Sunday, July 20, 2014

Taking Another Look at Guided Reading

I had a tough time fitting everything into my Language Arts block that I needed to do with the students last year.  So I'm taking another look at what I'm doing and when with each small group.  I created a PowerPoint with directions for me and visuals for the students.

This is part of the station rotations template that I will use to track what the students are doing at each station and when.

This is the poster of the "Must Do" activities at the Catch Up Station.

This is the poster of the "May Do" activities at the Catch Up station.

This *mostly* editable 23 slide PowerPoint includes:
~How to Use the Guided Reading Stations
~Station rotation chart with station descriptions
~May Do and Must Do posters
~Polka-Dot station labels
~Polka-Dot reading group labels
~Polka-Dot spelling group labels

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

How do you fit in Guided Reading, Writing, and Word Study?  I'd love suggestions and/or comments!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Taking Another Look at Guided Math

I already use the Guided Math model for my math instruction, but I want to revamp it so things run a little smoother next year with the station rotations.  In an effort to do this, I created a PowerPoint with what I will need to display the information so it is easily accessible to me and the students.

This editable Guided Math Station packet includes:
~Guided Math Lesson Plan Template
~Directions on how I use the packet for Guided Math
~How to choose what stations different students will start with each day
~"Must Do" vs. "May Do" activities for each station
~Polka-dot station label cards and group numbers

These are an example of what the station label cards look like.

Pick up your copy by clicking here.

Do you do anything like this?  I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

End of Year Letter to Next Year's Students

At the end of each school year, I have the students write a letter summarizing their experiences.  I put them out on the desks for next year's students on Back to School Night.  It's a fun project for this year's kiddos, and I always like seeing the looks on the faces of next year's kiddos as they read about what's in store for them.

First, I print several copies of the outline (see the first page example below).  I make sure there's at least one copy for every two students to share.  Students do NOT write on these.  Instead, they will copy the sentences on notebook paper to make the letter.  I will allow students to write on the outline if they need that differentiation, but most do just fine with copying it onto paper.

For those students needing a challenge, I included the following activity.  They love drawing their favorite parts of our room!

I also included a rubric because I find that students need clear expectations of how to complete the assignment and it helps with self-editing.

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

 This customizable PowerPoint includes:
-A letter outline with fill in the blanks. This can be used as an organizer or as the letter itself. I have students copy the outline onto notebook paper unless they need differentiation.

-A rubric for students to use for self-editing and teacher grading

-A challenge assignment for early finishers           

Do you do an end of year letter?  If so, I'd love to hear what you include!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Literature Circles and Book Clubs

Toward the end of the school year, I break up the small guided reading groups. Instead of grouping based on reading level, I let them group themselves based on interest in reading a book. I put out several chapter books and have students rank them from favorite to least favorite. I then create groups of students with the same or similar reading interest.

Several of these books are those from my author study (author of the month). I rarely finish these books when I read them aloud to the students. I read enough to pique their interest and leave it as a teaser to encourage them to read more on their own.  All of them have read at least some part of these books as a class and now it's time to finish a book of their choice in a small group. 

After they've chosen their book, it's time to get in their groups and assign their jobs. A great way to do this is to use the spinner worksheet (part of my Literature Circles/Book Clubs packet). With a simple spin students are randomly, and most importantly quickly, assigned their role.  I will elaborate on the job descriptions later in this post, but I go into more detail in my Literature Circles/Book Clubs packet. 


While they read, all students use sticky notes to mark their thinking with the symbols on the sheet below (in the packet).  ALL students are expected to do this while reading, but the students with the assigned the job check to make sure that particular part is completed by each student during the wrap up.


For example, the Word Detective checks to make sure everyone has at least one cloudy or don't know word written and then makes sure each student has defined their word in their vocabulary notebook. 

To hold them accountable for time on task, preparedness, and teamwork I use my Small Group or Literature Circle/Book Club Accountability Sheet (part of the packet). You can pick up a copy by clicking hereThe student with the "leader/facilitator" job is responsible for filling out the sheet for their group and making sure the group works cooperatively.  If a group member is absent, the leader does that person's job for that meeting. 

Captain Answer makes sure everyone came up with and wrote a question that starts with the Question Starters (part of the packet). Each  student shares their question and the group tries to answer it. Captain Answer may ask the teacher for help if a question cannot be answered by the group. 

The Connector checks to make sure that each member of the group has made at least one connection between the book and other things (books, movies, personal experiences, world news)

The Summarizer checks to make sure everyone has given a short summary of the text using the summary bookmarks (part of the packet).  They use the "somebody, wanted, but, so, then" summary style. They are also responsible for sharing summaries of any missed reading with group members who have been absent.


A great post reading activity is to watch the movie that corresponds to the book and compare and contrast. I have a Book vs. Movie Activity (part of the packet). 

Below are some of the books we have read or will read that have movies appropriate for fourth grade. 

The Lorax
This one is usually read during our ecosystems unit. 

Horton Hears a Who
I usually do a Dr. Seuss themed unit at the end of the year but this one's great for talking about respecting everyone at the beginning of the year, too. 

The Tale of Despereaux
Kate Dicamillo is one of our authors of the month. 

Charlotte's Web

Ramona and Beezus
Beverly Cleary is also an author of the month. 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Another favorite of Beverly Cleary. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl is another of our authors. Speaking of Dahl ...

The Witches

James and the Giant Peach

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Wish Giver

Do you use literature circles in your classroom?  How about comparing books to movies?  Do you have any books that are also movies to add?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reading Fluency in Upper Elementary

Fluency has always been a part of my guided reading program, but I struggled with how much emphasis to place on it and what activities to use. I've been searching for something that will take it to the next level for older students. So I'm redoing this station for next year. 

I'm adding a list of "must do" and "may do" at each station, for starters. Must Do activities are to be completed immediately and before the May Do activities. Must Do activities provide the assessment and practice for all students.  May Do activities provide challenge for early finishers and advanced students. 

Before I officially start detailing the station, let me tell you where the majority of the materials will come from. 

There are so many activities that can be done with the materials on this site!  You do need a paid membership, but our school purchased memberships for us so I'm lucky.  Let me list just a few:

Mini Reading Books
 If you're planning to use the printed/copied books from year to year, you might want to consider laminating the covers and taping the spines so they are more durable.  You may also want to separate the books by level so students are choosing books that aren't too easy or difficult with which to practice. Here's how one teacher does this . The picture below is an example from her post.


Buddy Reading Station
Must Do: Practice Fluency Strategies with Mini Readers or Multiple Copies of Chapter Books (AKA: Buddy Books)
These strategies are not new, but I'll be teaching them early in the year in both the whole class and small group settings. 

Ideally, a more fluent reader would be paired with one that is less so. However, my students will most often be completing stations with their homogenous small reading group.  In this case, I will try to make the reading material be something they've already read so it's more of a practice than an introduction to new material. 

If I want students to read together, here are some techniques:
Choral Reading: Reading the same thing at the same time.
Echo Reading: One partner reads with fluency and then the other reads the same thing, trying to mimic or correct the fluency. 
*Turn-Based Reading: Take turns reading paragraphs or pages before answering the questions together.

If I want them to read separately (this could be used as a differentiation for advanced students), I will have them do the reading and questions independently and then come back together to discuss their answers. 

Now, here's where I break away from the small readers for a moment. I also plan to use our Science and Social Studies textbooks at this station. Since it will be material/words we covered in class, it will still be ideal for fluency. Bonus: Sneaking in core content review.

Buddy Reading: Comprehension Check
I want to add a reading comprehension accountability to this station, so from time to time I will use:
Buddy Reading Questions: Click here to get your copy.

This buddy reading packet is editable for your class needs. 
This packet includes:
Book browsing policy (how to pick a book for buddy reading)
A prereading activity
Think-Aloud question starters (during reading)
A book recommendation form (after reading)
Reading Comprehension Bookmarks: Click here to get your copy.

Reading Strategies Organizers: Click here to get your copy.

Using Sticky Notes to Increase Reading Comprehension: Click here to get your copy. 


Buddy Reading: One Minute Fluency Checks
The passages are ready for printing on Reading A-Z so I don't have to go searching for material. I plan to let students give each other fluency checks with these passages AFTER I've used them to "test" them. The students will use the following at the buddy reading station. 

Teacher Station Fluency Extension: Using Reading Series Mini Books
You can always use any leveled readers you have, including those from your reading series if you don't have an A-Z membership. As a matter of fact, I have students choose and practice a few paragraphs from their reading series leveled book. I have them do this with their whisper phones (see example below) so they'd can hear themselves read, but not disturb anyone else.


After they've had time to practice, they "share" their paragraphs with the group. Other group members are listening for examples of fluent reading and we compliment the reader on these when they finish. We also *politely* offer suggestions on things like voice level and tone and pronunciation. 

Fluency Home-School Connection with Mini Readers
I have sent the printed/copied books home for fluency practice with Mom and Dad (or anyone who's available to help). This can be in addition to or in place of the usual nightly reading.  It's a great way to involve parents.

May Do Activities
Fluency Games
All I need is several copies of the following resources.  Some are games and some are Fry/Dolche lists for upper grades.

Poetry Station
Pairs or trios can practice with various forms of poetry. In addition to the standard poetry books, I'm including:

Two-Voice Poetry
You can pick up a copy of my examples and activities to use with it here.

Some great two-voice poetry books that I will include for students to read together:

Reader's Theater
These are so great for practicing fluency without being boring!  Ideally, each student would have a copy while I read fluently as an example during small group reading. 

There are so many awesome reader's theaters out there.  Here are some of my favorite finds:

I have a Virginia Studies-related reader's theaters available (Patrick Henry) and I plan to make more.  Click here for your copy. 

Reading A-Z (again!)
All the scripts are listed by reading level so I can even differentiate  for each small reading group and it goes all the way up to level Z.  

Phew!  What about you?  Any other ways you know of to incorporate fluency practice into upper elementary?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Student Accountability for Small Groups and Book Clubs

One of my ongoing goals is to help students keep track of their participation in small reading groups and book clubs.  It helps give some of the ownership to them and takes away the need for me to constantly remind them of their responsibilities.

I have used the Small Group Points Sheet for several years with great success.  It works much like a rubric, allowing me to clearly state my expectations ahead of time. It also provides a sort of checklist for the student.


You could print one for each student or use it to keep track of an entire group's progress. I print it double-sided and collect points until both sides have been filled. Since I see my small groups at least every other day, it usually takes about two weeks to fill. I then tally up the points for each student and calculate their participation grade. 

This Small Group Points Sheet is editable, so you can change the categories to suit your needs. The example below is geared towards small reading groups and book clubs. You can pick up a copy by clicking here

Do you have a system for small group accountability?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Author Study/Genre of the Month: Jacqueline Woodson

In the past couple of years, I have started to do a "genre of the month" during reading class.  This is loosely based off of The Book Whisperer.  By the way, it is a fantastic and quick read that you won't regret buying.  I highly recommend it!

February's author is Jacqueline WoodsonThe genre of the month is Poetry.  I thought it was a good genre, considering April is National Poetry Month.

As with the other months, I put out a bunch of his books to be displayed for the entire month and I choose one to read aloud. Woodson doesn't often using the traditional rhyming patterns, but she does use rhythm in her books.  It mimics a conversation or monologue, especially in Locomotion, which I read aloud.  I love discussing how this is still a form of poetry, even though it doesn't sound like what we're used to thinking of when we think of poetry (heavy rhyming).

Some other greats:
The Other Side
Show Way
Peace, Locomotion

I also have websites available for students to research Woodson  and find more books that they want to add to their "To Read" lists.  Harper Collins Publishers has this website called the Author Tracker and Reading Rockets has many more authors on this site.
Do you have a genre of the month or an author study?  I'd love to hear what you do with yours!