I am going into my seventh year of teaching and every year I learn something else that I truly didn't know that I didn't know. It's always something that I thought I was doing a pretty good job at, but I could really be doing so much better! This summer I attended the First Grade Reading Academy at my local region center. And let me tell you, there is a lot of things that I truly that I was doing okay at, but I can be doing TEN TIMES BETTER!! So, I thought I'd share a few of my biggest takeaways with you to help you become a better teacher, too!

Model, Model, Model


The more you model your thinking process, the more kids will learn. You need to model EVERYTHING. You need to model how to "think aloud". You need to model your expectations. You need to model how to read with a partner. You name it, you model it. You honestly cannot model enough.

I think one thing we often take for granted as adults, is how easy it is for us to problem solve and visualize things through in our head. A lot of students don't know how to do that yet. You tell students to "tell me what you visualize when I say ____", well some students honestly don't know how to create a picture in their mind, and then we ask them to transfer that thought to paper and.... BAM now they are totally frustrated.

Then come the behavior problems. Chances are, if you have behavior problems in your classroom, they may have (not always), stemmed from a lack of modeling clear expectations and procedures for your students.

So, how do you avoid all of this? MODEL!! Modeling brings invisible thinking to life.

Retell for First Grade Should Be So Much More


Part of our reading academy was spent comparing first grade skills to kindergarten and second grade skills. When discussing comprehension skills, we looked very specifically at story retell. Our presenter was very adamant that by October of first graders students should not longer be expected to do a story retell with a simple beginning, middle and end. Instead, she emphasized that students should be doing a four part story retell using First, Next, Then, Finally. Her reasoning for this was to build a strong foundation for summarizing. Now, summarizing is not a skill that is required in first grade, but it is a key component and a low scoring section of our state assessments. If we can take that extra step and help our students build a really good foundation in first grade, we will be helping them out exponentially in future years.

And, if we are being honest again, how hard is it to retell a book in just three parts? It sounds like more work, but adding that fourth element actually makes the story retell easier. Another thing she emphasized was that a story retell has four "parts", not necessarily four "sentences". So if you want a way to really challenge your higher students, challenge them to write eight sentences or more.

One last tip, she said to pick five graphic organizers to use those organizers the entire year and do not change them. I know we always think we need to change things up to make them fun, but every time you introduce a new organizer, you are not only have to teach or practice a new skill, but now you are teaching a new organizer and new expectations for that organizer.

Make Time for Oral Language

When I think of oral language, even the state says that oral language should be mastered Pre-K. But the reality is, many of our students do not attend quality Pre-K programs and in the state of Texas, they aren't even required to attend Kindergarten!! So when do they build those oral language skills? You got it, FIRST GRADE!! Oh my heavens... I'm supposed to have a student on a Level J by the end of the year and they came to not even able to spell their own name?? But we pull our superhero capes on and we do whatever we need to do to help that baby succeed.

You build oral language with the same questions you use to build comprehension skills, but they have two entirely different purposes/outcomes. When reading a book or telling a story, ask "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How". When building oral language, you are asking those questions to "pull" or extend their story and get them to tell you more. If a student can extend a story orally, then we cannot expect them to do it in written form, or understand or extend their thinking when reading a story.

Need some resources?? The Florida Center for Reading Readiness has TONS of great resources for K-1 for FREE!!!!

>>>Check it out here!<<<





Welcome to the Simple Stations Series, the series for teachers who want solid stations that are quick, easy and cheap to make!! Check out full series below: 

Alliteration Station

Alliteration is a skill that is introduced in Kindergarten, but emphasized more in First Grade. This is an activity that I used to always do on an anchor chart. I know you've seen them before. You write the student's name and the whole class helps you come up with a matching adjective. For some reason I decided to do it a little bit differently this year. 

Instead of an anchor chart, I had my students write their own names on index cards (with marker because I wanted to be a cool teacher...not really, but it's hard to read pencil on colored index cards). Then, I wrote their matching adjective on a different index card and put the cards in a pocket chart during our whole group lesson. 


The students loved it, like they always do. Well, when I was taking it down I thought, what a waste to just throw these away, I'm going to put them in a basket and let them try to rematch them as a station.

Let me tell you, this station kept their interest ALL. YEAR. LONG. We made the station in September. I finally took it out in April and you would have thought the world came to an end. Every day the kids asked me, "Where did our alliteration station go? Is it coming back? Why not?" I'm telling you, these kids seriously had everyone's alliteration adjective memorized and were calling each other that on the playground!!

So needless to say, your students will absolutely love this station.

Mentor Texts for Alliteration

It can sometimes be hard to find good mentor texts for teaching alliteration in young grades. I did a little searching, digging and researching and found these three "go-to" books: 

Betty's Burgled Bakery

This super cute book is written like a comic book with each page focusing on a different letter that goes in order from A-Z. It has a cute storyline about solving the mystery of a burgled bakery.



Spaghetti Slurping Sewer Serpent

This is a cute little book about a boy searching for a spaghetti slurping sewer serpent. The entire book focuses on alliterations with the letter s, which turns in to quite the tongue twister. 



Chips, Cheese & Nana's Knees

Here's another great text that focuses on a different alliteration letter per page that goes from A-Z. This text does not have a storyline, so it's great to grab and go if you only have time to review a few pages at a time. 



Ready to Go Resources

Need some ready to go resources to help teach and reinforce alliteration in your classroom? 

Check this out---->





Welcome to the Simple Stations Series, the series for teachers who want solid stations that are quick, easy and cheap to make!! Check out full series below: 


Sight Word Sentence Sort

I walked into a neighboring teacher's classroom where I saw this activity and immediately said "Ooh, I'm going to steal that!" I always struggle with good ways to incorporate sight words into our daily routines in a way that students read and practice them in context. This station does all of that and MORE!

The idea behind this station is very simple. We focus on five sight words per week. I have students help me generate a sentence using one of the sight words and I write the sentence on a sentence strip. I write the sentence in one color, but I always write the sight word in black. Each sentence gets its own color to help students sort the words into the right sentences, but because the sight word is in black, they have to figure out which sentence it belongs with.


After we have written our five sentences (and practiced reading them together SEVERAL times) I cut the sentences apart and put them in a station. The great thing is, you can limit this station to the five new sentences a week, or you could keep adding sentences to the basket and build a set of 10-15 sentences. 


To use the station, students can sort the sentences individually or with a partner. If you have students who really aren't challenged with this station, you can have them try to create longer sentences using only word cards from the basket. Make sure the students understand that the sentences can be silly, but they still have to have correct syntax. If you really want to commit to this station, students could write and cut their own sentence cards. 

Need more fluency strategies?


Check this post out: 


Need More Station Ideas?


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