Integrating Language & Literacy: SIOP® Lesson Examples for Developing Oral Language with Reading Skills


For multilingual learners, oral language development is a fundamental element of literacy that cannot be left to chance. When we consider the essential components of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension), it is important to also focus intentionally on the connection each of these areas has to both receptive and expressive language. As we support students in developing skills that help them become competent readers, we need to ensure they understand what they access receptively through listening, reading, and viewing. We also need to plan for output opportunities so students have ample chances to practice and expand their language expressively through speaking and writing. Language and literacy go hand in hand, so any opportunity to practice discrete literacy skills can additionally be an opportunity to learn, build upon, and apply language.

Let’s take a look at some activities used to help young readers develop essential literacy skills with a lens on comprehensible input and structured output. The following sample lessons were planned using the SIOP® Model, and the SIOP® Components and Features are indicated with underlined text and italics.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness instruction is a priority for students in kindergarten and first grade. Systematic and explicit instruction in a variety of skills, such as isolating, blending, and segmenting phonemes, are essential building blocks for successful reading development. Although phonemic awareness skills are often taught orally, without visuals or letters (graphemes) corresponding to the sounds used, I often question if this is in the best interest of multilingual learners. As a person with hearing loss, who sometimes struggles to engage with the different phonemic awareness tasks because I don’t clearly hear the words or sounds, I began to wonder what it’s like to be a 5- or 6-year-old student who is in the process of learning English in this type of lesson. I imagine they may feel lost or unsuccessful with decontextualized practice activities.

Planning for Comprehensible Input and language growth means we can create opportunities to practice phonemic awareness skills with language support and a focus on oral language development. To support multilingual learners, it makes sense to pair phonemic awareness practice with context and visuals that connect to what students are learning, so they are able to simultaneously build language and literacy. Even though some say phonemic awareness can be done in the dark, it is actually quite important and beneficial to pair exercises with printed letters once students know the sounds those letters represent. The following lesson is an example of what phonemic awareness practice with a focus on language development might look like.

Small Group Sample SIOP® Lesson

Content Objective: I can blend and segment CVC winter clothing words.

Language Objective: I can describe what kids are wearing in a winter picture scene using winter clothing words and color words.

Key Vocabulary: hat, coat, sock(s)*, scarf, boot(s)*, shirt

*These words could be presented as singular or plural, and teachers would adjust the number of dots in the sound boxes accordingly. I chose to use the singular form because this lesson was created for students who are primarily segmenting words with three phonemes at this point in the year. The only exception in this particular lesson is the word scarf, which has four phonemes.

Supplementary Materials: vocabulary picture cards (with segmentation dots), sound boxes, winter picture scene

  1. Link Concepts to Students’ Backgrounds:

    The weather outside is getting really cold! What warm winter clothes did you wear on your way to school today? Remember we’ve been practicing color words, so you can tell us the color of your winter clothes too!

     Give each student a chance to share using sentence starter: I wore ___.

  2. Practice & Application/Interaction: Identify Initial Sounds (Pre-K/beginning of K)

    Using the vocabulary picture cards as visuals, practice naming winter clothing by having students repeat the words one by one. Cue students to provide the initial sound after each word. Have students repeat initial sound and a complete sentence for each word: /h/ /h/ hat. He has a green hat. If students are familiar with the letters that correspond to the first sounds, write, show, or have students point to the letter that matches the first sound.

  3. Practice & Application/Interaction: Phoneme Segmentation

    Using the vocabulary picture cards as visuals, practice naming winter clothing by having students repeat the words one by one. Cue students to orally segment the words using fingers. For an additional round of practice, have students move manipulatives (small items such as mini erasers or round markers) into the spaces of sound boxes as they say each sound. Cue students to repeat the individual sounds and the word followed by a complete sentence: /h/ /aaa/ /t/ hat. He has a green hat. You can model extended language by also naming the body part the clothing goes on: /h/ /aaa/ /t/ hat. He has a green hat on his head. When students have learned the letters that correspond to the sounds they hear, they can begin write the letters in the sound boxes as a next step.

  4. Practice & Application/Interaction: Phoneme Blending

    Distribute winter picture scenes, so each student has a copy. Tell the students you will give them a clue for the word you are thinking of by saying the individual sounds. Their job will be to blend the sounds silently and point to that word in the picture scene. When all of the students have located the item, repeat the individual sounds and give a signal for students to chorally say the word.

  5. Practice & Application/Interaction: Picture Scene

    Ask students to look at the picture and think about what the kids are wearing. Model what it sounds like to describe what someone is wearing by naming their winter clothing and using a color word. Give each student a turn (or multiple turns depending on time) to describe what someone in the image is wearing. Provide sentence starters: He/She is wearing ____. They are wearing ____. Students can also work with partners to provide more opportunities for interaction and language production. Reinforce phoneme segmenting by having students segment the winter clothing word so you can hear individual turns.

Learn more about the SIOP® Model for your school or district today >


Phonics instruction is a key component of learning to read because students need knowledge of sound/letter relationships in order to decode words on the page. Successful decoding combines students’ ability to recall the sounds that correspond to letters or letter combinations and orally blend those sounds into whole words. However, we know that decoding text does not automatically result in comprehending text. Many students, particularly students who are acquiring English, may develop the ability to successfully decode words before those words are part of their oral vocabulary. In this case, they may be able to identify what a word says without understanding what the word means. Even though words used to teach phonics are not necessarily intended as vocabulary words, we need to take steps to ensure that students can learn what unfamiliar words mean, so they gain an understanding from the earliest stages of reading development that text carries meaning.

Phonics instruction is a natural way to boost oral language development by pairing words with images and using the words in context along with decoding. Planning for oral language practice in conjunction with phonics instruction provides teachers with more opportunities to hear students’ language, which allows us to better understand students’ existing linguistic repertoires and also pinpoint areas to support for additional language growth. As students continue to expand their oral vocabulary, they will also experience increased success in understanding connected text because they are more likely to be familiar with the words they encounter in print. The following lessons are examples of what phonics lessons might look like with an added focus on oral language production.

Small Group Sample SIOP® Lesson (beginner phonics)

Content Objective: I can read CVC words with the /i/ sound.

Language Objective: I can answer questions about the words I read by naming the word and adding a detail.

Key Vocabulary: any assortment of CVC words with the short i sound.

Supplementary Materials: CVC word cards, pictures to match words


  1. Link Concepts to Previous Learning:

    We have been learning the sounds that letters stand for and how to blend sounds together to make a whole word. Today we are going to practice doing both when we read words that have the /i/ sound!

  2. Practice & Application: Phoneme Blending Warm-Up

    Choose 5 words from the ones selected for the lesson. Orally say the individual sounds in each word and cue students to say the whole word. After students say each word, show the corresponding picture and model using the word in a complete sentence that names the word and uses a detail. Teacher: /p/ /iii/ /g/ Students: pig Teacher: (showing picture). Now I want to say a whole sentence, so I can tell something about the pig. The pig is pink.

  3. Practice & Application/Interaction : Decoding

    Display one CVC word at a time and cue students to say each individual sound as you point to the dots underneath each letter. Then, cue students to read the whole word as you slide your finger underneath. Ask students a question about the word (What can the pig do?). Provide a sentence starter for students to use: The pig can ___. When one student shares a response, have all the students repeat the sentence chorally. Repeat with all of the words in the selected set, asking a simple question and providing a sentence starter for each one.

  4. Practice & Application/Interaction :

    Distribute a CVC word card to each student. Ask them to read their word and think of a sentence using their word. Listen to students in turn and trade them for a new card each time they complete a word. Students can also get a small stack of words to practice with a partner.

    The previous lesson is a good fit for students who are at the beginning stages of phonics instruction. Now let’s take a look at what it could look like for older students. The third graders I work with have a list of spelling words each week that reflect a phonics rule they are currently learning. I do a quick Google search to find images that represent the words, so that when students practice decoding the words, we have a matching visual to reference. Instead of only having student decode a list of words, I find ways to pair word reading with oral language practice to provide students with opportunities to use the words in context, in both speaking and writing, with more complex sentence structures such as compound sentences or cause/effect sentences.

Small Group Sample SIOP® Lesson (intermediate phonics)

Content Objective: I can read words with and .

Language Objective: I can use spelling words in compound sentences that have a conjunction (FANBOYS).

Key Vocabulary: clown, round, bow, cloud, powder, crown, thousand, crowd, sound, count, power, blouse, frown.

Supplementary Materials: chart with list of weekly spelling words and corresponding image, writing paper


  1. Link Concepts to Previous Learning:

    This week in reading your phonics focus is words that have the /ow/ sound. We can use or to spell the /ow/ sound. Today we are going to practice reading words with our focal sound and also use those words in compound sentences. Remember, compound sentences have two complete sentences connected by the FANBOYS words (for, and, nor, but, or yet, so).

  2. Practice & Application/Interaction: Decoding

    Cue students to chorally read each word in the list. Read sound by sound or provide wait time, so students are prepared to read the whole word.

  3. Practice & Application/Interaction: Picture Matching

    Provide individual turns to have students read words on their own. Each time a student reads their word, ask them to come forward and point to the image that matches the picture. Model using the word in a sentence.

  4. Practice & Application: Oral Language Practice

    Select a word from the list and model using the word in a compound sentence. For example, I spilled powder on the floor, so I need to clean it up. Choose a different word from the list, and ask students to think of a compound sentence using that word, providing wait time prior to asking students to share. This gives students opportunities to use ideas based on their background knowledge/experiences and is an opportunity for higher order thinking. Randomly call on students to share their ideas with the group. Ask students to chorally repeat each sentence that is shared.

  5. Practice & Application: Sentence Writing

    Remind students that we use a comma before the FANBOYS word in a compound sentence. Ask students to write 1 or 2 of the sentences they shared with partners on their writing paper. <br
    The three lessons described here offer examples of using the SIOP® Model to integrate language with the practice of literacy skills. They represent just a glimpse into what that might look like within a comprehensive scope and sequence addressing all of the essential components of literacy. There are certainly many ways these examples can (and should) be adjusted or made different depending on time, grouping structures, students’ reading levels, or students’ language levels. What I encourage you to embrace is the critical role language plays in literacy development and the power to promote both.</br

Learn more about the SIOP® Model for your school or district today >

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Katie Toppel

SIOP® Co-author and K-5 Language Specialist