Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guided Reading: What to do BEFORE you start your groups

I often receive questions/emails about how I set up and manage my guided reading groups in my first grade classroom.  I also receive questions on how I keep the rest of the class engaged while groups are going on.  Today, I am taking some time to go over these things with  you.  Perhaps you will get some new ideas for the upcoming school year!

So first, I will begin with 3 key components that must be in place prior to starting guided reading in your room.

#1 Key Component:  CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT---To successfully implement any sort of independent/small group activity that you want your students working on in class, you must have strong classroom management.  Rules and procedures must be known, practiced daily the first month of school {and as needed}, and be posted somewhere in you classroom as a visual for your students. I encourage establishing these things together as a class.  This will give your students ownership which will in turn help them remember them.  *To see a list of the procedures I teach the first month of school click HERE.  The students must also be able to demonstrate that they can follow the rules of the classroom prior to you starting small groups.

#2 Key Component:  SYSTEM IN PLACE FOR THE OTHER STUDENTS---Think about what it is you'd like for your other students to be working on during guided reading.  You want to make sure that whatever it may be, it's thoughtful and not just "fluff" or "busy work."  ie:  Having kids work on a packet of worksheets is not thoughtful work.  Having them work in small groups to do a literature circle or work in literacy centers are examples of thoughtful work.

#3 Key Component:  ORGANIZATION---We all know that there is NEVER enough time in our days as teachers.  It always seems impossible to fit in everything we want to teach.  Because we are strapped for time as it is, it's important to be organized so we aren't wasting any of our precious instructional time searching for materials.  When it comes to your guided reading groups, you probably have 15-20 minutes max per group.  By the time your kids get to the table and get situated, you've already lost 2-3 minutes.  Searching around for materials you want to use in group will just waste time {and leave your kiddos the opportunity to get off task, which will lead to MORE wasted time}.  It's important to have your materials READY and LABELED for each group.  I'm not saying you have to suddenly become some type-A crazy maniac with color-coded bins and matching labels tied on with cute burlap bows, but try to get a little organization in your life; even a pile for each group would be fantastic.

Once you have the above 3 key components in place, you are ready to begin your small groups.  I am going to devote the next section of this post to how I personally manage my groups in my room.  I will go into detail on how I set up/manage each component.  I am obviously not a guru on guided reading, but I will say that I've had 12 years to practice it.  During those 12 years, there was a lot of trial and error figuring out how to best execute it in my room with my students.

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT--We are a PBIS school.  I have written in detail about my classroom management system HERE.  In addition to PBIS, I create a "Class Promise" with my students each year.  This is just a few sentences about what the culture of the classroom should look like.  When someone isn't following it, I reference it.

SYSTEM IN PLACE FOR THE OTHER STUDENTS---This is always a tricky thing for teachers. It's hard to know what your other kids should be working on while you are running guided reading groups.  You want the time to be beneficial to them.  I've tried several things over the years and I finally found a great system that works for me and my kids.  Each day, I run two guided reading groups.  During one of my groups, the rest of the class is at literacy centers.  This is a 20 minute time frame.  They are working on ONE CENTER in the 20 minutes.  There is no switching, no choosing new centers, no loud voices, and no goofing around.  Everyone works hard for the 20 minutes.  Then I ring a bell and the kids clean up.  My group ends and they, along with everyone else, heads back to their seats and begin quiet reading time.  During quiet reading time, another guided reading group begins.  The kids at their seats read for 20 minutes.  I run my group for 20 minutes.  The same rules apply as centers--you do not get up, you use a quiet voice, and you READ.  At the end of 20 minutes, I ring a bell and we all clean up and head back to our seats to get ready for lunch.  This system works wonders for me because the kids know what to do.  We have spent the whole 1st quarter practicing this.  I do not start guided reading until 2nd quarter because I need to be able to float around and facilitate/monitor behavior as kids are learning to become independent at their centers and during quiet reading time.

**See more on literacy centers HERE**
**See more on quiet reading time HERE**

I use all of these centers throughout the year:

ORGANIZATION---No matter how you do it, a system is a must for keeping your materials organized and ready!  I keep my guided reading materials organized in large binders, by level, for quick access and on the go planning!  Everything I need is housed inside.  Worksheets are 3-hole punched.  Games and activity cards are laminated, rubber banded, and placed in clear sheet protectors inside.  The first page in each binder is a table of contents.  This outlines what is inside and in what order.  The binders are easy to take home if I need to plan for a group and have to leave work.  If you don't like binders, tubs are always an option.  Just find a system that you like.

So there you have it. 3 important things that must be in place prior to starting your guided reading groups!  What additional questions do you have?  Feel free to email me at

Check out the materials I use to run my 1st grade guided reading groups below!

Also available: Kindergarten Guided Reading Bundle!


Monday, July 25, 2016

Clip Chart: Why I use it and why it works for me

Over the past several years, there's been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the infamous classroom clip chart.  I would like to start by saying that I have used one for 12 years and I can't imagine my classroom management without it.  Today's post is dedicated to the clip chart and the reasons why it works for me.

We are a PBIS {POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTIONS AND SUPPORTS} school.  We have been for 11 years now.  One of the main components of our system are clip sticks.  I should add that by "stick" I mean it's a yard stick that has painted sections on it.  It hangs vertically and each child has a clothespin with their name on it clipped to the stick.

Our sticks are set up with a color code system from top to bottom: BLUE, GREEN, SMALL GREEN, ORANGE, YELLOW, RED.

  • Blue stands for outstanding behavior or something special a child did that day.  
  • The green is where everyone begins their day.  
  • The small green serves as the "warning" section of the stick.  If I ask a child to stop a certain behavior verbally and they do not, they are asked to move their clip down.  *The small green is really just a portion of the green sectioned off with a black, Sharpie line.  
  • Orange is for when a child has had several warnings, been moved down to small green, and still isn't correcting the behavior. Orange equals a note home. 
  • Yellow is obviously more severe and equals a phone call home.
  • Red equals a visit to the ole' principal and a phone call home from HIM.  

I go over the stick with my kids at the start of the year.  It's one of my classroom procedures that I introduce.  They've already had the same stick in kindergarten so it's not really new.  What is new is the way I use it.  I use it mostly for positive reinforcement.  This is especially important to do those first few weeks of school.  Here are a few examples of things I say:  "Oh, Johnny, I love the way you ignored a friend that was trying to distract you from doing your work.  You can move your clip up to the blue."  "Wow!  Jess, you came in so nicely from recess.  You got a quick drink, walked to the rug, and waited quietly for the rest of your friends.  You may move your clip up to the blue."  Now you may think that I am just rewarding kids for expected behaviors.  I am.  And it's completely fine because we are talking about 6 year old children here who are JUST LEARNING.  And aside from that, they are learning what OUR CLASSROOM should be like.  So yes, I do reward kids that do what is expected early on in the year.  They are modeling proper behavior for their peers.

For me, the orange, yellow, and red portions of the clip stick serve more as intimidating colors on the stick that "you never want to be on."  I very rarely move a child's clip down below the small green. The thought of the kids moving their clip to those colors is enough in itself. When you have solid classroom management, you shouldn't have to move clips constantly.  The kids should know exactly what's expected of them.   However, we are all human and humans make mistakes.  Moving a clip below the small green definitely does not mean someone is a "bad kid."  We talk a lot about this point early in the year as well.

I do move a clip down on occasion and depending on the severity of the behavior, the children have the chance to move back up.  I always watch for them "turning themselves around" and make a conscious effort to praise the behavior and ask them to move their clip up to blue.  NOTE:  The children are by no means allowed to ask to move up.  The kids can sign our "Blue Crew" poster if their clip is still on blue at the end of the day!

Each day, the students color their behavior calendars in their take-home data binders.  They also have monthly goals for their calendars.  The calendars go home every night, in the binders, so the parents see them constantly.

Pardon the glare--I'm not a professional photographer!
In conclusion, the clip stick works for me and always has.  However, it must be paired with a lot of praise and positive notes home! Having these two things in place helps give me solid classroom management. The kids know exactly what to expect and I know what to expect from them.


Monday Madness 7.25.16

Happy Monday and welcome back for another "Monday Madness!"  Today's deal is my First Grade Sight Word Bundle.  This contains ALL of my sight word activities listed in my store.  Included are 21 different sight word activities.  This is a tremendous resource that can be used all year long to keep your literacy centers interesting!  Each week, I incorporate one sight word activity into my literacy centers.  This ensures that the kids are getting the spiral review that is ESSENTIAL for emergent readers!  Grab this bundle 50% off today, July 25 ONLY!  Click the cover photo below to check it out!!!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Birthday Bags

It's July which means I am in full prepping mode for back to school!  I've been reading a few PD books {I'll share that info. in another post}, shopping for bts deals, and doing some small projects for my classroom.  One thing I always do in the summer is prep my upcoming students' birthday bags. This year, their bags are a little sparse!  I decided I spend enough on all the fun projects we do throughout the year so three little trinkets and a sticker will have to suffice!

I bought some cute popcorn bags at Hobby Lobby, bubbles at Target {summer clearance}, and a big trinket assortment pack at Wal-Mart {my annual trip to Wal-Mart has turned into two trips--YUCK}.  I stuffed each bag with 3 trinkets and placed them in a basket.  I also keep the birthday badge stickers in the side of the basket.  When a child's birthday comes up {I keep my FREE birthday frame chart right next to the basket of bags}, I simply grab a bag and a sticker and place it on their desk the night before their big day.  They know they have to TAKE THE BAG HOME TO OPEN b/c lord knows they'd have those little trinkets out all day if I let them open the bag at school!

Birthday bags are a great way to prep student birthdays without all the fuss!  See last year's bags HERE.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Madness 7.18.16

Hi, friends!  It's time for another "Monday Madness!"  I hope you've been enjoying the deals the past three Mondays. Today's deal is my "Daily Sentence Edits Bundle."  This is such a great pack to supplement your language program!  6 months {Jan-June} of sentence edits are included.  Each month contains edits that relate to the holidays or special days with in.  

My kids LOVE finding the mistakes in the sentences each day.  We do it together on the projector and then they get their own sheets to correct and add a picture to.  Having a buddy "check" their work is such a fun novelty!   Grab this bundle 50% off today, Monday, July 18 ONLY!  Click the cover photo below to see more information!


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Making 10 DIY Project

If you are a k-1 teacher who uses CCSS, you surely know about the importance of making 10.  It seems as if we work on this skill all year long.  I typically use my giant magnetic 10-frames as the kids use their student ones, but I wanted to have something larger to use for modeling and hands-on practice.  One of my summer projects this past month was to make a "Making 10 Ring."  For this project, you need the following:

  • a small hula hoop
  • a small pool noodle
  • a knife
  • number cards
  • a large binder clip
To begin, slice your pool noodle across the side of it, making sure not to cut all the way through. Next, cut your noodle into 1-2 inch pieces.  Pop 10 of the pieces onto your hula hoop.  Clip a large binder ring in the middle to hold the number card of the number you will be making.  *I cut enough pieces of noodle to do everything from making 5 to making 20.  This pool noodle model will be great for whole-class demonstrations, Math tubs, or early finishers!  It's also simple to differentiate by using larger number cards and more pieces of noodle for your advanced kids or small number cards and less pieces of noodle for your struggling kids.  Easy-Peasy!  As a really easy center, you could have your kids write all the facts they can make with the noodle on their dry erase slates!  Easy-Peasy!

You can get some free b/w number cards by clicking the cover picture below.  They aren't as large as the ones shown in my picture.  Those colorful ones can be found HERE.