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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
Grammar
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.

Grammar


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?"

51 comments:

  1. Love, love, love the post. Of course, it's making me think ... too much for a Thursday. So with all this thinking, I have a few questions. Where do the students place their work when they are done? Do you change all choices at each station weekly? For example in the Work on Writing station, they can write a letter, it would seem you would leave that option open for awhile but the -s blends in Work Words seem like one shot deal. Lastly, and this is my biggest issue... how do you keep them working and not chatting with each other?

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    1. Laura,

      I have a designated hand in basket for all work. I change the choices whenever I need to. Sometimes it's weekly and sometimes it's longer. If there is a drawer that not many kids got to, I just leave it for the next week. As far as working and not chatting, I have voice level posters and I tell the kids what level they need to be working at. If they don't, I ring my bell and give a warning that we may need to go to the silent level. Works every time! I don't need station time to be silent, but I do need the kids to be on task and only talking about what they are working on. It took some training, but I don't really have any issues. Plus, the clip chart works extremely well too!
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  2. LOOOOOVE your choice sheet! Is it something you could/would share?

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  3. I can't even tell you how perfect of a time this post came at! I have been thinking of ways to make my literacy block work for DAYS now as things have not been working well for my students. This seems PERFECT! Thank you so much for long post! I loved reading every word!

    - Colleen
    www.therungsofreading.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Well, this makes me VERY happy! Good luck to you! Keep me posted!
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  4. This is just an excellent post all around! Thanks You.

    matt
    Digital: Divide & Conquer

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  5. This is a great post, Lori. You are so organised. I love seeing how other teachers organise their group work activities. Thanks for this post.

    Rhonda
    Classroom Fun

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  6. Dear Lori,
    simply perfect.
    thank you for sharing!
    This is my 30th year teaching and you would think I'd have everything in place--- well, 28 years in Kdg... and this is my 2nd year in First. I never could have predicted the vast difference between teaching K and 1 (especially NOW--with new evaluation systems, Marzano, accelerated curriculum, etc.)
    So, to thank you once again! You know the timeless quote..."Teachers make a difference in the life of a child...." You have made a significant difference in the life of a teacher! Thanks Lori! Have a blessed Thanksgiving Season!
    Kelly at kelly.turk@browardschools.com

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  7. Excellent reading - I'm looking forward to your Kindergarten post!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! It's coming! Maybe even today!
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  8. Thank you for an incredible look into how your day is run. Your centers are amazing and it's so fantastic to see all the kiddos so engaged! Great stuff Lori!

    ~Christy & Tammy
    Fluttering Through First Grade

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    Replies
    1. You're so sweet! Thanks so much for the kind words!
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  9. What a great idea to solve my problem with both early finishers and late finishers! I have the usual 20 minute rotations now, but have always wished for a better solution. You are a genius! I'm ready to give this a try - can't wait to get started!

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    Replies
    1. I sure hope it works well for you too! Keep me posted! Thanks!
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  10. Hi Lori! I am using your "old" system in my classroom now. It works wonderfully but I noticed that the students do not like to change if they are not finished. We need to have the children visitng the computers/chrome books for "listen to reading". When do you have your students use technoology in your new system? If I gave my students choices they would never get off the computer/chrome book but I am liking the idea.

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    1. Tammie,

      My computer station is not working right now. I need a new processor, which is why it is not a station. But when it is fixed, I'll just add this station in, along with the rest of them. If you need to set a time limit for this station, you can, and when time is up, they just go to a new station.
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  11. I love that you are making this system work for you! I tried it in the past, as a beginning teacher... guess I didn't have enough classroom management experience at that time! You've encouraged me to give it another go, maybe after Christmas! Currently I am timing them about 20 minutes, they never seem to finish, don't seem to care and I can't pull them because I need the higher kiddos in there to help the strugglers...
    Dirt Road Teacher

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    Replies
    1. You definitely need great management skills to follow a routine like this. And lots and lots of practice. I didn't start reading groups until I was sure my students could take care of themselves. Try it again! I bet it works! Let me know!
      Lori
      Teaching With Love and Laughter
      luvyorkies@gmail.com

      Delete
  12. Thank you for sharing:) I love how you have set up your reading block! I am going to work at this so after Christmas I can change up what I am currently doing. You have amazing ideas! I think I will need to shop at your TPT shop:) I only have 13 students this year but, they are at such different levels! I have 30 years worth of materials that I can put to use in the stations. I love your center sheet! Do you sell it in your TPT store? Thanks again for sharing! This is just what I needed!

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  13. Julie!

    You are very welcome! I love to share! If you email me, I'll send you the station checklist.
    Lori
    Teaching With Love and Laughter
    luvyorkies@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. I would LOVE your station checklist, too! I looked in your TPT store and didn't find it. It's fabulous!

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  14. As other teachers have mentioned this comes at a perfect time. I use to do the free choice type of stations but some how strayed back to the rotations. I love your ideas thanks.

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  15. Question for you...I see that you have word work and read to self as must do stations. How can you keep track of how long a child spends in the read to self station? I have some little ones who would spend about 2 minutes there and be ready to move on. At least with the word work there is a "product" so I know they have done what is expected. Also do you have a separate read to self and writing time? Thanks for pushing me to think outside of my regular "box". :)

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    Replies
    1. Looking at this post for this fall and I still have the same questions. If you get a chance could you let me know about this question? Thanks!

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  16. Also, do the students each have a work folder to keep their work in and their weekly chart in? Thanks!

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  17. Lori,
    I love all your creations. I can't wait to start the stations this week. I have been looking for a system that works and I think I have found it. Thanks for so many great ideas and sharing your knowledge.

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  18. Where did you find your library book baskets?

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    Replies
    1. Rachel,

      I purchased them at my local grocery store, called Publix. $2.00 each! They are very sturdy!

      Delete
  19. Are your station labels on your TpT?

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry Hollie, but I don't have them on TpT!

      Delete
  20. Lori,
    I am loving this! I need to switch up how I work stations for this upcoming year. Where can I go to get your station checklist paper?

    Thank you!!

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    Replies
    1. Just email me Kendra, and let me know which grade you want.

      Delete
  21. I was wondering if you had a downloadable version of the daily stations checklist. If so, you can email it to me at afleeman84@yahoo.com. Or send me to your web store. Thanks!
    Aimee

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  22. I love this post! I too needed this! I'd love to get a copy of your center choice sheet. Is it on tpt? If not, my email is mhuntley@gracechristian.net please let me know how to get one. Thank you! -MC

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  23. Thanks for sharing your ideas. They will be very helpful, cannot wait to implement. Have a great school year. If you do sell the center choice sheet, I would be interested as well, as does the sheet come editable?

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    Replies
    1. Nikki,

      Just send me an email and I'll share it with you. :)

      Delete
  24. I am like so many others that have commented above...looking for a more engaging way to run my reading block. I am loving your ideas! Can you please email me the checklist? kcholland@boazk12.org Thanks so much!

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  25. This post fixed the problem running around my mind. Thank you Pinterest and you too, Lori! Can you email me the checklist for my first grade class? Thank you! Teachangels@yahoo.com

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  26. I love this post! The way you have your reading block structured seems like a wonderful system!! I am going to try it out! Would you send your station checklist to me? My email is kolman_k@hcsb.k12.fl.us? Pretty please!!!

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  27. Hi! I'm one of the piloting classrooms for our Personalized Learning endeavor this year and this is the exact kind of Student Voice/Choice that I want to start implementing in stations. I've currently rolled out flexible seating in my 2nd grade class and I think this stations idea would fit in really nicely!
    How do you keep the students accountable with their Read to Self time? Ideally each student would get 25 minutes of ReadtoSelf time in each day, but obviously we all have those kiddos that will switch to the next station in ~5 minutes.
    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Kelly,

      I spend a lot of time at the beginning of each year teaching routines and procedures, so my students know exactly what is expected of them. I instill a sense of urgency in them, to follow the routine and to do what is expected of them. Then, I can sit back, relax, and be the guide on the side. Which really means, I can conduct small groups while trusting my students to do what they are supposed to do. LOL!

      Delete
  28. I love this system! Co u leave you please email me a copy of your station checklist? Thank you so very much! Robyn. eaksmom@yahoo.com

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  29. Lori, I am a student teacher and love this idea and want to run it by my cooperating teacher. I have a few questions for you, but I can't seem to locate your email. I for sure am interested in the stations checklist. Could you email me at shellylynnkoenig@gmail.com? Thank you SO much!

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  30. Thank you so much for sharing! I am also wondering if you would be willing to share your station checklist with me? This is something that my firsties could definitely use and yours is amazing, so I don't really want to reinvent the wheel! :) twildeboer@cfu.net Thanks so much!

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  31. Thank you for sharing. I am interested in changing how I do my stations for next year.
    Do you have a product on TPT about your stations?
    Can I get a copy of your stations check list?
    Amy Butler

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    Replies
    1. Amy,

      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you! I just moved and am almost unpacked! Email me and I'll send you my stations check list. :)

      Delete
  32. I would love to have your station rotation cards to use and your checklist. Thank you :)

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    Replies
    1. Happy to share! Just send me an email and I'll send it right to you!

      Delete
  33. Thank you for sharing and for being so thorough , Lori! I am interested in using a different system and form for my first graders this coming year. Would you be willing to share? :)

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    1. Happy to share! Just send me an email and I'll send it to you!

      Delete
  34. Thank you for sharing! I am a 2nd year kindergarten teacher and I love the way you have your reading block setup. I would love to have your station rotation cards and use your checklist. I can't wait to implement the stations. Thanks again!

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