Sunday, 31 July 2016

Reading Groups and Maths Groups set-up

I'm always excited to share things that are happening in my classroom. That's one reason I love Instagram. I recently shared the PowerPoint slide that I use for showing students their Reading and Maths groups, so I thought I'd share a bit more about how I've set them up.

Reading and Maths Groups

Right at the beginning of this year I wrote a blog post over on the Australian Teachers Collaborative Blog about how I planned to run my Reading Groups. I was inspired by lots of blogs, and other teachers, and I had ideas that I was excited about. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out the way I'd planned. And that's ok! So much about teaching is trying new things, reflecting on them, and making changes. That is exactly what I did.
Reading Groups Plan 

I started the year trying to give my students more choice, found that it didn't suit my students in the way I had envisioned it, so I dropped Reading Groups altogether. During term 2 I did whole group reading activities, not a lot of differentiating, and mainly comprehension work based on texts about our Inquiry topic. This didn't work either, and I found that my student achievement data didn't change the way it could/should. So...

I went 'back to basics'. In Australia, about 10 years ago, there was a huge push towards the 'Early Years Literacy Block'. It was highly structured, based on a group system for reading, and writing would always follow straight after, for a total literacy block of 120min. I had run my literacy block this way in the past, but didn't do it this year. During the winter holidays I re-read the training material for this framework, and decided I'd try it again. And so far, I love it!!!
Reading Groups planner 

A week in reading for me now includes:
  • 15-20min every day of Independent Reading. Students self-select books from a huge range that I've collected over the years and store in The Book Corner. They have to have 4 'levelled texts', and 3 of something else (magazines, non-fiction books, early readers, picture books, chapter books, etc) which they store in the rainbow drawers next to the bookshelf.
  • 2 lessons a week of comprehension-based, whole group tasks, focused on big ideas like inferring, visualisation and understanding character/setting. 
  • 1 lesson that starts with Independent Reading but is then taken up with spelling pre- and post-testing and setting weekly homework.
  • 2 Reading Groups lessons. 

The Book Corner
The Book Corner

I have four reading groups, based on ability, and each day they complete 2 activities, so that after the two lessons they've completed all four activities. The activities are: oral language, word work, handwriting, and reciprocal reading. My students have started remembering what their pair of activities will be for each day, it's making transitions easier, it's making my individual assessment easier, and having familiar activities means students know the expectations.

Reading Group activities
Handwriting, Pop for Blends, Oral Language Storycards, Reciprocal reading

While students are working on their activities I pull students from any group who have the same learning goal for reading (eg. reading with expression, sounding out words, using punctuation correctly, etc.).
Student goals
This is how I display my students' individual learning goals.

For Maths Groups I have an almost identical set-up.

Maths Group planner

I have four maths groups, based on ability, and these are groups that were organised based on an addition pre-test. The four activities they do are: iPods (maths app), a maths game, task cards and teacher group. The only difference between the Reading Groups and Maths Groups is that I have a 'built in' teacher group in maths, whereas I don't have one in Reading. This is because my maths groups are based on the skill they're up to which is the focus for the teacher groups, whereas in reading they are grouped by reading level not skill.

Preparing some of the Maths Groups activities

My school requires teachers to teach 2 days of Number/Place Value content every week (this is my Maths Group time), and 2-3 days of a maths topic from another area of the curriculum. For example, last week we learned about symmetry on the other days, next week we're learning about transformations.

The set-up for my resources and materials is simple, too. I bought tubs from Kmart (the coloured ones are from the kitchen section, and the grey ones are from the storage section). Maths tasks are in blue tubs, and reading are in red(ish) tubs. I haven't made the labels for the maths tubs yet, but the reading tubs have a label bulldog-clipped to them that matches the name of the activity on the planning table above. My students know where to find the tubs, where and how to put them back, and to keep our materials neat and tidy.

Reading and Maths Groups organisation 

I like the regularity and familiarity my students now have with these group set-ups. I like that it is easy to plan for. I like that they are practising core skills quickly and regularly, which is supporting their skills in other areas. For my class this really works!

I'd love to know how you run groups in your room. It constantly amazes me how many incredible ideas teachers come up with for running groups. We are a creative bunch!!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Product Review: RIC Publications Geography (level 3/4)

I have been very lucky to use the RIC Australian Curriculum Geography book for Year 3 during our geography Inquiry this year. I wanted to share some thoughts and activity ideas with you.

At my school I work with the 3/4 team (but I teach a grade 2/3 composite class). This meant that when it came time to plan and teach our Geography Inquiry we had to make sure we covered all areas of the new curriculum. My school is transitioning into using the new Victorian Curriculum, so planning for geography was entirely new. Thankfully we had access to RIC Publications' excellent geography resource. It has been so handy! The book is aligned to the Australian Curriculum, but it also works perfectly with the Victorian Curriculum.
Colour coding climates of the world
After pulling apart the curriculum requirements, we started looking through this resource. Every area is covered. There are some parts that we didn't use, and a few areas where RIC gives you some choices. As a school, we try to avoid worksheets, but the pages in the Geography book were well created, to the point, and included rich learning.
Colour coding Australian climates
I didn't particularly like the quiz questions at the end of the book, so I didn't use them. That's totally personal choice - you may love having access to them.

Some activities we completed as suggested, others we used parts of and put our own spin on them. For example, the photos below show how I took one of the 'reading' pages, and photocopied sections onto blank paper. Students then had to read the passage, highlight key words, and write a summary of it. We did this for natural features and for Pacific Island Countries.

I also reached out to the amazing Teachers of Instagram community to help with a 'compare and contrast' activity about people living in different parts of Australia.

This resource was a fantastic supplement to our planning for Inquiry. It gave my team direction in a new curriculum area, had great blackline masters to copy, and had a range of activities. Each section has some teacher information to help with the planning.

A handy strategy we used when planning with this resource was to be discriminating when we first looked through it and photocopy the pages we thought were going to have the most effect as teaching tools; we put these photocopies in a display folder so we had them on hand and ready to go throughout the unit. It made it quick and easy, and simplified needing to flick through the book every week.

To get a copy of this excellent resource for yourself check out RIC Publications' website. They also have a View Book option to see the pages inside before you purchase it.

Saturday, 9 July 2016