A question teachers often get from parents and families is “How do you effectively teach students who are on so many different academic levels?” At DAA, K-3 teachers can confidently answer that question by pointing to our Skills Block! Skills Block is an hour-long segment of the day that focuses on one 15 minute phonics or spelling-focused whole group lesson and 45 minutes of differentiated independent work and teacher-guided small group instruction. Coupled with the Reading Modules and Labs block, the goal of Skills Block is to address every learner’s needs individually and move students to and beyond grade level in reading, decoding, and spelling.
The whole group lesson is a short and engaging lesson focused on a grade level standard. In Kindergarten, for example, we have been reading one poem each week, and each day using the poem to teach one foundational reading skill: identifying 2 letters a week, identifying and producing the sounds of those two letters, handwriting of the two letters, rhyming words, and syllables. Each lesson involves singing, reading poems, movement, and fun! For example, when we learn how to write letters, we use our fingers to write the letters in the air, and when we are learning about syllables, we play a game called “Feel the Beats” and pat out all the syllables in the poem.
After the whole group lesson, students move into small groups according to their microphase (their instructional level), based on 1-1 spelling and decoding assessments given at the beginning of the year. Students work on independent activities, such as reading, writing, word work, handwriting and sight words. Each group goes to different center areas, and within each center area, there are different activities depending on the goals of the group. In Kindergarten right now, some students are working on writing their names, others are working on identifying letters, some are working on matching letters to sounds, and others are working on beginning to make words.
While students are working on independent activities to meet their goals and instructional needs, teachers are pulling small groups of students to teach new activities, play new games, teach small group lessons, or read decodable books that are specific to their instructional level as well. Teachers pull from an activity bank of suggested activities and always make sure to pick an activity that is appropriately challenging to push students to meet their goals in reading and spelling.
If you’d like to see Skills Block in action, feel free to visit your child’s crew any day of the week! It is a fun, active, busy, hardworking, and a little loud time of the day, but it’s also a time where students are really building the skills necessary to become stronger readers and writers!