Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday Sale!

Get ready...
Get set...
Go shop!

In honor of Black Friday, I am joining a whole bunch of my blogging buddies, and putting my entire teaching store on sale on Friday, November 29!

On Friday only, you can save 20% off
 of every single product!

However, if you want to hold out until Monday and Tuesday, you can save 28% off of everything in my store because Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale! Everything in my store will be 20% off on Monday and Tuesday and Teachers Pay Teachers is offering an additional 10% off, which actually comes out to a savings of 28%! Make sure you use the code CYBER to save the extra 10%.

Phew! That is a lot of information!

The bottom line is, you can shop on Friday and save 20%, or shop on Monday and Tuesday, and save 28%. 
The choice is yours!

Here's some more great news!
I just posted two brand new products!

It's a simpler version of my very popular 

This new pack contains 30 different word families. 
It's perfect for kindergarten and early first grade.

Click here to see more images and to get more information about this brand new product!

I think it complements My Little Grammar Books Word Families Edition very well! 
(If I do say so myself! ;)

This write the room activity has the children walking around the room, reading sentences, and rewriting them, editing them for capitalization and punctuation. The sentences contain mostly CVC words and sight words, so they are easy to read. This is a GREAT Word Work or Work on Writing station. It really keeps the children active and engaged!

If you're in the need of some winter holiday activities, 
be sure to check out...


Click here for even MORE winter items!

I hope you all thoroughly enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday!
And when you're too stuffed to eat anymore, just do what most people do!

Go shopping!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Kindergarten Reading Block

I received a lot of great feedback about how I run my reading block in first grade. Thanks for all the comments and emails! My kindergarten reading block is very similar, so this post won't be as long. Maybe...

Once again, I do not do stations on Mondays. I use this day to introduce all the new skills and our read aloud for the week. We usually complete some activities together, to help the children practice the phonics skill for the week and the new sight words.

We do stations Tuesday through Friday, pretty much the same way as in first grade. While the children are going to stations, I am meeting with my four reading groups.

We work on phonological/phonemic awareness skills, sight words, reading skills, and writing. I find that teaching these skills during small groups is so much more effective. You can really see who gets it and who needs more help. And some groups will move quicker through this instruction and some groups will need more time with one skill over another. You can really differentiate instruction with small groups.

Last week, I introduced the -at word family. Some of my groups practiced -at words using this simple, predictable book.

And then we practiced reading from our leveled reader.

And I try to fit in some kind of guided writing, as well.

While I am meeting with reading groups, my students are going to stations. They use the same station board I showed here, except I replace the Grammar Station card with a Play-doh Station card.

These are my kindergarten stations:

Word Work
Work on Writing
Writer's Notebook
Read to Self
Puzzles and Games

As in first grade, my kindergartners choose the stations they want to go to each day. When they are finished, they move to another station. Some kids visit more stations than others. In between each of my reading groups, I stop everyone for a brief moment, and do a quick check to make sure everyone is doing their personal best. I see if they have any questions, and then I begin my next group.

Here are some pictures of the stations my students worked on last week. You'll notice that each station has more than one activity to complete. They don't complete more than one a day so that they can go back to the same station several times during the week.

Word Work Station

Here are other activities the children do at the Word Work Station:

Play-doh Station

The children practice their sight words or beginning sounds.
Click here for more images.

Work on Writing Station

(The students use the word/picture cards from the above link or from here.)

Here are other activities the children do at the Work on Writing Station:

Writer's Notebook

Students follow the same procedure outlined here.

Read to Self

My uncozy library! *sigh*

Puzzles and Games

I have a great mix of games here. The children practice all kinds of language skills, as well as, social skills.

This is the station checklist my kindergartners use. It is almost the same as first grade, except this one has numbers. In case the children can't read the name of the station, they can easily match the numbers since I numbered each station. (Check out the 3 at the Writer's Notebook Station in the picture above!)

This checklist is important, as it reminds them where they've been each day and holds them accountable for visiting all the stations each week, as many times as possible.

And that's how I run my kindergarten reading block. It took a while to get to the point where I could trust my students to work so well independently. It does not happen over night. You really have to instill a strong work ethic and sense of urgency in your students. As well as, give lots and lots of encouragement and empower them to become independent. I really love this routine because it allows my students to move at their own pace. It also allows for lots of differentiation and flexible grouping.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below. I promise to get back to you!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Reading Block (Warning: Long Post!)

I love reading how teachers run their reading block, and I've been wanting to write this post for a while now, because I am often asked how I run my reading block and how I deal with children who work at different paces and what I do with those who finish their work faster than others. Honestly, I never worry about my fast finishers because there are ALWAYS plenty of activities for them to complete each day we do stations.

This post will be about first grade and I will write another post about kindergarten. I basically run both of them the same, but, of course, the activities are different and one of the stations is different, as well.

On Monday, I do not do stations or reading groups. I use this day to introduce the skills for the week, including phonics, spelling, sight words, and the reading skill and strategy. 

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, my whole group lesson is to read and complete activities using our weekly selection from Journeys. For the majority of our reading block, the children go to as many stations as they can, including my teacher station. I see all of my four reading groups on these three days for about 20 minutes each.

Friday is assessment day and catch-up day. I also use this day to complete seasonal and thematic activities, as well as, writing activities.

With each of my reading groups, we work on sight words, phonics, spelling, writing, and, of course, reading skills and strategies. Each group has different needs so the activities and how long I spend on each of them varies. Sometimes, with my higher groups, I assign an activity and send them off to work on it together, as I meet with my lower groups. This allows me to see my lower groups for a longer period of time.

This week, our reading skill is story structure, so this handsome fella is completing a story map based on his leveled reader. His group is completing this activity without me, while I meet with another group.

While I am meeting with each of my groups, my first graders are choosing which stations they want to go to. This is my very easy to use station board. When they finish at a station, they simply move their name to the next station, of their choosing.

My stations are:
Word Work
Work on Writing
Writer's Notebook
Read to Self
Puzzles and Games

I also have a listening station, but I don't always open it when I am meeting with reading groups because the children need my assistance and it cuts into my small group time.

The numbers on the board tell how many children can go to each station at a given time. However, I will let children squeeze in if they need a certain station and it's closed. Since they can work anywhere in the room, it's not a big deal to have 5 or 6 kids using the same station.

The children really enjoy choosing their own stations and the order in which they go to them and I like this plan better than my original plan, which was to rotate every 20 minutes, because it really bothered me (and the children, too) to make them clean up and move to a new station if they weren't finished with their assignment. What was happening was, at the end of the week, some of them had quite a few unfinished assignments in their work folder. It's so much better now that they don't switch until they are finished. Plus, I'd rather be given fewer quality assignments than more half-done, rushed through assignments.

You will notice that there is no teacher station on my station board. That is because I call each reading group at different times and when I call a group, they just leave their work and come to my teacher table. This way, my reading groups are based on ability but my station groups are not. When they are done with me, they simply go back to what they were doing.

So, to summarize up to this point, my students go to stations 3 days a week. They choose their own stations and are trusted to complete their work, clean up, and visit as many stations as time allows. Since I have instilled a VERY strong sense of urgency in my students from the first day of school, they fully understand that it is my job to teach them to the best of my ability and their job to work hard and complete their work to the best of their ability.

Here are some photos of this week's stations, with explanations of what they are working on at each station.

Word Work

Kindergarten activities are on the left and first grade activities are on the right. Each drawer contains an activity. The children can only complete one activity a day. This way, they can visit this station each day and always have something to do. Here is what is in each drawer this week, along with the link to the product.

Students can choose which drawer they want to do each day.


I only have one activity a week at the grammar station because sometimes they need to finish the grammar activity we do together on Monday.

Work on Writing
I have the same 3-drawer system at this station, but forgot to take a picture of the whole system. But, here is what's in each drawer this week...

This little cutie wrote the BEST story! Here is some of it...

I snapped the picture before she colored it in!

I like to have a respond to reading activity each week, and this student is writing his opinion about one of the characters in this week's selection from our Journeys reader.

I also use activities from these packs, as well:

Writer's Notebook

In addition to Work on Writing, I like to give my students the opportunity to write whatever they want to. They use marble notebooks and really enjoy expressing their creativity each week.

As with all my stations, they can work wherever they want, even smooshed into the backpacks or right in front of the door! I keep my door locked, so no one can come in. No worries about them tripping over my little workers!

Read to Self

Here is my very uncozy library. I used to have a beautiful carpet, but the mean fire safety guy said I had to remove it because it wasn't up to code. Which isn't true. It is up to code but didn't have a label on the bottom to prove it. No label, no carpet! And this guy made me take down my beautiful curtains too. Even though they were sprayed with fire proofing spray. Again, no label, no curtains. I hope to get a new carpet soon, that is up to code. With a label!

Anyway, my students try their best to visit the library every day. They sometimes stay there and lay out on the cold tile floor, or they move to the big carpet or they get cozy in a quiet corner.

Puzzles and Games

This station contains tons of learning games and activities. There are sight word, spelling, phonics, and grammar games and puzzles. My students learn some very valuable social skills at this station! And I never worry about the mess they sometimes make because they know how to clean up REALLY well!

To help my students keep track of the stations they go to each day, they fill out this station checklist...

At the end of each day, I always choose a few children to share a sample of the work they did that day. This way, they can show off their amazing work!

Phew! This was a super long post! But, I did warn you! I hope you enjoyed reading about how I run my reading block. Prior to this routine, I tried lots and lots of other routines and this one is by far my favorite. It is based on student choice, there are always plenty of fun, meaningful, and challenging activities available, and my students never say, "I'm done! What can I do now?"

Scholastic Teacher Book Wizard