How to Simply Teach Small Group Literacy Instruction in Centers

You have everything you need to start your small group instruction! Activities have been printed, cut, and laminated. You have plans to teach phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and comprehension! In other words, you are ready to rock these centers! But, what do you do when you start your small group literacy instruction? Here is a breakdown of my small group literacy instruction. As always, this will keep it stinkin’ simple. 

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How Do I Know Where to Start? 

You might have all the curriculum ready to go and the activities to go with them. But what happens if your students aren’t there yet? I always like to use my curriculum as a guide and meet my students where they are. That’s why small group literacy instruction is so great! You can differentiate your lessons to meet students right where they are. 


The science of reading has been a hot topic. As I look at what the science of reading is, I know that I have been doing the same things in my lessons for years. I just called them something different. There are 8 components to small group literacy instruction and they are all important. If you need to know more about each one, learn about the breakdown here!

What Does Large Group Instruction Include? 

Your literacy centers are going to work on all the components that are super important to learning literacy including: 

  • Visual Drills and Auditory Drills
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • High Frequency Words
  • Comprehension 

These components are great for large group instruction. During this time, you are working on  letter recognition, sound representation, rhyming, and segmenting. If you need phonics tools, you can get The Phonics Made Easy worksheets to help boost your students skills. When it comes to comprehension, I always like to pull out my comprehension superheroes and I will always do this as a whole group. The others, I can move to independent centers. 


When students have a handle on these ideas, they can work on them independently while they are rotating through the various centers. Again, students being able to do the activities in their centers independently is going to be key for your small group instruction being successful. 

What Does Small Group Literacy Instruction Include? 

Your large group and your independent centers are rocking and rolling, but what do you do in your small group literacy instruction? During this time, I will focus on the following concepts: 

  • New concept instruction 
  • Guided practice
  • Spelling and dictation 
  • Connected texts 

To start, I always work on a warm up activity. This takes two to three minutes and focuses on a skill this particular group of students is struggling with. When you group students correctly, it is easy to help students grow in the areas they need. For example, I might teach students more phonemic awareness or focus more on segmenting. It all depends on the need. 


The next two to eight minutes will happen every single day. This will be explicit instruction on the new concept of the week as well as guided practice. This guided practice and explicit instruction on a new concept will eventually move its way into your independent centers. However, this will take a couple of weeks. While other activities in small group literacy instruction might vary, this will always stay the same. 

The last five to seven minutes of small group literacy instruction is all about spelling and diction. This is a needs based activity as well. If students need more work with spelling, we break out the spelling activity that I have from my literacy centers bundle. If we need more work with diction, then that’s what we work on. 

Following these patterns will maximize your small group literacy instruction time. 

Getting Your Small Group Literacy Instruction Organized

You have to be organized and ready to go so you can maximize your small group literacy instruction. The key to this organization isn’t just having your small group instruction ready. What it really hinges on is the other groups who are rotating around independent centers. If I’ve said it before, I have said it a million times, you have to have your students ready and independent before you can start your centers successfully. 

You can grab my 3 Steps to Organizing Your Math and Literacy Centers free guide. When you do this, you’ll be signed up for my emails and you’ll know when my Learning Centers Made Easy course is starting again! This course helps make your center time stinkin’ simple and it comes with some great bonuses as well. 

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Getting your centers up and running can be a challenge. However, with the center activities you can get for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade PLUS these tips. You’ll be running your centers like the boss you are in no time!

Until Next Time…

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