Ahhh, guided reading / literacy centres, I love you and I hate you. I love that I can cram a whole bunch of skills practice into my students through you, but managing you strains my limits every year.

Last summer when I started to wrap my brain around teaching grade one again (you know when you go on maternity leave your school brain, the brain that deals with lesson planning, assessments, and all the formalities of teaching falls out of your head as you are saying your last goodbyes), I discovered Daily 5. Everyone was talking about it, so I Facebooked, Googled, and Pinterested it. Wow, Daily 5 was like my knight in shining armour, galloping on his trusty stead to save me from guided reading chaos. I was amazed at how simple Daily 5 is and why the heck I didn’t think of it before! So, I read the book, made some cute posters, and began to plan some lessons to build my students’ “stamina”.

Now this is why when you go to school to become a teacher they emphasize “get to know your students BEFORE you plan”. We all think “uh, yeah, but I want to plan, I want to get things done ahead of time! Get me teaching!” As I have mentioned in a past post, my students ended up being a very challenging group. They needed a lot of maturing.

I began guided reading and literacy centres during the second week of school after Christmas holidays. I don’t think I’ll be doing Daily 5 until we build our stamina for it and I’m HOPING that will be by spring break. In the meantime, literacy centres it will be and I will be wining and dining my photocopier so that it will be nice to me and not jam in the middle of photocopying the hundreds of pages of booklets and game boards I need.

It’s a fine balance you need to go through to create literacy centres. I’m always asking myself if it is all worth it? Will my firsties really learn anything from them? Well, it depends. I’m learning that this group of kids love games and hands on activities. But, booklets, fill in the blanks to a story?… not so much. I love it when I hit a home run with a literacy centre and when my students all can’t wait until it is their turn to go through it. I also love it when they cheer when I introduce new literacy centres every week. This is what keeps me going with them; although, I have a feeling they will also love Daily 5, when the time comes.

Here are two stations that I have set up.

Snowball Alphabet

snowball game

snowball game pdf

This is so simple and occupies a group for all the time you need to get through guided reading with another group.

What you Need:

  • copies of game board
  • enough gloves or mittens for each student in the group
  • bingo dabbers (preferably blue)
  • 26 small styrofoam balls with an upper case letter of the alphabet written on each one.
  • a toque or a bag to put all the balls in

How to Play:
Each student gets their own game board and puts on a pair of gloves or mittens. Each student then takes turns to draw one ball out of the toque and dabs with the bingo dabber the lower case letter that matches what they pulled out. After dabbing, put the ball back in the toque and the next student goes. If the letter has already been dabbed on the student’s game board they return the ball to the toque without dabbing any letter. Keep playing until a set time or until the whole game board is filled.


  • Students need to know how to take turns, yes a novel concept in grade one but this is VERY important or you will have a lot of hitting, screaming and grabbing… not a good quiet environment for guided reading!
  • Students need to know that a bingo dabber is closed for a reason and that ripping the spongy part of it makes a giant mess (as my carpet at my last school can attest to, sorry to whoever is in there now).
  • Students need to know not to dab the ink onto their gloves and then proceed to rub their faces, it takes a whole lot of scrubbing to come off and you will have to walk around for the next two days looking like you have bruises all over your face (this happened to one of my kiddos last week).

And you ask, “what about those students who know their letters of the alphabet and will be bored by this game”? One, no one gets bored by this game… okay, well if it goes on and on it does get kind of boring! Two, well, here you go. Write sight words or winter words on the balls and your game board.
Both versions are ready for you to print above.

Every week I try to scramble a poem that we have learned the week before. Students cut out the words and glue them back in the right order. You can also print these out on card stock and laminate them. Students can then race to put them in order on their tables. Here is a scrambled up version of The Snowman and they Bunny by Pearl H. Watts.

chubby little snowman scrabble

Throughout the next few weeks I will share literacy centres that have worked with my firsties, maybe they will work with yours!

Happy teaching!

Snow Has Arrived in the Greater Vancouver Area!

Our Snowman

Once a year we go through this. The city may as well shut down as a result of a few centimeters of snow. It is a miracle that anything gets done when there is snow. This is especially true at school, because come on, can you concentrate on learning that “the magic ‘e’ makes the ‘a’ say it’s own name” when there is wonderful, untouched, glistening snow calling you? So, I’m not going to get too hung up if my firsties do not give themselves over 100% to guided reading, ten frames, or learning about magnetic properties. Yawn! While I’m teaching I know that what they will be thinking about is the snowball fight they are going to have (yes, the making and throwing of snowballs is banned at my school but the kids seem to not know that), how much air time they can get while sliding down our mini hill using just their pants (because no one around here owns appropriate gear for sledding), and what kind of manpower is needed to make a snowman as tall as the school.

I am not a snow person. I love having snow outside as I stay indoors to wear my snuggly (I am proud to own a snuggly, it is awesome!), watch movies and drink hot chocolate. I don’t snowboard, ski, toboggan, or build snowmen. But, now I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old. I have to get over it…. and there’s one thing that trumps my discomfort with being out in the snow, it’s the whining and whimpering from a 4 and 1 year old!

Well, I guess I can get my butt out there and enjoy the excitement that is generated when snow meet children. But, inside, you can guarantee that there will be a lot of snowmen and snowflakes being drawn and made using every craft supply readily available.

This is a darling snowman craft I do every year. It takes a lot of work and nimble fingers to tie all that string (I would suggest getting some helpers to do this), but the kids love doing it and it is a nice way to decorate your classroom. Another bonus, you can keep it up until spring!

Hanging Snowman 1 Hanging Snowman 2

If you would like to try this, here is a template for you that includes the circles for the body, arms, scarf and boots. I get the kids to make their own hats and noses and then they decorate the snowmen however they want. Some years, depending on the amount of help I have in the classroom, I have just trace this on white cardstock for every child and they just have to cut and decorate. If your students are okay with tracing on their own, you can just photocopy these on cardstock and use them as tracers for them to use on their own.

Hanging Snowman pdf

I’m also going to do this. I found it on Pinterest, originally from the Random Thoughts of a Supermom blog. I know it calls for unopened juice boxes, which is a great idea for a winter party, but we gather enough juice boxes each week to fill a trailer truck. I may as well try to use some for a craft. So cute and easy!

Snowman Juice Boxes

If you need some poems and songs related to snow, winter, and January, here are some we have gathered on CanTeach.

Happy Teaching!

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Getting Dressed for Winter (and Guided Reading)!

Winter clothes

I don’t know what it is, but I always find the first week of school after Christmas holidays filled with “WOWs!!!” For some reason, this is the time when many light bulbs go on for my firsties. The routines and expectations are now out of the way and we can finally get down to some learning. They are excited about reading and writing and are now putting together everything I tried cramming into their brains since September. I can see it in their eyes, they are getting it, “Ahhhh, this is why we are here, and I guess it’s fun!”.

We are now moving into learning about winter: signs of winter, winter clothing, and winter animals. Here is “Getting Dressed for Winter”, a reading and writing booklet for winter clothing. I apologize to my American friends, I know a toque is a hat and I could have used hat instead, but toque is better!

Getting Dressed for Winter printable

This week I will also FINALLY begin my guided reading groups. I know some teachers will be tsking, but instead of concluding that I am a totally incompetent grade one teacher, please read on there is a valid reason. I have been meaning to do it for months now, but this class just needed more time:

  • more time to learn that the carpet area is not a wrestling mat
  • more time to learn that no matter how much you try, you can not colour your picture all with one pencil crayon and call it a day
  • more time to learn that gooey lunch residue on tables will eventually come back to haunt crisp clean paper that you are about to do your work on
  • more time to learn that arguing about whose pencil is taller will not help you get your work done quicker

and last but not least

  • more time to learn that punching boys in the “meat balls” is not a good habit to get into.

I was not ready to have them in literacy centres for guided reading, I was ready to have a nervous breakdown! In September I read everything I could get my hands on about Daily 5 and my wheels started to spin. I was ready to go….

BUT these kids, these sweet smiling, exuberant, wide eyed, group of kids, who as my librarian as stated, “working with them is like trying to herd a bunch of cats”, sent me to jail without passing go, without collecting $200. The good thing is that they are very cute (and they know how to use this quality to their advantage). I love having a challenging group, they keep me on my toes, but I always need to be able to run on 110%. If anything gets in the way (ie: my own two children keeping me up at night tag teaming each other with puke and diarrhea) I need a lot of Starbucks and chocolate to make it through.

I don’t think anyone understands how MUCH I truly appreciate it when people come to my door and ask, “Is there anything I can do to help”. YES! YES! YES! These kids need a lot of one on one attention, I can not be there for them at all times. Before the holidays I had a work experience student in my class for a month, and I literally cried when she left because the class was so much easier to work with with her around and I was scared to see how it was going to be when she left. It was a bonus that she took initiative and that the kids loved her. It just reminded me how important it is to ask for and take all the help I can get. So I apologize ahead of time if you enter my classroom and ask me, “Is there anything I can to do help” and I rip your arms out of your sockets. There are always things you can do to help, even just standing around listening to little boy #1 tell you SLOWLY about the elaborate drawing he is making in his journal helps tremendously!

So, my work experience student left and January arrived. Here’s a thank you card that we made for her. If you need to make a card, this was so simple to make, and it ends up being a great keepsake. The kids each drew something to thank her for, we taped all the pieces together and I cut out hands for the front and back covers.

Thank you book Thank you book Thank you book

I’m sure I’m not alone being in the state I’m in and I’m sure that I will have more challenging groups to work with in the future. Thank freaking goodness the light bulbs are starting to go on!

Happy Teaching!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Snowman picture

2011 was a year of wonderful experiences. Most of it was spent on maternity leave, I have been so thankful that I was able to spend a full 15 months at the beginning of my daughter’s life and during the preschool time of my son’s life. While I do miss being there for them, I welcomed a new school in September!

I love my job and I love my family life. These two weeks spent at home during the holidays has reminded me of that. I’m one of those teachers who looks forward to the holidays that I get, but also starts itching to be back at school as soon as the holidays start!

As I go back to enjoy my family time (we are still going through Christmas movies), I just wanted to share with you some New Year’s printables so that you have some new ideas to begin January with. I always find it a pain to find things to do related to the new year, it’s such an abstract concept for our kids to grasp. This year, I’m going to focus on goal setting at home and at school. Then, I can check off some learning outcomes!

Good luck in 2012. May this year be filled with joy and laughter at home and at work!
Happy Teaching,

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New Year’s Resolutions Booklet
New Year's Resolution Booklet

Ring in the New Year!
Ring in the New Year

… and here’s an end of the day song that we sing that I’ve modified for the new year.

Good bye good bye,
Our year is done,
We worked we played we had some fun,
So let’s be happy and safe and kind,
As we welcome another one.
Happy 2012!

… and a New Year’s resolutions poem I wrote in my head while thinking about New Year’s Eve plans and then ending up thinking about school!

New Year’s Resolutions
New Year's Resolutions Poem