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Literacy Intervention

3 Types of Targeted Small Groups
That Accelerate Learning

Tailored small group interventions focusing on phonics foundational skills, controlled text, and comprehension can effectively meet diverse learning needs and enhance literacy growth.

Literacy Intervention: 3 Types of Targeted Small Groups That Accelerate Learning

In an ideal world, guiding students through their literacy journey would follow a uniform path. But we know every classroom is a mosaic of needs, from students wrestling with phonics to those eager to jump into more complex texts. It's clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to small group instruction just doesn't cut it.

Accelerating learning and bridging learning gaps exacerbated by recent disruptions requires aligning small group instruction with the science of reading.  By providing targeted literacy groups based on learning gaps that prevent proficient reading, instruction can cater to a wide spectrum of skill levels.  

By identifying students’ unique strengths and challenges, educators can form targeted literacy groups that focus instruction where it’s most needed. This personalized approach accelerates learning,  builds confidence and nurtures a love for reading.

In this article, we’ll explore three types of intervention small groups designed to meet diverse student needs: the targeted phonics reading group, the blended reading group, and the targeted comprehension group. 

Lydia Cuomo, a curriculum specialist and professional learning lead with Lavinia Group, highlights the importance of this diversified approach: "In schools all across the country, we often see teachers implementing targeted comprehension groups. We focus on that so much. However, that's only one type of group. If we're only focusing on that and skipping the targeted foundational skills and the phonics-controlled text group, we're really not meeting students where their needs are.” 

Recognizing and addressing the diverse literacy needs within a classroom is crucial for fostering effective learning environments. Each intervention group plays a unique role in this approach. By examining these groups one by one, it’s easier to understand how they each contribute to a holistic literacy program.

The Targeted Phonics Reading Group

Best for students who can identify some letter names and sounds but are struggling with foundational reading skills such as phonemic awareness and vowel sounds. 

The targeted phonics reading group focuses on developing students' ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds in spoken words (phonemes) and understand the relationship between these sounds and their corresponding letters (graphemes). 

Recent research, such as Suggate's 2016 meta-analysis, highlights the lastingDecodable Books benefits of early interventions in phonemic awareness and phonics. The study emphasizes students who receive early phonics instruction show immediate improvements in reading skills while also exhibiting sustained growth in their ability to understand and process complex texts.

“This small group is particularly effective for students who struggle with isolating sounds, blending sounds to form words, or recognizing the phonemes associated with graphemes. These students often benefit from explicit, systematic instruction in these foundational skills, which helps build their confidence and capabilities in reading," says Cuomo.

Phonics Activities that Boost Reading Skills

Engaging and interactive activities are essential for boosting foundation literacy skills.

Here are some effective strategies:

Phoneme Segmentation and Blending: Students practice breaking down words into individual sounds and then blending them back together, an activity that supports their ability to decode unfamiliar words.

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Letter-Sound Correspondence: Students learn to match letters with their corresponding sounds through games and direct instruction. 


Manipulatives and Visual Aids: Tools such as letter tiles, magnetic letters, and visual aids are used to make abstract phonics concepts tangible and understandable for young learners.

Advancing Beyond Phonics Foundations: Assessing Student Readiness

The primary goal is to equip students with the skills to decode words through a deep understanding of phonemes, blending sounds to form words, and recognizing common phonics patterns. Once students demonstrate proficiency in these three areas, they are ready to tackle more complex reading tasks.

The Blended Reading Group

Best for students who are not yet fluently decoding words in context and have difficulty answering comprehension questions about the text.

This targeted intervention small group bridges the gap between decoding individual sounds and understanding how these sounds come together in words and sentences within texts. 

"The blended reading group is a good match for students who know primary phonemes already, but they're really struggling with that next step of the grapheme-phoneme correspondence while also struggling to decode,” says Cuomo. 

This small group plays a critical role in transitioning students from learning to decode to becoming fluent readers. By providing targeted practice with texts that match their specific decoding skills, students develop the confidence and skills necessary to read more complex texts independently. 

Selecting Texts That Build and Reinforce Literacy Skills

Choosing the right texts is crucial for success with this intervention group. New-curr-img-3

A study by Fisher and Frey (2018) showed the significant benefits of providing students with a diverse array of reading materials and the autonomy to choose their own texts. 

Conducted across six schools and involving over 450 students from kindergarten through sixth grade, the research aimed to determine whether enhanced accessibility, choice, and classroom discussion would affect how much students read. 

After a 12-week period, 41 teachers observed a substantial increase in reading volume, while three noted a moderate impact, highlighting the positive effects of empowering students in their reading journey.

The criteria for selecting texts for this small group should include:

  • Decode-ability: Texts should be easily decodable for students based on their current phonics knowledge, containing a high frequency of phoneme-grapheme correspondences that students have learned.
  • Engagement: It’s not just decode-ability that matters, it's important that texts are engaging and interesting to students, with themes and content that capture their imagination.
  • Skill Reinforcement: Texts should offer ample opportunities for students to practice specific phonics skills, reinforcing their learning and building their confidence in decoding.

Effective Teaching Strategies for the Blended Reading Small Group 

Conducting small group or one-on-one reading sessions allows teachers to provide immediate feedback and support, helping students navigate the text and apply decoding strategies effectively.

Students benefit from reading the same text multiple times, improving fluency and reinforcing phonics concepts embedded in a text. Teachers should employ positive, constructive techniques to address reading errors, turning teaching moments into opportunities to reinforce phonics and decoding skills.

Advancing Beyond the Blended Reading Group: Assessing Student Readiness

The purpose of the blended reading small group is to help students hone decoding skills within a structured and supportive setting. Students are ready to progress when they can decode words confidently using their phonics skills, demonstrating minimal hesitation. This indicates a deep understanding of phoneme-grapheme correspondences. Readiness is also marked by a student’s ability to read sentences smoothly and engage in discussions about the text’s content. 

The Targeted Comprehension Group

Best for students who can decode words in context but have difficulty answering comprehension questions about the text.

The targeted comprehension small group deepens students' understanding of texts, moving beyond mere word recognition to grasp themes, infer meanings, and critically analyze text elements. This group integrates foundational reading skills with cognitive strategies, enabling students to engage with texts in a meaningful and thoughtful manner.

The Fisher and Frey study indicates that incorporating classroom discussions and book talks within these groups can further enrich the reading experience, deepening students' connections with the texts and encouraging them to share their insights.

This group transforms proficient decoders into thoughtful, analytical readers. By emphasizing comprehension, educators can help students unlock the deeper joy and value of reading, empowering them to explore new worlds, ideas, and perspectives through text. This approach helps students understand and appreciate the richness of reading experiences.

"Targeted comprehension groups are a good match for students who read beautifully, but when you ask them about the book, they're really struggling to dig deeper and understand the true meaning of the text,” says Cuomo.

This group ensures that students transition from merely learning to read to reading for learning, a crucial shift that enhances academic success across all subjects and nurtures a lifelong engagement with reading. By implementing targeted comprehension strategies, students are equipped with the essential tools to handle increasingly complex texts and develop into independent, critical thinkers.

Reading Comprehension Teaching Strategies 

To achieve these goals, teachers can employ a variety of instructional methods including:

Questioning Strategies: Using open-ended questions to prompt deeper thinking allows students to explore texts more deeply.
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Discussion Circles: Research shows that small group discussions allow students to share their interpretations and listen to others' perspectives, enriching their understanding of the text.

Text Analysis: Engage students in activities that analyze text structure, vocabulary, and literary devices, learning how these elements contribute to overall meaning.

Building Background Knowledge: Build and activate students' background knowledge by integrating pre-reading activities that provide context or connect the text to what students already know.

Advancing Beyond Small Group Targeted Comprehension Intervention: Assessing Readiness  

Students are ready to move beyond the targeted comprehension group when they consistently show the ability to independently interpret and derive meaning from texts across various genres.

They should proficiently analyze text elements like themes, character development, and plot structures with minimal guidance. They should also engage actively in discussions, draw inferences, and relate text content to real-world issues or personal experiences effectively. 

How to Identify The Right Targeted Reading Group For Students 

Targeted reading groups are a vital resource for accelerating literacy growth, but their effectiveness hinges on placing students accurately. Consider these assessments to guide student placement: 

Systematic Phonics Assessment: This assessment helps teachers gauge students' phonics knowledge. Typically, it involves students reading letters, letter groups, or words aloud to demonstrate their application of phonics rules. The results clarify which students may benefit from more foundational phonics instruction or controlled text reading groups.

Asset 29@3xInterim Assessment: Conducted several times throughout the academic year, these assessments monitor students' progress and identify areas needing additional support. They determine whether a student should transition to a different group or require further instruction within their current group.

Curriculum Unit Assessment: Tied directly to the curriculum, this assessment evaluates how well students have grasped the skills and concepts taught in each unit. The insights gained enable teachers to tailor their instruction, ensuring it meets the specific needs of each student within their targeted reading groups.

Key Strategies for Leaders for Implementing Targeted Literacy Instruction School-wide

While targeted literacy instruction has proven effective in accelerating reading progress, school-wide implementation requires thoughtful planning and strong leadership. Here are four essential steps school leaders can follow to harness the benefits of targeted literacy instruction in your school:

Assess Current Literacy Programs: How well does your current literacy instruction meet the diverse needs of students? Identify gaps where targeted instruction could be more effective.
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Plan for Implementation: What steps can teachers take to incorporate targeted literacy groups into the curriculum? Consider scheduling, staffing, and training needs. 

Select Appropriate Materials: Are the materials and texts used in your literacy programs suitable for diverse learning needs? Evaluate and choose resources that support phonics, controlled text reading, and comprehension at various levels.

Monitor and Adjust: How will you coach teachers to track students' progress in each targeted group? The goal is to establish a system for assessing progress and refining instruction based on student needs and outcomes.

Revitalize Your School’s Literacy Program with Targeted Small Group Intervention and Tutoring

Lavinia Group’s comprehensive course encompasses the full spectrum of literacy intervention, guiding participants from diagnosing student needs to forming effective intervention groups and implementing transformational instructional strategies. 

Educators gain hands-on experience with intensive, small-group, and one-on-one interventions to support students who need additional reading assistance. 
Our course provides:

  • An extensive array of science of reading-based tutoring and intervention resources, empowering teachers to effectively implement these proven practices in their classrooms.
  • Clear, straightforward structures for small group reading interventions that are easy to implement, adaptable, and consistently deliver results.
  • Essential foundational phonics lessons to build critical reading skills.
  • Flexible resources that allow for targeted instruction tailored to meet the diverse needs of each learner.

Explore Our Courses

Featured Contributor

Lydia Cuomo

Lydia brings 15 years of experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and curriculum director to the Lavinia Group. With a background spanning middle school and elementary grades in math and ELA, Lydia's expertise shines through active engagement and continuous learning. From teaching in the South Bronx to founding an elementary school in North Carolina, Lydia's journey reflects a commitment to student success. With a master's degree in Special Education and Elementary Education, she passionately empowers educators to foster exceptional learning environments and drive positive student outcomes.

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