Hello, hello! Welcome back to the blog. If you haven’t noticed…I’m trying SO hard to get into a blogging routine. I truly love to write and share another part of my story with all of you. Thanks for bearing with me while we get this ball rolling, ever so slowly.
One of my main reasons for starting a blog was to address many of the questions I’m asked most frequently on Instagram! I am by no means an expert, hello…I’m only in my second year of teaching. But, I think there’s value in sharing what works (or doesn’t) in hopes of helping even one teacher friend out there.
I was listening to Rachel Hollis’s podcast today where she interviewed John Maxwell who explained a “cycle of success” – test, FAIL, learn, improve, re-enter. If this isn’t my classroom to a T, I don’t know what is. If there’s anything I can encourage you with before diving into my groups…PLEASE know it’s okay to fail. That’s literally the only way to grow. I have failed quite a few times in my small groups because this is a trial and error effort, constantly. If you find something here you like, test it out in your classroom! It may fail. That’s okay. Modify it and make adjustments as need be for your students.
Alright, enough small talk. Let’s talk about reading groups! I use a modified version of Daily 5 in my classroom and I can’t even begin to imagine reading instruction without it! This is the only way I’ve found to successfully reach all of my students at their varying levels. It’s extremely beneficial for us. (Disclaimer… I only have 16 students, so I have 4 groups of 4.) I understand this isn’t the norm, so you may have to modify depending on your students and your class, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
I group my students based on the most recent STAR scores (a benchmarking test our district uses) so that they can be in a group with other students that are similar to them in reading level. This helps guide my differentiated instruction. Our groups are pretty fluid. If I think a student is making awesome progress, I’ll move them up or vice versa. My groups aren’t always equally split…it just depends.
I do reading stations 4 days a week, Monday – Thursday. Fridays are our assessment days. We start each day with a quick whole group mini-lesson. Some days I’m introducing a skill…other days we’re reviewing our story of the week. You get the picture. Before I release them to stations, we review what our stations will be for the day and expectations in each.
Because of my small class size, I’m able to meet with each group every day for 15 minutes. Again, trial and error. Find a schedule that fits for your room. We have a meet with teacher station, read to self, word work, and work on writing. My meet with teacher plans are all based on the same skill of the week from our curriculum (Journey’s), but are differentiated based on level. Some of my favorite resources for finding differentiated reading passages include, Freckle, ReadWorks.org, and Reading A to Z. We also have a set of leveled readers that align with our curriculum.
Read to self is pretty self explanatory to say the least… My kids love to cozy up in the reading corner during this station. They can read their own book, check out seasonal books in my library, and some days listen to reading. Some of my favorite resources for listening to reading include Epic, Storyline Online, and Vooks.
Word work for us includes our spelling words for the week and a phonics skill. Our words come straight from our curriculum, as well as the phonics skill of the week. It’s a great continued review for them. Practice in this station looks like phonics work some days and just reviewed spelling practice other days. One of my favorite spelling websites is Spelling City. Students will often practice on this website if they finish their word work for the day early. They love it! Freckle is another great resource for this again…they have a specific word study practice domain. Another great way to push and review those phonics skills.
Work on writing is a loose term for this station, I know… I suppose it could be combined or classified more as a word work station, but it works for us. Remember when I said this was a modified Daily 5..? 😉 Anyway, in this station, my students work on a vocabulary book every week. We use WriteReader for this – another awesome tool that could be used in a variety of ways! They must type the word and definition, find a picture to represent the word, and write a sentence using the word. The great thing about Write Reader is that students develop a bookshelf as they continue to write. We use it almost exclusively for vocabulary, so truly it’s just a mark of all the vocab words they’ve learned all year. It’s a great reference! If they finish their vocab book for the week, I always load our words into Quizlet, so they can practice there. Additionally, we have a monthly writing calendar from Miss West Best always glued into our writing notebooks that they can write about each day.
The question I’m asked the most is really how do I manage all of this… I’ll be honest. First of all, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, so get that out of your head. Nothing ever is. My kids aren’t always angels, but they know what’s expected of them. It’s all expectations and the importance of setting those from day 1. This is definitely always a work in progress and my kids have come so far from the very beginning of the school year. It also helps that Daily 5 is a model most of my kids have had a lot of exposure to, and familiarity with, considering many of the teachers in my school organize their literature blocks this way.
One of my biggest tips would be to have a visual at all times. I always have a slide up on my SmartBoard displaying every station and instructions, group names, and a timer! This helps both the kids and myself stay organized. There are a lot of slide templates on TPT…or make your own! It doesn’t have to be fancy.
The next thing I’ll stress is the importance of stability and routine. We keep things very organized around here. For the most part, my students start at the same station every day and rotate the same way every day. This helps things run smoothly in my opinion. The change and excitement comes in the variety of activities they complete throughout the week. There has to be some sort of constant and if you want to change something…start small. Don’t change the order of rotations, their groups, and what they’re expected to do all at once. Ease into it.
Finally, get to know your kids. I know, this seems simple, but it’s sooooo important. This will help you select relevant texts for your small group and it’ll help you pick engaging activities for your students during rotations. For example, do they like to be artistic? Love to read about sports? Could type on a computer all day? Work that in somehow.
Like I said, this will be a constant trial and error. Take what you like, try it out, and learn from it! I truly think small group instruction is extremely beneficial in all ways. If you’re struggling to find the time, let me just tell you that you’ll have time for what you want to make time for. (This applies to both your personal and classroom life 😉 ).
I hope this post was helpful! As always, let me know if you have any questions or would like to know more about anything I touched on! Stay tuned for my math groups post coming soon!