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

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ELA G1:S3:C12:L62

Setting Purpose: From Engagement Text to Decodables

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Daily Learning Targets

  • Opening A: I can retell the events from the story "A Sunset Picnic."
  • Opening B (optional): Using evidence from the text, I can answer questions about the story "A Sunset Picnic."
  • 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: "A Sunset Picnic." (RF.1.3)
    • I can decode regularly spelled one-syllable words by mapping graphemes to phonemes.
    • I can use what I know about the types of syllables to decode (read) a two-syllable word.
    • I can read words with an "-s" ending.
    • I can read first-grade words that "don't play fair" (irregularly spelled words) in text.
    • I can read and understand grade-level texts.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Observe students during Work Time.
    • Determine if they can independently find a given word.
    • Also determine if they can decode closed two-syllable words and identify familiar sounds in or automatically read high-frequency words.



1. Opening (3-5 minutes)

A. Engagement Text Read-aloud: "A Sunset Picnic"

B. Comprehension Conversation (optional)

2. Work Time (10 minutes)

A. High-Frequency Words: "was," "you," "they"

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
    • 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)

  • decode, high-frequency, proficient, skills, syllable (L)
  • crimson, picnic, shadows, sunset (T)


  • Enlarged Decodable Reader: "A Sunset Picnic" (one to display)
  • Engagement Text: "A Sunset Picnic" (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 to build the words "was," "you," "they")
  • High-Frequency Word Cards (teacher-created; one for each word)
  • Interactive Word Wall (one to display)
  • Decodable Reader: "A Sunset Picnic" (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: "A Sunset Picnic"

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

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

  • Display Enlarged Decodable Reader: "A Sunset Picnic."
  • Begin a read-aloud of the Engagement Text: "A Sunset Picnic":

1. Teacher says: "Listen carefully as I read today's story, 'A Sunset Picnic.' 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 for 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 retelling the story. The illustrations in the reader show the sequence of the story; the student can simply retell the details based on what they see in the illustrations.

B. Comprehension Conversation (optional)

  • Ask the following suggested (or similar) comprehension questions for "Pat's Mess":
    • Recall:

"Why did Dad ask Sam to grab a blanket?" (to sit on for their picnic)

"Why did the sky turn pink and purple?" (The sun was going down.)

    • Vocabulary and Language:

"The author used the word 'crimson' in the story. What does that mean? Let's read that part of the text again to see if we can figure it out: 'Dad reached the top of the hill just in time to see the red sunset. He said it was crimson.' What did he say was crimson?" (the sunset)

"What must crimson mean?" (a red color)

"What in the story helped us know that?" ("just in time to see the red sunset")

    • Digging Deeper: Extension Questions:

"Why did Sam say it was 'the best sandwich he ever had'?" (He enjoyed being with Dad.)

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. High-Frequency Words: "was," "you," "they"

  • (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."

  • Begin the High-Frequency Words instructional practice:

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

2. 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. But this is a word that doesn't play fair."

3. Teacher invites students to decode together, sliding each letter down and making the sound while students "pull" the letters down from the air: /w/ /a/ /s/.

4. Teacher says: "We would expect this word to be pronounced 'waz,' but the word is 'was.' This word doesn't play fair."

5. Teacher uses the word in a sentence.

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

7. Student volunteers share a sentence using the word "was."

8. Teacher pronounces the word and then says each sound in the word, emphasizing the beginning sound. Teacher says: "The beginning sound of the word is /w/. The word begins with 'w,' which makes the /w/ sound. The beginning of the word plays fair so we can easily decode part of the word."

9. Teacher pronounces the word again, emphasizing the medial vowel sound. Teacher says: "The vowel in this word is 'a,' but I hear the /u/ sound when I say the word. That means this part of the word doesn't play fair; it's not easily decodable."

10. 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."

11. Teacher repeats one of the sentences from steps 5-6. Teacher says: "You can also use information from the sentence to help you figure out the word."

12. Repeat steps 1-9 for remaining irregularly spelled and difficult-to-decode words ("they" and "you").

13. Teacher places the High-Frequency Word Cards on the Interactive Word Wall.

  • For ELLs and other students who may need additional help: Consider providing them with picture cards of nouns in Engagement Text: "A Sunset Picnic" to support comprehension.

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: "A Sunset Picnic."

2. Teacher says: "This book is based on the Engagement Text: 'A Sunset Picnic.' 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 'was,' 'you,' and 'they.'"

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

4. Teacher distributes the Decodable Reader: "A Sunset Picnic" 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 Enlarged Decodable Reader and thinks aloud as 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: "A Sunset Picnic" 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: The words you see for the first time are words with closed syllables. You just need to break the word into syllables and read each syllable, then blend them together to read the word."

10. Teacher models with one new word from the Decodable Reader: "basket."

11. Students read "A Sunset Picnic" with a partner. Partners may take turns (by page or whole text), read in unison, or both.

  • If students in the Pre-Alphabetic or Early Partial Alphabetic phases need help identifying letters/digraphs, provide Letter Cards as support. The students can hold the letter next to each page and find the letter shape that matches.
  • If students in the Pre-Alphabetic or Partial Alphabetic phase need additional help finding high-frequency words, consider allowing a student 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 students in the Late Full Alphabetic or Consolidated Alphabetic phases, consider providing whiteboards. Direct them to write a word that begins with the letter being searched or a sentence with the high-frequency word being searched.
  • If students need help 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 broke the word into two syllables and then blended them together to read the 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 '-ed' 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 during this time. Example:
    • Teacher identifies a grapheme or phoneme (from the current cycle or based on the needs of the group). Students look for the grapheme. 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 to spend more time with single-syllable words with consonant clusters. Those working within the middle to late PA phase may be comfortable using the phonemes introduced in this cycle. If so, small group work might include extended practice of Work Time.
  • Suggestions for working with students in the early to middle PA phase:
    • Use the Decodable Reader from the current cycle to solidify the short vowel sounds by having students locate words with each sound. Help them locate the vowels in two-syllable words and use that information to divide the word.
    • Find words with consonant clusters and provide support with articulatory gestures to feel how the mouth moves from one sound to the next
    • Prepare short decodable sentences with closed two-syllable words. Examples: "She is a dentist." "Dad is at the picnic."
    • Cut up the decodable sentences and have students reconstruct them.
  • Related Activity Bank suggestions:
    • An Activity Bank activity from the Syllable Pattern category (SP) or the Affix category (A)

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 in the early to middle Full Alphabetic phase:
    • Check in with Accountable Independent Reading.
    • Follow up with Word Lists and exit tickets. Analyze words that were more challenging and discuss why.
    • Consider adding a page to the Decodable Reader: "A Sunset Picnic" that includes more complex clusters and inflectional endings.

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