Stay tuned as I share more ideas that become activities and products from my experiences with kids.
I love to create teaching materials, but since I retired, sometimes it is hard to come up with the ideas. I have found that the best way to get motivated, is to engage with children and find things that would be helpful for them and fun for them to do.
When I teach a concept, I like to have a practical application to go along with it. I tutor two girls, and right now we are learning about the kitchen and cooking. I decided that it would be fun to actually try following a French recipe to make some cookies. The girls really enjoyed making the cookies and they remember a lot of the vocabulary because they could make connections to the activity.
I created this booklet after we did the cooking. I took pictures as they were cooking and I put them into the booklet. They were excited to see the pictures and read the booklet. I followed up the lesson by looking at some French recipe books. We reviewed the vocabulary and then talked about doing another cooking lesson in the future.
The next lesson, we looked at the different items that can be found in the kitchen. We then did some games with the task cards.
They are going to do some more cooking when we have a longer session. The deal is that they need to be able to identify the different items in the kitchen and follow the instructions in French. They are very excited about this.
As is becoming a habit, I have made an English version for each of these products.
Stay tuned as I share more ideas that become activities and products from my experiences with kids.
I love working with small reading groups and interacting with the children. The other day, I did a group in my grandson's French Immersion class. He was actually in the group that day! We talked about losing teeth and they each got to share a story about losing their first tooth. It was fun to seen them engaging and making connections to the different stories.
After our discussion, we looked at a story I wrote about losing a tooth. We first did a picture walk and shared what we thought was happening on each page. Then we read the story and discussed how our predictions and the actual events were the same or different. We also made connections between the text and our personal stories.
After our discussion, each child wrote one or two sentences about losing a tooth and then added an illustration. It was too bad that we didn't have more time, because I could see that this could have been a great time for creating little booklets and personal stories.
I have also created the same story in English. I am hoping to use it with one of my English reading groups.
Heading back to school can be exciting, but it can also be stressful. Here are some tips to help the school year start of well.
1. Make sure that you are mentally prepared and refreshed so that you will have the energy for the first few weeks. It is amazing how tired teachers can get the first few weeks of school. Take some time for yourself and allow yourself to be pampered. You are worth it and you will find that you have more energy and stamina if you go into the year refreshed and relaxed.
2. Have a plan for organizing your classroom, but don't worry about it being just perfect. You can always tweak it later. The main thing is to have the basics in place so that you can welcome in your students and begin working with them. Perhaps they can help you to make the classroom their own by adding some of their own ideas and decor during the first few weeks.
3. Change up your room a bit even if you plan on using the same decor. It has the same affect as doing spring cleaning and working around the yard tidying it up after the winter. Things are fresh again and organized. I found that this was great for the kids as well. In our schools we get the same students back for the first week or two as the new classes are organized. Sometimes with split grades, some of the students will also be in your class for a second year. Having a different arrangement of furniture or a change in the way things looks helps them to feel like they are moving on also.
4. Begin the first few classes with a focus on class community, self esteem activities, and review or introduction of school and classroom routines. This will pay big time in the months to come. When kids know that you care about them, they will be more willing to engage and work for you. It isn't about making buddies with them, you are the teacher and they are the students, but rather it is gaining their respect by showing kindness and respect.
5. Share some of your life with your students. Let them know a bit about who you are outside of the classroom.
I loved to share stories about my family and my pets with my students. They would often refer to them throughout the year and want to know more. Little things can mean a lot. My students loved singing Happy Birthday to my mom or my kids. I would put them on speaker phone and they would sing. My mom still remembers those calls and how special they made her feel.
6. Be consistent and follow through when you set routines and consequences. If you let up on these, the kids will push the boundaries and it will be tough to get them to believe what you say. They will test you to see if you mean what you say. When they realize that you mean it, they will stop pushing so hard.
If the routines and consequences make sense and they have been explained and accepted as part of the class rules, then it will be easier to enforce them as well.
7. Have a schedule to follow and lessons prepared, but be willing to throw it out or postpone it for teachable moments. If something happens during the day that is relevant to your students, it deserves to be allowed to be discussed, explored, and experienced. Kids learn more from teachable moments than they do from a structured lesson that is presented at the wrong time. No matter how fabulous the lesson is, if it is taught at the wrong time, it won't have the same impact.
8. Differentiate when necessary. Every child comes to school with different needs and abilities. It doesn't work to try and teach exactly the same material to each one. Although it takes time and some extra planning, differentiating the subject will allow everyone to engage and experience some success. Sometimes this might be as simple as finding reading material of different levels on the same topic. Or maybe it might be reducing the number of questions to do on a written assignment, answering orally instead of writing things down, or showing learning in a different way. Varying teaching styles to reach the different types of learners might also work well.
9. Make sure that you have brain breaks or physical movement added to your day. Nobody works well without breaks. Think about what things you start to do when it is time to write report cards. If you are anything like me, you will write for a bit and then need to do something different before continuing. You want to avoid doing them so you look for reasons to take breaks as well. This feeling could be the same for your students. Not everyone enjoys doing seat work for long periods of time.
10. Have fun with your students. If your students are happy they will enjoy learning. If you are happy, you will enjoy teaching more. Teaching can be hard enough nowadays with all the added pressures of assessment, social and political environments, and burnout. You need to do things to protect yourself from the stress these things cause. Laughing and enjoying your classroom experiences with your students is one way to do this.
Well, there you have it. I hope these tips help. I wish you a happy and fulfilling new school year.
I would love to hear about some of the other tips you might have. Add them into the comments below.
If you are interested in checking out some of the materials that I use for starting up the school year, click here.
I have been adding a line of French products to my store lately. If you teach French Immersion or French as a Second Language, you can check these products out here.
I just love the characters from Winnie the Pooh. The stories are whimsical but they are full of truths. I was looking at my stuffed characters that I have for my grandchildren and I decided I had to create some posters to share some of the well-known quotes that are part of the stories.
Piglet warms my heart with all that he shares and the wonder he sees in life. He may be small, but he definitely fills the heart with love.
What a boring world it would be if everyone was the same. Different doesn't mean bad, and it is important that we see the value in our uniqueness. Eeyore would not be Eeyore if he didn't see the other side of things first.
Tigger is so bouncy he is hard to miss. He has a big presence and he is able to add energy to every situation.
This is one of my favorites. Pooh says it best: "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
What a powerful thing to share with others.
Click here or on the image above to get all 16 free posters. I hope you enjoy them and that they bring you smiles and happy thoughts.
Reading strategies are very important for developing good reading skills. They help children to make meaning out of unfamiliar words and ideas in a variety of ways. Many children get stuck when they rely on only one or two strategies. Introducing these 8 strategies and practicing them will give them the tools to better understand the material they are reading.
About 3 years ago, I was introduced to these cute animals and their uses as reading strategies. I loved how the children engaged with them. I had to get my own stuffies so that they could actually hold them and interact with them. I use them all the time now in my guided reading groups.
I created a set of bookmarks and posters to go with these strategies. If you would like to get a copy of these bookmarks and posters, click the image below.
I hope you find these tools helpful with your young readers. I would love to hear how you use strategies in reading.
Using games and activities that are fun will help to engage children and they will learn skills without realizing that they are learning. It is wonderful to see them taking risks and challenges and enjoying learning.
I have always tried to include games in my guided reading lessons and my literacy blocks. Children can often get frustrated if they are working hard at learning to decode or make meaning of what they are reading. Using games to focus on some of the skills relieves some of that stress and allows them to practice the skills in a fun environment.
I use lots of different boxed games, but I also use task cards and other games that I have created. The ones that I have made are specific for what I might be covering in groups. I have many different themes for my sight words so that they are always fun to use because they are linked to different holidays, or special times.
Here are some other types of activities that I have used with my students. Depending on the abilities and the needs, I have made the materials simple for learning letter sounds and names and more difficult for learning about figurative language and parts of speech. I have also created activities for the interactive whiteboard. Bingo games that go with various topics are also fun to create.
If you are interested in checking out some of these products or other literacy activities that I have created, click here.
I volunteer at school and work with several guided reading groups. I create games and activities for them. Another retired teacher volunteers as well. She asked me to make up some game boards for her. You can check them out here.
Here is a free sample from the set of game boards. Click the image below to get your copy.
I have fun creating games and I love seeing the children react when a new game is presented to them. But more importantly, I am excited to see them learning skills that they were struggling with. It is so thrilling to see them applying the skills to their reading and writing lessons.
I would love to hear how you use games in your classroom to teach skills.
I have been sharing my approach to using guided reading in the classroom. Today, I would like to walk through a sample guided reading rotation. For the purpose of this example, I am going to be using 24 students and 5 different leveled groups. Often there will be some students that don't fit nicely into groups and they may need to be on an individualized program.
It is important to also make the groups as small as possible (5 or less) when working with struggling or emergent readers. The other groups can be a bit larger.
Before beginning a program, it is important to figure out what levels the children are at. Then the groups can be formed so that the spread is not too great for facilitating an effective program.
My sample group is a beginning grade 2 class with a wide range of levels.
Group 1 - working with letters/sounds, sight words, and leveled books from 1-5
Group 2 - struggling readers levels 6-8 (4 students)
Group 3 - readers levels 12-14 (4 students)
Group 4 - readers levels 17-19 (5 students)
Group 5 - readers levels 23-26 (8 students)
For this example, I will be spending about 20-30 minutes with the groups that I am working directly with. The other groups will be working independently or in centers. There will be time for about 3 of the groups to get direct instruction. Groups 1 and 2 will get direct instruction each day. The other 3 groups will get direct instruction at least 3 times throughout the week.
Note: It is not always possible to give guided reading instruction every day, but whenever it is scheduled, it is important to make sure that the groups that are struggling get some direct instruction.
Here is the first rotation.
Group 1 - reading with teacher
Group 2 - word work center
Group 3 - listening center
Group 4 - early chapter book reading to self
Group 5 - novel study reading to self and responding to reading
Group 1 - word or letter/sound game
Group 2 - reading with teacher
Group 3 - word work center
Group 4 - listening center
Group 5 - novel study chapter activity
Group 1 - listening center
Group 2 - follow up activity to story
Group 3 - reading with teacher
Group 4 - close reading activity
Group 5 - word work center
The listening center is a great place for using books and audio together. The students can listen to the story as they follow along in the book. This allows them to hear stories read with fluency and expression. The stories can also be chosen to fit the appropriate levels for the readers.
Because it is difficult to get to all the groups, the tendency is to focus on those that are struggling and let the others read or work independently. It is important that time be found for them as well. I discovered early on that they were only surface reading when left to read for long periods of time without some guidance and support. That is why I created some study guide activities to help them to dig deeper into the material and get more out of what they read.
Discussions and book talks also work well to find out what they understand and what interests them. If they are able to make connections and find enjoyment in what they are reading, they are more likely to continue wanting to read. Not all good readers enjoy reading.
Make sure that the activities and work associated with each book don't take away the enjoyment of the book. Sometimes it is is good to just read a story and not do an activity to go along with it. Switch it up and do some activities that are not written, but maybe dramatic or artistic.
Well, there you have it. I hope this helps with running a guided reading program in your classroom. If you missed the early blog posts, you can check them out in the links below.
If you do start up a program, I would love to hear about it.
If you already run a guided reading program in your classroom, it would be great to hear about it as well.
Guided reading is a common component of many classrooms nowadays, but is it working? I have seen many different formats for doing guided reading, and I feel that some work better than others.
I have been an advocate for guided reading in the classroom for many years. I was introduced to the idea in the late nineties and I used it effectively until I recently retired. When I began teaching, we used anthologies for reading. I found that these worked well for some children, but other really struggled with them. It wasn't until I learned about leveled materials that I realized that anthologies weren't the best because they had a wide range of levels in them. They had some interesting stories and the activities provided were used to teach some of the language skills and usage, but they didn't really meet the needs of the children that were emergent readers.
I did guided reading in my classroom for many years. I had it working quite well and then the school I was working in closed. I was surprised to find that it wasn't happening in all schools. When I moved to a new school I knew that I needed to get something happening in my classroom at least. A couple of different models were attempted by the staff in my first years at this school, but they weren't very effective.
In one scenario, the children were grouped by levels and then they were split up among the available adults for a guided reading time. Several classes were combined and a set time of the day was used for these groups. Although this can work, I found it quite frustrating as the groups were too big and the kids would come and go from my group without notice. It was difficult to establish some continuity, skill development and fluency with my groups.
In another scenario, only those who were struggling readers were taken for guided reading work. Although they required some small group or individual instruction to succeed, I found it frustrating that the others didn't get an opportunity to develop their skills in a similar manner. I also found that the pull out system meant that they missed more key concepts and skills from lessons being taught while they were out of the room.
Assessing my own students was a challenge in these scenarios. I would receive assessments from those leading the groups, but I didn't feel I really knew how they were doing myself and I wanted to be better able to share successes and concerns with parents. That is when I decided that I needed to create my own guided reading groups and come up with a plan that would allow me to work with all of them.
I tried to group them as best I could into manageable groups. Sometimes I would have 6 or 7 groups in order to make this work. I then created different types of activities or centers to have available for some of the groups while I was working with others. They could be ranging from letter/sound recognition to advanced novel studies.
I would then structure my language arts time so that I had room for 2 or 3 rotations during each session. I would make sure to work with my struggling groups daily, and with the other groups at least every second day. I would make sure to touch base with all of my groups at the beginning of each session so that they knew what they were to be working on and what the expectations were.
At my previous school, we used parent volunteers that we trained. They were able to take a couple of the groups and work with them at the same time as we were working with our groups. This really helped as we knew that all of the students would receive some support each day. (Note: I gave the more capable students to my volunteers and I worked with those that needed more explicit instruction.)
It is more difficult to get parents to volunteer now as many of them are working and not available to help out on a consistent basis.
I am retired, but I volunteer at my old school and work with guided reading groups. Last year, we implemented something different that seems to work better. This is closer to what I was doing in my own classroom.
One classroom at a time is supported. All the students are put into reading groups and teachers, support staff, and teacher volunteers lead the groups in guided reading studies. The Learning Assistance teacher also takes some of the more at risk students and gives them extra support at a different time of the day.
Every few weeks the students are assessed and the groups are adjusted accordingly.
This seems to be more effective and it makes it easier for teachers to schedule as well. All of their students are receiving instruction at the same time and there is communication happening about what is going on in the various groups.
These are just a few of my thoughts about guided reading. I would love to hear how this fits with your ideas of guided reading. Leave a comment below with ideas that you use to make guided reading work in your classroom.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts about guided reading with some tips and tricks for emergent readers as well as those who are advanced and ready for novels. I would love to hear some of yours as well.
I love to use glyphs for teaching about data. Kids love to create them and they don't realize how full of information they are until we begin to analyze them. They think they are just drawing or creating pictures.
I was introduced to glyphs about 15 years ago when I went to math workshop. I was amazed at how these simple drawings contained so much data. I knew that I had to use them in my classroom.
When I began to use glyphs, I didn't know about clipart. We drew pictures to represent the data. Then we posted the pictures on the board and began to look at the data. One of my favorite glyphs was the pumpkin glyph. Here is the information needed to create one version. Note that the classification matches the template. The pictures can be used to answer the classification questions as well as counting and comparison questions.
I was so excited about using glyphs, that I bought some books with prepared templates. I still did some that we drew ourselves, but not as often. The templates required some drawing, but kids felt more confident using them because the main shapes looked more uniform.
One of my favorite glyphs, in one of the books, was the baby block. I used it many times when doing student-led conferences. It was a way for parents and children to share information together about when the children were babies. It was also a great way to introduce the parents to the power of a glyph for collecting data.
Now, there are so many different templates that can be used and added to when creating glyphs. Here are some that I made.
The beauty of using glyphs is you can make the activities as simple or complex as you want. You can create pictures and do basic sharing with them, or you can do in-depth analysis and create graphs to go along with the results.
I highly recommend giving them a try.
Early in my teaching career, I realized the importance of small reading groups. I didn't really like having to follow the anthologies that were current at the time, because I found that they were varied in difficulty levels and that they created challenges for some children.
In the late nineties, we were introduced to leveled books and guided reading that made more sense. Since that time, I have fed my book addiction in the pursuit of finding materials that would engage my students and help them to love books and do more than just read the words on the pages. (I left several boxes of book sets at the school when I retired. I was a huge fan of the book bundles from Scholastic and garage sales.)
One of the challenges of doing guided reading, is being able to manage all the different reading levels in a classroom. I used to get parent volunteers and train them to work with my groups. I would give them the groups that were more capable and I would prepare the materials and structure the lessons for them. I would also have independent reading groups. I would work with the students that required more help. I would also have different center activities available for groups that I couldn't get to right away. There were so many different language activities available, it wasn't difficult to find ones to fit the various groups and abilities of my students. I created a rotation of activities so that I could keep track of which groups had done which activities.
In recent years, I have not always been able to use parent volunteers, so I needed to come up with ways to manage up to 7 different reading groups during a day. It was a juggling act, but because I had been doing rotations and centers for so long, I was familiar with how to structure the groups and knew what kinds of materials and activities I would need to make it happen.
I became pretty adept at creating centers and language activities that would engage the groups while I was working with others. I also started to add more and more language components to my guided reading lessons. The benefit of this was, the students got the lessons as they needed them and they were ready for them. Let's face it, not all kids are ready for the same concepts at the same time, so why teach them to the whole class at once!
Of course, there are some things that can be taught to everyone at the same time, and perhaps should be, but most times, concepts aren't fully understood if the children aren't ready for them yet.
I retired in June 2015, but I still volunteer at my last school. I have 6 different reading groups that I work with. Some groups are just learning to read, and others are advanced groups that are doing novel studies.
One of the things I enjoy about working with these groups, is being able to select my own materials and plan language activities for them. I don't just help the children decode the material and then do minimal work with the book, I help them to dig deeper into the meaning or use the book to teach language usage as well.
For example, I have a couple of groups of beginning readers working with speech bubbles and quotation marks. Normally, these ideas would not be introduced until much later, but the children are very excited about doing the activities and they are starting to notice the quotation marks in other books.
I enjoy creating guided reading study materials for chapter books. Kids love it when they finally get to the books with chapters. However, they often don't read very deeply and miss much of the rich detail and information that is in the book. Creating activities that make them stop and think and find evidence in the story allows for a better understanding of what the author is sharing.
Here are some guided reading studies for some of my students' favorite books and series. They are some of the books that I used with my groups last year and this fall. As the year goes on, I am sure that I will be creating more as I prepare for future groups and needs.
I know that many teachers teach guided reading, and everyone has their own techniques for making it work. These are just some thoughts from my experiences. I have met many teachers who are masters of reading and they have shared many experiences and resources throughout the years. There are many others that I have met on the internet, that I have collaborated with. I am in awe of what they are doing in classrooms today. Children are lucky to have them as their teachers.
I would love to hear more about what you do for guided reading in your classrooms.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother or 8, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.
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