I'm so glad You're Here!

Foundational Skills for Early Readers

Working with Early Readers

A few weeks ago I received a question about how to work with early readers who weren’t quite ready for the workshop model yet. I figured you’d likely want to know my response to this as well. Here are a few ideas you can use with your readers who are moving on from Level B to Level C and Level D. 

The first thing I want to mention is to make sure you know how big of a deal it is for readers to jump from Level B to Level C. It’s a significant jump that requires a good amount of more reading on the part of the reader. So, yay for moving on up!

Now, knowing that they’re instructionally at Level C, it is important to continue working on foundational skills. This should include specific work on letter names and sounds, CVC words, some CVCe words, short sentences and texts. These can all be focused on during Guided Reading groups. Small group time with you is so meaningful. Not only are the readers getting more attention, but they’re also being guided by you. Modifying the word work and texts used makes all the difference for the success of these readers. 

It’s also important to note that part of the battle with these early readers is simply building up their confidence. Some just need to know that they CAN do it!

Combining the below word work activities with plenty of “eyes on text” time will help these readers continue to make progress. 

Working on Vowels

If you know your readers specifically need help with vowels. Here are a few things you can do:

Write all five vowels on the board. (or less, if this is overwhelming to your group). Then, have your readers simply repeat or read the letters, as you point. Doing this just a few times in a row will get them in the “vowel sound mode”. (You can also use magnetic letters or letter tiles, instead of writing the letters.)

Next, have each group member write the vowels down on their own board. Then they can point to each letter and say the sound. After that, they can erase the letter with their finger, while saying the sound of that letter. 

For readers who’ve got the above down, you can move on to trying to read the vowels in CVC words. Choose two consonants that your students know, then make a list of 5 CVC words using those consonants. Readers will say each sound in the word and put the sounds together to read it. Once the first word is read, move on to the next vowel sound, with the same consonants. After all words have been read, start at the top again and have readers read all the words. (Ex: map, mep, mop, mup, mip)

The last stages of this would be making a sentence with one of the real words for readers to read. Then a short story with 3 sentences, using some of the words. (Ex. The map is big. I like that mop. The mop is by the map.) You can guide readers as much as necessary with the sentences and short story. Remember- you want to build that confidence as they’re putting all the pieces together!

CVC Word Work

If your students are working on CVC words primarily, which they most likely are at this level, follow the building block process of these activities. Readers start to realize that letters are put together to make words and words are put together to make sentences. They see those sentences then make up a story. These are the building blocks you want your readers to be aware of. When they see the growth, they realize that they can read the word by itself, then they can also read a sentence and actual story. This results in increased confidence as readers, which is huge!

You want to focus on breaking down CVC words and putting them together. This can be done through the studying of individual words, then those same words within sentences and short texts. The more you expose readers to practicing words like this, the more their decoding skills will improve. As we know, that leads to improved reading overall as well!

  • Pick a CVC word. Write it on the board. Have readers read it.
  • Then below the CVC word, write a sentence using that CVC word. Have reader read the sentence.
  • Last, below that sentence, write 3 sentences, repeating the CVC word. Have readers read the story. 

This repetition of reading the same CVC word, in different ways, is so helpful for early readers.One way to advance this is to use two CVC words and make sure students notice both those words in the story they’re reading.  


IMG 9784 scaled

One other option...

If you have readers that need an in between step to see how words are formed, just use objects instead of letters. Let them see that they can point to a shape, in this case, for each sound in a word. Then once they understand this, put actual letters in place of each shape. They can then read the word.

Leveled Passages

If you’re looking for leveled passages that are just right for your early readers, check out my Level A-D passages here. This is one of my most popular bundles. It is so helpful for those early readers to work on developing their skills as readers, while building their confidence!

Aylin Claahsen

Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

Leave a Reply

Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


Join the List

fluency passages freebie

Fluency Freebies!

Sign up for our newsletter and receive a set of fluency passages to help you incorporate fluency into your routine.

Recent Posts