole text), read in unison, or both.

  • Students reading in the Pre-Alphabetic or early Partial Alphabetic phase will also benefit from searching for familiar graphemes and phonemes from the current or past cycles.
  • If readers in the Pre-Alphabetic or Partial Alphabetic phase need additional support finding the high-frequency words, allow a reader in the Full or Consolidated Alphabetic phase to help them. Or consider asking them to find the beginning letter of the word instead of the whole word.  As an extension for readers in the Late Full or Consolidated Alphabetic Phases, consider providing a whiteboard. Direct students to write a word that begins with the letter being searched or a sentence with the high-frequency word being searched.
  • If readers need support with words that "don't play fair," direct them to the Interactive Word Wall. Or have them read the rest of the sentence and think about which high-frequency word would make sense in the blank.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning

  • Emphasize that successful learners keep track of and reflect on their own learning. Point out that they are doing this each time they consider how what they did today helps them to become more proficient readers.
  • Invite students to reflect and share with a partner (or whole group). Ask:

"What did you do today that is helping you become a more proficient reader?" (Responses will vary. Example: "I matched sounds to letters to blend sounds together to make a word.")

  • For students who need additional support organizing their ideas: Provide sentence frames. Examples:
    • "When I heard a word, I knew it was a ____."
    • "When I see an 's' on the end of the word, I know _____."
    • "When my partner _____, I _____."

Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher

Suggested Plan: Teacher works with students in the Pre-Alphabetic, Partial Alphabetic, and Full Alphabetic groups. Students in the Consolidated Alphabetic group do not work with the teacher today.

Note: Groups not working with the teacher at a given time should be engaged in purposeful independent rotation work. Refer to the Independent and Small Group Work Guidance document for more details (see K-2 Skills Resource Manual).

All Groups
Either today or another day this week after the Decodable Student Reader has been introduced, follow the Decodable Student Reader routine with each group. Differentiate the routine as needed based on students' microphase. Refer to the Independent and Small Group Work guidance document (see K-2 Skills Resource Manual) for full routine and Decodable Student Reader Planning and Recording Template.


  • Aim small group instruction at building students' knowledge and skills of letter identification and phonological awareness.
  • Use the Assessment Conversion chart to determine appropriate Kindergarten lessons and Activity Bank ideas to use in daily small group instruction.
  • Consider using the Decodable Reader from the whole group lesson as a resource. Example:
    • Teacher identifies a grapheme or phoneme (from the current cycle or based on the needs of the group). Students look for grapheme. A student volunteer identifies the grapheme, makes the sound, and possibly practices proper formation (skywriting or whiteboard).

Partial Alphabetic:

  • Students in the early to middle Partial Alphabetic (PA) phase may need more time with each short vowel than the whole group lessons provide. Those working within the middle to late PA phase may be comfortable using the phonemes introduced in this cycle. If so, small group work may include extended practice of work time.
  • Suggestions for working with students at the early to middle PA phase:
    • Use the Decodable Reader from the current cycle and Cycle 4 to solidify the short "o" as compared to the short "u" by having students locate words with those sounds.
    • Spend time feeling the sounds of the /o/ compared to the /u/ and noting the position of the mouth (articulatory gestures).
    • Prepare short decodable sentences with /o/ (Example: The fox sat on the box. Ben got hot.).
    • Cut up the decodable sentences and reconstruct them.
    • Cut up words from the decodable sentences, separating the onset from the rime. This supports visual analysis of VC chunks (rime). Identifying the correct onset supports decoding of CVC words (Example: The f/ox in the b/ox is h/ot.).
  • Related Activity Bank suggestions:
    • An Activity Bank activity from the Decoding and Encoding category (DE)

Full Alphabetic:

  • Students in the Full Alphabetic phase have successfully mapped graphemes to phonemes, including consonant digraphs, and initial and final consonant clusters in single-syllable short- and long-vowel words.
  • Suggestions for working with students at the early to Full Alphabetic phase:
    • Check in with Accountable Independent Reading.
    • Follow up with Word Lists and exit tickets. Analyze words that were more challenging and why.
    • Extend the work with the Decodable Reader to focus on initial and final clusters and single-syllable CVCe words. Consider adding a page to the decodable text that includes more complex clusters (use the Word List from Lesson 26 as a guide) and two-syllable decodable words.
    • Lead a chaining lesson using more complex initial and final clusters (use the Word List from Lesson 26 as a guide).

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