Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Closer Look~Guided Reading Groups

Hi-ya, peeps! How are ya? We’ve spent a relaxing Saturday at home, with the exception of a quick outing to spend a little Kohl’s cash. It would’ve expired tomorrow and I didn’t want to let it go to waste…waste not, want not, right?

We’ve been busily establishing routines for guided reading over the last couple of weeks. It’s hard to believe that we’re almost at the END of October already! It took 5 weeks to get our station routines in place….all to be able to successfully meet in small groups. Wellll, NOW all the pieces of our day are in place! Let’s take a closer look….at small groups!

Participating in FREEBIELICIOUS' book study of The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson last summer was some of the best PD I’ve ever had! I’m always curious, always looking for new ways to improve how I work with my kiddos. I leave each day thinking….what can I do to make it better tomorrow? Reading this book has helped me to focus on research based techniques to guide my firsties along their reading journey.  It’s been so exciting to launch  guided reading! They’re ALREADY showing growth!

Each day, our guided reading table is [mostly] clear. Ha! Vowels are on the table as a reference and to serve as a management piece. To avoid… “that’s MY seat” arguments, each student sits at the exact same vowel each and every time they come to the table. We’ve been using whiteboards at small group, BUT you’ll find out a little further down why they’re getting ready to go away.


My lesson plans are always handy. One…because the prompts and teaching points for each group are highlighted on them and two…because I need doodle paper. Once at the guided reading table, I transform into a doodling, anecdotal note taking, listening, prompting, guiding, questioning, running record taking octopus! OR…at least that’s what it feels like trying to do so many things at once!

The little chart at the bottom is an example of how I rotate my groups to meet for guided reading. In a perfect world, I’d meet with all of them every day. The students who have the greatest level of need are seen most often. 3 rotations at about 20 minutes-ish each + a mini-lesson in between each rotation adds up to our 2 hour literacy block being packed from start to finish. Did I mention we have enrichment during this time too? Thank heaven for a supportive principal and 2 awesome grade level helpers that assist during this time so that intervention and enrichment do not equal interruptions to our literacy block routines that we’ve worked so hard to build.


Students bring their book boxes to the table and place them neatly in between themselves and the friend sitting next to them. By doing this, they create a private area to review 3 sight words each day. Because they are divided by their book boxes, there is less of a temptation to copy from their neighbors’ boards instead of using their own visual memory to write the words we review to start each lesson.

Our lessons begin and end with writing sight words. What we have quickly discovered is handing them out, putting them away and taking them out again is annoying! After talking with another teacher on my team, we discovered we weren’t the only ones who thought so. She solved this problem by attaching laminated strips of writing paper to her guided reading table. *LOVE*! I’ll be stopping by school for a few minutes tomorrow to do the same. I’ve seen pins showing teachers using placemats as their whiteboards, but wanted something permanent, that I won’t have to move.


What’s the BEST thing about meeting in small group? Differentiation! You get to meet students exactly where they are and stretch them as far as their little minds will take them! The pictures above are from my transitional reading group. They’re each reading above grade level…the name of the game for them is comprehension and BIGGER words! After beginning small groups with a sight word review, students are all given a “go” signal at separate times to begin reading softly. Each student quietly reads at their own pace while I listen in and either take running records or address teaching prompts about something previously taught. We do not choral read or partner read at this time. Guided reading is all about using our strategies to decode words and draw meaning from them.

The book each student reads is a leveled text that will work well for the comprehension and word attack skills we’re practicing throughout the week. During our first meeting of the week, I take a quick running record as students read in order to be sure the book they’ve been given is a “good fit”. No forms, no copies….just a quick check in “doodle” format on the back of my lesson plans. These doodles will also help to guide any changes that need to be made in grouping students. We’ve already made a few switcheroos!

Having taught 1st grade for the past 4 years, I’ve always pulled small groups for reading. The difference for me this year, is the inclusion of guided writing. When you know better, you do better…..and share it for the benefit of all!

   Slide5    Slide6

Different book…different group. Same comprehension skill. Same focus, but leveled for their ability. This is the emergent group. They’re reading on grade level. If you take a close look at this friend’s notebook, you’ll see something that was not on the previous friend’s page. With this group, lines have been drawn to help students differentiate between letters and words and to guide the spacing in their sentences. Just a little added support. I provide a sentence. Students echo, then write. The lines help to make sure they have all of the words in their sentence too! =) We’ll use these notebooks for reading reflections, graphic organizers, and other activities as we progress through the year. They will only be used in small group.

The green dot simply serves as a reminder to begin on the left. They'll only be used until routines are committed to memory. I’m very, very visual, so I tend to teach with a lot of visual cues.


I have 4 groups in all. The remaining 2 groups are Pre-A to emergent readers. They’re groups are smaller and they receive additional instruction in phonics. We use Wilson Fundations. They’re books primarily contain repetitive phrases/sentences, are highly predictable, and have a lot of picture support. Students that are in critical need of letter knowledge or phonemic awareness skills remain at the table after their group has been dismissed in order to play games and learn by way of the handy dandy iPad. The best part of it all? Every reader walks away feeling successful!


By the end of our very first small group each week, my lesson plans are no longer neat and tidy. I’ve written in information that will help guide each student through the rest of the week and to help guide planning for the next.


Every thing at the guided reading table serves a purpose. Sticky notes are a must! Expo markers, erasers, pencils, fun pointers, picture sorts, sound boxes, and magnetic letters for word building are always close by. There is an alphabet chart attached to the middle of the table and on the board just behind where I sit {to model word building}. The 3 sticky notes just below the alphabet chart are used as sound boxes! We *LOVE* sticky notes!  Sight words charts for the transitional reading group are being prepared as well. I keep these things in a caddy or little bins that are easily moved out of the way until we need them.


Each guided reading group consists of time to review 3 sight words, quiet reading with teacher prompting, teaching points after reading, a quick discussion (if appropriate) and learning of one new sight word…..TIMES 3 groups!!! Wiping the sweat from your brows yet? We’re not through!

Sound like a lot! It is! BUT it’s my FAVORITE 2 hours of the entire day!!! Think it ends there?

….last, but not least, I have to look it all over to analyze it before we move forward with our next book. We keep each book and do repeated readings of it over the course of a week. Repeated readings help to build fluency. When I’m looking at each student’s behaviors during guided reading, I’m looking and listening to tell what kind of miscues they’re making and to determine how accurately they’re reading the text. Monitoring accuracy does not equal assessing fluency. That’s different.


On Fridays, we assess our comprehension, turn in our guided reading books and return all of our “good fit” books back to the class library. On Monday….the cycle starts all over again and makes me one happy, happy, happy teacher!
Thanks for reading though this quick run of our small group routines! Click the pics below to grab a couple tools to add to your guided reading tool-belt! The pictures can be used for picture sorts of your choice. The lined paper is what I’m heading to school to attach to my table so we don’t have to haul out those pesky whiteboards anymore!

Happy reading! Laters gators!

Clipart courtesy of Dots of Fun


Friday, October 18, 2013

Five for Friday~Snippets & a FREEbie

Hi-ya, peeps! I’m linking up with Kacey at DoodleBugs Teaching for another Five for Friday.

Here's a few snippets from our week!


It’s been a “write on” kind of week! We finally put the last piece to our guided reading groups in place…..our guided writing notebooks! We used them to reflect on our books and write sentences. Running records have been taken. A few switcharoos have been made and I couldn’t be happier with the flow of our groups. I never see anything as completely done, so we’ll work to make them the best they can be, but I am thrilled with where we are. I *LOVE* teaching reading!!! It feels great to see the kiddos growing as readers & writers already!

What’s the green dot for? It’s just a little visual reminder to start at the top, right of the paper and signifies “go”. We won’t use them on each page. It was just to get us trained on procedures for our notebooks as we got started with guided writing.


In math, we’ve been learning how to S-U-B-T-R-A-C-T, SUBTRACT! Who else would be as fun as our groovy friend Pete to begin learning how to handle taking things away? Did we cry? Goodness, NO! (There were a couple days when I thought...I might!) Working with numbers can be hard, but characters like Pete help to make it ALL GOOD!


We even got to write on our desks to practice making the matching number sentences! No worries, it came right off with a baby wipe. We saw Boss Doss’ friends having fun writing on their cubes and thought we’d give it a try too! The kids loved it!

halloween freebie

And what teacher ends the week, without looking ahead to the next? Here’s a little repost from last year, of a Halloween FREEbie to practice ABC order and sorting nouns and verbs. The pictures are purposely the same, so that students will practice decoding in order to read the words and sort them into categories. Always…..more to come! Click the pic to grab it, if you like.

I hope your week was as “write on” as ours was! Enjoy!

Laters, Gators!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How do you have time for THAT?!

Hi-ya, peeps! How are ya?!

Alrighty, here I am… as promised to give a peek into the pacing of our day. I’ve {jokingingly}, ahem….no, really…lol…diagnosed myself with ADD, so if it seems our day moves at lightening speed, it’s probably because IT DOES. My attention span mirrors that of a 6 year old. After 15 minutes, I’m so ready to moooove on! And we have tons to cover, so there isn’t a minute to waste!

Now, before we get started, please keep in mind that this outlines the course of a normal day. What’s normal?! If you’ve taught more than a day, you know….every day doesn’t run exactly the same and we’re in the business of growing little human beings. Things have to be changed, juggled, rearranged, addressed or ignored some days in order for all of the pieces to fall into place.


Ready? Tighten your seat belts! Here we go!


We begin each morning with reading independently or Read to SELF. Students have 3 “good fit” books of their choice, a decodable reader, their guided reading book and a journal in their book boxes. After reading a self-selected book, students move to their desks to reflect on reading. We began the year, simply building the routine of read and reflect. The tasks have since become a little more skill centered. You can check out what we’re using for morning work now, HERE!

Quiet music plays during this time and the lights are dimmed in order to provide a calm atmosphere to start the day. Our lights actually stay this way throughout most of the morning. It helps to serve as a reminder that we’re in a quiet work environment. We also get the best picture projected for the mimio this way.


What I dislike the most about the beginning of the year is having to TALK soooo much! I know its necessary, but I absolutely love how much smoother our day flows once routines are taught and learned. Now, we move by cues and signals in order to transition and meet expectations rather than me explaining my voice away throughout the day. How do I know they’ve really got it? When they begin to watch and anticipate my moves even before the cues are given. In addition to being a little ADD, there’s a little OCD thrown in the mix too. I am absolutely a sucker for routine! Kiddos need predictability and admittedly, so do I.

We transition to the carpet by changing the soft music to something a little more fast paced that requires simple movements. The Hand Jive….(a clapping rhythms song) works great. Bodies move to the carpet, ears listen, hands are busy. The class’ goal is to clear their desks and make it to the carpet before the song ends.


Once at the carpet, we discuss our goals for the day. Move through 1/2 of our calendar routine… (We’ll talk about that another day.) …and head out for recess. There are lots of little people on our campus that must share the playground, so we go out pretty early. So far, so good….it’s worked well.

After getting all of our sillies out at recess, we’re ready to move back into the room and prepare for our literacy block. Do you teach reading in the morning? This is the first year that I have and I’m lovin’ it! I could really, Really….REALLY teach reading….so beginning the day with it has been a pleasant change of pace for me. Our schedule is set in such a way that we have a nice long stretch of uninterrupted time and we squeeze sooooo much into every second!

Our CAFE board has reading strategies on it now! And {whooooa, Nelly} if I don’t remember to add one each week! My kiddos are really into it and refer back to it during think-alouds.

We use a workshop model which consists of 3 mini-lessons, with 3 rounds of Daily 5. You can check out a previous post about it here. The mini-lessons cover skills in comprehension, word study, fluency, shared reading, etc…. Mini-lesson….guided reading and stations. Mini-lesson….guided reading and stations. Mini-lesson….guided reading and stations. Get the idea? Each rotation takes around 30 minutes or so. During small group, differentiation occurs to meet individual needs for emerging and early guided reading groups. (We’ll go a little deeper into small group another day too.)


This big guy is an example of one of our comprehension mini-lessons. We created this story map together and then placed it in the writing station for students to add details and discuss the story. It made for a great review before our comprehension assessment too!

Next up, LUNCH! Yum!!!

After lunch, things get a little crazy! We finish the second 1/2 of our calendar routine. Count and move to music….Then….


introduce concepts and record learning in our math journals. I model on the document camera and students record examples in their journals. It’s divided into monthly sections by a calendar at the beginning of each month.

After journals, we play games or use hands-on activities to learn math concepts all together. Once we’ve gone over concepts, we generally practice independently at our desks or with our shoulder buddies. Students’ work is given a “quick check” and then it’s time for specials! Tired yet? By this time, the lights have been turned back on and kiddos are ready for a brain break!

They’re off to specials and………I’m off to a meeting or prepping for them to return.


After specials, we move to math stations. This time lasts for about 20 minutes. It’s a laid back time of day where students get to work in small groups to practice math concepts. During this time, I also get to either get down on the floor to have conversations with students or meet with students that need more support in math. The activities that we use, depend heavily on skills that we need more practice mastering.

Inspired by a pin from thewildthingslearn
Think the day’s over? Nope! Not yet! After math stations, we visit the word wall to interact with our sight words for the week. This is a quick daily practice with games, writing, or reading the word wall. From the word wall…we head into writer’s workshop for the last hour of the day!

We start out calm…get a little wild and crazy in math….and return to calm with writing. I love writing at the end of the day. It tends to be quieter, because well…let’s face it, they’re pooped by now! Ha! And it allows me time, again, to walk around and provide students with individual one on one time. Word wall…mini-lesson, independent writing and conferring. That’s the gist.

Science and social studies are integrated into this time, as well. Grammar M, W, and Friday. Science or Social Studies T and Thursday. Science and social studies topics are also integrated into our literacy block.

Do YOUR sentences have Superhero SWAG?! Ours do, lol! Writing is fun!

Inspired by a pin from KeriB at
And……THAT, ladies and gentlemen is  how we roll! The day….at the speed of lightening, in a nutshell.


Need a nap now? I do!

Laters, gators!


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