1st Grade Differentiated Spelling

Hi friends!  Just a quick post to let you know that I caved into requests and FINALLY created a 1st grade spelling pack similar to my 2nd grade pack.

It's 294 pages of spelling goodies!  Lots of games, practice, tests, and more at different levels.  There's a List A (grade level) and List B (more challenging) that follow the same pattern so you can do whole-group mini lessons.  For lower spellers, I recommend still using List A but modifying with fewer words. 

I've made differentiation EASY with this pack, allowing the teacher to teach whole-group minilessons AND administer all tests at ONCE!

You can read a detailed post about my 2nd grade pack HERE and the first grade pack is very similar (only print practice instead of cursive practice for handwriting).  See the 1st Grade pack description HERE.

Oh, and it's at an introductory price right now....and TODAY only you can enter to win it for you and a friend over on my Facebook page!  Hope you love it! <3


Assess Me Linky {Yes or No}


I'm linking up with Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher today for a fun little "get to know you" linky!

It's quick and easy...just like assessments should be! :)  This week is all about the yes/no questions.

Here's a peek at my assessment.....

Go link up with Rachel and complete your own Back-to-School assessment.


Genre Studies Series: Part 3 {Mysteries}

Other Posts in This Series:

Hi friends!  I'm super excited to dive into my genre studies with you!  If you missed the previous posts in this series, scroll back up a bit and read those first.

Once my students have a strong foundation of reading strategies to use as they're reading, we are ready to dive into some fun genres!  I start out with mysteries.  I do this for several reasons.

1)  Mysteries are FUN!  Who doesn't love to try to solve a whodunnit?  This is a genre that catches their attention and draws them in right from the start!

2) My strategies unit usually goes all the way through the month of September, leading me to begin my first genre study in October.  What better genre to tie into Halloween than mysteries, right?!  It just seems to fit perfectly.

3) But, most importantly, there are a TON of mystery series out there.  This makes it super easy for me to locate books on all of my students' levels!  Remember, the important thing is that we're all connected by reading the same genre, but students are applying strategies as they read books on THEIR levels.

And, not just any books.  CHAPTER BOOKS!  If you also teach 2nd grade, you know that the one thing students want to do in reading when they come to 2nd grade is read chapter books! <3  The selection within this genre makes it possible for ALL of my students to start the year off reading chapter books..even the lower readers!  Talk about excitement!

My lower readers will read from the Young Cam Jansen series while my higher readers will read from The Boxcar Children - and there's a TON of great series all in between!  Here's a list of some of them we will use.

* Young Cam Jansen
* Nate the Great
* A to Z Mysteries
* Olivia Sharp (Nate the Great's cousin)
* Cam Jansen
* Jigsaw Jones
* The Calendar Club Mysteries (A to Z Mystery characters' relatives)
* The Boxcar Children
* Encyclopedia Brown
* Nancy Drew

There are tons more of course, but those are some that we always love!

I begin this genre study by talking about mysteries in general.  We do a lot with riddles - using their clues to discover the answers.  We do a lot with observations - think of setting out a tray of objects and removing some of the items to see who can realize what is missing.  They are instantly engaged!  I select a mystery to read to the students (usually an A to Z Mystery because their plots are a little more developed than some of the easier ones).  As I read a bit of the mystery each day, we learn the "ingredients" (characteristics) that make up a good mystery.  I expose them to a lot of mystery vocabulary - detective, sleuth, evidence, clues, suspect, witness, etc.  This takes about a week - we complete a lot of graphic organizers and ask/answer lots of questions.

Once students have a good grasp of the characteristics that make up this genre, they are ready to start reading this genre on their own levels and begin applying good reading strategies as they read.

This is when I do my "reading groups" - however, it will look much different than most typical guided reading groups.

1) I pair my students up.  I don't want them reading in groups of 3-4 (or more) just yet.  They can't handle it.  I pair them up with another reader at the same level and assign them a mystery book to match.  Each student receives a manilla envelope - his/her "case file" - that includes the book, his/her work packet, vocabulary words, etc.

2) All of my students are reading at the same time.  Yes!  All of my groups (pairs) are reading.  I am not reading with one group of students while others are in stations working on writing, or word work, or listening centers.  We're ALL reading!  This just works for me.  I assign each pair pages to read for that day and they sit, scattered around the room, EEK (elbow to elbow, knee to knee) and share the reading with their partner.  After reading, they will pull their work out of their case file to complete for the day.  Students aren't distracted by others, wondering what they're doing...we're all being reading detectives together!

3) As students are reading, I'm working with reading groups.  I usually only have 4-5 different levels of students.  So for instance, if I have 20 students, with say 5 different reading levels, that would be possibly 4 students at each level.  If I had 4 students all at a lower level, I would give them all the same Young Cam Jansen book to read.  However, I do not want all 4 students reading together.  At this point in the year, they do much better in pairs.  BUT, when I'm ready to work with the Young Cam Jansen group, I will pull all 4 of those students to work with at the same time.  As I'm working with this group, all of the other groups are reading and working on their case files.  If I finish with this group, they will break up and continue on and I'll call another group to come over to work with me.  I can usually work with 2-3 groups in a day. 

4) I know what you're thinking?  What do students do if they finish early - before other groups?  If you're a center person, they could visit centers during that time.  My students work on a project when they're finished.  For mysteries, I have them creating a Case File Report.  It's basically lots of graphic organizers that fit inside of a file folder that has them summarizing their story.  Each day after reading they work on this and add whatever they can from that day's discoveries.  Toward the end of the unit they will use these to present the stories they read to the class.

As you can see through some of these pictures, I add whatever I can to up the enthusiasm!  When students are reading in detective duos, I have detective hats for them to wear.  As their reading trackers, they use mini-magnifying glasses.  And, well, sometimes while we're sharing these case file reports we'll enjoy pancakes in honor of one our favorite detectives....Nate the Great! :)

At the end of each of my genre studies we hold a celebration of learning.  Most of the time this is where we invite families to come in to see what we've been learning about.  Since mysteries is first, it's a little different.  We keep this celebration all to ourselves!

When students show up to school, they see this on our door!  And when they walk into our classroom, they see THIS!

Our very own CLASSROOM MYSTERY!!  This is actually a mystery from GEMS called "Who Borrowed Mr. Bear?"  You can order the book, Mystery Festival, at a reasonable price and it includes both a primary and an intermediate mystery.  It has the story to read to students, step-by-step daily lessons, and a letter to request donations.  I will say, it's a good bit to set up each day, but it's totally worth it!

Students will rotate through several stations each day conducting experiments on the clues left behind and then use their inquiry skills to apply what they learn to the mystery to draw conclusions.

One of my favorite things to do during this is to sit back and watch those predictions!  Students will leave a station and run over to the suspect chart to draw their conclusions and persuade their classmates of their opinion.

I hope this gives you some ideas for a mystery genre!  The students really do love the genre! <3  It's so much fun to watch them continue to gobble these books up from our classroom library or the school library.  Sometimes we'll even have an awards ceremony at the end where students will vote for the best mystery series, the most lovable detective, the most tricky plot, etc.  Those books will get special stickers and boy do they fly off the shelves! :)

Some of the resources I've created to use with this unit are below, but these are definitely not something you would NEED to conduct a mystery study.  Look around your classroom to see what you have available and work with it!


{Filled with activities that I use during this genre study.}

{Quizzes for all 26 books in this series.}


{A case file for 10 different mystery books of varying levels.}


Back 2 School Giveaways

It's that time of year!  Teachers are beginning to shop for their classrooms!  
The teachers from Owl-ways Be Inspired want to help you out!

We're giving away three gift cards on our collaborative blog.

Plus, many of us are hosting our own giveaways on our personal blogs!

How do you enter to win?

You can enter my giveaway right here!

I'm giving away a set of 5 Belkin Rockstars.  These little things are AMAZING!  They let you turn ONE ipad into a listening center for FIVE students!  Don't have ipads?  They work with any MP3 or portable DVD players (yep, you could use them in the car on trips with your kids)!  If you missed my post on how I used these to create the perfect listening centers in my classroom, you can read that HERE.
Enter on the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!  There are lots of ways to earn entries...do one or do them all! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, hop over to the Owl-ways Be Inspired Blog to enter for the BIG GIFT CARDS and for a chance to enter all of the other giveaways!



Blogger Meet Up - Come Join the Fun!

Just a quick post today to make sure everyone knows about the 

Katie from Queen of the First Grade Jungle and I are super excited about organizing this meet up!  If you teach in the Carolinas {or just want to visit the Carolinas!} come join us!  The meet up is open to everyone - bloggers or teachers!  

We plan to do lunch and a little hanging out - super casual.  What a fun way to end the summer with some great teacher friends!

If you are interested in coming you might want to join our Carolina Teacher Bloggers Facebook group where we share information.  If you're not on FB, you can comment on this post to let us know you're interested.  Hope to see you there, friends!


Genre Studies Series {Post 2: A Foundation with Reading Strategies}

Other Posts in This Series:

Before beginning my genre studies, I kick the year off with a Reading Strategies unit.  I do this for several reasons.  First, I want to provide a foundation for all of my students and make sure that they are doing what good readers should do as they read.  Also, I don't know my students at the beginning of the year.  I need to get to know them and their reading abilities a bit before I'm ready to start putting them in reading groups.

There are many reading strategies that we could focus on, but here are the ones I choose:

1) Making Connections
2) Inferring
3) Asking Questions
4) Visualizing
5) Synthesizing
6) Determining Importance

Most of my time is spent on the first four strategies, but we do hit the last two as well. 

This is the book I originally used as a foundation for building my unit...

It's titled Reading Power by Adrienne Gear.  It's a very easy read and has a wealth of information.  I liked it because it gave ideas that were easy to implement with pretty much any picture books (though it did provide good suggestions).  This allowed me to use books that I already had in my classroom!

This book has a song/chant for each strategy, lesson ideas, work samples, and lots of graphic organizers.

While the book was very valuable to me, it's not necessarily a necessity.  You could absolutely create your own strategies unit without it!

I just received this book TODAY, which has been getting rave reviews from teachers, and can't wait to read it next week!

It's a little more expensive, but I've been told it's worth it!  I'll let you know. :)  The title is The Reading Strategies Book and it's by Jennifer Serravallo.

One of the things I love about my strategies unit is that it is ALWAYS evolving.  Since strategies can be taught with pretty much any book, you are free to change things up quite a bit from year to year!

Let's take a little closer look at each strategy...

I usually begin with making connections.  Let's face it - kids are pretty good at this!  You know all of those times when you are reading a book and your students raise their hands to tell you a story?  It's {usually} because they made a connection!!

However, most of the time they are making Text to Self connections {the text has made them think of something that has happened to them before}.  We also explore Text to Text {when one book reminds you of another book in some way} and Text to World {when one book reminds you of something you've seen or heard about} connections.  These are a little less automatic for students and they sometimes need encouragement to think of these.

Here are a few of the books I almost always include in my making connections lessons:

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie DePaola
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

But like I said, I'm always finding books I want to use on the fly and you can definitely find some to use from your current classroom selections.

While we practice this skill heavily during this time, it's a skill that will be used all year long and I keep that fresh in students' minds with our connection chains.

I keep these displays up all year and anytime a student makes a connection while I'm reading aloud a book, I have them add a link to the chain.  They love to try to make more Text to World or Text to Text connections so that they don't get left behind! ;)  It's a great visual to let them realize that they're constantly making connections and that Text to Self are the connections we make the most!

This activity, along with many others can be found in my Connecting and Visualizing Packet.  It's filled with many of the activities and assessments I use while working on these strategies.


That leads us to the other strategy in that pack - Visualizing.  

Visualizing is one of my favorite strategies to teach!  Students are used to drawing pictures about stories, but they're not used to drawing all of the little details.  We work on that. :)

One of the first things we do with this strategy is talk about words.  Some words help us to visualize and others do not.  We do a lot of practice identifying these words and sorting words based on if they help us visualize or not.  This is also when I introduce "prove it" (citing the text).  I have students highlight words in text that help them visualize and when they illustrate the text, they should check back to make sure all of those highlighted words were included.  Their illustrations become much more vivid!

A few books that I always love for this strategy include:

The Napping House by Audrey Wood
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack

That last book shows a cute cuddly polar bear and I just rant and rave about how much I love polar bears!  I just want to snuggle up with him!  I tell students this is my favorite animal ever - oh so cute!  I ask them to all draw a picture of a polar bear for me to hang on my desk.  They turn out so cute!  Then, the next day I read a passage of text from a non-fiction book about polar bears.  I choose the pages that portray the polar bear in quite the opposite image - as a predator, eating seals, hunting, with sharp claws.  I pretend to be shocked and amazed at how my image of that cute, cuddly polar bear has suddenly changed based on this new information.  It's quite a powerful lesson in teaching us that our visualizations {mind movies} or constantly changing as we read and acquire new information - at that's a good thing!  I have students draw new polar bear pictures for me today - they're quite different.  Lots of blood usually. :)  The bad thing about this lesson is that I sell it too well.  Almost every year my students bring me polar bear books from the library, polar bear information from the web, and even cute cuddly stuffed polar bears to sit on my desk.  I really don't love them that much.  Ha!

One of my favorite lessons for this strategy is to find a poem that sounds like one thing but really turns out to be something else!  Students create a "Visualize with your Eyes" craftivity of themselves with sunglasses.  As I read the first part of the poem, students record visualizing words around the glasses' rims and then illustrate in the first lens.  Then, I'll finish the last part of the poem and they'll repeat with the second side.  They love seeing how their image changed as new information was gathered!

After visualizing, we move on to Questioning.

This is another one students are already good at doing on a daily basis. :)  However, we learn the importance of asking questions Before we read, During reading, and After we read.  We also spend a lot of time on Thin and Thick Questions.

I define Thin Questions as those questions that students don't really have to use their brains to answer - the answer are "right there" in the book, or are readily known with short quick answers (think yes/no).  Thick Questions are questions that students will have to use their brains to answer.  There's often no right/wrong answer to these questions and others can often disagree.

Let me tell you that students LOVE being the teacher and creating questions (especially THICK ones) for their classmates to answer! :)  We do a lot of partner teaching during this strategy - lots of practice!

My absolute FAVORITE activity during Questioning is to read a fairy tale (I usually pick Snow White).  Then, I have students write down two questions for characters from the story.  I want them to ask THICK questions - things that the book didn't tell us, but if we had a chance to talk to the characters we could find out.  Then, I tell them that the next day we'll hold a Fairy Tale Talk Show and the characters will come to our classroom for us to interview.  They get SO excited.  I'm not even kidding.  I usually even get emails from parents about their students' anticipation to come to school the next day. :)

The next day, I will set up a row of chairs in front of the audience (the children) and then call some of them up to sit in the chairs.  They soon realize that THEY are the characters - and I pull out props for them to wear....just to help them get into character a bit more.  The audience asks their questions (example: "How did you get a magic mirror?" or "Why did you decide to let Snow White escape?")  The characters have to think on their feet and remember that there's no right/wrong answer.  They have a ton of fun and we rotate characters in and out so everyone has experience asking and answering questions.

Some of my favorite books to use during Questioning are:

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
Snow White {any version}

That activity and lots more can be found in my other Reading Strategies unit: Questioning & Inferring.


Let's take a peek a Inferring.

It's so much fun to teach kids to make inferences!  We learn to infer from pictures and from text - both are equally important!  To begin with, we make inferences without books!  We do a lot of charades where students act out feelings/emotions and others have to infer from the clues.  Then, we move to wordless books...lots of inferring to be done there!  We also use a lot of poems during this part.  Many times you can remove the title or key words from a poem and let students infer what is happening in the poem or what it is about - so much fun!

Another fun activity is to infer from riddles.   We do a lot of roam the room style activities with riddles that students must read and infer.  It's a tougher skill for some students than I usually expect, but once we've nailed it we move on to inferring from text.

I created most of my inference riddles to integrate other subjects, too!  As in these for community workers...

...and these about animals....

 Some of my favorite books to use for making inferences are:

Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day
No, David! by David Shannon
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Who Is The Beast? by Keith Baker
Tuesday by David Wiesner

I don't spend as much time on Synthesizing, but we do practice it.  I haven't created any of my own resources for this strategy....yet, but you can find some super cute ideas {and FREEBIES} from Cara at The First Grade Parade.

Some of my go-to books for this strategy include:

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Gettin' Through Thursday by Melrose Cooper
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen

I really need to create a unit for these last two!  Determining importance is where I do two things - teach students to locate the main idea/message of a story and also the author's purpose.  We always create these cute little PIEs from paper plates for helping us determine the author's purpose {Persuade, Inform, Entertain}.

All of these strategies will be the foundation for our reading this year.  We will apply these strategies throughout all of our genre studies.

What does reading look like during this strategies unit?  You will see me holding a mini-lesson at the beginning of our reading block.  Usually this consists of me reading a book and teaching the strategy.  Then, students will apply the strategy.  Since I do not know them as readers by this point, usually they are not applying to their own books yet.  However, sometimes they are!  I have a little data on my students at this point (from end of 1st grade and STAR testing), so I can level them to some extent.  For example, during the questioning unit, I will choose a book series that I have a ton of books on - like, "Little Critter" - those books range from 1.0 to 3.5 (using AR levels since STAR data is one that I have at this point).  So I may pair students with another reader at their level and assign them a book to use for applying questioning.  I love starting the the same series with such a range because everyone feels like they're on the same playing field. ;)  And then we will come back for a quick wrap up at the end to share what we've learned from applying the strategy that day.

A couple other resources worth mentioning that I have in my bag of tricks for this opening unit are...

My brilliantly talented friend Amanda from One Extra Degree has written her own songs for all of the strategies.  They are amazing!  But, the BEST part is that the file includes MP3's of her singing all of the songs!!!!!  I can't tell you how much that helps THIS musically-challenged teacher! ;)

Also, I will be implementing my new Poem Work each week this year.  I've always loved implementing poems, but most of the packs I've found have been more geared toward K/1st.  So, I'm creating my own this year and each week's poem has work that spirals most of these reading strategies! So excited about that!


I hope that gives you some ideas for kicking the year off with reading strategies.  I can't wait to dive into the actual genre studies!  I'll be back in a few days to tell you all about our Mysteries Study - including why I feel it's the perfect genre to get the ball rolling!

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