Phonics and Fluency for First Grade

I'm so excited about this! I made my first Spin a Sentence with my Guided Reading packs. They were seasonally-themed though. My newest set is totally phonetic! This first set is all short vowels. This is such  great way to strengthen phonics skills while working to improve fluency. 

If you want to add a visualizing component, I included four different student sheets. 

I also included printable versions for those busy times!

Tutoring Toolkit

It's done! What I thought would take a couple hours to spruce up ended up taking me days! I just kept changing things and adding things, but finally I have a product I'm happy with. Introducing the Tutoring Toolkit:

 In a previous post, I blogged about some tutoring tips and showed you inside my tutoring binder. Here, I've spruced it up a bit for you! The binder is divided into sections, each with a cover and tabs:

  • Word Building
  • More Phonics
  • Sight Words
  • Fluency
  • Guided reading
  • Lesson Plans
  • Assessments
  • Notes

 I included a few activities to get you started. These are my "go-to" phonics activities. I keep the plastic sheet protectors in the binder, but change out the cards based on what phonics skill I'm focusing on. For example, if I'm teaching short a, I will grab my short a sorting cards, short a matching cards, etc. The rest of the cards (other short vowels, silent e, etc.) I store at home in a tub.

I included a few sight word activities for you including:
  • Flash cards separated by animal and color with a student sheet. All Dolch words are included.
  • Blank templates for Sight Word Spin (my favorite sight word activity)
  • Read, Spell it, Write it pages and directions
Fluency is such an important part of my tutoring program! There are tons of resources available on TPT to add to this section of your binder, but for this pack I did include some new story cards and my Four Square Fluency poster (also in my Guided Reading Packs.) 

For the guided reading section, I included some assessment/"snapshot" pages and a strategy bookmark. Most of my Guided Reading materials come from or my Reading Passages for beginning readers

This is how I use my tutoring binder/tub:

Keep all your  materials that you've collected and created in the correct section. That way you can just grab and go. It's nice to be able to provide some choice while you're tutoring too. If you are teaching short e, grab a few different short e activities so you can present your student with a  choice. I've slowly added to my collection over the years!

This post gives some extra tips about tutoring. :)

Below is a quick video of pictures inside the binder:

Daily 5 Choice Board

Welcome back to our Daily 5 book study, brought to you by Brenda from Primary Inspired

This chapter is all about when to release your students and give them choices. Did your heart skip a beat? It's okay, mine too. This is always a little scary. Giving them choices means letting go of some control. I'm not good at that. The Sisters point out over and over in their book that as long as we set and model our expectations, give our students time to practice Daily 5 behaviors, and build their stamina, we will be good to go. 

In the book, they give three ideas for how to execute the choice part of D5: 
1. Call on them one-by-one to tell you their choice and their goal. After they tell you, they will find their spot.
2.  Call on them one-by-one to tell you their choice and goal but they all stay together until everyone has chosen. Then you excuse everyone in groups (Read to Self kids can go, then Writing kids can go, etc.)
3. Count to three, then have the entire class go at the same time quietly to their spots. 

When I taught first grade, I used a board with pictures. I could flash the picture of my board from back then but that would be embarrassing. I was so stressed for time and I literally didn't cut the lines straight. The clip art was random from the Internet (don't call the Clip Art police please!) Everything was askew. Sigh. So, I made this new board, which reflects how I would want it to look now. One of the teachers at my school will be doing Daily 5 for the first time this year so she gets to have this one. 

Here's how it works: 

On the way to the carpet, have your students grab their picture from their book box.  As you call on students to be excused, they will add their picture to the Daily 5 choice board to show what they will be doing during that rotation. Train them to have their idea in their head before they are called on. Practice doing this quickly and quietly. 

I sort of cheat here. Yes, I know, shame on me. Because too much noise drives me crazy in my tiny little room, I only have 6 Velcro dots available under the Read to Someone category. That means only 3 sets of partners. I love Word Work, but it requires more pieces and those materials can be limited, so I only have 4-6 dots under that category (it might vary by class.) The point is, if you want to hold on to a tiny bit of control, this is a way to do that. I teach my students to watch as others make their choices in case their first choice fills up. Then they need to choose a backup choice and be ready.  

To download ALL of my Daily 5 resources, click here:

If you missed the previous posts from this book study, you will definitely want to check them out! There are plenty of pictures and freebies to get you started if you are interested. 

Make sure you check out the other bloggers to see what they have to say about Chapter 7. 

Daily 5 Chapter 6: Foundational Lessons

I'm back and on time for this chapter! I better be because I'm the host of this chapter. This chapter (as well as the previous chapter) were full of good content. There is so much to take away from these chapters. If you are interested in trying the Daily 5, I encourage you to read the book cover to cover so you can get the whole experience. :) We're truly giving you little "snippets" from the book that are important for us to highlight. 

This chapter goes into the foundation lessons for the other parts of the Daily 5. Click here for chapter 5, which talks about the foundation lessons for Read to Self. 

clip art by Whimsy Workshop

Looove this quote from the book:

If I could convey this my students, I'd be one happy teacher. 

I talked about my writer's notebook in chapter 2. One of the things that was recommended in this chapter was to cut the top corners of the notebook in order to mark the pages where students will write down their writing ideas. The sisters call this the "Think-abouts." 

I thought it would be good to do this again at the beginning of each month. In my chapter 2 blog post, I talked about how I separate my notebooks each month using tabs. 

One thing I'll do in the future is to use the page after the monthly tab page (in this case after the September tab page) to brainstorm and write fresh ideas. 

The sisters suggest giving your students time to talk about their "Think-Abouts" with each other before writing the ideas in their notebooks. I couldn't agree more! Give your kids time to talk. It seems like they always have something to say, even if they don't have anything to write. Ha! 

Clip art by Whimsy Clips

I made a few posters and book marks with all the new clip art that's out there! The voice level thing is  tough. You'll want to model and practice different voice levels. I've always had a hard time with this one because there is always that kid who just isn't aware of his/her voice level. You know where whisper is not anywhere in their vocabulary. Just like everything else, kids need to practice, practice, practice. When I taught first grade, I saved Read to Someone for the second week. I really wanted it to be special and exciting and something that they "were ready for." I really like how the sisters break down these foundation lessons. 
Clip art by Whimsy Clips

Here's a little poster you could use when introducing how partners read. The Sisters have different options for Read to Someone, including choral reading. I am not a fan of choral reading though, mainly because it gets so loud. I think it's really hard to read at the same time and keep your voice level down. That might just me me though! Plus, even as an adult, I can't keep up with choral reading. I lose my place when I hear other voices reading the same thing. Personal preference for me, but it might work in your classroom. I made this poster to communicate that both partners read with eyes and brain, but one is reading with their voice. The other person will be the one to check for understanding at the end of the page. I teach my students to read a page then switch roles for the next page. As the texts get more challenging or longer for each page, you can do another mini-lesson and teach them to take turns by paragraph.  

I also made this in bookmark form.

Here's a little bookmark you can use for when you check for understanding. It shouldn't take too long. The person who didn't read aloud will be the one who check for understanding. They simply tell what the page was about (who, what and if applicable, when.) 

(You could do this two-sided with the other bookmark.)

I created these story cards for each season. I currently use them during my guided reading groups and RTI, but my friend gave me the idea to use them for Read to Self or Read to Someone. These are for beginning readers, so they are perfect for if you are low on simple texts. Using these would be a separate lesson in themselves because you need to teach them how to use them. They look basic, but I teach my students that these cards are meant to show off our fluency. I teach them that fluency includes rate (not too fast or too slow,) punctuation, and expression. The should read these cards more than once because they need to practice in order to truly read fluently with the appropriate expression.  I love these cards because they give my beginning readers a chance to gain confidence while getting multiple opportunities for repeated readings of a text that is "just right" for them.  

When I was teaching first grade, I still used the cassette tapes. Yep, sticking with my love for the 80s. A retiring teacher gave me all of her cassette tapes and they were great. My students loved them. It was hilarious watching them with the tapes. They could be a headache though. There was still the computer option and CDs (which I never had.) Now there is the whole iPad thing. Yeah, those little ol' iPads. A whole new world. Our school uses Raz-Kids, which is an extension of my favorite If you get a subscription, your students have access to tons of books! I highly recommend this. 

My friend Molly from Lucky to Be in First has an AWESOME post about using old iPhones for a listening center. Click here to see that post.

Clip art by Educlips

When I first started, I invested in a few staples for my classroom. I got the magnetic tiles (top left,) magnetic letters, and the dice. I started out using just those for word work. I just let my kids make words and write them in their notebooks. Then I made onset and rime cards so they could match the cards to make words. During Word Work, they could also practice spelling words and sight words on the word wall. 

I kept my word work materials in bins like these. Students could take a bin to their spot, along with their notebooks to record words. 

Since the early years, I've slowly made tons of word work stations of my own. I actually use them for my RTI now and guided reading groups, but they would be perfect during word work. You can find these activities and much more in my Phonics Packs

(I've used this pack for guided reading, RTI, independent work, and word work.)

I would organize these in one of  two ways:

1. Use plastic drawers:

Keep two sets for each activity in a drawer. I store everything in plastic zip-lock bags and/or plastic sleeves. Place the sleeve or ziplock bag in the drawer. Include two for each. 

2. Use a file folder system. They could take the entire hanging file to their spot. 

I also love this storage system. Students could take the file folder back to their seat to work on the activities. Only downside is that dice don't work with these...

Make sure you check out these other posts about the foundation lessons.

Daily 5: Chapter 5 Launching Read to Self

Welcome back to our Daily 5 book study! 

I'm super late on this post. I was in Vegas and did not have the time I thought I would to finish this post. I take forever to write each post and I should have known that I couldn't finish this in Vegas. So I'm so sorry for my delay! Better late than never right? This chapter is all about launching Read to Self. Doing a thorough job of introducing these foundation lessons will pay off throughout the entire year. I love it because the habits that our students pick up during these first few weeks benefit more than Daily 5. It sets the tone for all opportunities to do quiet reading throughout the day.

There are 3 foundation lessons for Read to Self: 
1. The Three Ways to Read a Book
2. I PICK Good-Fit Books
3. Choose a Successful Spot

The book goes into a lot more detail, so I recommend getting this book and reading it thoroughly. It will really help! Here is the much shorter version:

Like I said, these lessons are so important. I start steps one and two on the first day of school. Don't skimp on modeling these three ways to read a book. Take the time to model, discuss and practice, but keep each lesson to about 10 minutes. 

I made this little poster to share with you all:
You can click on the picture to download.

Here is just a fun little video to illustrate how everyone can Read the Pictures. This is my 3 year old. He looooves being read to and also loves to "read" to us. :) There are three different videos playing at the same time. My favorite is the Hungry Caterpillar. You can hear that one the loudest because he is really using his expression!

Learning how to pick a "good-fit" book is tough. I love their famous lesson about the shoes to help teach this. That lesson is perfect for an introduction, especially for teaching purpose and interest when reading the pictures and retelling a story. 

Teaching students to find a good-fit book when reading the words is the trickiest because you need to look at all 5 parts of I PICK. One thing that I thought was interesting is that The Sisters did not recommend the five finger test because beginning books have very few words on the page. This makes so much sense. They recommend teaching students that they need to be able to read most of the words on the page in order to be a good fit. This got me thinking because often kids at the beginning of the year think they can't read. If they saw a page from a phonetic book even, they might think they don't know any words, when really they could read all the words with some effort. I know my son looks at a book and immediately says he doesn't know any words. I always emphasized in the first couple weeks (before assessments were done,) that they could enjoy reading the pictures and retelling. I spent time the first day to show them the bin of all phonetic books, sight word readers, and level A-D books. I know many, many readers in first grade are beyond that, but the majority that I usually got were around that level. I took some time to introduce these bins of books and point out the differences and that these might be just right books for you. For the more proficient readers, I said that if you can read these words without sounding out and you know them right away, these are not just right. I explained to my students that we will become better readers in first grade, but if we are just starting to learn to read, it's best to find books that are just right for us when we are reading the words. I show them examples of books with fewer words on the page and a book with lots of words. I ask them which book looks like a book that is just right for someone is learning to read. Throughout the first week, we spend lots of time looking at books in the library to help learn about what is a good fit. I also make sure to emphasize that when reading the pictures or retelling a story, they don't have to be able to read the words, so I take away the K in my I PICK poster to show this. 

You might want to consider a subscription to National Geographic Little Kids. When I taught first grade, I almost got National Geographic Kids, thinking that was the correct magazine for this age group. Then I started getting the Little Kid version for my son and he loves it! Plus he can actually read more of it. He mostly looks at the pictures when he has the Kids version because there are too many words for him. The Little Kid version says it's for 3-6, but I really feel that they are perfect for k-1. Here's a little video to show you inside this magazine:

You can download my I PICK poster parts by clicking on the picture below. For this poster, I used velcro so I could attach each strip as I introduced it. That way I could split up the lesson if I needed to. Also, if I wanted to reteach one of them, I could detach it to focus on it, then return it to the poster where it belongs to show that all of these are needed when we are reading the words. 

Last, but certainly not least, is learning how to find a successful spot. I use those exact words too. "Is that a successful spot?" I found myself saying a lot. We talk about what makes a spot successful. I even have those "hot spots" in my room that everyone seems to want to sit in. Before this lesson, look around your classroom for potential spots that your students may be temped to sit in that would not be safe or successful. Remind students their purpose for reading and how important it is to find that good spot so they can really read. Before choosing spots, I pointed out some good spots that would be successful.

Of course a huge part of launching Read to Self is building stamina. I've already talked a lot about that in chapter 3. If you missed it, make sure and go back so you can snag my stamina graph.

Make sure you visit my friend over at Luckyfrog's Lilypad who is hosting this chapter. There, you will find links to other wonderful bloggers to see what they are saying about Daily 5.