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Teaching Tip: Reading Whole Numbers Using the Swoop and Group Literacy Strategy

When students learn how to read they begin to read words with CVC patterns but as they encounter more words they soon realize as words get larger some words have vowel pairs, diagraphs and diphthongs. These words require a different word attack strategy than words with the CVC patterns. Swoop and group is a word attack strategy that teaches students how to analyze a word mentally swoop the letters in the vowel pair, diagraph or diphthong in the word, then group them together before sounding out the word.

  1.  The students identify the first letter of the vowel pair, diphthong or digraph swoop underneath the letters and then stop at the last letter in the group.
  2. Group the letters together and determine what sound the letters make together.


Applying Swoop and Group in Mathematics

Students begin to master vowel pairs, diphthongs and diagraphs in 2nd grade while in mathematics they also begin to read three digit numbers. By the end of 4th grade students should be proficient in reading seven digit whole numbers, however many 4th graders who are not proficient with decoding multisyllabic word are unable to read 7 digit numbers. The swoop and group word attack strategy provides non-proficient readers with a strategy for reading words and reading whole numbers. Reading whole numbers is much like reading words with vowel pairs, diphthongs and diagraphs but the only difference is that numbers are being read. A digit that is in a place that has “ten” in its name are treated as vowel pairs, diphthongs or diagraphs and are swooped and grouped with the number in ones, thousands, and millions place and read together.


When numbers are changed from standard form to word form you will notice that the swoop and group numbers are usually written with a hyphen. As with reading there is an exception to every rule, hyphens are only used when the digit is greater than 2 in the tens, ten thousand and ten million place. This is an important detail that should make note of because two digit numbers that are smaller than twenty are written as a single word.

The anchor chart below shows the steps for applying the swoop and group strategy to a seven digit number in standard form and converting the number to the written form.

Number Chart

  1. The students count the digits in the number using place value. This helps them to concentrate on the digits that are in the place with “ten” in its name. Some students will need to label the places while others will only need to say the digit’s place and then swoop and group the digits.
  2. After swooping and grouping the digits the student will then determine if a hyphen is needed or if the digits will be written as single word.

When I introduce reading numbers I begin with 3 digit numbers and then increase the number by one place value after the students have mastered reading the previous numbers until I reach a 6 digit number. When the students are reading large whole numbers in class during an activity and they read a number incorrectly I ask them, “What two numbers do you have to swoop and group?”  As with reading they will analyze the number and then self correct and then re-read the number correctly.

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