Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fables...Incorporating Them Throughout the Day!

I feel it friends...spring is in the air! It MAY have something to do with the lovely weather we had this week or the fact that my daffodils are blooming, but I feel it AND I love it!

This past week we had ELPA testing. I volunteered to be a non-testing room. So, I got to keep my non-ELL kiddos and I got the non-ELL kiddos from another class. Boy...we had a great time! We are focused on fables this week, so we had some fable themed days that were awesome! I apologize for all the pictures and length of this post but it was such a great week, I HAD to share it with you!

Before we switched, which was on Wednesday and Thursday, we started our week just learning about fables. Our core specifically talks about folktales and morals, so we spend over a month focusing on fables, fairy tales and tall tales. We want to make sure that the kiddos have a really good understand of the elements in each type of story. We always start with this anchor:

We also get a whole, ton load of books. Here are a few of my favs:

Now, let's get to the fun stuff! I was scheduled to have the non-ELL kiddos for two days, all day. I didn't want to teach them any new content because the kiddos who were testing would miss out. SO, we had two theme days. The first day was all about fables and the second day was all about the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Let's look at day one...fables.

We started off reading this short fable from our Aesop's Fable Leveled Passages pack. The kiddos read the passage and did a retell for it. Then we went through as a group, retold the passage AND talked about the moral. This moral was pretty easy to get...success!! Then, we moved on to writing our own fables. We learned that in most fables the characters are animals. I gave the kiddos a page full of animals and they had to choose 2, 3 or 4 to include in their own fable. Then they started brainstorming their problem, solution, moral and if they wanted to, trickery. I didn't give them a ton of guidance for this activity. I wanted it to be more like a prompt, just to see what they came up with.

They really turned out AMAZING! I was quite impressed! This took us the morning, until lunch. When we returned from lunch we did a little math activity to help us practice coins. The kiddos had to add the total amount of coins and write the answer in the corresponding fruit square.

When they were done rotating around the room, the kiddos got to color the fruit and if they got the answer right, they got to put that piece of fruit into Anansi's basket.

The kiddos LOVED this activity! Even though it wasn't practicing fables, they loved the Anansi stories and they loved that this activity connected them to that.

Then we moved on to another fable, this time The Crow and the Pitcher. We read the fable and talked about the moral. Then the kiddos spent their time estimating how many "pebbles," really beans, it would take to move their water line. Then they got to work figuring out how many it would take. They loved it and many requested to change their estimate halfway through. Turns takes A LOT!

Phew! That's the end of day one. Next up, day 2!

This was Three Billy Goats Gruff Day! We started by reading the story, of course, and then we made retell sticks with the characters. This helped us to retell the story to each other.

Then we practiced a readers theater for the story. Oh boy, they LOVED this activity! I found a free readers theater from Jaime Locke at the First Grade Bloom. Click HERE to get a copy! I used Educlips Three Billy Goats Gruff clip art for the hats, actually for EVERYTHING:)

This is a peek at a couple of the hats! This was a really great activity. They were really excited to perform their plays and they did an awesome job changing their voices for each character!

Next up, we did a retell because this is a skill we are working on. Luckily, they have had so much exposure to this story and practice retelling with the retell sticks, that writing the retell was easy for them!

We had another activity planned for math. It was a scoot style game with triple digit subtraction but, of course, we had a fire drill! So, I had to nix that idea and move straight onto our bridge challenge. The kiddos had to build a bridge using marshmallows and toothpicks and only one piece of paper. Their bridge had to go across the river, or bowl of water. The challenge was to see how many "goats," really plastic hippos, their bridge could hold. Let me tell you, this was HARD. We looked at bridges and talked about how to make them more sturdy, but it was still pretty tricky!

These were a PACKED couple of days, but boy were they fun! The kiddos strengthened they understanding on fables, morals, retell as well as practiced fluency, adding coins and writing detailed stories. It was fantastic! You may not have the time to do ALL of these activities but hopefully one or two of them will work for you in your classroom:)

I've really been wanting to have more theme days. More ways to engage and motivate my students! I see so many great ides that I thought I would give it a try. I wasn't dancing or jumping on tables, Ron Clark style, but I did have them engaged and excited for each new activity that we started. This is definitely something I plan to include in my days from here on out!

I hope that you all have a wonderful and restful evening and a fantastic week!!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday friends! I am SO glad the weekend is here! It has been a long, but great week! I am sure ready for some rest though. I am so excited to link up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for a little Five for Friday fun!

 This week, we started learning about collective nouns. They sure are tricky! There's no real's all memorizing. I picked up this gem in a recent book order. The kiddos LOVE it and it's full of great collective nouns!

Over winter break, I was grading some of my kiddos writing. Holy smokes! Their handwriting was SO hard to read I couldn't believe it. It has just gotten SO sloppy! I had to do something about it! So, we started our handwriting books this week. Hopefully this cleans up their work and reinforces them taking their time when writing. 

I have a very LARGE collection of books. Way more than any one person should have. But, every year when we start our folktales unit, I always hit up the library. I have spent a lot of time on Abebooks, ordering used books for this very unit. I have finally shrunk my library pile to this neat stack. It's still a huge chunk, but it's WAY better than it used to be!

We have had some beautiful weather in the PNW this week! I bribed my kiddos with some outside reading. They love to go out and read in the sunshine! It takes a special group to be bribed by reading. Another reason I LOVE this class!

Let me tell you...this warm weather is not common in the PNW this time of year! We got home at about 5:15 and it was still warm enough for the kiddos to go outside and play! I love it!

I hope you all have a wonderful and restful weekend:)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Guided Reading: Leading Effective Groups

Happy Sunday friends! Today, I wanted to hop on and share with you a teacher truth that I have been thinking about for a while. I've been to college twice now for both my bachelor's and master's, and not one time did I learn about guided reading. Well...I guess that's not ENTIRELY true. I learned about the IMPORTANCE of guided reading but never HOW to actually do it. When I did my student teaching the school I was at didn't do guided reading. Then I got hired at my school. WHOA. These kiddos HAVE to have guided reading. It's a must because of their demographics, and the fact that most of them are English language learners. So, my first year of teaching I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, basically I was just reading with the kids in groups. Luckily, my mom works at my school and my mom is an AH-MAZING reading teacher and she helped me out A LOT!!!

Fast forward...eight years later, I finally feel like I know what I'm doing in the guided reading department. Do any of you feel that way? You had no idea but then learned? Maybe you still have no idea? I feel you. I've been there.

Today, I want to share with you what I do, with the hope that if you are in the "I have no idea" boat, it will give you an oar and help you get into the "I've got it down" boat.   :)

So, let's start with the resource. I've used books in our book room and have been on Reading A-Z to get all of my resources. It's time consuming and once I find the book, then I have to pull out all of the other things I need to go with it such as sight word cards, vocabulary cards, the retell pages, etc. It was a totally effective way to get resources BUT very time consuming! We wanted something easier. This is why we created our Guided Reading packs. We wanted EVERYTHING right there. Done. Run a couple of copies and we are ready to go. We took all the steps that we do in every guided reading group and put them altogether, sequentially and by level. I still plan out all my groups. I track the kiddos focuses of instruction and set the goal for the group, but now I've got the bank of resources that I need at my fingertips.

I have master copies of direction pages, laminated, as a reference. Sometimes I need a little refresher, a quick reminder, and having these pages handy, helps me. They list the stories, strategies and activity ideas.

Once I'm planned, I'm ready for the actual group. Each of my groups is 20 minutes long. I try to meet with each group every day. Sometimes, depending on the make-up of the class, that can be tricky. If I need to, I will rotate my highest group. I will see the highest on Tuesday/Thursday and my next highest on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. I see the rest of my groups every day without fail.

For the first 2-3 minutes of every group we practice our sight words. We use the Fry word list and each kiddo is working on words that they are struggling with. They get 5 words at a time. When they can read them correctly to me for three days in a row they get a new set.

Once we have finished our individualized sight word practice, we move on to phonics skills. This is based on their needs as a group. Even if a kiddo has a certain word chunk down, but others need it, we still practice it. The phonics in these sets are matched with the skills needed at each of the reading levels. This helps student to learn and become strong in phonics sequentially, as they move up through the reading levels. There are many activities that we can use to practice the phonics. I always start with practicing the sound and spelling.

Then we move onto different activities. Our favorite is word whack! I like to mix it up so that the kiddos stay involved. By having different options ready to go, it is also easy for me to switch it up if we are having one of THOSE days where they need a little more action.

Generally we work on phonics for about 8-10 minutes. This gives them some good, solid phonics practice.

Then we move onto working on the passage that we are focusing on that week. We practice both passage specific sight words and vocabulary. For additional sight word practice, we have a variety of activities that we can do, but their most favorite is a speed read!

Sight word fluency strips are another fun way to practice. The kiddos time each other for a minute to see how many of the words they can read.

To practice the vocabulary words, we mix up our practice. Some days they will have to match the definition to the picture, some days I will read the word and they have to tell me the definition. Some days they have to use the vocabulary word in a complete sentence or sentences.

I try to keep this sight word and vocabulary time to around 3-4 minutes. This gives us a longer time to work on the passage.

We do a lot of work with these passages. We highlight vocabulary words, practice our reading fluency and work on our comprehension. The thing that I love the most is the fact that the reading is not overwhelming. These passages are long enough to have enough meaty content to practice things like retell, but they aren't too overwhelming. We also spend about a week on each passage. This way we can get repeated exposure to the vocabulary and sight words. We can also hone in on each kiddo's focus of instruction.

At the end of the week, I let the kiddos take their passage home. That way they can read them successfully to whomever is at home with them.

Friday is when I do assessments. Depending on the size of the group, I will either pull the whole group and assess while the other kiddos are focused on a task, or I will pull the kiddos one at a time during their group time. I do a running record while they read. This way I can track their errors, assess their comprehension and determine areas that we still need to work on.

Each set has 8 sequential passages. To track all of the kiddos progress, I use a running record tracking page as well as a sight words and phonics check off sheet.

The assessment portion is really important. I know that we are all swimming in data and information, but for me to be really effective, I NEED to make sure they are making growth. I also want to be extremely targeted on the focus for each student. Otherwise, I am wasting valuable time to help the kiddos make the most progress that they can.

Guided reading can be really overwhelming, but I have found that following the same format for each group, as a general guideline, is very effective for the kiddos. The repetition and targeted practice of phonics and sight words really helps them to make strong progress. Generally, I align the comprehension focus with what we are learning in class at the time, to give them some extra reinforcement and teaching with the skill.

If you are looking for resources to run effective and sequential guided reading groups, please check out our Guided Reading Packs. They are bundled for savings. The bundles are A-C and D-I. However, we also have them listed individually if you are wanting to target one specific group.


I hope that this helps you feel more confident when teaching your guided reading groups. They are so important to the success of your kiddos, and it is such a valuable chunk of time to help them become stronger readers.

Hopefully you are all having a restful and relaxing Sunday:)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Five For Friday

Happy Friday everyone!  Hope you had a great week!  We had the whole week off...Yay! Howzabout a little Five For Friday? Big thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting each week!  This week's theme?  What the teacher did on vacation!

This week started off just great!  Look at this picture of my work calendar....Ahhh.....that's a beautiful thing.  A whole week with nothing scheduled.

I spent the week playing with these adorable fuzzybums.  We actually have 4.....can you spot our yellow lab?  She is a normal sized lab but is still way smaller than our ginormous newfs.  Don't let that fool you though....she is definitely the boss!


And what would vacation time be without a little shopping therapy at Target!  With Dr. Seuss Day coming up, I had to do some stocking up on books and gifties. And I may have gone a little overboard with lots of other things too...maybe....ok yeah.....I did.

On Thursday, a good teacher friend and I went to the Newsboys concert.  We love them and go just about every time they come to town.  It was so fun to catch up on what's been going on in our lives and to sing along with the songs as loud as we could!

And really......what teacher makes it through a whole week off without a little bit of work?  We finished the week getting our newest Leveled Reading Passages Set ready for publishing.  This one is all about Matter.  We hope to have it posted this weekend if you are interested.

So what did you all do this week?  I hope each of you had the entire week off.  We heard that some teachers even had to work on President's Day!  All we've got to say to that is.....Ewww!...and we are so very sorry for you.  Have a great weekend everyone!  I'm off to check out the other Five For Friday posts to see what you all have been up to this week.