Wednesday, 28 October 2015

How to Engage Your Students During Guided Reading Instruction

Guided reading is an essential part of your reading time.  However, it is usually a small chunk of time each day so you need to make the most of it and engage your students during guided reading.  So how do you do that? I am going to share with you 3 things you should have at your guided reading table to make your time run smoothly and to help keep your students engaged during guided reading instruction.  

What is at my Guided Reading Table?

1.  Tools to teach DECODING STRATEGIES

decoding strategies posters, beanie baby decoding strategies

First grade readers are decoders in their purest form.  They have learned that to read they need to sound words out. Once they have learned their letter sounds they are good to go, or so they think.  If you ask a first grader how to solve an unknown word they will say “sound it out” every time.  We need to teach them that there are lots of other ways to figure out unknown words.   I do this by introducing them to the decoding strategies and the stuffed animals that go with each.  I created a set of Decoding Strategies Posters with animals to teach each strategy.  They are immediately hooked when the stuffed animals come down to the reading table as I model how to use a strategy.  For instance, when I introduce stretchy snake we actually take turns coiling him up and stretching him out as we stretch out words.  However, it is not practical to keep stretchy snake there at all times so I created a few student tools to go with the posters on the wall behind our guided reading table.  When we are working on a particular strategy I give students the decoding wand with the character on it.

decoding strategy wands, beanie baby decoding strategies

This acts as a reference to try that strategy when they come to an unknown word.  Later on, they can use a bookmark, which includes all the strategies, when they are more confident readers and have learned a number of strategies to try when decoding.

decoding strategies bookmark, beanie baby decoding strategies

I teach the decoding strategies in approximately the same order every year ~ Eagle Eye, Stretchy Snake, Chunky Monkey, Lips the Fish, Skippy Frog, Flippy the Dolphin and lastly Tryin' Lion. Click any of the images to check out the resource or click {HERE}.


comprehension questions cards

When it come to teaching comprehension skills I have a confession to make.  Many times I struggled to figure out what exactly to ask my students or how to word it.  We do not use a particular reading series so I glean resources from many places.  Identifying key comprehension questions for text was sometimes a bit difficult.  That is why I decided to make myself a go-to resource for any non-fiction text, that covered all the different comprehension strategies that I teach.  Enter Comprehension Checks!  These question cards are placed on a ring and I keep them at my guided reading table and another set at our carpet area to use during shared reading.  

comprehension questions cards

The Comprehension Checks are color coded and organized by reading strategy.  There are multiple questions for each strategy.  On each card you will find the question and then “look fors” – what you might expect your students to say or think in order to answer the question.  This extra information makes the cards more teacher friendly. Click {HERE} to check out the resource or click on the pictures.

comprehension questions cards

comprehension questions cards

3.  Tools to teach PHONEMIC AWARENESS

This tool isn't necessarily aimed at teaching guided reading but it is an essential precursor to reading. In first grade at the beginning of the year, not all of your students will be ready for a traditional guided reading group.  Instead, they need to develop foundational phonemic awareness skills so that they can begin to decode and read text.  In this case, teachers do not need to provide their students with books and questions but rather they need to be armed with word lists and lots of them.  

I always start the year with at least a couple of groups who need to start here and I wanted to keep them engaged during their instruction.  I created a set of word lists to use to practice whatever phonemic awareness skill I was working on.  I pull out the color coded sets and have several different word lists for each skill.  This ended the practice of trying to generate word lists on the fly.  We have all done that!  You can check out the resource by clicking {HERE} or on the image below. 

I hope you have found some new resources to make your guided reading time more effective and to help engage your students during guided reading instruction. Don't forget to PIN THIS IMAGE so that you can revisit this post as often as you need to.

If you are looking for ideas for things your students should use to increase engagement during guided reading then check out this post by clicking on the image below.

Until next time,

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Trick or Treat Blog Hop!

I am so happy stopped by to visit my blog.  I am joining Rachael from the Classroom Game Nook Blog and many other talented teachers for this blog hop full of Teaching Tricks, Treats for your classroom and a Giveaway too!  What more could you ask for?  

I am going to share with a you a few tips and tricks that I find useful in my classroom and as a treat for continuing to read on you will find a freebie that will be perfect to use this week to celebrate Hallowe'en.  

I have a couple of management tricks for you.  The first one I call Stool Stars!  I have two crate seats in my classroom that house our reading buddy collection (AKA stuffed animals).  Each day I use the random name chooser on my SmartBoard to pick two students to have the honour of sitting on the stools.  There is always a lot of buzz when I am opening the file and cheers when the students have been picked.  These students need to display stellar behaviour to stay on their stools for the day, so it is great motivator to do their best.  No one wants to lose that special privilege.  

Speaking of stuffed animals, my second trick involves our class pet - Ellie the Elephant.  Ellie has been with me for a long time.  Right away the students notice that she has very small ears for an elephant, which leads right into how I use her to motivate and keep students on track during teaching time and desk work time.  Ellie has very sensitive ears and will only spend time around a quiet and respectful class.  True story....she has had to hide in the closet at times because the classroom has gotten to noisy.   Ellie often sits on the laps of students during lessons and story time.  She loves to sit at the tables where all students are working and on task.  They love to have her visiting their tables and as a result do a better job of staying on task.   It is amazing how one little stuffed animal can be so motivating.   If you are interested in other ways I use stuffed animals in my classroom you can click {HERE} to learn more.  

Thanks for continuing to read on.  It's time for the treats!  We all love treats and this is one I am especially proud of.  I love to incorporate holidays and celebrations into my classroom but in a meaningful and curriculum connected way.  There is never enough time to take a break from teaching to have seasonal fun.  With this in mind, I created a new product called Hallowe'en Sight Word Poems and Activities which has allowed me to continue to introduce sight words to my students daily and work on other crucial literacy skills as well.  These sight word poems are simple to read and perfect for Kindergarten and First Grade.

As a special thank you for stopping by you can grab a sampler of this pack.  It includes a copy of the Black Cat poem (shown above), the pocket chart pieces to recreate the poem and and a cut and paste sentence from the poem.  Click on the cover below to head over to download it.  If you love it and want the entire pack you can then find the full version {HERE}.

But wait!  There is still more in store for you! I am also hosting a GIVEAWAY.  I am giving away a copy of my of Thanksgiving product Turkey on the Loose!  This product includes an inferring lesson, writing task and craftivity to go with the book The Amazing Turkey Rescue.

My students loved this project prior to our Thanksgiving (proud Canadian here).  Enter below for a chance to win it and use it with your students in a few weeks or next year! Good Luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now please head over to the next blog to pick up more tricks, treats and a chance to win.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Tricks & Treats: A Halloween Blog Hop and Giveaway!

Welcome to the Tricks and Treats Hallowe'en Blog Hop and Giveaway.  I am so glad you stopped by. We are each going to be sharing a helpful tip or idea to help with your Hallowe'en celebrations in the classroom.

My best advice is to KEEP IT SIMPLE!

In my experience in First Grade it is best to celebrate, but within your predictable routine.  We already know our children are beside themselves with excitement.  By enjoying fun Hallowe'en activities in the regular structure of the day your students get to celebrate,  but things are less likely to slip over the edge into chaos!

I love to use themed math and literacy centers leading up to Hallowe'en as well as incorporate as much Art as I can.

We created great paint chip Frankenstein's last year using green paint chips from the hardware store! For some reason I cannot find any pictures of my own student's work but here is the inspiration for the craft. The kids loved it, so I will be doing this craft with my first graders again this year.  It will probably accompany a piece of writing too!

In math we will be using my new Halloween patterning center this week as we wrap up patterning
As a special thank you for stopping by you can grab this Math Center FREEBIE to use with your students.  Students will look at each card and determine if it is a pattern or not and then place it on the sorting mat.  I have also included a recording sheet so students can record their work as they go.

There are so many great Hallowe'en books to pick from but these are a few of my favourites that I always share with my students.

Now for the exciting part!  In order to enter our giveaway and have a chance to win 1 of 4 TPT gift cards you will need to enter my secret word in the Rafflecopter.  Here is my secret word!

Now make your way to the next blog for another great tip and freebie!  Click on the ghost below to head to the next blog.  

You can also check out this set of Hallowe'en Math Centers to practice numbers to 30 if you are looking for more Center Activities.

Thanks for stopping by!  

Friday, 16 October 2015

Tricks & Treats Blog Hop

I am so happy to be joining the Elementary Entourage this month for the

I must admit, Hallowe'en is not my favourite holiday to celebrate but my students love it so I get into the spirit with them.
I want to share with a number of brain break videos that I like to use.  I try to keep my classroom routine as normal as possible even when we are celebrating.  I have found that by throwing aside all of our routines it really throws those kids that are so dependent on and crave routine.  I don't want chaos to ensue so I keep things predictable and we still have fun.  

One of my favourite things is to use Hallowe'en themed brain breaks leading up to the big day.  Is anyone else excited that Hallowe'en is on a Saturday!  I sure am!  Here are a couple of my favourites: 


I hope your students love getting their wiggles out to some of our favourites!  

Even though I am not a fan of Hallowe'en I love to blend it into my literacy and numeracy time to keep the kids engaged and excited about learning.

I am SO excited to use a brand new product I just created for my firsties.  It is a Hallowe'en sight work poetry pack.  I wanted something that had super simple poems they could read and included specific sight word practice.  It is newly posted and you can check it out here - Hot off the press!

Last year my Hallowe'en numeracy centers were a big hit!

Here is a TIP to make two of the centers you see above with a few things from the Dollar Store or Target and you own cupboard:

The bottom left hand side shows a game I call Dump the Ghosts!   Dump the Ghosts is an easy game to make.  Draw little ghost faces on lima beans and put them in a baggie.  The students "dump" the ghosts and record how many ghosts they see - faces turned up - on a ten frame.  Super simple!  The top right hand picture shows kids building a number in my pumpkin ten frames using Dollar Store mini erasers.  Both of these games practice crucial skills but in such a fun way!

If you want to take a closer look at my Math Centers from my Hallowe'en Math Centers click on the picture below.

And as an added "treat" pick up this freebie from the centers by clicking on the cover below!

I hope you have found my tips, tricks and treats helpful.  Please continue to check out all the great ideas by clicking over to another teachers blog!

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Currently October!

Happy October!  I never remember to link up on the first day of the month but here I am ready to go for the second day.  Pretty proud of myself!  :)

I am linking up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her monthly Currently linky.
And now on with my Currently....


My daughter is turning 12 today and choose to celebrate with a few friends.  The plan is to hang out and have pizza for dinner and then watch Pitch Perfect 2.  Right now they are about to use the Wii.  I don't know if you have preteen daughters but they are soooo loud!  


I love Fall but not the dreary, rainy,  grey Fall that we have been experiencing this week.  I am all about the bright sunshine, cooler days and pretty leaves of Fall.  Today was beautiful an the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend so I am looking forward to it.  


I participated in a link up recently called BOLO - Be On the Look Out.  The idea was to post a product that you are working on to give people a bit of a preview.  I am truly working on it and need to get back at it.  It is almost done but I can think of a million other things to do instead.  It should have been done last night but instead I spent the time to make 6 new custom pins for other products.  You can check out my Pinterest board {HERE} if you are curious.  


More time, seriously!  There is never enough hours in the day for work, family, fun and TPT.  I have a lot I want to accomplish this weekend so I must prioritize and stay away from my computer.  That is a lot easier said (or typed) then done!   


Those girls are getting louder and I could really use a Pumpkin Spice Latte or a Caramel Macchiato or maybe even something that comes in a bottle :)


I love the colours of the leaves and hope that the wind and rain stay away so the trees will be beautiful at the cottage next weekend.  
Thanks for stopping by my blog and checking out what I am up to!  
Until next time.