Brain Break Foodie Friday 6 – Magic in the Middle Cookies!!

Unbelievably awesome bundle of goodness!! Yummmmm!!


Book Club – Must haves for guided reading!

Here are 2 comprehensive handbooks for guided reading instruction…if you don’t already have them, get them!

For K – 3


For 3 – 6


Great info for novice to veteran!!


The most important focus for Guided Reading instruction!

Teach the READER, not the text!!image

During your small group lessons, guided reading will most likely be your plan….there are other options, but we’ll start with guided reading.

The first and most important focus for guided reading is to teach your readers, not the text.   Many leveled  books used for guided reading have lessons and activities all ready for you, and  of course you can use those.  BUT all the information you collect while observing and noting reading behaviors will be essential for guided reading instruction.

Ultimately your goal will be to develop the reading behaviors and strategies of your students to allow them to read and process texts of increasing levels of difficulty.

So don’t get bogged down with the text itself…it is just the vehicle! And just as someone learns to drive, they will need some minimal information about the vehicle…but their driving ability is the focus. With those skills, the driver can drive ANY vehicle. And so it is with reading ability. Focus on building the readers’ toolbox of reading behaviors and strategies…give them the keys….and let them DRIVE!!



Observing and noting reading behaviors- mandatory!

Small group time is a perfect opportunity for you to closely  observe the behaviors of your students that aid or impede their reading success.  This will assist you in choosing what to focus on in your groups and with whom. Here are some helpful ways to jot anecdotal notes in an organized way…courtesy of Pinterest! 

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What does research say about Literacy centers?

Research is a fundamental part of RTI.   This is a time to put- what you’ve always done- on the back burner and make sure you are providingMH900431608 learning experiences that have been PROVEN to be effective!!

  • Literacy centers are defined as small areas within the classroom where students work alone or in small groups to explore literacy activities while the teacher provides small- group guided reading instruction (Diller, 2003)
  • Literacy centers within a learner-centered environment are also consistent with the work of Piaget (as cited in Deboer, 2002) who believed that children develop meaning through their direct experiences and through conversations with others regarding those experiences.
  •  Deci and Ryan (as cited in Deboer, 2002)  found evidence that children put more effort into their school work when they are intrinsically motivated rather than teacher motivated.
  •  In his book, Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2005), Eric Jensen writes that students learn when teachers provide choices, make learning relevant and keep it engaging,
  •  Ford and Opitz (2005) suggest that the teacher gradually introduce the centers by modeling the activities for the students and giving the students clear, accountable expectations for work produced in each center.
  • Social interaction, found by Johnson and Johnson (1981) to increase productivity and achievement, and the use of more than one language system (reading, writing and discussion) are also important elements of an effective center.
  •  Effective centers require students to transfer meaning and reconstruct it in other contexts such as a center where a student reads a book and then creates a board game based on the plot.   Also, an effective center offers a range of acceptable responses (Cambourne & Labbo, 2001).
  • Ford and Opitz explain that, “routines provide a predictable way for children to engage in learning”. Establishing routines allows for more independent learning to occur. If students understand the routine and their expectations, there will be fewer interruptions and more independent learning (2002).
  • Activities should be open-ended to meet all levels of developmental ability. Sloane (2000) states “open-ended materials are those that children can use in many different ways, and that support learning from initial explorations to mastery levels”
  • Lanning (2002) states, “incorporating content area concepts into guided reading lessons, allows teachers to develop integrated units that provide more opportunities to create meaningful literacy extensions for the rest of the class to complete on their own”
  • Fountas & Pinnell (1996) gave an idea on how to manage literacy centers. Centers must engage class members in meaningful literacy activities. The students must be able to function without teacher assistance, maintaining and managing their own learning.
  • Instruction away from the teacher needs to be as powerful as instruction with the teacher (Ford & Opitz, 2002). The ultimate goal of literacy centers is for children to experience success and view themselves as independent learners.

I love research!!



Deboer, G.E. (2002). Student-centered teaching in a standards-based world: Finding a sensible balance. Science and Education, 11, 405-417.

Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1987). The support of autonomy and the control of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(6), 1024-1037.
Diller, D. (2003). Literacy work stations; Making centers work. Portland, ME: Stenhouse

Ford, M.P., & Opitz, M.F. (2002). Using centers to engage children during guidedreading time: Intensifying learning experiences away from the teacher. The Reading Teacher. 55, 710- 717.

Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development: Alexandria, VA

Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, R.T. (1981). Effects of cooperative and individualistic learning experiences on interethnic interaction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 444- 449

Kersten, J., & Pardo, L. (2007). Finessing and hybridizing: Innovative literacy practices in Reading First classrooms. Reading Teacher. 61, 146-154.

Piaget, J. (1963). Origins of intelligence in children, Norton, New York.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1967/1933). Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Soviet Psychology, 5(3), 6-18.

Powerful resource for small group instruction!!

Another great addition to our Book Club is a power-packed easy read by Debbie Diller…

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In this book, you will find answers to ALL your questions on implementing or improving your small group time.  Some of the topics include…

    • Scheduling
    • Organizing
    • Forming groups
    • Differentiating
    • Connecting to whole group

Debbie includes many helpful tips, useful templates, and research based practices that will give you powerful tools to make your small group instruction meaningful.

Trust me…it’s a goodie!!


3 Ways to Ensure Successful Small Group and Center Time!

imagesCA26M27UEstablish Rules!

Establish Routines!

Establish Procedures!

If you want a classroom that runs so well it can run without you…rules, routines, and procedures is the way.  And if you want your small group/center time to be effective this is MANDATORY!

Usually this happens the first 4-6 weeks of school, but if it didn’t- no worries…start at any time but the key to succes is being CONSISTENT!   Once students know that you are consistent, you will have less issues. 

Learning centers/stations will not be effective if you have not established, modeled, and practiced routines!  Here are some quick tips:

  1. Show them how it should be done.
  2. Show them how it should NOT be done.
  3. Have a student show how it should be done.
  4. Have a student show how it should NOT be done.
  5. Have a group show how it should be done.
  6. Have a group how it should NOT be done.
  7. Have the class show how it should be done.
  8. Have the class show how it should NOT be done.
  9. Try it for real.
  10. If all goes well, continue…if not, go back to #1.

Really, do it over and over until they get it! 

As for rules, EVERY center area needs to have rules, procedures, and what to do if your finish early.

Believe me, it will NOT be easy..but it WILL be worth it.  Students will be so used to the way things are done, that even if you are not there, they will know what to do AND DO IT!!  I’VE SEEN IT HAPPEN EVEN IN KINDERGARTEN!

Try it!


The most valuable resource for Literacy instruction!!

imageThis to me is the #1 guide for Literacy instruction!  This comprehensive resource contains grade level expectations for interactive  read aloud and literature discussions, shared and performance reading, writing about reading, writing, oral visual, and technological communication, and phonics, spelling, and word study. In each of those areas there is information for how to select appropriate texts and appropriate goals for planning your small group instruction. Additionally there is specific information and appropriate goals for each of the reading levels to assist in planning your guided reading lessons.

If you do not already have this resource, it’s a must have for every educator. That is why I am adding it to the Book Club!

You will never plan another small group or guided reading lesson without it!


Check it out on Amazon by clicking here