Peak at Last Week

WOWZERS!  How is it almost October!  It is such a cliche, but this really *is* flying by!  We have been keeping busy.  Last week we started our unit on seasons.  I wanted to stay away from the KWL chart to assess background knowledge so I decided to try a circle map.
I was really surprised at how little background my kids had about the seasons- they really just knew the basics.  Lucky me- I just got to rub my hands together and dive into all the fun stuff you can do with the seasons!!!

We read the book

and added to the circle map.

We watched this Brainpop Jr video and completed the quiz together on the Promethean board.

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE Brainpop and Brainpop Jr??? I use them ALL THE TIME to introduce a topic.  Sometimes the games/activities are so good I use them as a hands on performance task/ assessment.  Our school bought a membership for every teacher.  Lucky, I know.

Johnny Appleseed was a PERFECT tie in for the seasons.   We made homemade applesauce.


Then I we did a shared writing expository piece on how to make applesauce.   

Tangled Up in Teaching has THE most adorable How to Make Applesauce writing paper, graphic organizer, and matching craft. It is part of her How to Writing Craftvities pack.  WELL worth $7.25.

We worked on asking and answering questions with informational text using the book 

and we answered some questions on our anchor chart and added more questions we generated as a class while reading and after reading the text.
(This picture was from BEFORE I started the lesson. I forgot to take one after- oops!).

We also completed some activities from my Johnny Appleseed mini ELA unit.

On Friday we made a mini-craft (emphasis on mini and not a lot of craft) by making these simple 3-D trees to show students understanding of an apple tree throughout the seasons.

This week we will learn about the reason for the seasons and tying in seasons into plot and recognizing the beginning, middle, and end of a story.  Whew!  Anyone else tired?



Happy Fall Sale

To celebrate the beginning of the Fall season (sorry I am late!) I am having a sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. All items will be 20% off today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday)!



Setting Up Guided Math- FREEBIE

I love guided math.  Ironically, I hated math as a child.  As a teacher?  Love it!

One of the reasons I loved it so much was because of guided math.  Once I made the shift to small group math instruction, I never looked back!

I have had several people request that I write about how I set up guided math.  I have FINALLY gotten around to it.

 The bad news? School has already started and I am sure most of you have already set up math workshop. :(

The good news?  I have already set it up, too, which means  I was able to take photographs of all the anchor charts we created.  Does that make it any better? :)

Included in this explanation are the first six days of guided math, with links to the games and activities AND photographs.  Click here to download fo' FREE!

Looking for more guided math posts? Check these out!


Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

  If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!




Updated: Guided Reading FAQ 2 and Johnny Appleseed Giveaway WINNER Announced!

So here I am again with more Guided Reading questions!  I am going to try to answer ALL of them in one long post, so please bear with me!

Nikki8 asked, "Do you follow a 2-3 day cycle with the same book? I read Guiding Readers by Lori Jamison Rog with the Teaching Blog Addict group this summer. It was very helpful, but she suggests that we not complete a chapter book with a group. Only a chapter or 2 from it and then let them finish it on their own during independent reading. What is your opinion on this? I am very weak in this area and that was why I read the book but I feel a little more confused in some ways."

I have not read the book Guiding Readers by Lori Jamison Rog so I can only base my response with the information provided in the question.  Please keep that in mind as you read my opinionated answer ;).

I do usually spend 2-4 days on one book, but I am not sure I would call it a cycle because I don't do the exact same things with every book.  However I do have certain things I do with every text, if that makes sense.

I agree, I do not like to read chapter books in guided reading groups and stick relatively exclusively to leveled texts and readers. I find that chapter books take WAAAAY to long and are better suited to literature circles than guided reading.

However, I STRONGLY disagree with in guided reading only  reading "... a chapter or 2 from it and then let them finish it on their own during independent reading." Holy cow!  That goes against about everything I believe to be the foundation of guided reading.  If the teacher is choosing texts correctly, then the teacher should be choosing texts on the students instructional level in which the teacher believes (based on observation and data such as DRA's and running records) the student will need support to comprehend. The children SHOULDN'T finish it on their own, because they can't- that is why the teacher chose the text to begin with!  Surely that really isn't in a published book, is it? Hopefully I just misunderstood the question because if

Sarah asked, "When you do running records, do you type ahead of time the words from the book so you can refer to them, or let the child read and just make the check marks?"
I *wish* I were the type of teacher that was organized enough to have a copy of the text each time I take a running record, but sadly I am not!  Also, I try to do a short running record each time I tap in so there is no way I could always have the text typed and prepared!

I just do check marks. To be honest, my check marks are not a science and not even exact.  I am particular about marking the errors and repetitons because these affect accuracy and fluency.  I figure if I note the page numbers I can just go back and count the words to figure out how many words were called correctly. I try to keep a copy of the text in front of me if there is an extra copy because it makes it MUCH easier to make the check marks. But sometimes, there isn't an extra copy and I just wing it.

I generally use the running record from my tap in to back up my "gut" feeling about a child's reading.   I could use it for data if I had to and occasionally might for RTI ( I would be a bit more exact and attentive though if I used it for RTI). But usually I look at it to help me figure out what in the world to tell that child during tap in and if that text is appropriate or not!

Kaitlyn asked, "What do you have in your teacher's toolkit for the kids?"
Teachers Toolkit...hmm.  Lots of things.  I keep pens, mechanical pencils, white boards, dry erase markers, erasers for the white boards, highlighter tape, post it notes, post it flags, question prompts/ sticks, plain copy paper and my guided reading binder at hand at all times.  That's not too much is it ? ;)

Here is a long question (and don't apologize, I am so glad you asked!!!!!!!!!  It gives me something to blog about when I am all out of ideas!) from Brit so I will break it up a bit to make it easy to read and respond to:
Do you really plan 5 lessons for five groups along with whole group instruction? 
I have the advantage of NOT having 5 groups since I co-teach.  My partner takes two guided reading groups and I take 3. However when I taught all by myself in a self contained class, yes I planned 5 groups AND a whole group.  It took awhile, but I know it made me a.) a better, more thoughtful teacher and b.) more prepared for my students.

However I save the lessons for year to year so I can just edit them and use them as a guide when I think about the kids that will be reading the book THIS yea/ time.

What do you do with the high group? Enrichment?
I wouldn't call it enrichment.  They also get guided reading, but based on the text they are reading.  I have found that often my higher groups may have great accuracy and decoding skills and even some solid comprehension.  However, often they need instruction on fluency with the more difficult texts, vocabulary instruction that can then be applied in their own writing, or the DEEP inferring that can be found in the more difficult texts. So I wouldn't call it enrichment, just teaching them where they are at.

 How much do you plan and how much do you assess/listen to students reading? 
I am not sure what you mean by how much I plan.  I plan for each guided reading group daily.  I listen to at least one kid daily (unless disaster strikes and guided reading is all thrown off- it was like that ALL last week.  Calamity stuck every ding-danged reading block.  It was unreal.) I use that tap in time of guided reading to listen to a child, take a quick running record on my recording/ anecdotal notes sheet, come up with one teaching point based on what I heard the child do (this is on the fly and was REALLY hard when I first started teaching.  It has gotten MUCH easier the more I teach AND the more I read professionally about reading).  If I have a chance I make a note of what I need to do for that kid next.

What do you so with the data you gain besides teach strategies and adapt your lessons?
Pretty much that is it!  The data for the most part is for me.  The school does collect some data such as fall, winter, spring DRA levels for our local school improvement plan which is required by my district (I think it is called that!) and I have to note each month each students guided reading level to show progress.  

 How long do you have a group?
I meet with each group about 20-25 minutes.

 Do you give them any work to do at their desks after? Are the other students silent reading ? 
I have in years past.  I don't anymore because I do the Daily Five , which I love.  We really do the Daily 4 (read to self, read to someone, word work and listen to reading) and student's DON'T do each task each day.  Students usually do two Daily Five activities a day.  They read to self the most because I feel it is SOOOOO important, and listen to reading (and then write about and respond to the story afterwards) one time a week, and work on words twice a week.

After reading this post, I was inspired to create a guided reading 101 packet. Many questions (including the ones above) can't really be addressed in one blog post alone.  So I started to create a packet and it has grown and grown and grown! It is about 50+ pages!  Many of the ideas are updated, pretty versions of things from this blog, my website or are just plain old NEW.

Here is a sneak peek at my progress:

I have no idea when I will be done with it, but  I am going to keep picking at it so I can finish it soon!

Did I answer everything?  Want to know more?  Anything you want to be included in my Guided Reading 101 Packet?

Congrats to the Johnny Appleseed winners Lori and Janine!!!  Janine I will email it to you ASAP.  Lori can you please send me your email address to so I can send it your way!  Congrats!

If you did not win and would like a copy it is only $3!  Click here to snag a copy!  For some reason I can't get the picture to load (TpT is fussy tonight) but it is the same file as above!



Special Sneak Preview and Johnny Appleseed Giveaway

A little project I have finished is a Johnny Appleseed packet!  

Many of you know that Johnny Appleseed's birthday is September 26th- that is this Wednesday!  We study the seasons in second grade in Georgia and I find that Johnny Appleseed ties in nicely.

 I wanted to hit a few Common Core Standards- especially writing routinely  with short and long term research projects.  We have to do two short term research projects this quarter and so far I have done a big fat 0. So Johnny to the rescue!

This is a one day lesson for reading and writing. I tried to pack in many standards into the lessons:

  • RL.2.1. Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
  • RL.2.10. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2–3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
  • RI.2.1. Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
  • RI.2.6. Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
  • W.2.2. Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
  • W.2.7. Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).
  • W.2.8. Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question
In reading student will ask and answer questions about Johnny Appleseed with Steven Kellogg's book and collect interesting facts on a graphic organizer.  In writing student will read an online article to find the big idea and why Johnny Appleseed is famous.  After reading and discuss both sources students will use information gathered from the sources to write and publish an informational paragraph about Johnny Appleseed AND an adorable page peek-over craft.

This 19 page packet has everything you need for the lesson, including:

•Second Grade Common Core Standards addressed in these lessons
•Explicit reading and writing lesson plans that include a hook, teaching point, and summary
•Printable pieces for an anchor chart
•Brainstorm web
•Final Draft paper for publishing
•Johnny Appleseed “peek over” craft

It is NOT quite ready to be posted on Teachers Pay Teachers.   I want to take a photograph of the anchor chart and the anchor chart is at school.  Whoops. I will be posting it for $3 tomorrow evening.

BUT I am giving away two free copies to readers.  Just leave a comment below! I will randomly choose a winner tomorrow!

Psssttt.... I am also giving away this packet on my Facebook page to two random people that comment on the thread if you want to up your odds!  May the odds ever be in your favor!



Classroom Reveal Part 3

I am so sorry this ding-danged reveal is taking 200 years.  I have been so tired lately that even the THOUGHT of sitting down and writing exhausts me.  When I finally get the chance or energy, I peter out before I can finish it all!  I WILL finish today if I am uploading pictures in my sleep!

If you can't remember where we left of (and I can't imagine why, it was only 200 years ago), I last showed pictures of our whole group area.  I will pick back up there.

This was the last picture.  This is the door to the bathroom we have in our classroom.  I LOVE having a bathroom in our classroom.  Kids turn the boy or girl over to red if someone is in the bathroom.  For the most part, it works pretty well.  Click here for a copy of the estimation jar sign.  I found the jar clip art online and made it with the school's poster maker.  You can see the estimation jar on the shelf.    

The little shelf holds our text books since we so rarely use them.  You can see the estimation jar on top of the shelf on the far left.  Next to it is an index card box.  Each month I (actually I have a parent volunteer to it the year before) cut out die cuts for each month on colored construction paper.  When the month arrives, I put the die cuts in the index card box.  Students make their guess/ estimation and write it on the die cut shape with his or her name.They use the tape to attach it to the large jar on the bathroom door.  You can see the black tape dispenser on top of the shelf as well.

The next few pictures are of my area, which has already been posted and written about so I am just going to post them and move on :).

Right next to my desk is are the desktop computers for student use.  Right now we are using them  for a listening station and spelling tests (  Soon students will rotate through using them  for addition fact practice.
I know the cords are OUT OF CONTROL.  I am not good at cleaning cords up.  I need my hubby to do that and hate to have him to stop by the classroom after a long day of work.  I really want to buy a little lamp to cozy this place up!

Between the computers are two cups and a set of black paper stackers.  I keep a copy of whatever the book students are listening to on the computer (from the site Tumblebooks which I LOVE) and in the bottom stackers are copies of the listening to reading form.

One cup says needs a turn and the other says had a turn.  Inside the needs a turn cup are Popsicle sticks with student's names on them. These will be used when students rotate through a program called FastMath to practice addition fact mastery.  Students will complete it as part of the morning work routine.  After they finish FastMath they will put their stick in had a turn and draw a stick from the needs a turn.  Then they deliver the stick to the student whose name is on the stick to let the child know it is now their turn.  If all that confusing mess makes any sense at all, kudos to you! Click here for a copy of the has a turn, needs a turn labels.

This is a shot of the room from my table and the computers.  You can see my IKEA rug which I still LOVE!  You can also see the front door to the classroom and the back of a shelf.  I tried to photograph the shelf, but it was too dark :(.  The shelf has all of our Writer's Workshop materials on the bottom and is a literature sorter on top for papers to send home.  I covered the back of the shelf with blue butcher paper and black bordette to dress it up.

I used clothes pins to hang up (a bit crooked- opps!) chart paper since I like to have some at the front board as well as my easel in the back of the room.  I LOVE this little black table.  I was a hand me down from a friend whose son had out grown it.  When I first got it, it looked like this.

Sorry for the messy background!  This was a picture of when I started working on the table in my garage and my garage is a DISASTER!  My friend and her son had finger painted the table together so I sanded it down and painted it black. I LOVE it now!
The set up is similar here to how it is on the computer.  The book students are listening to is in the top stacker and the response to reading sheet is in the bottom stacker.  The tape player to to the left.  Students store all headphones on the back of one chair.  So far it is working beautifully!

I think I am finally DONE!   Yahoo! And THAT is a tour of my room!


Guided Reading FAQ

A few days ago I asked people to share questions about guided reading.  Thank you so much for the wonderful responses!  I will try my best to answer them clearly.

intended on answering the questions in one post, but I am way too long winded it seems! I will answer them over a few days time! Here is my first question (I randomly choose it!):

I am doing daily 5 so guided reading is going to be a HUGE part of my teaching this year. I am starting from the beginning...any advice would be helpful. I am especially interested in how you keep track of groups/decide what to teach.

It depends on what you are talking about (I promise I am not trying to do a cop out answer!!).  In guided reading, I use my DRA assessments to create homogeneous groups based on ability levels.   I may change or move students in and out of groups based on a running record, new DRA, my notes during my "tap in" session, or (GASP) my gut feeling the child is ready to move on.

Then, I as a general rule, I always start teaching the leveled groups with a fiction text.   I may teach one book or a handful before moving on to nonfiction texts at the SAME level   This is because I find that students are more familiar and successful with the fiction text structures than nonfiction and need heavy guidance with nonfiction.   It is not surprising at all (to me) to find students that can independently read a level M fiction book, but would be instructional on a level M nonfiction book.

Here is my progression of what I teach in fiction books.  Usually this starts around a DRA level 14 (level H)  or so moving on up the levels.  I may teach ALL these things on a 14 or move the skills up as I teach a more difficult level.
  • predicting
  • story grammar (character, setting, problem, solution)
  • beginning, middle, end/ retelling
Then I start to mix it up depending on the text and what I am teaching during mini lessons
  • character qualities and inferences (how a character changes, etc)
  • inferring within the text ( I try to start with inferring with pictures first and then move to text when possible)
  • cause and effect
  • comparing and contrasting
  • summarizing
  • questioning
  • connections
  • visualizing
and so on.

When I move to nonfiction text I like to start with 
  • main idea
  • author's purpose
  • details
  • summarizing
and then move on in no particular order to 
  • clarifying
  • questioning (and finding answers to the questions)
  • visualizing
  • interesting details
It is not an exact science and sometimes it simply depends on what the text lends itself to.

Jan Richardson has WONDERFUL plans that sometimes I use to guide me on what to teach the different levels.  Here is her book (affiliate link in which I may receive a small comision)

However, she also has lots of GREAT free stuff on her website (including what to teach each level).  Check out the resources and the document titled 12 new pages

Now, if you are talking about Daily 5 and STRATEGY groups instead of guided reading groups, all bets are off :).  I am not doing strategy groups this year.  When I have done strategy groups I personally feels that it best lends itself to fluency because it is easy to teach multiple levels how to be a more fluent reader.  When I tried to do other strategy groups based on a comprehension strategy or skill, I found myself teaching the skill and not the reader.  The kid might question like a madman, but could never do it in a more difficult book.  Now, I am sure there are other teachers who do this brilliantly.  I just don't happen to be one :). And I promised I would be honest.

I will be back soon with more answers!  If this opens a can of worms and you have more questions, please let me know!   I will do my best to clarify or answer anything I can!

And if there or typos, or I make no sense, my apologies.  I am wiped today!

Do you feel like you need more help with reading instruction?

  Sign up to have specific tips and strategies send straight to your email for FREE! You can sign up here! Please note, this is an additional, BRAND NEW newsletter that is separate from my blog newsletter.  If you want to get these tips, you have to sign up here!



My Most FAVORITE Lesson Every Year

This lesson is my ABSOLUTE favorite and I make sure to teach it every year.  I love how it makes an abstract, long and boring topic into an engaging, hands on activity.

My favorite.

I only wish I could take credit for it!

A few years ago I found a lesson on Proteacher on how to use Play-Doh to model the writing process and what is required in each step of the writing process.  The original poster of the idea was trexteach.  Click here to see the post with the lesson included.  You must be a member to download the lesson, but it is free.  I HIGHLY recommend joining the site for all the wonderful, FREE resources teachers offer freely.

For this lesson I tell students to brainstorm a new creature that has NEVER been seen before.  I ask them to think about what it looks like, what it does, what it eats and so on.  Then I related this to the brainstorming or prewriting portion of the writing process.  I defined this step on the anchor chart. I create the anchor chart with the students and add the cute pictures when they are messing with the play-doh. :)
Then I let students choose one small container of play-doh. This pack was about $15 at Wal-Mart for 24 tubs AND a paper plate.  This is important for later!

Before letting students go wild I tell them they MUST pull off a small ball and set it own the lid of their tub.  It is off limits and can not be used until I say.
Then I bring them back to the  back to the carpet and explain that we will now be drafting our creature.  When we draft the creature  that means we are building the basic shape and getting our ideas molded  to life.  Just like when writing, we draft to get our ideas down. They may only USE THEIR play-doh.  No sharing of colors.   Then I  send them back to their seats to draft their creature ON the paper plate.

After a few minutes of building I call students back to the carpet.  I explain we are going to revise the creature or make changes to the creature.  We do this to make the creature more interesting to our audience.  One way to do this is to add to our creature, just like when we write we may add details to our story.  Students can use other children's colors by sharing and pinching off pieces from the small ball sitting on the lid from earlier.   I also encourage the students to add details using their pencils.

After a few minutes of work time, I call kids back to the carpet.  This is the part they hate!  I explain revision is more than adding details, it can also be taking away unnecessary details that do not make the creature or story interesting.  They have to take away SOMETHING off their creature and set it off the plate.  See, told ya hey hate this!

Then I call students back to the carpet and explain that we are going to edit our creatures.  This means that we fix any mistakes.  It could be an arm that is too short or is about to break off. 
For the final step, publishing, I ask students to write the title of the creature on the paper plate and clean up an play-doh scraps. I relate this to neatly recopying the draft and adding a title to the draft if the student had not done that yet.

Then I make sure every student's name is write dark and in view (that what all the black smudges are- names.  I blacked them out for student privacy) and photograph each plate.  Then, at a later date,  students tape the photograph into their writer's notebooks and write a story about their creature!

They LOVE it and really GET the writing process. 

I am going to make sure to finish posting pictures from my classroom AND answer Guided Reading FAQs sometime soon.  If you would have a question about guided reading please click on the picture below and leave a comment.   I will try to address it in my post!



Guided Reading FAQ

It always seems like teachers seem to have many questions about guided reading.  This is an area I actually feel very confident in. I have been giving it a go for over 10 years! While I do not subscribe to one method completely, I pull from several methods to create my own way. :)  I am sure everyone does this!

I did a guided reading series last school year, but the way I approach guided reading has changed slightly since moving to second grade.

Before starting, do you have any questions about guided reading that you would like to see answered?  Or any tips on certain parts of the lesson or management?  I will try my best to address them!

Back to Top