Beginning Reader- My Daugther

It has been quite a while since I have worked with a beginning reader. For the past several years I have worked with transitional and fluent readers in my 3rd grade classroom. Now I have a beginning reader in my home. My daughter has started Kindergarten this year and I have really enjoyed watching her begin to read. My little girl is definitely the light of my world!beginning readerWhat to use with beginning readers

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this amazing book ABC See, Hear, Do: Learn to Read 55 Words by Stefanie Hohl

This book has such great visuals and my daughter loved the cartoon characters. Her favorite part of the book was doing the movements with the sounds of the letters.

See my beginning reader in action

Here is a video of my daughter reading a part of the book. This was her second time reviewing the sounds and movements with the letters, but this was her first time reading the words.

As you can tell she really caught on quickly with the movements. Just looking at the picture helped her remember the moves. As she was reading the words, if she forgot the movement there was a picture under the letter to help her remember. Stefanie really thought of everything when she was writing this book. My daughter really enjoyed and couldn’t wait to do the next group of sounds the next evening.

As a beginner reader it is sometimes difficult for kids to remember the sounds each letter makes. This book is a great way to add movement and visuals to each letter sound. The only thing I would change is getting her this book earlier!

If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is free. Check out the link below.

If you want to learn more about the book check out Stefanie’s blog. She has a great video that shows even younger children than my daughter using the book.

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Guided Reading- What do I do with fluent readers?

Guided reading has been around for over 15 years. One of my graduate classes was on Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading. It worked great in the younger grades for teaching small group. I used it with my 1st graders for a couple of years and started using it in 2nd grade.  It was great for my struggling readers but my higher readers didn’t really need phonics anymore. I did some book studies with them but I didn’t really know what else I could do. As the years went on our school started using Guided Reading more and everyone seemed to love it except….

The Older Grades

The older grades complained that it wasn’t helpful for them. Their kids already knew how to read. Why would they be doing phonics with them. They are not going to be doing an alphabet arc with them. Right? There wasn’t a lot of literature for using guided reading with older grades back then.

About 10 years ago one of my favorite author’s, Debbie Diller, came out with Making the Most of Small Groups.

I love her books! She is amazing. I have been to many of her workshops. She has so much knowledge on guided reading.

Guided Reading continues

Finally authors began to write more guided reading books and school districts began to provide professional development. I have been very fortunate that I am in a wonderful school district that has excellent professional development. I have been going to guided reading trainings for over 10 years now and have read many books. Of course with all that knowledge comes lots of different ideas. Trying to filter through all of the ideas is tiresome. I have tried many ideas that did not work too well.

My Struggles

Some ideas worked great in 2nd grade but when I moved to 3rd grade I struggled. Many of those awesome lessons I did with my lower level reading students didn’t work with my fluent readers. My fluent readers didn’t need help with decoding or fix up strategies. Now what? I really needed to focus on comprehension. They could retell the story but when they took assessments they did not always do well. What was going on? They can read well and they could tell me what the passage was about. The problem was with the academic vocabulary. The rigor of my small reading groups was not where it needed to be. I had to get the kids to dig deeper.

I wasn’t the only one having problems. Many teachers at our school and in our district were having the same troubles. Our district started doing more professional development on how to teach guided reading groups with the fluent readers. One of the main points that struck me was I had to get my questioning more rigorous. I did a book study with some other teachers at my school with the book The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson.

Guided Reading with Fluent Readers

I finally had that aha moment! This is what I need to be doing. I need to be preparing my students before they start reading. I need to be asking rigorous questions during their reading. There needs to be reader’s response for them to work on after they read the passage. The reader’s response needs to be rigorous enough and cover the standards that we are  currently working on and spiral the other standards. Our district has been doing our reading groups like this for several years now. I have had administrators, curriculum specialists, and other teachers come observe me and my students with our guided reading groups. I finally feel like I have a good grasp on my reading groups. My students are doing a better job at comprehending what they are reading. They are also doing well on their assessments and state tests.

I want to share with you what has taken me many years to figure out. Below is a guided reading lesson plan and template for you to use in your small group. It is editable so you can make it your own or tweak it for your classroom. Included is a sample of what one of my reader’s responses looks like. Just click on the picture to download it for free.

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I hope you find this helpful! Let me know what you do with your fluent readers in the comment section below.




(c) Can Stock Photo
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Organization of Literacy Block: Workstations

Welcome to another week of  the “Digging Into Next Year”  Linky Party hosted by Laura at Where the Magic Happens.



Organization of Literacy Block- Workstations

I am going to focus on the workstation part of the Literacy block. I really had to change the way I organized my workstations this year. I had taught 2nd grade for many years and felt very comfortable with my literacy stations. I had my literacy rotations organized in a way that really worked for me and my classroom. I have studied Debbie Diller’s books and been to several of her workshops and love how she did literacy workstations. Below is an example of the work stations I used  in 2nd grade. The workstations were all literacy enriched. There were 2 children in a group. They would work in one group for 20 minutes and then switch to the next workstation that was on the same row for another 20 minutes. I made sure that one of the workstations was some type of reading such as, buddy reading, independent reading, going to the classroom library, listening to a book, or going to the school library. I then had other workstations that worked on the other components of literacy such as, file folder games, taking AR tests, drama station, computer station, and ActivBoard station. These were different Lakeshore games that students could play with a partner.

reading stationsThis past year I moved to 3rd grade and learned I had to change the way I organized my small group/work station time. Our district doesn’t want students in “workstations” after 2nd grade. This was a difficult change for me at first. They really want the students to be reading during this whole time and writing in the reading journals. The thinking behind this theory is that by the end  of 3rd grade the students should be silently reading for 45 minutes straight. That was a real eye opener. Of course they didn’t expect that in the beginning, but this is the reasoning behind them reading during this block of time. They really need to build the stamina. Of course this is somewhat easier if the kids are on grade level with their reading. Struggling kids that hate to read found this to be torture. I had many learning disabled students that were 1-2 grade levels behind and did not like reading  for more than 2o minutes at a time.

I did follow my district’s guidelines but, tweaked it some for my students. I kept the same format that I had used in 2nd grade but, changed up the “stations” some.  As you can see from below I still had work station cards but changed what they had to do. Sorry the picture is so blurry.

reading cardsThey would do a task for 20 minutes and then switch to the next task for 20 minutes. This would at least let them get up and move around and take a mental brain break from reading. I had independent reading anywhere in the room and, reading in the atrium (an outside area that has some comfy chairs attached to my class)  as one of the choices that they did for one of the 20 minute blocks. For the other 20 minute block they might be going to read in the classroom library, taking an AR test and then reading another book, doing one of the reading programs on the computer the district supported,  or going to the school library. This seemed to work better with my struggling readers. I was able to meet with my small groups while they were reading. I met with my low group everyday and usually met with 1 or 2 other groups.

Here are two pictures of my class reading during small group time. The first picture is of the kids in the classroom library. The second picture shows the kids reading in the atrium.

classroom library



changesandwhyChanges… I seem to make changes every year depending on the needs of my students. I have really been thinking about how I could have done this workstation and small group time better.

First: I want to really work on teaching my students how to properly use their reading journals (interactive notebooks) properly. I want to have writing prompts readily available so they know what they should be writing about.

Second: I want to get to my high kids more. I had so many struggling students that I did not meet with my higher kids like I wanted. I know I can have an independent conference with the book they are reading to see what’s going on with them. It only needs to take 5 minutes. I can meet with one or two of these kids daily.

Third: I’m going to continue learning about how to teach 3rd graders how to comprehend what they have read. There is such a big difference between 2nd grade and 3rd grade readers.

slide6relatedproductsLiteracy Workstation Cards

I have the Monster themed literacy workstation cards and signs that I used in my classroom. You can check them out at my TPT store. You can also purchase the literacy workstation cards separately.

preview cards and signsDon’t forget to enter to win my giveaway of my Love Letters.


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Make sure to go by Where the Magic Happens to check out the other teachers and how they organize their literacy block.  Have a great week!



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Motivating Students to Read

What motivates elementary students to read? That is the million dollar question. What can we do as educators to encourage the love of reading to our students? Show them how much we love to read and how much fun it can be!

gailThis is a picture of an amazing principal and friend that had a huge heart for kids. Gail loved going around and reading to the kids. The students loved her passion for reading. She was truly an awesome woman!

I went to an incredible workshop by Dr. Karen Gibson last week that dealt with how to motivate students to read. She shared her research that she did in our district several years ago with over 12,000 elementary students. One of the suggestions that Dr. Gibson had was for every teacher to do a reading interest inventory with the class at the beginning of the year. There are many on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. I have attached one that I have made for my students based on Dr. Gibson’s survey. You can do it with younger kids by reading the questions out loud to them. Please feel free to change it to fit your classroom needs. I made it on Powerpoint so it is easy to edit. Many thanks to Teaching With Style for her great emotion graphics. Click on the picture or here to download.

reading inventory

Dr. Gibson’s study found what the students’ favorite reading motivational activities were. The most important motivational activity for the students was being allowed to choose any book they want to read. I know I have been guilty of telling the students to get a book they can read. A lot of my 2nd grade boys wanted to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Many of the boys couldn’t read them yet and I discouraged them from checking the books out at the library.

Another idea to motivate elementary students to read is to provide a comfortable place in your classroom to read. The students could read on the floor, in a beanbag or carpet squares. Some teachers have the kids bring a pillow and let them put their chair upside down to read. I found this on Pinterest.

upside down chairssource:

Another way to motivate kids to read is to have a large classroom library. The students want books that they are interested in and can read. I have read to expect to have anywhere between 600-1000 books. Below is a picture of my classroom library. My kids loving going in there. It has taken me many years to build it up to over 1000 books. If you ask any of my kids they will say this their favorite place in my classroom.


Another motivational activity that the students said they enjoy was having the teacher take them to the library to help pick out books. The students also enjoy having the teacher recommend books that we are interested in. Dr. Gibson states, “it is important to know children’s literature in order to be able to help your students choose books they will enjoy”. There are several resources she suggests for doing this. Become friends with your school librarian. She will be able to tell you the newest and best in children’s literature. Also check out the Notable Books, Children’s Choices Lists, and Award Lists.

Dr. Gibson’s study also found that students are motivated by the teacher reading aloud to them daily. There are so many benefits to a read aloud. Studies have shown that the read aloud increases performance on standardized tests, helps in language development and vocabulary, improves reading comprehension, and affects students reading interest.  It is important for the teacher to get a ritual going in a class read aloud. Try to read daily for 15 minutes and read at the same time every day.

I really enjoyed Dr. Gibson’s worksop. She also discussed students’ favorite post-reading activities. I will have to share that part at another time. Do you already do any of these activities in your classroom?


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