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Instructional Examples

Instructional Example: Easily Confused Sounds


Ms. Lee provides Tier 2 intervention in a pull-out reading lab. She organizes small groups of students based on grade level, classroom schedules and needed skills. This year, she has two third grade students who are ELLs with Spanish as their primary language. These students receive in-class ESL support, but their reading skills are lagging, especially in the foundational skill areas of phonological awareness, decoding and fluency. She knows they also need extensive support in building vocabulary and comprehension skills.

A simple word sort activity prompts students to focus on specific sounds. It involves distinguishing between two or more sounds that are easily confused, at first orally (listening and speaking), and later in print (reading and writing).

  1. Select 2-4 sounds to focus on, using teacher observation or assessment data to identify easily confused sounds. Make a list of 4-5 words per sound. Using index cards, make a label for each sound, one set per student, and place them in front of the students. Say the letter names and sounds and ask students to repeat, providing scaffolding as needed for pronunciation. “This one is b; it says /b/. This one is d; it says /d/…”
  2. Listening and Speaking. I am going to say some words. Each word I say begins with one of these sounds. After I say the word, you say it, then point to the letter that is the beginning sound of the word. “The first word is ‘duck.’ Say the word- duck. Now point to the letter that makes the beginning sound.”
  3. Practice and Repetition. Using pictures of words that begin with the target sounds, ask students to sort the picture cards into piles under the correct beginning sound.
  4. Reading Words. Make word cards that have the same beginning sounds. Ask each student to pick a card, read it, and place it under the correct beginning sound. After all words are placed, have the students choral read all the words.
  5. Writing Words. Using mini white boards or paper, dictate words that begin with the same sound and ask students to write them. Have them go back and highlight or circle the beginning sound.
Instructional Example: Working with Phonemes

The chart of activities below is organized hierarchically, from easiest to most difficult phonemic tasks. These activities take 3-5 minutes of instructional time.

  1. Select one or more sounds to focus on in the current activity. These may be sounds that ELLs are having difficulty recognizing, distinguishing or pronouncing.
  2. Make a list of words, with some words containing the target sounds.
  3. Select an activity from the chart below.
  4. Provide scaffolding for difficult sounds by modeling and breaking down difficult tasks.
Phonemic Skill Provide listening and multisensory activities that require students to: Examples of tasks:
Isolate Recognize individual sounds in a word. What is the first sound in mat?
Blend Combine phonemes to form a whole word. What word is /f/ /i/ /t/?
Segment Separate words into individual phonemes and say each sound. How many sounds in sit? (three) Can you say them sound by sound? /s/ /i/ /t/
Delete Recognize the word that remains when a phoneme is removed from that word. What is track without the /t/? (rack)
Add Make a new word by adding a phoneme. What word do you have if you add /t/ to rack? (track)
Substitute Make a new word by replacing one phoneme for another. The word is rat. Change /t/ to /m/. What’s the new word?
Instructional Example: Building Words
  1. Select 2-3 prefixes and 2-3 suffixes that are familiar to students and 4-5 base words that work with the prefixes and suffixes.
  2. Make a set of cards with the prefixes, suffixes and base words for each student.
  3. Demonstrate how to put cards together to make words. Make two or three words, explaining how the affixes change the meaning of the word.
  4. Ask each student to make one word. Stop and discuss the words and their meanings.
  5. Tell students to make as many words as they can in a given time limit, writing the words on a paper or white board.
  6. Debrief, reading each word and asking students to make sentences with some of the words.


re un dis
try like appear place cover elect

ed ment ing able

Instructional Example: Echo Reading


Ms. Hannah is concerned about the fluency of a group of ELLs who receive Tier 2 intervention from her. They are making slow progress with word reading accuracy and rate. Additionally, the students read in a monotone, without expression or phrasing.

  1. Select a text at the students’ instructional reading level.
  2. Select a sentence or short paragraph to read aloud to the students. Tell the students to follow along as you read, listening to how you pronounce and phrase the text. Read at a rate that is comfortable for your students, and read with appropriate phrasing and expression.
  3. Ask the students to reread the same text and try to imitate your rate, phrasing and expression: “Try to sound like me.”
  4. Discuss what expert reading “sounds” like.
  5. Repeat, using longer and longer excerpts. Gradually, over time, ask students to perform the reading independently and discuss the rate, phrasing and expression.
Instructional Example: Reading Response

This activity can be used along with typical fluency instruction to enhance fluency building for ELLs.

  1. Before reading. Tell students that they are going to read aloud a passage (it may be a timed reading, but does not have to be). When they read, they should think about what it means. When they are finished, remind them that good readers do more than just read the words. Good readers follow the meaning while they are reading. When they finish reading, they will have to write (or tell) the answer to some questions.
  2. During reading. Stop periodically and ask students to summarize a section of text. This provides practice in formulating ideas into oral language and will form the basis for providing a written or oral response at the end.
  3. After reading. Provide a simple prompt for students to make an oral or written response. If needed, provide a sentence starter or sentence frame to initiate the response.
Instructional Example: Scaffolded Read-Aloud

High-quality feedback is an essential part of reading development for ELLs and includes praise as well as correction for misread words. This is most effective in a one-to-one or small-group format. As the student reads, the teacher watches for optimal opportunities to target the skills students most need, such as sounds and letters, decoding patterns, sight words or breaking down multisyllabic words.

  1. When the reader misreads a word, the teacher makes a correction to provide immediate and contextualized feedback. Corrections should minimize the intrusion into the passage reading while maximizing the focus on essential skills.
  2. The following types of feedback are arranged in order from least to most intrusive.
    1. Provide the misread word. Say the word and ask the student to say the word, then reread the sentence or phrase correctly.
    2. Prompt with initial sound. Point to the word and provide the initial sound to get the student started. Ask the student to reread the sentence or phrase correctly.
    3. Stop, think and try again. Point to the word, ask the student to stop and think (or notice a particular letter or pattern), and try again. If the student gets the word correct, ask the student to reread the sentence or phrase correctly.
    4. Teach a strategy. Go through the steps of an applicable word decoding strategy, then ask the student to apply the steps to decipher the word. Then ask the student to reread the sentence of phrase correctly.
Instructional Example: Small-group vocabulary routine


Mr. Logan is an intervention teacher in an elementary school that has about 20% ELLs in the student population. He has several ELLs across grade levels in his reading intervention groups. He is aware that the students have limited vocabulary compared to the native English speaking students. Though the classroom teachers provide extensive vocabulary instruction within the core reading program, he knows that additional vocabulary development should occur during intervention.

Small-Group Vocabulary Read-Aloud Routine

Adapted from:
Hickman, P., Pollard-Durodola, S., & Vaughn, S. (2004). Storybook reading: Improving vocabulary and comprehension for English-language learners. Reading Teacher, 57(8), 720–730.

  1. Choose a book that supports the current topic or theme you are focusing on in the core curriculum. The book should be more difficult than what students can typically read independently.
  2. Ask a question about what the story might be about. For example, “What do you think will happen?”
  3. Before reading, choose three or four words that students may not know and talk about what the words mean. For example, “The word, ‘decide’ means ‘to make a choice’.”
  4. Create a signal that the group will use when they hear the new words in the story. This signal can be a “thumbs-up,” a cheer, or anything fun.
  5. Tell students to listen carefully to the story because you will ask questions afterward.
  6. Read the story and look for the signal when you get to the vocabulary words. After the signal is given, have individuals explain what the word means. For example, “You’re right! There’s our word. Can you tell me what the word ‘decide’ means?”
  7. After reading the story, ask questions about what happened. For example, “What was the story about? Who are the characters? What was the problem? How was the problem solved?”
  8. Help students make connections between the story and their experiences. For example, “What does this story remind you of? Have you ever felt like (character’s name)?”
Instructional Example: Sentence frames

Sentence frames are a fill-in-the-blank structure for using newly learned vocabulary words. When ELLs learn new words, the sentence frame scaffolds grammatically and contextually appropriate use of the word. The student can focus on the word and its meaning while the frame models the correct usage.

  1. Select one to three words to teach over a few days.
  2. Prior to reading a passage, pre-teach the word. Write the word on the board or chart paper, provide a comprehensible definition, and provide examples or pictures to illustrate the meaning.
  3. Write a sentence frame that fits the selected word. Model the use of the word and one possible way to fill in the blank correctly.
  4. Ask students to say the same sentence using the word, but come up with a different response for filling in the blank.
  5. During reading, when the word occurs in text, stop and intentionally “notice” the word and how it is used in context. Then, ask students to use the sentence frame again to produce a new sentence.
  6. After reading, review the word, its meaning and its use.


Target Word: approach

Comprehensible Definition: to get near to something in space, time or talk.

To approach the teacher’s desk
To approach lunch time
To approach a new topic in math class


The will approach the .


The student will approach the board to solve the math problem.

Instructional Example: Before, during and after reading
  1. Select a short passage at the students’ instructional level.
  2. Before reading. Preview the text and title, asking students to make predictions about the text.
  3. During reading. Teach students to monitor, reflect on and explain their thought processes, and ask questions about what they do not understand.
  4. After reading. Ask students to summarize and synthesize what they have read. This can take place through oral discussion or a writing task.
Instructional Example: Listening comprehension

Oral language and vocabulary impact reading comprehension for all students, but especially for ELLs. Small-group reading intervention provides an opportunity to focus on comprehension processes with extended scaffolding and feedback. Comprehension instruction takes place through both reading and listening. To limit the cognitive load of reading for meaning in a second language, provide some opportunities for students to listen to text and engage in comprehension processes.

  1. Select a short passage of high interest with mostly familiar vocabulary.
  2. Read aloud a segment, then stop to engage in comprehension processes, using one or more of the following tasks.
    1. Retell. Ask students to recall what they heard and tell it in their own words.
    2. Make connections. Ask students to tell about something in their own life that relates to the passage.
    3. Summarize. Ask students to give a brief summary that includes the key ideas.
    4. Predict. Ask students to guess what will happen next.
Instructional Example: Highly explicit instruction


Alejandro, a 5th grader, is in Tier 3 intervention. Despite making some progress in Tier 2 in 4th grade, his reading skills are significantly delayed. Informal diagnostics indicated skill needs in phonemic awareness and all areas of decoding beyond the basic long- and short-vowel patterns. His fluency rate is slow for a 5th grader, and comprehension assessments indicate difficulties with vocabulary, text recall and making inferences. Alejandro needs highly explicit and intensive intervention.

  1. Define the skill. What would students say or do if they were to demonstrate the skill?
  2. Design the activity. Create a learning task or activity that targets the skill. The task should include multiple opportunities for the student to actively engage in enacting the skill.
  3. Model the skill: “I do it”
    1. Introduce the skill by telling students what they are going to learn and why it is important.
    2. Capture student attention and demonstrate the skill, while explaining exactly what you are doing.
  4. Provide guided practice: “We do it together”
    1. Tell students to perform the task along with you. Use “teacher talk” to guide the students through the process as needed.
    2. As students engage in the task, carefully observe and provide support and feedback as needed.
    3. Repeat until students appear comfortable with the task.
  5. Provide practice opportunities: “You do it on your own”
    1. Provide ample opportunities for independent practice,
    2. While observing student performance, praise and give corrective feedback.
  6. Engage students in self-monitoring and reflection
    1. Ask students reflective questions to guide self-reflection and self-monitoring.
    2. In discussion, tie current skill with past and future learning.


  1. Skill: Reading words with common prefixes (re-, un-, dis-)
  2. Activity: Using prefixes and base words written on index cards, construct words, identify meaning and use them in a meaningful context.
  3. Modeling:
    I have three prefixes- re-, un- and dis-. We have learned these before. Re- means again. Remake means to make again. Un means not. ’‘Unkind means not kind. Dis- also means not. Disagree’ means to not agree. Watch me make a word by putting a prefix with a base word. (Place ‘re’ with ‘heat.’) ‘Re-‘ plus ‘heat’ makes ‘reheat.
  4. Guided Practice:
    Ask students to pick up the prefix, re- and select a base word that would work with this prefix. As students work on the task, offer scaffolding and support as needed. Repeat with different prefixes until students seem comfortable.
  5. Independent Practice:
    Ask students to work alone or with a partner to make as many words as they can. Instruct them to think about whether they have heard the word, because not all prefixes work with all base words. Students should write the words they construct on paper or a mini white board.
  6. Reflection:
    How did you do?
    Was making word with prefixes difficult or easy? Why?
    How do you think this will help you to be a better reader?
Instructional Example: High-quality feedback
  1. When a student performs a learning task, provide specific praise using specific language that indicates what the student did that was correct. Rather than use general wording such as “good job,” highlight what the student did correctly, such as, “Yes, you made a good word with that prefix and base word. Remake means to make something again.”
  2. When a student makes an error, provide feedback on the exact part of the process that was incorrect, then ask the student to repeat the task correctly. “You put the prefix re- with the base word ‘like’ but ‘relike’ is not a word. It doesn’t make sense to like something again. Let’s try another prefix with like.”
  3. Corrective feedback can take multiple forms. In each case, it is important to ask the student complete the task correctly following the corrective feedback.
    1. Tell the student there is an error and ask the student to try again.
    2. Point out the incorrect part and ask the student to try again.
    3. Demonstrate the correct procedure, then ask the student to repeat the task.
Instructional Example: Focus on essential skills
  1. Identify each student’s skill needs using informal diagnostic assessments. Use assessments that cover phonemic awareness, basic decoding, advanced decoding, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
  2. Identify each student’s instructional level by having the student read aloud from leveled passages. Conduct an error analysis of missed words to identify patterns of errors when reading connected text.
  3. To the extent possible, considering school and classroom schedules, group students with similar targeted skills needs into groups of 3-4 students. The chart below provides an example of how to compile diagnostic assessment for this purpose. These students all have the same instructional reading level of second grade, but the patterns show differences in what skills to emphasize. In this example, Greg, Brandi and Maria have specific decoding needs that are different from the other three. Though Greg’s fluency rate is higher, these three form a good instructional group with similar targeted word-level needs.
Greg Maria Tomas Andrew Brandi Christian
Phoneme Segmenting & Blending 85 80 95 100 80 100
CVC 100 100 100 100 80 100
Digraphs 90 80 100 100 80 80
Cons blends 95 85 100 100 80 95
Long Vowels 70 70 90 80 60 80
Diphthongs 30 10 40 60 20 70
R-controlled 40 30 60 70 20 90
Multisyllabic 50 20 50 40 0 60
Fluency Rate 81 68 72 95 57 98


  1. Plan instruction to focus on the most needed skills. A 60-minute intervention session can be broken into segments to cover different skills. For Greg, Maria and Brandi, the time allotment might look like this:
5-10 minutes Oral segmenting and blending
20 minutes Decoding
Review of long vowels with silent-e pattern
Introduction of vowel pair pattern (e.g., meet, meat)
10-15 minutes Fluency-repeated reading, timed reading practice and progress monitoring
20 minutes Explicit vocabulary instruction
Comprehension strategy instruction
Passage reading with corrective feedback
Instructional Example: Self-Monitoring


Mr. Stevens provides Tier 3 intervention for middle school students in small groups for 60 minutes per day. Nearly all of the students in Tier 3 intervention are two or more years below grade level, with comprehension posing significant challenges. He is concerned about the lack of motivation and engagement of these students, not only in the classroom setting, but also in intervention. He is also concerned that they lack strategies for approaching difficult text.

  1. Explain the strategy. Use this Click and Clunk analogy to teach students to be aware of comprehension breakdowns (adapted from Collaborative Strategic Reading).
    1. Click: When you understand what you are reading, everything seems to be “clicking along.”
    2. Clunk: When you don’t understand what you are reading, you hit a “clunk” that stops your reading. When you hit a clunk, we need to know what to do about it.
  2. Model the strategy. Read aloud a paragraph and ask the students to follow along as you read. Demonstrate self-monitoring by thinking aloud while hitting a clunk.
  3. Teach fix-up strategies. These four strategies, from a reading intervention called Collaborative Strategic Reading, or CSR, were developed by researchers Janette Klingner, Sharon Vaughn, Alison Boardman and others. These are the steps, in progressive order, telling what to do when you hit a clunk.STEP 1: Reread the sentence with the clunk in it and look for key ideas.
    STEP 2: Reread the sentence right before and right after the clunk, looking for clues.
    STEP 3: Look for a prefix or suffix that might help.
    STEP 4: Break apart the word and look for smaller words that you know.


Sharks are actually a type of fish. There are some similarities as well as differences between sharks and typical fish. Shark skeletons are made of cartilage, and fish skeletons are made of bones. Cartilage is the bendy, tough substance in people’s ears and noses. Like other fish, sharks have gills that help them breathe. Unlike fish, people use lungs to get oxygen from the air. Fish get oxygen from the water using their gills. Water needs to move over the gills so the sharks can get enough oxygen. To keep the water moving, most sharks need to be swimming in water that has a very strong current.  

Teacher Think-Aloud:
After reading the sentence with the first occurrence of the word, say,

“Hmm. This word (cartilage) is a clunk for me. I need to look for key ideas that help me figure out the word. I need to think about what makes sense. The first fix-up strategy is to reread the sentence with the clunk in it and look for key ideas.”

‘Shark skeletons are made of cartilage and fish skeletons are made of bones.’ I see the words ‘skeletons’ and ‘bones’ so maybe cartilage is a bone, but I’m not sure, so I will do the next step.”

“Step 2 says to reread the sentence right before and right after the clunk, looking for clues, so I am going to do that.”

“There are some similarities as well as differences between sharks and typical fish. Shark skeletons are made of cartilage and fish skeletons are made of bones. Cartilage is the bendy, tough substance in people’s ears and noses.” 

“I think I have figured out my clunk. The sentence after the clunk tells me exactly what cartilage is. It is the bendy part in people’s ears and noses. Sharks have it in their skeletons.”

Instructional Example: Self-Questioning

Teachers use self-questioning strategies to help students develop an awareness of the text and how to engage with the content. Good readers are actively involved in their reading, but struggling readers often have difficulty. Teach students to ask and answer questions before reading, during reading and after reading. This process becomes internalized and develops good reading habits.

  1. Before Reading. Model for students the process of asking and answering questions before reading. Ask questions that prompt readers to consider what they already know about a topic and to preview the text features. With a gradual release of responsibility, scaffold the process questioning prior to reading until students do this independently without prompting.
  2. During Reading. Model and then scaffold students’ self-questioning during the reading of a passage. Stop at regular intervals to ask and answer questions, focusing on:
    1. Fixing up clunks
    2. Using context to figure out the meaning of words, sentences and paragraphs
    3. Identifying main ideas and key points
    4. Using text structure to follow the author’s message
  3. After Reading. Following the reading of a passage, model and then scaffold students’ use of post-reading questions that focus on:
    1. Summarizing
    2. Drawing inferences
    3. Reflection about the content and making connections to self or other texts
Instructional Example: Self-Talk

Teach students self-talk routines that focus on the cognitive and metacognitive processes involved in reading.

  1. Stop periodically during reading aloud to ask author-related questions, such as, “What is the author telling us here?”
  2. Use the Click and Clunk analogy to teach self-talk related to self-monitoring understanding and the use of fix-up strategies.
  3. Stop periodically and ask, “How am I doing with this passage? Am I understanding what I am reading?”
Instructional Example: Setting Reading Goals

Setting reading goals, collecting evidence of progress, and reflecting on progress are important aspects of teaching students to fully engage in the reading process.

  1. Through interactive discussion and review of students’ current performance, set short-term and long-term goals related to reading.
    1. Review current performance with questions, such as
      1. How many comprehension questions do I usually get right?
      2. What is my fluency rate?
      3. Am I reading with enough expression?
      4. How many new vocabulary words do I know?
    2. Set weekly goals that lead to long-term goals. Write the goals in the student’s folder or on a chart.
  2. Weekly, review the student’s goals and evidence indicating progress. If appropriate, chart progress.
  3. Discuss why the goal is important and how it relates to being a good student.
Instructional Example: Considering ELLs in universal screening in elementary grades


Joy is a first grade student who has many friends in her class and attends school regularly. She is an English Language Learner, and her family speaks Mandarin at home. Her parents both work, and she is often at home with her grandmother. During small group instruction, Joy is able to pay attention and follow simple directions, but at times during whole class instruction she is easily distracted and does not seem to be able to follow through with 1-2 sentence directions. She speaks in short sentences in English to ask for help or talk with friends. During instruction, however, she mainly responds in words or phrases and at times will need clarification or extra modeling to complete classroom tasks. She is not yet reading independently but does enjoy class read-alouds. During this time, Joy listens quietly and looks at the pictures but does not seem to be able to follow the story. When the teacher asks her comprehension or retelling questions, her responses are generally off topic. She can identify all the letters of the alphabet, and she has mastered most letter sounds.

Screening assessment in the fall indicated that Joy is far below grade level and would benefit from Tier 2 intervention.

Joy’s Screening Scores

Assessment Beginning of Year Middle of Year
Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) 10 16
Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) 2 3

Joy’s screening assessments show that she is at risk for reading difficulty, using a decoding measure that is well-established for ELLs. Classroom observation over a half-year confirms that she is significantly behind in basic skills. Middle of the year screening shows little growth with her current program. It is likely that her reading difficulties intersect with her limited English proficiency. Providing intervention and language support services will help her to develop in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Instructional Example: Focusing on sounds that are difficult to recognize and pronounce


Joy is a first grade student who has many friends in her class and attends school regularly. She is an English Language Learner, and her family speaks Mandarin at home. Her parents both work and she is often at home with her grandmother. During small group instruction, Joy is able to pay attention and follow simple directions, but at times during whole class instruction she is easily distracted and does not seem to be able to follow through with 1-2 sentence directions. She speaks in short sentences in English to ask for help or talk with friends. During instruction, however, she mainly responds in words or phrases and at times will need clarification or extra modeling to complete classroom tasks. She is not yet reading independently but does enjoy class read-alouds. During this time, Joy listens quietly and looks at the pictures but does not seem to be able to follow the story. When the teacher asks her comprehension or retelling questions, her responses are generally off topic. She can identify all the letters of the alphabet, and she has mastered most letter sounds.

Tier 2 reading intervention is meant to support students’ development of essential skills related to grade level standards. In Joy’s case, the first grade curriculum already addresses the foundational skills of phonological awareness, decoding, sight words and reading fluency. Intervention should re-teach essential skills that she has not mastered. However, the intervention teacher will consult with the language support specialist (ESL services) to emphasize the recognition and pronunciation of sounds that are difficult in her transition from Mandarin to English. A closer look at the screening measures shows that Joy is consistently having difficulty with certain sounds.

The ESL specialist has identified the following sounds that are known to be troubling for native Chinese speakers:

b d f g j
l m n v z
ch sh -ng th


Joy’s Screening Scores

Assessment Percent Correct Level of Need
Phoneme Segmenting and Blending


Letters and Sounds



Short Vowel CVC


Long Vowels (silent e, double vowel)


not ready
R-Controlled Vowels (ar, or, er, ir ur)


not ready
Variant Vowels


not ready
Oral Reading Fluency (words correct per minute)


Vocabulary Knowledge


Comprehension (Retell)



Joy’s diagnostic assessments show that she has difficulty with the all areas of foundational reading skills of phonemic awareness, letter-sound knowledge, fluency and comprehension. Developmentally, she is lacking several skills usually taught in kindergarten. Intervention will focus on the key areas of high need–phoneme segmenting and blending, decoding short vowel words, and fluency, while building her vocabulary and listening comprehension using text written at a basic level of language use and pictures to support comprehension.

Instructional Example: Examining progress monitoring data

Joy has been in four weeks of intervention. The progress monitoring assessment measures short vowel word reading. The first grade goal is 35 words correct in a minute. This measure represents the current focus of Joy’s instructional program and is a relevant first grade goal. We can see from the upward trend of Joy’s graph that she is showing a positive response. Growth occurs at a variable rate. Over time, we can calculate an average rate of growth and sketch in a trend line to estimate a timeline for reaching the goal. It appears that Joy will reach this goal in a few weeks and move on to another skill focus.

Joy’s Progress Monitoring Graph

Example progress monitoring graph

EL Toolkit

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