Thursday, April 28, 2011

Templates for Organizing Reading Groups

As I have mentioned before, our school district utilizes Fountas and Pinnell's Guided Reading.  This program groups students according to their reading level. In our class, we call our groups 'Book Clubs'. Each book club meets once a day to read, discuss and explore a book that is on their level.  I currently have 5 groups.  It can be difficult to keep it all straight, so I created a few templates to help me organize my small groups.  I finally made one that worked for me (Template 2). I record which students are in the group, book title, level of book, daily activities and observations.  I keep my templates, books and all materials needed for the week in colored bins.  This makes it easy for the special education teacher, substitutes and myself to lead any group throughout the week.
Keeping track of my groups also helps me see the progress (or lack of) for each student, as well as supply good documentation for parents.  These templates can also be used for small group work.

*This is my first time uploading a PDF file to this blog....please comment me and let me know if you're able to open it or not! Yikes!

Template 1:
Click here for Template 1
Template 2: 
Click here for Template 2

 Template 3:   
Click here for Template 3

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teaching Tools: Write and Wipe Signs

I received these great signs through the Highlights School Program when my students returned 15 signed forms.  If you're not familiar with the Highlights School Program, take a look at the link for more information. It's a great way to get free gifts for your classroom!

Anyway, our class received 4 Write and Wipe Center Signs and they are very teacher/student friendly!!!  Each board can be used with dry- or wet-erase markers. But when ordered through Highlights, they include Crayola's new  Dry Erase Crayons! (WHO KNEW?!) They also include a small pouch that can be used to keep your crayons in and wipe off your boards. On the back of each board, there is a clear pocket that can hold an 8.5x11in. piece of paper. (That might be good for the center directions.)

I'm planning on using these for small group stations or book clubs. I just got them in the mail today and I'm SO excited to use them! If you are not interested in the Highlights program, you can order these through Learning Resources or Amazon.

*I already use clear picture frames, from Wal-Mart, to post my center information. These are super cheap and easy to store.  Plus, they don't take up so much room at each center!  See below:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Target Find!!!

Being that I'm on spring break, I haven't really thought about school too much.  BUT, that doesn't mean that I haven't gone to Target to dig through their dollar section!!  I came across these cute rugs ($2.50) that I thought would be perfect for my kiddos. Here are some of my ideas...
  • I'm thinking that it would be a great visual for students that struggle with 'personal space'.  Instead of putting down a masking tape box, the child could sit on a special rug.  This might help a student keep his body to himself when working in a group. Plus, it's mobile!
  • I'm also thinking about using the rugs for a center.  I can have an activity for each rug and a student can take the rug/activity anywhere in the room to work on it. 
I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to use them for just yet.  That's why I would LOVE to have your ideas!! Please comment on what you might do with these rugs!
I placed one of my daughter's books on here to give you a better idea of the rug's size.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Story Element Wind Vanes

We've been working on story elements for most of the year. But it's nice to review them every now and then. A colleague and great friend of mine, Mrs. Thompson, came up with a wonderful idea for our students to visually work with the story elements of a book. We made story element wind vanes!!

  • My class enjoys reading 'Ready Freddy' books this year. So we decided to read Ready Freddy: Easter Egg Hunt by Abby Klein. 

  • After reading and discussing the many parts of the story, the students drew a picture of their favorite part of the story on a large piece of card-stock paper. 
  • Then we wrote the story elements on strips of paper. The story elements that we included on this project were...
      • Title
      • Author
      • Characters
      • Setting
      • Problem
      • Solution

This was a quick and easy lesson to review a very important concept for first graders.  Plus, all the students really enjoyed making them!

Has anyone used wind vanes to cover a different concept? Leave a comment if you have any great ideas!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


     I keep thinking about one little friend in our class.  Yesterday was his last day with us and it made me sad to have to pack away all of his things.  I was thinking about him this morning and thought that I would share with you some accommodations that we made for him. (We'll call him....Bob, for the sake of privacy rights.)  Bob had some difficulties with self say the least. He really struggled with focusing on the task at hand because he was all over the place.  Bob also had some fine and gross motor issues. With help from our wonderful occupational therapist and intervention specialist, we came up with some ideas to help Bob get through his school day. God bless Mrs. C. and Mrs. H.!!! I can't make it without them wonderful ladies!  (If you have access to an O.T. or Special Educator...utilize her/him! What great assets to our class!!)
*My sister, Rhonda, is an O.T. and purchases a lot of her resources through The Therapy ShoppeI'm always looking for a good bargain and I've found that Therapy Shoppe is very reasonable! Check it out!*

     I'm never good at verbally explaining my thoughts. My brain doesn't work that way...and I'm a visual learner. :) So I took some pictures to show you some ideas that we came up with to help our friend!

Cushion Seat:  This is a great, mobile cushion to help your students stay focused. It is pretty flimsy, so it enables the student to rock a little bit and balance. It's also fairly light, so it's easy to carry from the carpet to seat. Click to purchase via Therapy Shoppe

SquishyPrints Hand Cushion: I've never used one of these until this year. If it is used properly, it can be a wonderful tool! This can be for right or left-handed students. The point is for the student to put his/her free hand on the cushion while writing. 'Bob' was left-handed, so he would put his right hand on the cushion.  This helps keep the free hand 'busy' while the other one is working. Bob was not a fan of it, but that doesn't mean that it won't benefit someone else. ;) Click to purchase via

Grotto Pencil Grips:  Pencil grips are being made to accommodate many different O.T. needs of kids. This one really helped Bob focus on how he was holding his pencil. It was also comfortable too. (I tried it out!) Click to purchase via Therapy Shoppe        

Organizing Basket:  Our desks have the standard drawer underneath them.  Bob had a hard time organizing himself and lost everything that entered his desk...everything. So Mrs. C. suggested to get 'special basket' to keep his materials in. We already utilize a Time Wisely Chart, but this helped Bob keep his desk materials together. AND it helped me to find things for him as well!!! :)   

Slant Boards: These helps students that have visual impairments. Slant boards can make it easier for the students to see what their working on, as well as focus when moving their eyes back and forth from the board. (My dad made this for me, but you can purchase one through The Therapy Shoppe.)
*Using colored pencils can also help children that struggle to see.*

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Readers' Theater

     Every year I team up with an AWESOME third grade teacher, Mrs. K., to work on readers' theater plays.  Our classes are already penpals...I'll post about that another day!  But we like to get together every now and then and have our classes work together. Who said firsties can't work with big third graders?! And they LOVE it!!

     Before we combined classes, we spent a little over a week working with our own kids in groups.  My students are grouped together according to their reading level.  We do this based off of the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Program. Fountas and Pinnell Blog  Being that I have 4 reading groups, we ended up performing 4 readers' theater plays.  A second grade teacher, Mrs. H., purchased a WONDERFUL collection of readers' theater scripts through scholastic. She is always such a great help to me and let me use this book for our unit! 

25 Just-Right Plays For Emergent Readers-

Click below to purchase through Amazon!

     The first few times that our groups met, we discussed reading with good fluency, tone and expression.  We demonstrated how to put on a play without acting, but instead by using our voices! My kids had so much fun with this!!
     We also used our scripts for Word Study.  Our groups took mini post-its and went on a word hunt! We used the post-its to mark words that had blends or digraphs. We also searched for nouns, verbs and adjectives.

     To help us get into character, each student made a mask to go with their part. They were free to be as creative as they desired.  Here are some pictures from our performance.
"Stormy Weather" - Each character was a type of weather...rain, wind, thunder, lightning.  The whole script was filled with onomatopoeias. They had so much fun with this one! The audience loved it too! It went perfectly with our previous weather unit.

"Big, Bad Cold" - Each character was a symptom of a big, bad cold...sneeze, sore throat, sniffles, fever, cough. SO CUTE!

" From Seed to Plant" - This script talked about the life cycle of a plant. Characters included sun, water, seed, dirt and plant. I picked this play to use as an intro to our upcoming life cycle unit.

"A Duckling Tale" - Just a cute story about a mother duck and her duckling. Very enjoyable!
 After our performances, the students had a chance to meet their penpal for the first time.  They enjoyed great conversation over a fruity snack! What a wonderful day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What's Coming Soon...Other than SPRING BREAK, BABY! YEA!!!


I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am for spring break! Three more days and I'll be home free!!!!!!!!!!!!  Within the next three days, I will be posting my Reader's Theater 'experiment'.  Keep your fingers crossed that it works out! Stay tuned!!!

Mrs. T

Measurement : Non-Standard Units

Day 1
My students are learning how to measure objects and distances using non-standard units.  Before we practiced measuring, we discussed why we need to know how to measure and also made a list of non-standard units that we could use in the classroom. Then, as a class, we demonstrated the many WRONG ways to measure an object. 
To get us familiar with some non-standard units, we set up measuring stations.  Each station had a 'Big Book' from our library and paper plate with a non-standard unit - such as paperclips, popsicle sticks, q-tips. pencils and one-inch tiles.  In groups of 3, the students would rotate to each station and familiarize themselves with measuring with non-standard units.  When they heard the wind-chime, they knew that there was only 1 minute left. When the chime rang again, it was time to switch. 

They also had a chance to practice measuring individually at their seats.  The students measured any item in their desk - scissors, pencil box, highlighter, folders...etc.  We held a discussion on why some friends needed a different number of paperclips to measure their highlighter. This was a great way to see who really understood the concept and who didn't.  Some kids had a hard time understanding that not everyone's highlighter was the same size!  The scissors were a good example to show that the units do no have to touch the object. Some kids wanted to outline the scissors with their paperclips.


Day 2

On day 2, we discussed the non-standard unit of 'kid steps'.  The students found pieces of masking tape on the classroom floor...if you teach first grade, you know how exciting something like this can be for them! They LOVED it!  Each piece of tape was lettered A-H.  The students were to go around and practice measuring each piece of tape using 'kid steps'.  They were to record their findings on their record sheet and compare the pieces of tape.  When they were finished, we came together and shared our measurements. (*Activity from Math Investigations)
 I love teamwork!!!! 

  For homework, the students were to trace and cut out an outline of their foot and hand.  They were to use outlines to measure objects in their home and record their measurements.  I'll post their findings when they bring them back to school. Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Behavior Management

My classroom is an inclusion room.  I have a handful of students that have very different behavioral struggles. With help from our district's occupational therapist, special education teacher and other intervention specialists, we have created a variety of behavior plans.  Some involve monitoring a specific behavior every hour, whereas other plans monitor behaviors only in the morning and afternoon. Take a look at some of our most commonly used behavior plans below.

Our school uses the green/yellow/red system. This first plan asks the student to evaluate herself and to document what color she is on for the morning and afternoon.  There are sections for teachers to comment, as well as parents.  I send this chart home with the student every night to be signed and brought back to school the next morning. This also allows for great documentation and constant communication with parents. 
Weekly Morning and Afternoon Behavior Plan

This next chart is a great motivator for those students that lack...well motivation!  I have one little guy that really struggles with concentrating on his work. He has a hard time getting anything done.  I stick this chart on the front of my desk.  When he finishes an assignment on his own, he gets to put a gold star sticker on the first letter. When he has enough stickers to cover the first 'BREAK', he gets a 5 minute break of his choice. I explain to this student that the room is open to him as long as he is not interrupting other students.
BREAK motivation plan

Another first grade teacher in my building, Ms. O., developed this next behavior plan as a great positive reinforcement for a specific goal. I use this chart to monitor a specific behavior more frequently throughout the day, compared to most of my behavior plans. We use stickers to keep track of the times the student was able to fulfill his/her target for the given time.  If the goal is met at the end of the week, then the child will receive the award.  I usually let my students choose the incentive if their goals are met. Ex: free time, special classroom job, classroom tickets...etc.
Hourly Behavior Chart
Hourly Behavior Chart Modified

The last chart that I wanted to share with you is for students that have a difficult time doing any independent work.  I have a kiddo who REALLY struggles completing ANYTHING on his own.  This plan is to help the parents, and myself, see what types of assignments are more difficult for him to finish, as well as document and patterns that might be taking place.  Ex: Is he having a more difficult time in a certain subject? A certain time of day?
In this plan, I quickly jot down the assignments/activities that the class worked on that may have required some, if not all, independent work.  Then I mark how he did according to the scale provided.  There is also a section for any comments.  I do this daily and the student has it signed every night and brought back to school the next morning. 
Task Chart

Mrs. T

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Letter Writing

You've Got Mail!  (Who doesn't love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?!) 

Anyways, my students have been working on letter writing.  Once a week my kids practice writing a friendly letter.  Sometimes it is to me and other times I let them choose who to write.  We created a classroom Post Office. In our post office is a mailbox, blank 'friendly letter' templates, envelopes and stamps (stickers).  The students stuff their letters and address and stamp them when they're finished. Then they get SO tickled when they get the chance to mail them! I 'check the mail' once a week. Their letters are always so funny. It's amazing what they want to talk to you about when it's on paper!

Mrs. T

Word Study

Like I mentioned earlier, I have students that struggle using theirs hands. A fun and developmentally appropriate activity is having your students use play-doh or clay for word study! My students work their little muscles in their hands when forming words out of playdoh.  Just opening the lid to the play-doh is exhausting for them.  Not only are they exercising and building strength in their hands, they are practicing words!

*Side Note: You can even use play-doh for math. Have your kiddos make math sentences in pairs. One student will make the addition or subtraction sentence and his/her partner can form the answer! Endless possibilities!!

 *If you are a germaphobe, like myself, you might be cringing at the thought of playdoh! Trust me....I review hand washing techniques every time  and make all of my students practice 'air washing' their hands before we go to the sink. We practice washing under our nails, between our fingers, the tops, bottoms and inside-outs of our hands!!! Then they walk back to their seats like 'surgeons' without touching anything! What? I can't help it if germs gross me out. haha.


  Mrs. T


Here are some pictures of my centers.  Sometimes I get the best ideas by just going into other teacher's rooms and looking around.  Being that you can't come to my room, I thought I would bring it to you!  You might find some ideas to be useful for your classroom! I'm always looking for ways to 'better' my centers. So feel free to share your thoughts!
This is our center board.  We rotate daily (M-Th). We created our Center Rules as a class at the beginning of the school year.  Almost all of the centers have a 'basket activity' that needs to be completed first. When the basket activity is finished, then they are free to work on anything else placed at their center. 

Reading Center:  The basket activity usually focuses on phonics skills that are covered in class (blends, digraphs, contractions). Scholastic sells awesome ready-made board games that meet the standards! When complete, the students are free to use puppets to retell stories, read special 'BIG' books or explore any reading materials placed at this center (magazines, posters).

Listening Center:  In this center, the students are to listen to books that focus on specific vowel/consonant  patterns that we are working on for that week. Then, they are to complete a "Listeners Log" to test their comprehension and get their opinion of the book.  When this is complete, they can play the game in the floor basket.

Writing Center: The students have a basket activity that usually involves a writing prompt.  They are then to use any materials that they can find for creative writing projects of their choice.

Math Center:  Lately, I've been placing a variety of previously covered materials at this center. This is a great center for the students to practice and review new and old concepts.  Ex: Money, primary number cards, dot cards, rulers, addition and subtraction wipe-off boards, shapes for patterning, math related story books, 100chart for counting by 2s, 5s and 10s...etc.

Read Around the Room Center: My students LOVE this center.  They get to use the 'teacher's pointers to hunt for certain types of words.  Each time we start a new rotation, I will make a list of certain words that they need to find. Below is our current list.  I will also put a number next to each type to let them know how many they need to find for each.  The students have clipboards with notepads to write their words on. When they finish, they rip out their paper from the notepad, turn it in and can begin the basket activity.  They also have the option of using words from around the room to write sentences or stories on the whiteboard. The basket activity might include a Language Arts game or even Math.  (This week was the Human Clock. See previous post.)

Magnet Center: This center involves letter, number and shape magnets.  The students have to make the list of words that I place in the pocket first.  Then they can use the magnets to make sentences, different words, math sentences, patterns...etc. There is also a phonics based basket activity for them to work on.

Puzzles and Games Center: This year my class includes a handful of students that struggle with fine motor skills.  My O.T. suggested having a puzzle center to help students improve their skills.  I set out a variety of puzzles (magnet, traditional, floor, foam) for them to choose from. There is also a phonics based basket activity for the kiddos to work on when finished. 

(Computer Center:  No Picture Available- 4 Classroom Computers)

Completed Center Work:   All finished center work is to be turned into our orange basket!
Mrs. T