Watching kids "get it" is exciting. There is that confusion and frustration at the beginning that gradually changes as things begin to make sense. Suddenly the light bulb goes off and the smiles appear. There is a definite sense of "Aha". This is often the case in math when kids work with concrete materials.
Hands on activities and manipulatives made the difference. That is the magic of using hands on activities and manipulatives to teach basic concepts in math.
Here are some different types of games and activities as well as resources that may help as you venture into teaching with concrete examples.
Before kids can move forward in math, they have to understand what numbers are and be able to work with them. This includes recognizing what the numerals look like, counting objects, making one to one correlation with the number and the object, etc.
Counting by one, two, five, and ten can all be done with concrete objects. It's important to make sure that there is understanding of one concept before adding in the next one.
Counting by one:
Start with picking up objects one at a time and counting them sequentially. Try counting up to five, then ten, and then twenty. Practice this until they can do it without help. Pointing at objects as they are counted also works. Make sure to also work on counting objects that may not be lined up but are in random positions.
Counting by two:
Once they are able to count by one without prompting, start introducing counting two together. There are several ways to do this. It is important that they understand that they are counting two objects at a time. You could put the objects in pairs and have them count by saying the odd numbers quietly and the even numbers loudly at first, and then have them say the odd number inside their head and the even number out loud. With practice, they will be able to say only the even numbers and do the skip counting by two.
Counting by five and ten:
Counting by five and ten require a good understanding of larger numbers. Practice using number lines and hundreds charts to expand to larger numbers and do lots of activities to help kids see how these bigger quantities work. Then work on patterns and skip counting by five and ten. Use things like hands or coins for visually counting by five or ten as well.
Teach children that numbers have many representations, such as dots, fingers, counters, numerals, objects, ten frames, etc.
The goal is to help them to see patterns and relationships between the numbers and objects. The goal is to help them to start understanding how different concepts like more, less, equal to, greater than, less than, etc work. Basic facts for addition and subtraction followed by multiplication and division are also part of number sense.
Number sense is key to all aspects of math. It is important to make sure that kids have a solid understanding of how numbers work and the relationships between different operations happen in order to ensure that they will be successful with more abstract and complex concepts.
When we refer to basic facts, we usually mean adding and subtracting single digit numbers. It's important to have a good understanding of these facts and how they work in order to do more complex math questions. Games are a great way to work on these.
Start by working with numbers that add up to ten. Making tens is a key concept for many different other skills and concepts.
Using dice work well for teaching basic facts to ten. Check out the video below to see how I used dice for teaching how to make tens.
Using ten frames is another great visual for how to make ten. Working with ten frame cards or placing objects in containers that represent ten frames help kids to see when they have a ten and how many are needed if they have a number that is less than ten. The more they see these visuals, the easier it is for them to quickly recognize numbers up to ten and what numbers go together to make ten. Check out this video to learn more.
I loved using these ten frame cards to play games with my students. They had fun, and they became very good at recognizing similar numbers quickly. Playing "Snap" added an element of friendly competition.
Another fun activity was playing with teams using the large cards. One person from each team came forward and as the cards were shown, whoever got the answer correct first got the card. When the cards were all played, the person with the most cards got a point for the team. Then the next two players came up. The cool thing about this, was that all the others saw the cards at the same time and they could mentally practice recognizing the numbers while waiting for their turn.
Once kids have a good understanding of how to make ten, they will be more prepared for the rest of the numbers needed for basic facts. Knowing basic facts is important for working with the different math operations successfully.
There are many different strategies for working with addition and subtraction to practice basic facts. I will share more about this another time.
There is a danger in trying to move kids to abstract concepts too quickly. Take the time to have them work with concrete examples and you will find that the abstract situations will be much easier for them to understand and grasp.
When I worked with several students that struggled in early intermediate grades, I found that returning to the basics and using the concrete activities made a world of difference not only to their understanding, but also to their confidence and engagement. It was exciting to see them find light bulb moments and attempt more difficult concepts as a result.
Next time I will focus on more skills such as how to represent numbers using base ten models as well as fact families and number bonds. I will also show some other ways to represent numbers as we move from concrete to ablstract.
Do your students struggle with math? Are you searching for ways to help them understand? Do you sometimes think you are talking in a foreign language? Here are some ideas to consider that may help you to navigate through the confusion and frustration.
Seeing and touching things helps with understanding and making sense of ideas. I love to use hands on resources when teaching math skills. It's exciting to see the light bulb moments when kids get it.
Blocks, dice, sticks, links, counters, lego, string, apples, cookies, and a good imagination can serve as effective tools for learning when they are used in your lessons. They help kids learn with concrete examples.
Here are some more ideas and tips to help with teaching kids math concepts and skills.
Availability Of Materials
It's important to make sure you have a selection of materials available and enough so that they can be used with small groups, or even full class activities. You may need to collect items if you don't have access to them.
Many schools are well equipped with manipulatives that can work for math. However this isn't always the case. Sometimes you may need to source out items for yourself. There are lots of different things you can use that are free or inexpensive to obtain.
Dollar stores are a great source for small items such as erasers, beads, popsicle sticks, paper clips, small blocks, dice, playing cards and many other little items that can work for many math activities. Garage sales also can be a good source.
Measuring tools such as rulers, measuring tapes, scales, and containers should be available for doing standard measurement activities.
Play money, base ten blocks, ten frames cards, snap cubes, links, pattern blocks and geometric solids are also useful for teaching math concepts.
Organization Is Key
Once you have collected or located the necessary materials you will need to find a way to organize them. Tubs and buckets work well. For small items, you can use recycled containers with lids as well. If you have a cart to hold the containers, that is bonus. Otherwise, you will need to find shelf space or some other spot where you can store them.
I had two carts of tubs for math manipulatives that were available for my kids. They were a popular choice for free time activities as well.
Understanding Concepts, Not Just Algorithms
Nowadays, kids are taught a variety of ways to apply their thinking to different mathematical concepts. That wasn't always the case. If you ask older adults about math, many will say they don't understand the "new math". They were taught formulas, but not really shown how they work. There are many adults who will say they are terrible at math or they didn't like math as a kid. This might be the reason why.
It goes without saying that you need to understand the concepts to make sense of abstract concepts.. If you have only worked with algorithms and haven't really looked at how they work there might be some gaps in understanding. In order to teach kids how concepts work, it may require revisiting these concepts and making sure you understand them and can explain them using concrete examples.
In order to teach a concept using concrete materials and examples, it is necessary to break it down and analyze what is going on. Because kids learn in different ways, it is important to make sure that you can address as many of those ways as possible when teaching a concept. This may include visual examples, anecdotal examples, and kinesthetic examples.
Since we all make connections in different ways, approaching concepts from different angles will help more connections and understanding to happen.
Planning For Success
Planning is important if you want kids to understand the concrete ideas and apply them to abstract situations. This means having an idea of the different materials and approaches needed before you actually teach the lesson.
Once you have the materials you need and they are organized for easy access, you can start to figure out the different kinds of activities to use for each of the math concepts you wish to work on. This is where your imagination and creativity come into play. Each of us has a different way of approaching learning and a teaching style that works for us. Use these skills to help direct your students as they are introduced to new concepts and as they practice concepts they have already learned.
You may need to teach the same concept a few times in a variety of different ways before kids can actually process it and understand it enough to be able to apply it to abstract situations later on.
Next time, I will talk more about some of the concepts and tools that can be used to teach them.
How Mindfulness Can Help Students That Find School Holidays Emotionally Difficult
It's one of our most awaited times of the year! Or is it? Spring is in the air and Spring Break is almost here. For many people, the holidays are full of laughter, fun, and gathering together, but for others it can be very difficult. School is a safety net that will be taken away for a couple of weeks. Some families are struggling with critical illnesses and loss. We need to remember to be mindful of these situations as we say goodbye to our students for the break or when it is time to greet them again after the break.
When classes return after the break, some kids will feel uncomfortable sharing their holiday experiences. They may need to have time to reflect and adjust again to their safety net and the people they can trust. It is important to build in opportunities for this to happen.
Instead of having big group sharing about the holidays, maybe there could be different activities that would allow for individual sharing and reflecting as well as perhaps some special stories or anecdotes that will help the students to feel acknowledged and heard.
Each of us has a different approach for how we connect with our kids. That's what makes it genuine. Just tap into what works for you and find the balance between sharing happy moments and being there for those who are struggling.
Good mental health is so important, especially following a couple of years of pandemic restrictions and stresses. Kids need to feel that they matter and that they are loved. We need to make sure that mindfulness and SEL activities are part of everyday teaching to help our kids get through all the difficult times they may experience both physically and emotionally.
I am glad that SEL has been added to our teaching and that mental health is now considered an important part of a child's welfare and education. It hurts my heart to see so many young people struggling emotionally. We need to help them realize how special and important they are.
Thank you for all that you do in the classroom everyday to help this become a reality.
Misunderstandings can create anger, frustration, upset, arguing and even physical outbursts or fighting. It is important to find ways to solve these misunderstandings before they escalate.
Teaching SEL (social and emotional learning) to young children is an important element of fostering a safe, caring classroom environment. One essential SEL strategy for the classroom is teaching kids how to solve disagreements.
There are several problem solving strategies that can be used to help with disagreements. Five key ways of doing this include active listening, looking for win-win solutions, thinking with empathy, brainstorming possible solutions together, and using “I” statements when talking about problems and feelings.
Using "I" Statements
Often when accusations are used, emotions escalate and more conflict is possible. Using "I" statements helps take the sting away from making it sound like someone has done something wrong, shares what the speaker feels and how it personally affects them and allows for a positive conversation and resolution. When 'I' statements are used, children learn how to communicate responsibly, both listening to others and expressing their own emotions, when it comes to solving disagreements.
It's important to teach how to use "I" statements and explain how they can help with problem solving.
How to use "I" statements
Teaching how to use "I" statements effectively and the importance of using them can be done in a variety of ways, but one of the best is by role play and story telling followed by discussion. This is a chance for them to see how using "I" statements leads to understanding instead of accusations and more conflict.
Framing the "I" statement needs to be taught as well. Kids need to be able to share how they are feeling and why without blaming. This is a skill that will need some practice. The automatic reaction is to accuse when an incident occurs. For example, instead of saying "You did something wrong" they could use "I felt upset when ______ happened".
This teaches kids to become aware of their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, when communicating about problems and feelings.
There are several techniques that can be used, including sharing stories or doing role playing activities, for finding resolutions to disagreements. This helps to keep the conversation honest while making sure each student understands they have been heard and respected. SEL can give kids the ability to respectfully listen and process emotions, whether their own or someone else's, which is essential for solving disagreements out in the real world.
Active listening and thinking with empathy
Active listening is another important part of using "I" statements. Listening to what the speaker has to say in these "I" statements gives other people involved in the situation an idea of how the speaker feels and it brings greater understanding which helps with solutions. It also encourages responsibility for the speaker to share his own thoughts and feelings.
When kids listen actively, they can better understand and empathize with others. This will help them to see how their actions may have affected others. This will help them to be open to working through the situation and brainstorming to find a compromise or solution that will work for everyone.
It also helps indicate that it's possible for everyone involved in a disagreement to get what they need without anyone feeling worse in the end.
When you teach children these strategies for problem-solving – active listening, looking for win-win solutions, thinking with empathy, brainstorming possible solutions together, and using “I” statements when talking about problems and feelings– they gain vital tools they will carry with them through all facets of their lives, from making friends on the playground to working collaboratively in their future careers.
Personal space, active listening, working with others, sharing, taking turns, making friends, being kind and so on. When it comes to teaching kids social skills and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons, it is hard to know where to start. There are so many different skills to teach.
What is SEL and why is it important?
SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is about getting kids to feel safe in their own skin and make sure they are taking care of themselves emotionally, too. It’s also about teaching them the importance of personal space, active listening, sharing, working with others and taking turns, just to mention a few things.
SEL is an important way to help young children develop important skills and live happy, healthy lives. Teaching SEL skills sets the foundation for understanding social norms.
What does SEL look like in practice?
SEL in practice can look different in various classrooms, but here are some examples:
- kids are taking turns nicely when they are playing together
- kids are demonstrating empathy when they see someone is sad
- kids are sitting comfortably apart from one another during group time
- kids are actively listening when talking with someone by responding and reflecting back what they said
- kids are collaborating with others
- kids are sharing experiences and materials
How do we teach SEL?
Learning SEL skills such as personal space, active listening, working with others, sharing and taking turns can be challenging for young children. With thoughtful instruction using engaging stories or examples of what it looks like and feels like, teachers can help show young learners how to interact with respect and kindness.
It's important to explain what these concepts look like and feel like for young children so that they can understand the expectations.
For example, when showing them what active listening looks like, generally focus on three main ideas: making eye contact, nodding and smiling during conversation, and paraphrasing back what was heard.
Through role play, you can show children the proper distance they should keep when talking with friends and how standing closer than this would make the other person feel uncomfortable.
Young learners often thrive from collaboration when paired up with a partner for pair-share activities that help build communication skills like sharing ideas and taking turns talking.
What if SEL doesn't seem to be working?
Sometimes SEL doesn't always work out as expected or desired. There can be a variety of scenarios that need more guidance and redirection. For example:
- one student doesn't follow directions
- a child is having a difficult day
- there's too much squabbling over toys or hogging the game board
- two children are arguing or have different ideas about how to process a task together
- two students are struggling over a shared toy or not cooperating together
When SEL isn't working among the kids in your classroom, it's important to remain positive and offer some guidance. For example, reinforcing positive behavior when SEL techniques are used successfully or explaining concepts again until everyone understands. Simple redirection tactics such as calmly asking questions can also be a great way to guide playful conversations towards more positive behaviours.
It is important to refocus the energy into talking about possible solutions. Encouraging discussion around topics such as what each person wants, why respectful boundaries are important, coming up with compromises, or enabling imagination through hypothetical situations can help teach children these essential SEL skills in a safe and caring environment.
It can also be helpful to check in with each student individually and work towards understanding what their needs are - if they need more tools like visuals or if they already know the skills but need encouragement or support in using those tools consistently.
Through thoughtful guidance and clear examples of what these concepts look like and feel like in a practical setting, it is possible to foster an environment in which SEL becomes an integrated part of the day-to-day experience. Whether it be helping a child understand how being mindful of personal space boundaries feels safer for all or developing communication strategies so everyone has the opportunity to share their ideas and take turns without conflict, effective SEL can lay the foundation for productive learning environments. It's not always easy but we certainly can make SEL work for us.
It's all about making SEL fun while still emphasizing its life-long importance! It takes consistent practice and patience, but SEL makes all the difference when building positive relationships in our classrooms!
With SEL activities embedded in the routine, young kids can develop invaluable skills for interpersonal relationships throughout their lives. Ultimately SEL helps foster a sense of community, respect for others, and self-confidence within a classroom setting.
This is a social story for young kids that helps explain several positive behaviors. Sign up for my newsletter and get a free copy of this positive behaviors social story now.
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Have you ever felt like the tattling would never stop? Young children feel the need to tell about everything.
"Johnny budged in front of me". "Susan was looking at Matthew's work." Nancy brought candy to school." It goes on and on.
Teaching young children the difference between tattling and telling is an important skill that all kids need to learn.
Is it tattling or telling?
What does tattling look like? Well, it looks like fingering a classmate for taking something without permission, talking during quiet work time, sneaking food or toys into the classroom or purposely disturbing another student's work. It is natural for young children to blurt out any information they have, but when it comes to true cases of tattling they are often just trying to get someone in trouble. This can be tricky to catch, as some young kids may not understand the difference right away.
Telling often feels different than tattling; it has a purpose and urgency to it. It often means that someone needs help or there is a safety issue. For example: if you saw a classmate getting physically hurt or being scared or teased by someone else, that would be considered telling.
Here is an anchor chart that may help your kids to decide if an incident needs to be told or not.
Teaching young children the difference between telling and tattling is a very important SEL skill to master. To do this, children need to understand what it looks and feels like in real world examples. Telling could be letting an adult know that someone has fallen off the playground equipment, while tattling would be informing an adult that someone has pushed them in line.
Being able to recognize the difference will help a child know when it is appropriate to report something and when it’s not necessary. This can empower them to make good choices.
As teachers, we need to take the time to provide scenarios for young students to practice and role play through these situations as well as have conversations about why specific scenarios are either an example of telling or tattling.
Although it may be exhausting at times to deal with tattling, you need to be able to calmly encourage them to try to solve things themselves.
Asking questions like "Is someone hurt?" "Is this a safety issue?" "Is someone in danger?" may help them to stop and think before they come to get help.
If they do come to you, the best thing you can do is keep relaxed and calm with your responses so that they learn to trust you as an ally and friend. It is important for kids to know that they can rely on you when it is necessary to get help.
Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or out of control can be a common experience for many kids at school. To move beyond simply managing anxiety, it is critical to equip our students with coping skills, such as calming strategies that work in the classroom.
The increase in anxiety and poor mental health with children has caused us to relook at how we can develop positive self esteem and skills to regulate emotions and behaviors. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has become a focus in many classrooms recently as a means to provide skills for kids to improve mental health and emotional well-being.
As teachers, we must take it upon ourselves to provide calming strategies so that our students can find their inner peace again. Luckily there are SEL strategies that teachers can implement in their classrooms to help students develop lifelong tools for managing stress, regulating emotions, and leading a balanced life.
Learning about self-regulation and calming techniques is only a small part of SEL. There are many other aspects to discuss as well, but these will need to be further explored in a later post. Today I would like to focus on helping kids to deal with their emotions by using self-regulation strategies.
There are many different calming strategies that can be used, but not all of them work for every child. If we teach a variety of different strategies, each child will have several techniques that they can try. In time, they will know what works well and what doesn't and they will be able to create their own toolkit of strategies.
There are many different ways to help a child calm down when he is upset, anxious, or otherwise unregulated, but in order to help him long term, it is important to actually teach him strategies rather than just grab one for him to try in reaction to the unregulated behavior.
Every child is unique, so there isn't a one size fits all answer. It is important to explore several different options and find out which ones work best for each person. Here are some examples of calming strategies that might work.
Whole Class Activities
One effective way to help kids with regulating and focusing, is to add calming and mindfulness activities into the school day. For example, starting out with a mindfulness circle in the morning and doing some deep breathing and stretching could help prepare everyone for the work ahead.
Visualization and focusing on a peaceful or happy place can also work wonders to help alleviate feelings of stress and worry.
Taking breaks for stretching and movement are important throughout the day. Body breaks and brain breaks allow kids to de-stress for a short time and prepare their minds for more work. Just like we need to take breaks throughout the day from working, so do kids.
Individual calming strategies
Set up a calming corner in an area of the classroom where kids can go when they need a quiet space by themselves to regroup and self-regulate. You might have a few different things in there to help with the refocusing. Maybe you could add some pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, glitter jars, fidgets, books, or other small items that may be comforting.
Have an area where music is available with headphones and a comfortable place to sit. Music is often very soothing and can help with relaxing and calming the spirit.
Drawing and coloring also work well.
Movement is sometimes necessary in order to self-regulate when upset. Try jumping jacks, skipping, going for a walk, delivering a message to another room, or even just pushing against a wall as ways to use physical activities to release the anxiety or upset feelings.
Breathing exercises or counting also help for some people.
The goal is not only to reduce anxiety during times of distress, but also to enable our students to become familiar with calming strategies they can apply outside of the classroom. When it comes to SEL, teachers have a toolbox full of calming strategies to choose from - so don't hesitate to use them and help kids develop their own toolboxes!
Here are some posters that might be helpful for your students. They are available for free for my newsletter subscribers. Click here to get your copy. If you are already a subscriber, you can find them on my Followers Free Resources page.
I hope these tips help with dealing with some of the anxiety that is prevalent in our schools today. Next time I will focus on another aspect of SEL.
Does the following sound like something you might say?
"I want to do guided reading, but I teach French. How can I make it work with kids that have limited French language skills and who are afraid to speak? "
I know it can be more difficult with a second language, but it is possible to make it work successfully.
Benefits of guided reading
First of all, you need to understand why guided reading is something to consider. In most classrooms, kids learn at different speeds and they have different levels of comprehension and language skills. Teaching to the whole class at once doesn't always meet the needs of every student.
Working in smaller groups helps with targeting information that is needed to develop language skills and comprehension and this helps build up confidence. Each group can work on material that's appropriate for their skill level. It works for those who need extra support, those who are doing okay, and those who need enrichment and a challenge.
Those that need more support are able to get it in a safer environment. They will take more risks if they feel encouraged and less intimidated. This will help them to build confidence and be successful.
Guided reading and French
When it comes to teaching FSL with guided reading groups or center activities, the challenge can be greater because of limited understanding of the language. However, guided reading groups can give French beginners the chance to engage with the language in meaningful ways and practice their new skills. They also gain exposure to French in a supportive environment.
Although I don't have a lot of experience with using guided reading in French Immersion, I can tell you that when I was volunteering in a Grade 1/2 French Immersion class, the small groups that I worked with behaved in a similar manner to those guided reading groups I had in my English classroom.
If you choose to do guided reading, it's important to make sure that you have centers set up with appropriate activities and materials for the groups that are not getting direct instruction. At any guided reading center or station, it's important that all participants are given the opportunity to practice their French whether they are working independently or with a partner.
There are definitely challenges to running a guided reading program in early French Immersion classes due to the language skills needed, but it is doable once they have some basic skills. Later on in first grade or in second grade, most students should have enough language skills to handle independent activities at centers if they are taught how to use the different materials and activities.
Extra adult support would be helpful so that multiple stations could be used. If not, you may need to work with any group receiving direct reading instruction while the rest of the class is working on one or two different activities.
Center ideas and activities
if you are able to run multiple centers there are many different activities that you can try. Here are 4 different types of centers that you could consider along with possible activities that can be done at them.
- alphabetizing exercises where words must be sorted into alphabetical order;
- matching word cards with images
- flashcards games
- word bingo
- sorting task cards by sound or rhyme
Sentence building and words center
- Sentence building and word games
- word searches
- sentence building using word wall or word banks
- sentence scrambles
- silly sentences
Listening and recording center
- listening to French songs
- recording stories read
- reciting a poem in French
- engaging in audio reading where they can listen to a story and respond to questions afterward.
- creative writing assignments in French that focus on feelings and emotions;
- responding to text-related questions to build on comprehension skills
- French comprehension worksheets
- filling out simple dialogues with pictures to teach common words and phrases
- making storyboards
- sequencing images to create stories
Other activities to develop French language skills
- role playing skits
- partner reading where students help one another with words they don't understand,
- creating a story together with a partner using select vocabulary words
- using both auditory and visual clues while giving directions in French
- comprehension quizzes on text that they have read
Directed reading group ideas
To help ensure beginning students become proficient French speakers, there are several easy-to-implement French activities that can be applied to your directed guided reading groups. Examples include dictation exercises, introducing stories in chunks and practicing context specific vocabulary; practising letter recognition, phonemic awareness and word building activities; drawing story maps to help narrate the plot; playing dramatic storytelling games or roleplaying French dialogues.
French Language Resources
Here are some French language resources that I created and used in the classroom while volunteering. They may be helpful as you set up different activities and centers for your class.
Themed vocabulary word match activities
vocabulary task cards
escape room activity
word games and activities
Using guided reading and centers in French classes can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. By using creative tips and tricks to engage your students in their learning environment, they are sure to see progress.
Here is a new French resource that you could use for vocabulary work or sentence building. It has 81 high frequency French words with the English translations so it can be used for a variety of different activities.
Okay, you've decided to try reading groups. But, what do you do once your guided reading groups are set up? Making the groups is the first step, but in order for the groups to be successful the activities and centers are important as well. Here are some center ideas and tips that may help.
Directed guided reading group
The directed guided reading group is the one that gets direct instruction from the teacher. This group will do reading and perhaps some followup discussion or activities together with the teacher as they focus on a specific skill or concept.
The centers listed below are stations that can be used for the rotation of other groups. Depending on the number of groups you have, some centers may or may not be used every time.
Center 1 - Vocabulary Activities Station
Sight word games and vocabulary matching games are great for building up a working vocabulary. Using images and words and doing matching activities helps to imprint words with the objects they represent. These can be done with partners or individually and they can be a lot of fun.
Word searches and crossword puzzles are also great for vocabulary development.
Center 2 - Sentence Building Station
Word sorts and sentence building are also good for centers. Using word walls, personal dictionaries, picture dictionaries or word banks help with creating sentences. Doing silly sentence activities help with learning parts of speech and creating sentences with adjectives, nouns, and verbs. They also create laughter because they can be pretty silly. Click here if you would like to check out some themed sets.
Center 3 - Listening And Recording Station
Listening centers are great for listening to stories and following along with text. They can also be used for practicing reading along with the audio recording. If microphones are available and connected to computers, the students can record themselves and listen to themselves. This is a good way to help them understand what they sound like and can help them develop fluency.
Center 4 - Bingo Station
A bingo station could also be set up at a center and used for a variety of different language skills. Letter recognition and sight words are two things that come to mind. Use your own creativity to choose other types of skills that might work. Maybe the choices could be based on the books or subjects being studied.
Center 5 - Writing Station
You could also have a writing station where comprehension activities or writing extensions are provided. These could be reading responses, character studies, storyboards, retelling or continuing stories, or journaling. There are many other options, but you get the idea.
These are a few ideas that may help with setting up your centers. Depending on the abilities of your students and the space available, one area could be for silent reading. Sometimes kids just need time to read.
Don't forget that board games and other language activities are also great to use. Puppetry and readers' theater activities also work, but you need the space so there isn't too much noise. Otherwise, this could interfere with other groups and cause distractions.
When it comes to creating stations, it is up to you to decide on what to set up based on the needs of your students and the availability of materials and equipment. Whatever you choose, these stations will help make guided reading successful if they are well planned and kids know what to do.
Here's a sight word sampler for your vocabulary activities station.
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Guided reading is a great way to meet the needs of your students and develop a love for reading, or at least less of a distaste for it. The other good thing about this is it can work in other languages too.
If you are teaching FSL, or even French Immersion, you can still use guided reading effectively. It may take some adjusting for the language skills that the kids have, but with some creativity and activities that can be done independently, it can be done. Organization and group management will be key for success.
Note: I will share more tips for how to make this work with French in a future post.
When it comes to reading, there can be many different levels and abilities in a classroom. Guided reading allows for small group instruction that focuses on skills and materials that are suitable for the students in each group. It may seem difficult to imagine running several groups in one classroom, but it is possible and it does ensure that kids of similar needs can get the instruction that best suits them. Those needing a challenge or enrichment are also able to do more complex work and not feel like they are being ignored.
There are several different components that I include when doing guided reading groups. I feel it is important to include reading, responding to reading, listening, speaking, vocabulary and writing activities as well as followup games and activities to practice skills taught. By incorporating all of these elements through centers and rotations, it is possible to have several groups working at the same time.
Getting started with guided reading
There are a few steps involved in creating and running guided reading groups.
First, you need to decide on how many will be in each group and do some assessment of the kids. This will help you determine what their needs are, what level materials they need, what skills are missing or weak, what time commitment may be needed and what kinds of rotations may work.
This may seem daunting, but it can be done. If you have extra support, that will help you determine how to create the groups.
Determining groups based on assessment
Assessment is important if you want to provide your students with the best instruction, but it is difficult to do a formal assessment of all your students while teaching your lessons. I found informal assessments worked just as well. They give you a chance to connect individually with each child and they also seem to help the child relax.
Use a selection of material from a variety of different levels and topics and try out some of them to see what would be a good fit to start with. I usually did this while others were doing some quiet seat work or silent reading.
Once you finish an informal assessment on the kids, look for similar abilities and make your groups based on this. Sometimes you will have to group a couple of levels together to avoid too many groups, but always made sure that those requiring the most support have no more than 4 or 5 in them. If you have extra support in the classroom, you can adjust the sizes somewhat.
Note: In a second language situation, the groups may be slightly bigger if you are working on language acquisition and vocabulary skills, but it is still important to keep groups small for those who may be struggling.
What to do when your groups are formed
Once you have formed some guided reading groups, it's important to figure out what time you have available and how you will create a rotation that will allow for the best use of the time. This may mean that not all groups get individual attention with you each day, but they will all have activities that will support their reading when they are not reading with you.
It's important that those needing the most support get direct instruction during your reading time. Others will get direct instruction on a rotating basis. The number of groups you create will help determine how your rotations work and this will help with organizing them.
Once you have a plan for your rotations, it's important to make sure that your students understand how the different activities or centers work and what their responsibilities are. While one group is getting direct instruction, it's important that the other groups know what they are to do. This could be reading, responding to reading, language activities, centers, listening activities or other language related activities. This will need to be taught so that everyone understands and you are not putting out fires during your guided reading instruction.
Planning and preparing
Once you have your rotations organized, it's important to make sure that you have a plan for how the groups move from one activity to the next. Creating a flow chart or a schedule can help. Practicing the movement is also important.
Materials should be prepared ahead of time so that the flow isn't disrupted by searching for materials or equipment.
Set up baskets with the materials for each guided reading group to ensure that you aren't hunting for things during the direct instruction. Gather up materials and equipment for each center or activity and have them in place before starting the rotations. This will help make your guided reading sessions flow smoothly and successfully.
Check out my TPT store for some resources that may help. I have a guided reading category, sight word category, and literacy category with materials that can work for reading groups. I also have several French resources available.
Note: It is not always possible to have several groups happening at the same time. Sometimes you may need to have one or two activities that the others are working on while you work with one group. You need to do what works for you.
I hope these ideas help and that you give guided reading a try.
Next time I will elaborate more about activities and centers that might work with the different groups.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.