Helping my Struggling Readers

 I've been glued to Kimberly's posts on Struggling Readers at Funky First Grade Fun. She's uber smart for having this linky party!
I know this is a long post, but hang in there- you might find something that helps you!* I keep coming back and editing this post. I guess I've really written about HOW I was able to find the time to meet with my students instead of what I do with them. Y'all know RTI and the thousands of other things we juggle can make it difficult for us all to meet!

Divide and Conquer: First I need to tell you some background. I work at a large school with over 800 students. Last year we had seven first grade classes! YIKES! We have one interventionist for our entire school and bless her heart she is amazing. However, with a school that large there is no way she can meet with ALL of our struggling readers. We send her our students that we work with daily (usually one-on-one) who we are the most concerned about. In order to meet with the rest of our students who are struggling we made a list of students and what their biggest challenges were- we included math in this as well. We had students listed under fluency, comprehension, decoding strategies, and math. We split the students up and tried to put our own students in another teachers class. (*Sometimes students will hear something from another teacher and it suddenly clicks. --Often it's the same thing you've told them a hundred times, but the way that teacher said it made sense to them.)

Our school day is scheduled out so that each grade level has an RTI/enrichment time. This is the time that we send students to our interventionist. During this forty minute period we met with the students we had separated into groups. We worked with them for twenty minutes before sending them back to their own class. We did sorting activities, games, reader's theater scripts, read books and poems, practice decoding, or we retaught a crucial lesson.

The remaining twenty minutes of enrichment time are spent with another group of my homeroom students. This group changed from day to day. Many days I was meeting with my students who struggled in reading. Sometimes I was working with a group on math skills they hadn't yet mastered. And other days I was meeting with my highest students and trying to challenge them. In order to keep my group activities straight I had colored file boxes from the dollar store. (I didn't have a picture of mine so here's one from Container Store.) This system worked EXTREMELY well for our students. It was great to work together as a team and this ensured that every child that had a need for help was being met with. Take that RTI!

Daily 5: I have a love/hate relationship with Daily 5. With RTI and the minutes required in each subject by the state I simply can't fit in all five stations. I do love that it gives students another chance to read by themselves and with a partner though. Also, I hit so much of Daily 5 in my work stations/centers- but my district wanted Daily 5 separate and not incorporated into our regular stations. (Basically I think Daily 5 is a great tool to help someone who struggles with setting up stations and small groups. But it's not my cup of tea.) So I'll be honest. I usually do Daily 3(read to self, buddy read, word work)---only it's not daily. It's three or four times a week. We have a small chunk of time after lunch to continue our ELAR block and hit social studies. I try to hit social studies first then Daily 3. Last year while students were reading or doing word work I had students read to me. I really didn't have a system for this. Sometimes I asked students to read to me and sometimes students asked me first thing in the morning if they could read to me. This year I will plan to meet with two students each day and draw a name for the third student so that everyone gets a fair turn and I can meet with students that I need to. (It's a work in progress for sure....)

So what do I do in small group? I have all the tools and tricks that you have! I try to make small group fun and exciting. For the life of me I can't find the post, but another teacher blogged about brain feelers. My kids LOOOOOOOVED them. They were reading questions mod podged onto fat popsicle sticks with fluffy balls at the top. I sometimes give them glasses to wear, party hats, or an owl to hold. (I have an owl theme and a few miniature stuffed owls.) There are days when I tell one student in a group to go to the prize box because I saw them use their tracking finger during the whole book and they read with expression. Sometimes I stand up and cheer and scare the pants off the rest of my students with a "WOOOO! Way to go! You're AWESOME!"

What I've found to be helpful: I try to incorporate a lot of reader's theater. Our reading curriculum, Journeys, has very short readers theaters in every unit. They love to practice and perform. And they don't realize that they are reading and using all the skills they have learned all year. A couple of times this year I chose a story that my students really enjoyed and turned it into a reader's theater.

Finally, I try to read a picture book to my students every day. We talk about the book, what we liked, what it reminds us of, etc.

I hope this is helpful!

Reading Poster

 I commented on my Chapter 1 info for "The Book Whisperer" that I need a poster that said, "Reading Changes Your Life." So I made a few. Click on the image below to grab yours.

The Book Whisperer: Introduction and Chapter 1

 I had bought this book on my Kindle, but decided this morning to buy a hard copy. This is one of those books that I know I'll be referring to or re-reading each summer!

I've never lead a book study so hang in there folks. The introduction was so quick and to the point with no nonsense, which is just what I like. On page 2 Donalyn says that many students don't see reading as meaningful in their lives.  I know that's true, but I just don't understand it! This happens to have been a discussion I had with my firsties several times this year. Why is it important to know how to read?

Donalyn explains that she shows her love of reading to her students. I am a reader too. I was the kid with the flashlight reading just one more chapter under the covers! Have I told my students that?

In Chapter 1, page 11, I fell in love with this quote. "I know from personal experience that readers lead richer lives, more lives, than those who don't read." I may even share this quote on parent night. I'm even thinking I will show my first graders this quote. I don't know how to stress enough to my parents that reading has to be happening at home as well.

On page 18 Donalyn writes, "These days, I share with my students what no literacy expert could ever teach me. Reading changes your life." I must have read that five times. I think I need a sign that says, "Reading Changes Your Life."(**See post above for poster freebie)

As teachers we all have our favorite units or books or science experiments. Our students are enthusiastic about them because WE are enthusiastic about them. (I try REALLY hard to be excited about teaching the rock cycle, but I think my students see right through my act.)

So this is what I'm wondering:

1) What quotes stood out to you and why?
2) What did you do in your classroom this past year to show enthusiasm for reading?
3) Is there something you want to try or want to change in order to get your students more excited about what being a reader can do for you?

Here are my answers:
*We had Read-a-thons as a reward. The kids could lounge on the floor and read. (They love that word "lounge." They will do anything to have ten minutes to lounge and read.) They were allowed to bring as many books to school as they wanted, and they could swap books with each other. And while they lounged and read, I was lounging right next to them and reading too!

* On the first day of school I have a cute little poster about myself that shows a family picture, my favorite book, my favorite snack, etc. This year I want to introduce myself through books! For example, "Fancy Nancy" to start because I do love me some fancy clothes and shoes. I like "The Dot" because I'm artistic, or "Pinkalicious" because pink is my favorite color. And "Alice the Fairy" because I am excellent at using my imagination. Those are just a few I can think of. Maybe that would help my students to see that books have meaning for many reasons.

Short o Read the Room

 I just created my short o Read the Room activity.  These are corresponding with the first lessons of Journeys. Lesson 3 is short o. It has six cards. Lesson six is the first lesson with more than six words, so hang in there! Remember, we have to get the kiddos used to doing this kind of work! Click the sunshine to download.

Think Central

 Our district has the Think Central website for our reading and math series. I experimented with it all year and it turns out it's a fantastic tool! I'm doing a training for some teachers in my district next month and I created a training document. I would love some feedback! If you have Think Central please try out some of the steps and let me know if I have missed anything. (I probably have because I've been working on this thing for days!)

Click HERE


A friend is doing a family road trip to the Smoky Mountains. I was not, and am not, a fan of the road trip. As a child as long as I had books to read or word searches to do I could tolerate being in the car with my sister for hours on end.

SO because I'm thinking of my dear friend and her son I created a word search. If you're going on a road trip you might want it too! Click the kiddo to download.

The Book Whisperer!

 Have you heard of the book "The Book Whisperer?" It's written by Donalyn Miller and several of us Teaching Blog Addict authors are hosting a book study beginning June 27. This gives you time to order this fabulous book. Donalyn is a sixth grade teacher, but I'm getting a lot out of this book being a first grade teacher. You know how we just LOOOOVE books in first grade. I hope you'll think about joining us and following along! Mrs. Lyons at Thinking of Teaching is our fearless leader in this book study. Check out her link so see the full read along schedule.

Linky Party!

 Mrs. Coe at Little Miss Kindergarten is having a linky party! Woohoo! I LOVE these! It's all about your favorite things!

Here are a few of my favorite things:

1) I'm getting married in July and at the top of my list are my wedding dress and my shoes for my wedding dress! I heart them!

2. Coffee! I can hardly think without a cup of coffee in the mornings.
3. Jeans. Dark jeans so I look just a little slimmer!
4. Barnes and Noble- I could spend hours there and I've literally spent a fortune there!
5. Teachers Pay Teachers- I sit and browse and buy all the time
6. My owl coffee mug that a student gave me at the end of the school year. I have an owl theme in my classroom so using this mug all year makes me think of my now second graders.
7. Clip Art. I think it's an addiction.
8. Fonts. I think it's an addiction too. 
9. My sticker machine. I'll find a way to put a cute label or sticker on just about anything.

10.  Seattle- my favorite place! Can't wait to get back there this summer!

More Read the Room!

 I have created my recording sheet for my Read the Room activities for the start of the year. Click the detective to download.

I also created a Read the Room activity for short i. It will work for lesson 2 in the Journey's book. That week the story of the week is about storms so it's storm themed. Click on the pink wellies to download!

Short a Read the Room

 Ok- I have a GIANT to do list this summer to get ready for next year. At the top of my list is creating read the room activities for each of our reading lessons. So I started with lesson 1: short a. It was hard to go back to short sentences and easy words. Our kids made so much progress! There are six cards and the short a words are highlighted in red to make finding them easy. Click on the little farm girl to download!

Frog Prince

 We finished our reading series four weeks before school was out so I started searching through all my pictures books for some kind of inspiration for a reading activity. I found "The Frog Prince Continued." If you haven't read it yet you've got to! It's hilarious! So I created a frog prince unit and I just posted it to TPT! Click on the frog to head to my store.