This question comes frequently from special education classrooms who are teaching the Open Court Reading Program…
I have a classroom of fifth graders reading at a first grade level. Can’t I just teach my fifth graders the first grade curriculum?
While fifth grade students may not be able to read, they can certainly comprehend, are curious, and need access to the content contained in the fifth grade curriculum as much as they need to know how to read. Maybe they can’t read but they’re not babies.
If you’re teaching fifth graders the first grade curriculum (which includes things like we take a boat to travel somewhere on the water) your students are falling behind not only in reading but also in content knowledge. You are putting your students at a severe disadvantage in school as well as life.
That said, it’s difficult teaching a program that’s rigorous to students who are far behind. However, program components like the workbook, the reading anthology, and word knowledge are all done whole group. You are providing exposure to concepts that students won’t master yet but they will need. I would hope that in special education your pacing can be modified to allow a longer period of time to work on the same units. Nevertheless, just like in the regular ed classroom, your differentiation comes from your independent work time/workshop period. That is when you meet with small groups, pre-teach, reteach, and support students in ways that are specific to them. During that time, if you want to bring in a first grade decoable book to reteach the /i/ sound then feel free…although you might do better to bring in some authentic literature in that time to not only reteach skills but also support students’ appreciation of literature.