Saturday, December 26, 2015

Snowman Race Math Game FREEBIE

Another part of my Winter FUN Pack is a Snowman Fraction Book, also available separately. You can add simple fractions (1/2, 1/4, etc.) or more challenging fractions (5/6, 4/8, etc.). You choose the pages to add depending on your students' level.

Get the above products here:

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Teaching Long/Short Vowel Discrimination

Most first graders make the transition from decoding short vowel words to long vowels pretty well. But some students need more exposure, and visual cues are often quite helpful for these kids.

When making the transition from reading short vowel words to long vowel words, students need to train their eyes to see the silent e in VCe words or the vowel pairs in CVVC words (typically taught later). Repeatedly pointing out the two vowels helps to train their eyes to see that the two vowels work together make the long sound. 

Along the way in our teaching lives, we pick up little tricks from other teachers that make us wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?"

This is one of those little tricks.  It's a simple, but very effective technique to use to introduce long vowels and for students struggling with long/short vowel discrimination.

But first, students must have solid auditory discrimination between long and short vowel sounds, or phonological discrimination before discriminating with text. One way to practice this is by randomly saying long or short vowel sounds and having students say, "long" or "short" after each sound you say.

Once auditory discrimination is solid, then they are ready for the visual piece. I teach my first graders that when I point to a vowel with one finger and say, "sound," I expect them to say the short vowel sound. (I use these charts in both whole group on the carpet and for small groups at the kidney table that need more exposure.)

When I point to the vowel and silent e with two fingers and say, "sound," I am prompting the long sound. This draws their eyes to the silent e that helps the vowel say its name. I also point to the vowel pairs in the same way with two fingers to draw their eyes to the two letters that make the one long vowel sound.

The technique I have learned is to simply point, say "sound," prompting the long or short sound, then point to the beginning of the word and say, "read."  Once they understand the finger prompts and my word prompts of "sound" and "read," they are ready to read a chart of words in isolation. See 13 second video below. 

The same prompting can be used when students read text. When they hesitate in front of a word in text, I say, "sound," prompting them to say the vowel sound and then I say, "read." After several repetitions of this, students can more easily see the long or short vowels automatically on their own. I have found that brief prompting during a reading of text is much better than interrupting students with long dialogues to explain or reteach. They will understand your prompt of "sound," and "read" if you have practiced it enough.  Soon they will be prompting themselves as they read, and that's what we want!

After guidance with a chart, students can also practice further with their own focus boards or drill sheets that have a mixture of long and short vowel words. Speed Drills for Words With Long and Short Vowels  Each row repeats the same 8 words but in a random order. There are 20 pages of drills with different words.

I just slip them into sleeves to protect them and store them in a binder.

Once students understand your expectations for using these drills, they can be added to centers and partners can time each other and check for accuracy.

Get your Long/Short Vowel Discrimination Drills HERE.

Thanks for looking! I would love to hear your ideas too!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

TARGETED Guided Reading

Our job as teachers is by no means easy. People outside the education field often comment that teaching first graders must be fun.  Well, yes.  At times we have great fun, and I enjoy and love my students dearly. I wouldn't do this job if I didn't absolutely love it because in order to be effective, teaching is time consuming and very hard work. Plain and simple. 

Take guided reading for example. Planning for 4 different groups is where I spend a great amount of my planning time. I spend so much time here because everyday I see the benefits of the prescribed, targeted plans I have created for each group. 

Just like most teachers, I have a wide range of readers in my 1st grade classroom. I have students in my class who struggle with sight words and are still not automatic with their blending.  But I also have students who are reading 140 words per minute and can retell what they have read in order and with great detail. 

YIKES! How do we effectively meet the needs of all those readers with such varying needs?

Students reading 50 words per minute or higher probably don't need sight word review or sound by sound blending practice. Students reading below 25 words per minute may still lack phonemic awareness or need drilling of vowel discrimination.  All need comprehension instruction, but what should the main focus be for each group?

One size does NOT fit all when it comes to guided reading.  

Prescriptive, targeted instruction is what each student in each group needs in order for students to progress with their reading. 

Just like at the doctor's office, a diagnosis is essential before treatment can be prescribed.

Our school relies heavily on DIBELS progress monitoring assessments once or twice per month to determine reading progress and needs of individual students. We also assess sight word fluency regularly as well as the notes we take during guided reading time. Other teachers rely on running records, reading inventories or other regular reading assessments to determine what our readers need most to become proficient readers.
Running records, Fry sight word testing forms, fluency records and forms for recording first sound, phoneme segmentation and nonsense words are included in the Targeted Guided Reading K-2 Pack.

So after progress monitoring or regular reading assessments, the first step is to record the reading assessment data. I like to use a spreadsheet with student names to record testing data.

Next I dig into the data, looking for red flags and areas of need. I then group students with similar reading needs.  I try to focus on no more than two or three targets or needs for each group.

Once I have the groups made based on similar needs, I am ready to start planning my targets and activities for each guided reading group. 

After many revisions over several years, I have simplified my 
Grades K-5 BUNDLED Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resource to one simple sheet (plus activities flip books that will be discussed below):
Now in a fillable form! Just click on the field and enter information. Easy Peasy!

Once I have determined the target for the group, I fill out the student names for the group and their current scores that reflect the target.  The scores should match their target.
I select just the activities and materials that will help my students meet the target using the NEW Activities Resources Flip books shown below. 
This helps me to stay focused on their greatest need(s). I also record how much time I should spend on each activity.  Time management is very important so all activities are completed in the time allowed for the group.


Here's a valuable resource for selecting targeted activities for each group!

I've made this SUPER SIMPLE for you!
With the help and guidance of over a dozen experienced colleagues and administrators, I've created Targeted Guided Reading Activities Resource Flip Books that are organized by skill level. 
All you need to do is identify the group skill level, flip up the page and select activities for your group!

Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resources K-2

Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resource 3-5

Record your targeted activities for each group on your Targeted Guided Reading Plan and you're ready to go!
Over a 2 week period, I have my plan out in front of me as I teach each group. I follow the plans to fidelity.  I trust that I wrote the plans with the target of the group in mind.

Trust your judgement. If an activity you listed is not working, change it, or make a note at the bottom that for the next cycle, that activity should be modified. Modify as needed to better help your students meet their target.

Each day I make notes on the plan and record how the students do with the activities.  Y=Yes, the student did well with the activities N=No, the student did not do well or it was too hard A=Absent B=Behavior or focus. Or, use check marks, + or - markings, or whatever works for you.

These notes are helpful for reflection on why the students met or did not meet the target for the 2 week period. When creating a new plan for the next 2 weeks, modifications can be made based on the notes taken.

The example below shows a completed K-2 Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resources 
or Grades3-5 Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resource that has been filled out and used for a 2 week period. 

You may notice that the 1st activity in the plan is using focus boards (drills) to practice vowel discrimination. I use focus boards daily, depending on the skill(s) the group is working on. 
2-3 minutes daily is what it takes to get students fluent with these sounds or words.
Here are some of the drills/focus boards I use:
Get ALL of the drills above in a BUNDLE: Speed Drills Big BUNDLE For Guided Reading and Centers

This next plan shows a group with different needs.  Their target is a fluency target because they are beginning to blend more automatically and they are ready for fluency skills.  Notice they still need some sight word review because their sight word testing shows they are not completely fluent with their sight words (not noted on this plan, but spotted when doing data analysis). The daily sight word review will help with their overall fluency.

Notice the minutes listed after each activity. Because I only have 15-20 minutes per group, I need to help myself stay on track and manage my time. Again, I must trust the plans I have written and follow them to fidelity.

Below are some additional instructional resources to use. Comprehension question cards are organized by comprehension skills and are on handy cards. A leveled book guide is included so you know what to watch for and encourage at each level. Take notes on each student for 2 weeks on this Anecdotal Notes form.

Send home resources for parents on reading with their child. Also, as students move up to higher leveled readers, send home resources that help them know the skills to work on at each level!

Another strategy I use to stay on track and manage time is to have all materials at the ready.  All I have to do is grab the bin and go. Time is precious, so every delay in gathering materials takes away from instruction.

I purchased tall bins ( so materials and book titles were easily visible.  These bins also don't take up much space on my already crowded shelves behind my guided reading table.

Organization and preparation are key for successful guided reading groups. Yes, it takes tons of planning time, but your efforts are well worth it because your students will show more growth!

Get your  K-2 Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resources with instructions and suggestions HERE.
Get your Grades 3-5 Targeted Guided Reading Plan and Activities Resource with instructions and suggestions HERE.

I would love to hear from you! Leave comments or questions below.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Poinsettia Christmas Craft

This precious Poinsettia Christmas Craft was originally hand drawn by one of our 1st grade teacher's moms decades ago and has been a 1st grade favorite ever since!

It is so simple to make, preschoolers can make the craft, but 3rd graders love it just as much!  

Each leaf and petal is colored with crayon before cutting and gluing to give it that soft look of the plant.  Each piece is then glued together and yellow dots punched with a hole puncher and glued to the center of the flower.

In a matter of 30 minutes, you can have a brilliant display for your hall to compliment your Santa Advent Calendars!

Or decorate around your doorway for a dramatic entry! 

Get your Poinsettia Christmas Craft HERE!

Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Holidays!

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Santa Advent Calendar

Today we made one of our absolute favorite projects!  Our Santa Advent Calendar!

This precious Santa Calendar template was originally hand drawn by one of our 1st grade teacher's moms decades ago and has been a 1st grade favorite ever since!

My 1st graders were SOOOO excited when I pulled out my sample and announced that we were making these advent calendars. They couldn't wait to get started.

As always with 1st grade, each Santa was unique and precious.

After only 30 minutes, our Santas were done! All ready to hang on the wall and add a cotton ball for each day! It was hard to tell them they couldn't take them home quite yet...

Get your Santa Advent Calendar HERE.

Thanks for looking!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

FREEBIE Christmas Roll and Cover Game

This Holiday Roll and Cover is a sample from my Math and Literacy Christmas Fun Pack. Our 1st grade team uses this pack every year to supplement our math and literacy programs and to add some fun over the holidays!  

This game is a class favorite, and students want to play it throughout the month of December during math centers and even indoor recess! Without realizing it, students are practicing addition skills and facts to 12!

Directions are included and are simple to follow. 

Get your Christmas Fun Pack Here.
Get your FREEBIE Holiday Roll and Read Here.

Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MUST Do MAY Do: An Alternative to Rotating Reading Centers

Guided reading groups are hard enough to manage without the constant activity that is created by students moving to and from reading centers.  During team meetings, our 1st grade team regularly discussed alternatives to reading centers, looking for less disruptive alternatives for independent student work time.  

What we disliked the most was the loss of instruction time when students were stopping what they were doing, watching the "wheel" turn to the next activity and then cleaning up one area to rotate to the next.  Sometimes it would take 3-5 minutes to move to the next center or to get to the guided reading table. Students not only took too much time to clean up, but also had questions or problems about what center to go to next.  These transitions rarely went smoothly. They also complained that they weren't finished at their center and needed more time.  There was so much unfinished work to keep track of. 

As teachers, we knew there had to be a BETTER, MORE EFFICIENT way to get students to work independently so we could teach our guided reading groups with very little instructional time lost. 

What to do... 

After LOTS of discussions, trial and error, we thought we would try a list approach.  

A MUST Do, MAY Do Approach.

With this approach, students stay at their tables (I seat them with their reading groups) for most of the time except for partner reading when they sit on the floor or carpet side-by side to read. When called to the guided reading table, all they do is stop working and get to the table.  No commotion, no wheel turning, no stopping everyone from what they were doing, etc.  

In other words, a lot more time for instruction!

They have a list of what they MUST Do and when they are finished with that, what they MAY Do.

HERE is a free PowerPoint copy of our MUST Do MAY Do list that you can download.   The list can be edited to fit your students' needs in each group. It looks like this:

And you can fill in your own lists to suit each group's needs like this:
(Notice the list is non-specific for what vocabulary words or what anthology story to read. This is so I don't have to make a new list each day or week! The vocabulary words are either posted on the board or the next page in their vocabulary notebook. And they know which story to read.)
Easy Peasy!

I differentiate the lists for each reading group depending on their reading goals and color code the lists by printing the each list on a different color. For example, if my struggling readers are working on sight words, I make sure "Flashcards" and "Drills" are on the MUST Do list, not MAY Do so they are getting the practice they need. In other words, I determine what each group's goals are first, and then I create the lists and fill their bins with the needed materials.

Speaking of bins...

I purchased these bins to organize books for partner reading so they would stand vertically and titles could be more easily seen.
I purchased them on Really Good Stuff HERE.

I found this to be the best way to organize the bins.  All bins and their parts, including the MUST Do, MAY DO lists, are color-coded to match the tables where they sit and/or the reading groups they are in.  

Really Good Stuff no longer sells the bottom bins that I have shown here, but I found some other primary colored deeper bins that would work HERE.

In order to target your reading instruction and include materials that meet your students' needs, you need to do regular testing and group accordingly.
Check out my updated blog post on 

  • I select seatwork that is differentiated to meet their reading goals. I use the activity sheets that come with our Houghton Mifflin Journeys series, but you can use any seatwork that supplements what your students are working on. For example, if your students are working on long vowels, my Long Vowel FLIP Books would be a perfect supplement! Or get the BUNDLE of Long and Short Vowel FLIP Books and save $$! There are also many Short Vowel FLIP Books to choose from as well!
7-Up Sentence Writing using sight words is another product that works great as seatwork.

 Like many of you, I color-code my groups (red, yellow, green and blue) and their bins and folders reflect those colors. Their seatwork folders can have the Must Do May Do lists attached or displayed somewhere in the room for them to reference.

 Every day I insert differentiated seatwork into their folders on the "Not Done" side with names on. I have found that if I write names on the top, I can better keep track of who has completed their work. It takes a few extra minutes each day, but is well worth it! When they are finished, they insert their work on the "Done" side. The next day, I staple any unfinished work to their new seatwork. If their stapled packet of unfinished work begins to grow after a few days, it is time to decide
1. Is the work too challenging? Do I need to modify for that child?
2. Is the student off task during their seatwork time?
3. Do I need to move the student closer to the guided reading table so I can better monitor their independent work?
4. Is seatwork even appropriate for this student? Perhaps this student is not an independent worker and needs to be included in two guided reading groups.
5. Is it time for a note/call home?

Games for the week are included right inside the bins unless they are too large. Then students are instructed on my expectations for the week. I try to include games that are simple and those they are familiar with so I am not constantly giving directions. I make sure all materials are included:
  • I include games/activities (most have this listed as a MAY Do) that will support their reading goals as well (sight word games, fluency games, etc.  Whatever their reading needs are at the time).  Here are some sight word games to check out:
  • I change out books as needed, but research shows that repeated reading of familiar text can support fluency building.  I make sure the books are at their independent reading level so they can easily read them with a partner with success.  I also include books that they have read successfully at the guided reading table.
  • I include sight word drills, fluency phrases, sounds drills etc. that will support their reading needs.  See below for an example of a Houghton Mifflin Sight Word Roll and Read Game
See my TpT store for lots of center activities like the one below.

Partner reading is a practiced skill.  We regularly review expectations for partner reading.  How they sit, who reads when, how to point, etc.  I include 2 copies of each title per partnership if possible, but sometimes they share. :)  Expectations for both of these scenarios is important as well.

So far, our MUST Do, MAY Do system is working!  As with any program, teaching students your expectations for each activity is a must.  

Our students enjoy mostly uninterrupted, quiet work time (unless they are called to the guided reading table) and much more instruction time at the guided reading table!  

More time in text.  Isn't that what they need?

Let me know your thoughts!

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