Collaborative Circle Blog

Help, My Students Are Struggling in SIPPS!

As someone who supports SIPPS professional learning, I am often asked what do when students struggle. The question “What do I do if . . . ?” leads me to my own questions about the instruction, students’ responses to instruction, and how learning is being applied within the lesson and across the day. So many factors go into making instructional decisions for a SIPPS group that I need to dig into specifics.

In this blog, I’ll describe some common responses to the question “What if?” As you read on, keep in mind your own situation:

  • What SIPPS level are you teaching?
  • What is the lesson number?
  • What is the Mastery Test number?
  • What types of errors are the students making?


What do I do when students struggle?

When you notice students struggling, first to examine your own instructional routines.

  • Are my routines as efficient as possible?
  • Am I clear and concise?
  • Am I providing ample wait time before I ask for choral responses?
  • Are the students responding chorally?
  • Do I use immediate corrective feedback?
  • Do I use the time the students are reading text to gather data?
  • Do my lessons include all the instructional routines?
  • Do I reteach the lesson using List B immediately (the next time the group meets)?
  • Am I providing enough instruction to sustain growth by:
    • teaching full lessons (30 minutes)?
    • teaching the group four or five times per week?

For more support in thinking about your instructional routines, see Appendix A: Routines, the teacher-facing videos, the animation videos, and read Sipps Tip #9: Instructional Routines are Essential.

After considering your own instruction, determine what evidence you have that the students are learning the spelling-sounds taught.

  • Are the students able to read the words during the Blending Decodable Words/Reading a Mixed List routine?
  • Are the students able to write words during Guided Spelling?
  • Do the students demonstrate accuracy and automaticity during reading practice? (To learn more, read about verification of instruction.)

Next, decide how you will support students who are struggling to keep up with sight words.

  • Do I take the time to practice the sight words during the lesson?
  • Do I allow time for extra reading practice in previous program text to give the students multiple exposures to the words?
  • Do I allow time for rereading previous texts to give the students multiple exposures to the words?
  • Have I connected with the classroom teacher to ask for them to provide more practice with the words?

Finally, recognize that several concepts and lessons are particularly difficult for students:

  • In SIPPS Beginning:
    • Continuous blending
    • Increasing number of sight words
    • Lessons 20–30
  • In SIPPS Extension:
    • Review Lessons 1–15
  • In SIPPS Extension and Plus:
    • Inflectional endings
    • Complex vowels

Be patient, be prepared to slow the pace of instruction, and be ready to provide extra practice or reteach.


What kinds of errors are the students making?

First, think about the specific errors and the needed level of support. Do the errors require:

  • Reteaching lessons using List B?
  • Extra practice with a concept?
  • More sustained reading time?
  • Adjustment of my routine, wait time, or corrective feedback?

Next, determine what in-program supports are available.

  • Some lessons include practice lists.
  • The Mastery Test Interpretation: To Consider and Analysis of Errors may provide a recommendation beyond reteaching.
  • The Instructional Self-check may provide a recommendation.

To learn more about the in-program supports, watch the level-specific archived webinar.

Finally, reflect on the opportunities students have to read across the day.

  • Do all students have the opportunity to read books they can read with automaticity and accuracy?
    • In Making Meaning, this opportunity is called Individualized Daily Reading (IDR) and occurs daily. Have I shared with classroom teacher(s) what types of books are appropriate for the students to read independently?
  • Do grade 1 students have access to Shared Reading instruction that provides opportunities for repeated readings? Is the Poetry Reader being used strategically to support automaticity?


What can I do to find out more?

  • Am I using the Elements of Effective Implementation Reflection Tool to guide my reflections? This tool includes:
    • Level-specific considerations for program implementation, instructional routines, and student engagement.
    • Level-specific “Reflect on Practice” questions to provide further opportunities for self-reflection.
  • Have I considered my collection of data from sources such as the Mastery Test, observations of students’ reading, and observations of students during the lesson?
  • Have I asked a colleague to observe me teaching a specific SIPPS group and provide feedback?
  • Have I asked a colleague to teach a specific SIPPS group so I can observe another teacher’s instruction and debrief with them?