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Putting my guided reading groups together

Bonjour!

I am coming up to the end of our second term, and despite the plethora of snow days, being on work to rule here in Nova Scotia since December, protests and a (one-day) strike, I have been thinking a lot about guided reading lately. Work to rule means that we do exactly what our contract specifies - no extras!! -  and I had to really time-manage and prioritize in order to get all of the important things done.

And to me, guided reading is extremely important.

It is my favourite time of day, and when I see the most progress in my students. It is when I get time to work with them (mostly) undisturbed at an excellent ratio of 2:1 (two of them, one of me). It is when I get to teach them about books, and all of the funny and interesting things inside of them. It is when I get to teach them how to read!

I am currently meeting three groups of students a day, two students to a group. So, I get to read with six students each day. Work to rule meant no assemblies and no PD, so, aside from snow days, I actually got to meet with six students each day, since December 5th!! And their progress has been remarkable.

Since guided reading has been such a focus for me lately, and it seems to be something that many teachers are uncomfortable with or not quite sure how to do, I have decided to write a few blog posts about what we do in my classroom - starting with how I put my groups together.

My favourite French music to play in the classroom

Do you play mainstream French music in your classroom? Looking for some new songs to add to your Youtube playlist?



As you may know, I teach in a francophone school. We are in rural Nova Scotia, in a minority community - French is rarely spoken in our community and many students only experience French at school/school activities and sometimes at home. A HUGE part of our students' education involves helping them learn to become proud of their heritage and their "francophonie". My school hosts many concerts and events to help students celebrate their culture and feel pride that they are francophone, and we are expected within our classrooms to provide students with as many opportunities to learn about and experience French and Acadian culture as much as possible. One way that we can do this is by playing mainstream music in our classrooms - students may not always have the opportunity to listen to the radio in French at home.

Even if you teach immersion and not at a francophone school, I still feel that mainstream music is equally important for your students to hear! Music is fun, and it is wonderful for young students to see and hear examples of French celebrities and learn to sing along in their second language. They will be exposed to new vocabulary, and you will probably catch them singing along to a French song stuck in their head throughout the day. Being bilingual (or on their way to being bilingual) is very special! It is important to provide our students with opportunities to celebrate and appreciate their language-learning. They may even find a new favourite song!

I aim to play some mainstream music in my classroom every day - usually during Free Play, snack time, or when they are working on a quick worksheet. Generally, I play it during times it is okay to talk with our neighbours (I do play other types of music throughout the day, as well - instrumental music during writing time (or any time I want them especially quiet and focused), and we do comptines/nursery rhymes in the mornings during our morning meeting). I always try to carve out some time to play mainstream music each day!

Notre routine de calligraphie

Do you teach handwriting and proper letter formation to your kindergarten students? Kindergarteners need LOTS of practice correctly forming their letters! It may not seem like a big deal if your students start at the top or start at the bottom or form their letters exactly right, but... it is! Read on to find out why I think handwriting is so important to teach and practice, and how I do it in my classroom.



So, why is it that we want our students to form their letters correctly? Why does it matter if they start at the top or start at the bottom or somewhere in between? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple. There is a right way and a wrong way to print your letters, and the reason it is so important to me to teach my students the right way has to do with both efficiency and neatness.

First - efficiency. Our students are emergent writers. They are doing everything they can and stretching their little brains to the limit just to get their ideas down on paper. They are already thinking about what their story is, what sounds they have already written, what sounds they need to write, where to find a sight word on the word wall, where they are supposed to put spaces, when they are supposed to add punctuation, etc. etc. None of this is natural and automatic for them yet. The last thing we want is for them to get so caught up in thinking about how to write an "s" that they forget what they are trying to write all together! We want their printing to be automatic and efficient. If your students know how to write all their letters properly without having to think about it or look at a model, then their brains have more time and space to think about what is really important - their ideas! When a student is sounding out how to write a word, they need to get those sounds down as fast as possible, before they forget what they are trying to say! We also don't want it to take an hour or so to write one word or sentence. We want our kiddos to get their ideas on paper ASAP!

Second - neatness. I always am asking my students "why do we write?". And one big reason for writing is sharing. We want to share our stories with others, just like our favourite authors share their stories with us. And it is going to be a lot harder for someone else to read our stories if our writing is illegible. By teaching your students to correctly and carefully form their letters, and giving them time to practice, you will be helping their little finger muscles and fine motor skills develop, and their printing will become neater and easier for everyone (including you!) to read.

So, how does one teach students correct letter formation?

Lecture guidée - Utiliser la première lettre (prépare ta bouche avec la mouche)

Teaching students to read is a complicated process! There are sooo many things that need to be happening in their little brains in order for them to become successful, independent readers. We need our students to both learn and use a whole bunch of problem-solving strategies in order to figure out unknown words and make sense of the text that they are reading. These strategies are not automatic (at first) - we must explicitly teach them, and give our students opportunities to practice them.

I wrote a detailed blog post about the seven strategies I teach my students (using animals) last year. You can find it here if you missed it, along with a free reading strategies poster. I have been working on the second strategy (prépare ta bouche avec la mouche) with one of my on-level reading groups, and thought it might be interesting for others to see.

When our students don't know a word, the first thing that we want them to do is look at the picture. PLEASE don't hide the pictures, and PLEASE tell your students' parents to not hide the pictures. Even if they feel their child is just "memorizing". Memorizing is an important beginning strategy, and the pictures are there for a reason!! Get them to touch each word if they aren't looking at the page and are just "spouting". They will learn to sound out words later, and pictures will be a huge help when that time comes! So, make sure that your students have mastered Regarde partout avec le hibou (look at the picture) before getting started with this second strategy.

Once they are picture-detective experts, we want our students to transition into looking at the picture AND using the first letter or sound of the unknown word as clues as to what the unknown word could be. Sometimes there is more than one possibility that makes sense, and using the picture alone is often not enough. We also want our students to check and make sure their guess makes sense. That is an important step - don't leave it out! Here is how I do it.



Cadeaux de Noël pour les parents (et un petit cadeau pour vous!)

Hi!

I have been super sick with a rotten cold all week, so I am just popping in with a quick post today! You would think after sleeping from 7:30 last night until 7:30 this morning that I would be all better, but sadly I am just about ready for another nap.

Parent gifts are a big topic of discussion this time of year, and if you are looking for a simple-but-cute idea, this post will show you a couple of things that I have done over the years! I really like making gifts with my students that require them to do as much of the work as possible - even if they may be less "perfect", I feel that parents don't really want a gift from me; they want a gift from their child!

I made this owl ornament with my students last year and the year before. It is a big hit and turns out really well! I get my students to flatten the dough, add the details, and fold it themselves. Once dry, I brought a cardboard box and some gold spray paint outside and we spray painted them right in the box. I suggest gluing the hanging ribbon to the back of the ornament with hot glue in addition to stringing it through the hole, as it does end up being rather heavy. Click on the picture below to see the full instructions:



The first year I did those, my students painted them themselves using liquid paint. They were cute, but it was harder to tell they were owls - ha! The spray paint allows for the details to still show through, and my students loved helping me with that part ;)

We used this kind of air-dry clay for them - I LOVE it! One tub was just enough for all 17 of my students.

Comment j'enseigne les mots fréquents

Hi everyone! As I said in my last blog post, today I will be taking a break from my centres series to go off on a little tangent about how I teach sight words. I hope it will be a helpful tangent, as student sight word lists can be very useful during centre time, particularly for any sort of word work centre that you would like your students to do!


Knowing a wide variety of sight words is SO KEY for primary students when they are learning to read. When your students are able to instantly identify key words without needing to pause and reflect, their brains then have more energy to decode the new words in their text that they haven't seen before. They are also better able to make sense of what they are reading when they don't have to decode every word, so they are better able to predict the new words that are coming up.

Knowing their sight words also helps your students big time with their fluency, as well as their confidence. Sight words make up a huge percentage of the words in just about any text (and certainly any text that your students will be reading in kinder). Once your students realize that they can string together whole sentences with the sight words that they know, they will feel like readers right away!

Also, certain words simply cannot be decoded in the French language - think est, et, les, etc. You can't just slide your finger under those letters, say each sound out loud, and come up with the right word! It is essential that our students memorize these high frequency words to help them start reading as soon as possible, and feel like capable, successful readers.


However, as important as they are, sight words can be quite the monster in kindergarten! Our students are alllll over the map - some learn sight words more quickly than you can teach them, while others take much longer to learn even the "easiest" sight words. Some students also find it easy to read sight words within the context of a sentence, but struggle in isolation - or vice versa. With such a wide range of abilities, how can you possibly teach everyone at their pace and make sure they are staying engaged? It can also be tricky to motivate students to memorize their sight words - how can you encourage them to practice their words over and over until they stick?

Comment mettre en place le centre de Lecture à soi

Hey everyone!

In case you are late to the party, I have been sharing how I run literacy centres in my classroom over the past few weeks. You can find out how I start centres in this post, how I organize them over here, and see ALL of the centres I have posted about so far by clicking here

One great centre that is easy to set up and maintain without a lot of extra prep is the Read-to-Self centre (Lecture à soi). It can take a lot of modelling and practice up front, but the investment pays off - by taking the time to teach your students that they can ALL already read, you can help your students find joy and success in this centre. Books are magical! One of my favourite sayings is about how there is really no child who actually hates reading - there are just children who haven't yet found the right books. It is our job to help them learn how to find the right books, teach them that they can read anything they want, and guide them to discover the magic of lecture à soi!

Read on to see my suggestions for how to get started.


First of all, consider doing whole-group practice in a workshop format prior to turning Lecture à soi into an independent centre. Some of your kindergarten students may know next to nothing about books - they may have never opened one before, they may not know how to treat a book with respect, they may not know how to turn pages carefully, etc. I generally base my lessons around the assumption that my little sweeties all know nothing about books, and teach accordingly (obviously many of them DO know about books, but this way all of my bases are covered).

For 3-4 weeks, I teach quick mini lessons, and then send my students out with tubs or baskets of books to use to practice what I have taught them. We usually do this before our two "normal" centre rotations - I tell them that it is like a centre, but everyone is doing the same thing. I always, always start our first lesson with creating an anchor chart about what it looks like to take care of books, and what someone looks like who is mean to books. I make sure that they know that our books are PRECIOUS, and must be taken care of! I plan to make a product for TPT that explains this more deeply someday, but my to-do list is very long at the moment! Here is an example of what kinds of lessons I would teach in the first week:
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