The Secret to Managing Groups and Partners

Hiya! As we start a new school year I am sure one of the things on your mind is "How will I effectively group my students for group and partner work?"

When I taught Kindergarten I would often group students focusing on keeping the talkers separate or kids who were rowdy, kids who didn't get along, or get along TOO well. I didn't focus on ability so much unless a student needed help then I would pair one of the highest, best behaved, to assist them.

...and it usually worked!

Then about 6 years ago I was moved to 4th grade Science (we were departmentalized). I was terrified! I had no idea ho to teach 4th graders! But, that summer I went to a week long Professional Development Training. It changed my life!!! Seriously! One of the most career changing PDs ever! And one of my biggest takeaways from the week was how to group students. The idea is grouping students into HIGH. HIGH MEDIUM, LOW MEDIUM, and LOW Groups for academic purposes.
And then the kicker...
pair High with High Medium or Low Medium but never Low.
And Low with Low Medium or High Medium but never High.
They explain that when you group HIGH and LOW together for academic activities it can lead to frustration on the part of both parties!

So since then I have grouped my students and labeled my tables
3 - LOW
so that they aren't aware of level! 

They are seated like this:
These Colored numbers were on there desks. I also mixed up the colors and numbers so I could call on colors or numbers and get a variety. I used them for getting materials for their tables, lining up, who started etc. They worked great! 

To introduce all of this group and partner work I used a power point on my smartboard. It outlined all of the procedures for working in groups and partners including all the different types of partners, and what to do if you didn't have a partner!
Classroom Management Procedures for Group and Partner Work-

 and the first week of school we practiced Face Partner and Shoulder partner every day, several times a day! This ensures that they understand and know without a doubt who their partner is and what to do if they don't have a partner. Get the power point HERE.

Classroom Management Working with PARTNERS Poster

 If you purchase the power point you can print off the partners slide and use it as a poster in your room as a reminder or pull up the page when you are working in partners which is what I did every time we did partner work. It's also a good way to review after any break! You can purchase the single poster HERE.

When working in groups whether tables, random groups or another variety of grouping I would always display the GROUPS pages which you can also print out! Or buy separately.

Classroom Management Working with GROUPS Poster

To purchase from my store click HERE

I hope this helps you manage Groups and Partners in your classroom! Comments or questions please feel free to leave it in the comments! I love feedback!


Strategies for Teaching Questioning

Hiya!!!! I am so super, duper excited to be sharing a GREAT book with you today!

This month for Ask and Answer Questions I am using the book The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. I am pretty much a HUGE Chris Van Allsburg fan and love most everything he writes!

But the Stranger? AMAZING book!

If you haven't read it you NEED to - like right now! Because I am not going to give it away! But the story is about a peculiar "stranger" that comes to stay with a family on a farm. He doesn't speak and has some very odd things about him. Then one day he remembers who he is and has to leave the farm. This book takes place in late Autumn so you have plenty of time to read it this fall!
I can totally see using this book for upper grades with questioning and inferring but it will work for younger grades too with support. In fact it is a Touch tone text for the district I work in for Second Grade.
To start off I would have the students ask questions before reading this book based just on the cover, while reading and then after you are done reading. They can write these on sticky notes and then you can make a class chart from them or use this sheet from my The Stranger Reader Response Set.

Another strategy I use with this book is using questions to deepen understanding!
After reading the book through once go back through the book and choose a passage and or picture that is vague and have the students write questions about it that they can discuss to deepen meaning. There is also a sheet for that in the pack!

There are several other skills included in the pack including Story Recall, Characterization, Inferring with text evidence as well as Vocabulary Cards.
Put in your cart for tomorrow during the TPT BONUS sale when it will be 28% off!
Just click on the picture below to go to the pack listing in my store!

And because you all are so awesome I also created a freebie for the skill of Questioning!

It includes a Questions poster.

Fun Question Dice Activity - perfect for centers or small groups! Students read a story then roll the dice and answer the question that matches the number they roll.

And a printable where students can practice asking and OR answering questions!

Click on any of the pictures above to go to my store and download it NOW! Just please leave me some feedback if you do!


Should you Teach Nonsense Words?

My last two years in Kindergarten my district started Rti and we had to test our Kindergartners on a variety if different skills including nonsense words.
I quickly came to strongly dislike nonsense words!
My best students scored the lowest on this assessment and by the end of the year most students scores were going down on it! To me this shows that it is a poor indicator of reading ability.
The discussion of nonsense words came up again this summer when a Kindergarten teacher asked me if I had any products with nonsense words. The short answer was NO!
She asked why and I explained my dislike for them. She was totally sold and said I should write an article for a teaching magazine on them! Well now that my graduate paper is figured out I decided I would start with a blog post!
My reason for not using nonsense words is simple - in the grand scheme of reading we want kids to ultimately get MEANING from text! Nonsense words have no meaning!

We teach students yes even as young as Kindergarten that we read books to learn things, to try to learn lessons, or to enjoy stories! Nonsense words lead to none of this!
So I say - use REAL words!!!! Phonetic or not but use real words!
Please understand this is not a post against phonics - I happen to LOVE phonics actually (and I wasn't a phonetic reader!) and think that phonics instruction should extend beyond 2nd grade!!!
I think phonics instruction should be explicit and intentional but it should use REAL words!!!
You can have your students practice segmenting and blending using real words! There are plenty of them out there I promise! AND if it's a real word but not familiar to a child - look it up! Give it meaning! It will make your reading instruction so much more authentic!
I know on that test the are to say each sound for segmenting (which actually helps in writing and spelling ability but that's another blog post entirely), and they can say each sound or the whole word for blending. Some will argue that if you don't use nonsense words you don't know if they are blending it or they know it from memory. I say GOOD that's what we want them to do - remember words! But I address that below if you are really worried about it!
BUT what if I HAVE to teach nonsense words.
If you HAVE to teach them because of a TEST - ask yourself how much do I care what that test says about my student? 
I (hope) you know you student well enough to know whether they are making progress or not! You can assess them on segmenting and blending using REAL words! 
Save a set just for testing if it's an issue of them having "seen" it before.
If you HAVE to use nonsense words because your administrator says so here are some strategies:

1. Give them meaning by allowing them to make up definitions for them! Think dinglehopper ala' Little Mermaid

You could have students do this individually or as a group! What a great center activity! What a great way to encourage creativity!!!!!
2. Make a list of rhyming words using them! This is how nonsense words are most often used in literature! Writers get away with it because they GIVE IT MEANING (are you sensing a theme here?).
Think Dr. Suess
In fact when I taught Kindergarten and HAD to use nonsense words I called them Seuss words. 
Dr. Seuss and JK Rowling made a living by making up words but giving them meaning and purpose! 
If you are in need of some resources for blending and segmenting words I would love it if you would check out my 
Turtle Talk for blending
and Robot Talk for segmenting