Monthly Archives: September 2013

Guide Posts for Guided Reading

I’ve been thinking about a guided reading post for a while now.  I was debating it because I felt it was more suitable for the very beginning of the school year.  But in talking to more people, perhaps right now is just fine! 

Maybe you are doing guided reading groups currently, but are looking for different ideas.  Or maybe you haven’t started incorporating small groups into everyday instruction?  Hopefully this can help!

First off – organization is key.  Also, meeting your students where they are.  We spend the first 2 weeks of school building up stamina at each center.  We practice going straight to our center, working quietly while we are there, and listening for the timer to tells us when to clean up.  I find that I can NEVER spend too much time reviewing cleaning up.  

I organize my students into 5 groups.  These are heterogeneous and fluid in nature.


We do 3 rotations (15-20 minutes each) before lunch and 3 rotations (15-20 minutes each) after lunch.  During these rotations, my assistant and I are pulling students from each time for guided reading (before lunch) and guided writing (after lunch). I time each center with a great visual timer suggested by Matt Gomez. Our favorite is the candle:

20130930-174745.jpgI move the arrow for each rotation and remind the students of the activities.

Choice centers are Science, Art, Blocks, and Housekeeping.


I incorporate what we are working on into the science center.  This week we are talking about the farm.  In science, students can sort animals into farm/zoo or match adults with babies.  They also use dramatic play as well.  Other ideas could be to have leaves or other living centers.  Our class pet is also a part of the science center.


In the art center, we have a double sided (chalk/dry erase) easel.  Once we are better able to cut/glue on our own, art projects will be added for independent art activities.  Currently, we work on cutting/gluing together.


In the block center we use 3 different types of blocks – usually one at a time.  The block center is farther from the small group tables because of noise levels.

20130930-174903.jpgThe housekeeping center is more than just a play kitchen.  Students transform this space into all sorts of places!

ABC and Math are on one connected shelf.  I keep it differentiated by putting colored paper in the back.  The left side is ABC, with red paper in the back.  The right side is Math, with purple paper in the back.  I also put colored dots on the signs on the center board to remind students. I switch activities every 2 weeks.

The students have 6-9 choices within the ABC center.

Examples of activities in ABC center:

20130930-175012.jpgStudents can choose an iPad passes while at this center.  They must use headphones and remain in ABC folder.

20130930-175019.jpgAlphabet puzzles – I have at least 2 in the center at all times.  The puzzles range from smaller, foam to large floor puzzles.

20130930-175028.jpg Wipe on/off letter practice

20130930-175035.jpg Linking puzzles

As the year progresses, the activities become more difficult in nature.  I also incorporate some word work activities into ABC.

20130930-174822.jpgMath center side – also there are 6-9 choices

Examples of activities:

20130930-175042.jpg Another set of iPad passes

20130930-175049.jpgMagnetic shapes and numbers – gotta love the Dollar Tree!

20130930-175103.jpgPuzzles – some tying in our unit, others that don’t.  My class this year LOVES puzzles

20130930-175110.jpgNumber recognition games – this is a Roll and Color in a sheet protector

20130930-175118.jpgNumber puzzles

I leave a lot of space for the reading center. I like for students to spread out and feel comfortable.  There are bean bag chairs, a rocking chair, and a few stuffed animals of our favorite characters.  The shelf is double sided with hinges so I can shape it like an L.  I have one side “closed” for right now to not overwhelm them with choices.  During the first few days of school, I teach a mini lesson on reading the pictures.  This helps many students not feel discouraged by not being able to actually read words.  Students also have the option to take their iPad (with headphones) to the reading center.  There are multiple options of eBooks on the iPad.  They choose stories from the shelf or the Books folder on the iPad.


I organize the books into baskets.  This is the center where I always feel like we are reviewing how to clean up.  In the reading center, I stress how important it is to put books back where they belong so friends can find them later.  Baskets are labeled with tags and books have stickers that correspond.




It’s pretty OCD, I know.  Usually, each center team has 1-2 children that are really diligent about making sure books are exactly where they should be.  They are usually the ones on the hunt for a specific book!



The writing center is actually one of the students’ tables.  I hang a sign above and teams know to sit at table 3 while they are at writing.  Currently, we work on handwriting.  Once we have learned all of the letters, we will move on to creating thinking maps, writing stories or journals,  and using apps on the iPad to create writing. Like the art center, more independent activities are handed when students’ have developed the skills and stamina necessary.  Eventually, students will have the choice to complete their writing on paper on the iPad while at the writing center.  

For more resources check out:



Filed under iPads, Literacy, Reading Workshop, Technology, Writing Workshop

It’s All Good



In Kindergarten, we organize our weeks around various skills, strategies, and themes.  Included in these themes are several author studies.  Last week, we immersed ourselves in the world of Eric Litwin and Pete the Cat.

Being the book worm that I am, I love a series of books that easily lends itself to integrated studies.  Through Pete, we explored all of our literacies and addressed common core standards while we were at it.  If you aren’t familiar with Pete, you are missing out on one groovy cat.  With his gaining popularity, more books are being released, but we focused on the first three in the series last week.







As far as read alouds go, the series is pretty much perfect.  They all have a rhythm (and songs!), a positive message, the opportunity for audience participation, and humor.

We started out the week by listening to the stories as I read them aloud.  The students started reading/singing along right away.  We then explored the Harper Collins website and watched animated versions of the stories.  Anytime we needed a quick time filler – I would hear “let’s do Pete the Cat!”  It amazing to find stories that the children truly love and remain engaged in no matter how many times they read/hear them.  Each time we read, a student would point out something new or make a comparison.  We were truly thinking on higher levels – all within the first few weeks of school.

Pete continued into center time where students honed scientific literacy by categorizing and sorting various tins of buttons throughout the week.  Students used magnifying lenses, sorting buckets, plates, and charts to place buttons into various piles.  The discussion regarding which pile specific buttons would go into were telling.  Students worked on inquiry and social skills by working together and reasoning through their thinking.

In Math, we played “Roll and Record” with Pete and also practiced our counting with dot to dot.  Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons introduces early subtraction skills.  We discussed counting backward, what is one more, and what is one less.

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Writing time gave us several opportunities to challenge ourselves this early in the year.  What I found was that the students worked harder because they were to engaged and motivated by Pete.  Our first writing was on Tuesday after several readings of Pete the Cat Loves His White Shoes.  Students chose a color and filled in the color word.


As a wrap up of the week, we created an anchor chart all about Pete and what we learned from him.

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This chart was used for our 4 square writing all about Pete.  We did this in small groups.  Students copied words or created their own and illustrated.

image (13)


There are so many other great ideas for Pete the Cat – many we didn’t get to.

image (1)       image (2)

image (3)     image (4)

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What I loved the most, was the willingness for all of my students to try, challenge themselves, and keep singing their songs.  Just like Pete.





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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Writing Workshop

Mayday, Mayday! “Emergent”cy

e·mer·gent (adjective)

1.coming into view or notice; issuing.
2.emerging; rising from a liquid or other surrounding medium.
3.coming into existence, especially with political independence: the emergent nations of Africa.
4.arising casually or unexpectedly.
5.calling for immediate action; urgent.
I signed up for a professional development course offered by district called Emergent Literacy.  I signed up for this course for 2 reasons: Required hours and interest in the subject.  In reading the course description, I expected to gain some new knowledge of how to best work with my kinders and their varying levels of ability when it comes to reading.  After my first class last week, I’m not sure this class is suited for me and my interests.  However, I’ve decided to make the best of it – and share the best bits I read and hear with you!
First off – let’s look at the different levels of readers.  There are varying descriptors of emergent readers out there.
I also like Reading A to Z’s descriptions of the levels:
For our first reading assignments, we were given 2 articles and 2 selections from the texts we are using.
Learning-Materials--Guided-Reading-Making-It-Work-Grade-K-3--SC-0439116392_L      The-Next-Step-in-Guided-Reading-9780545133616
My jury is still out on the books.  What I can see so far is that they are good resources for teachers just starting out with guided reading groups in their classroom.
Best bits (From “Every Child, Everyday” by Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel):
  • Every child reads something he or she chooses.  This is imperative.  Student voice and choice, especially with reading can make or break a situation.  Students read more, understand more, and are more likely to continue reading when they have a say in what they read.
  • Every child reads accurately. Students who read at 98 percent or higher accuracy or more are better able to accelerate their own reading.  Students who are struggling with accuracy and fluency are at a disadvantage because they read less text and are less likely to understand what they read.
  • Every child reads something he or she understands.  Reading to understand is the main goal of reading.  Struggling readers have difficulty with comprehension, but interventions are based on working with skills in isolation.  Using remediation strategies with  these students that have an emphasis on comprehension (reading and rereading of texts, etc) can actually change the structure of their brains, increasing reading ability.
  • Every child writes about something personally meaningful.  Reading equals writing.  Writing gives students a different path to practice their reading skills and strategies in an authentic way.  When a students care about the writing, they have to think about the best way to get their ideas across to someone reading their writing.  This thought process helps them produce writing that they and someone else can comprehend.
  • Every child talks with peers about reading and writing.  Being able to talk about texts in a variety of settings can improve comprehension and engagement.  Time to talk is often an underused tool for instruction. Your writing and reading centers do not necessarily need to be silent stations.  Create spaces where students feel comfortable discussing what they are reading and writing.  Shared reading and writing lends to this important type of discussion as well.
  • Every child listens to a fluent adult read aloud.  Listening to a fluent reader helps increase students’ own fluency and comprehension.  Model, model, model – fluency, questioning, context clues, et al.  Sadly, read aloud time in older grades is not as prevalent as with younger grades.
read 20 min at home

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Being Brave with Books


Well – we finally did it!  We finished our Code of Cooperation this week and celebrated by signing with our “high fives” to being brave.  I firmly believe, we would not have gotten to this point of understanding without a little help my friends.  Picture books

I blogged earlier about how I wanted to attempt creating our code of cooperation.  And as most things go – well they didn’t go exactly as I thought them out in my head.  Let me describe our dynamic group this year (and I am in NO WAY complaining) – we have 21 bright and shining faces each morning.  7 of those faces started kindergarten this year without any experience of what school will be like.  5 of our 21 lovies have major difficulties with the structure of school and with self control (3 have diagnosis).  21 of 21 are AMAZING, LOVING, and INSPIRING to their teacher.  We work hard every day to not let our difficulties get in the way of our learning.  What are difficulties did do was drastically alter the way I thought creating our code would go.  We MODEL constantly – which is good, recommended, and expected.  So much of the reading aloud time I thought I would have was being used for modeling, redirecting, and diffusing difficulties we were having.

I had to take a moment and breathe – remind myself that what I was doing and what I wanted to do were both very important and somehow they would mesh together.  Even if that meant reading a book a little bit at a time until I could read the whole thing again.  We took baby steps with our routines, procedures, and even with read alouds.  So as I was trying to implicitly approach the ideas of what our classroom could be through picture books, I was also explicitly approaching them with modeling – trying to downplay our difficulties and highlight our strengths.  We all work together.

Long story short – these are the books we have read, and continue to reread.  We even could make connections between books along the way – which made this teacher overjoyed.

chrysChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes


The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill


Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes


Armadillo Tattletale by Helen Ketteman

Pout-Pout page

The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen


Sheila Rae the Brave by Kevin Henkes


Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell


Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big by Berkeley Breathed

Our Anthems for this year: 


Filed under Literacy, Read Alouds