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I love my small group time. Anyone who visits my classroom knows how important I think it is to meet with all my students every day. For me, this time with my students is where I get the most "bang for my buck," because it's the time I do the bulk of my phonics instruction. Now, I know many basals and curriculum guides do a lot of phonics whole group, but I firmly believe that because our students come in with such a variety of background knowledge with letters and sounds, we can make the best use of our time with tailoring our phonics instruction to meet their different needs.
At the beginning of the year, most of my students fall into three categories: 1) Those who know the majority of their letters and sounds 2) Those who know about half of their letters and/or sounds 3) Those who know very few letters or sounds. To start the year, this is how I make my 3 small groups {In Florida, we are capped at 18 kids, so I have 3 groups of 6 kids. However, last year I had 20 kids and did 7, 7, and 6}. Starting in the second or third week of school, I start small groups and all of my groups do the same alphabet lessons. You can read the details here, but it's basically a quick intro or review of the alphabet.
After we finish our 26 alphabet lessons, I do a quick assessment to determine if my groups need to change {which I continually do throughout the year - they are very fluid}. At this point, and moving forward, my 3 groups are never working on the same phonics skills. For my group that is solid with letters and sounds, we move on to blends and digraphs. For the group that is solid on letters, but needs work with sounds, we focus on beginning sounds, and for my group that still needs some work with letters and sounds, we repeat the 26 alphabet lessons.
Although my 3 groups are now working on different phonics focuses, the routine of their small group is essentially the same. Here's a little breakdown {You can click on the picture to download}.
First, we review either the alphabet or blends and digraphs. We chant these together, so we would say A, /a/, apple, B, /b/, ball, etc.
To grab this chart and the blends and digraphs chart, click the pictures below :).



After we chant our chart, we move on to sorts. This is where our phonics skill is our main focus. If we're working on beginning sounds, we might sort pictures under letters. If we're working on digraphs, we might sort pictures under digraph headers. When we move on to word families, we sort words and we do the same when we move on to vowel patterns.
For example, in April last year, my above level group was working on vowel patterns, so we sorted words that had a long a spelled -ay, short a, and long a spelled a_e.
My on level group was reviewing word families, and this week was working with short i, so we sorted -in, -ig, and -it words.

My below level group was reviewing some tricky sounds, so we sorted pictures according to beginning sound. 
While we sort the words or pictures, each student has a sorting mat that is in a dry erase sleeve and a dry erase marker to either write the word or letter that stands for the beginning sound of a picture. By doing this, everyone is engaged and not just watching me do something. It also helps handwriting!
You can grab all of the word sorts for word families and vowel patterns below, along with the student mat.

After we work with our phonics focus, we work on writing words. My students flip their dry erase sleeve over so they have a blank mat, and I either tell them a word to write {everyone writes the same word or we work on it together}, or I give them a card and they write the word. I use various cards from my different packs on TpT for this, and we start with CVC words and build from there. {The cards I like to use the most are from my CVC Mats and Long Vowel Mats because they're smaller}.

Next, we quickly review our sight words. Our county currently requires our students to know 65 sight words. We break these down in groups of 10 and work on them in small group so that groups that are moving more quickly can move ahead, and groups that need more support can get it. I usually use flashcards to do a quick review, and then we play some type of beat the teacher game.

Last, we read! This is my favorite time, and I try my best to not miss this part of our group. I think it is so important that I am reading with all my kids every day! We are fortunate at our school to have a Rigby library, so I have tons of leveled readers at my fingertips. I very much prefer these to decodable readers because they are a mix of decodable words, sight words, and words students have to use context clues and picture clues to figure out. The books I choose for my groups are at somewhat of a level that is difficult for students {but not way too hard}, so that they are getting a challenge {something else I strongly believe in, since I am there to guide them}. We usually do a choral read together first, and then we read it again and I might have one child be our lead reader while the others whisper read, all the boys might lead and the girls whisper {or vise-versa}, but no one is ever not reading or reading alone {so no round robin}. Here's a glimpse at the three levels my different groups were working in.

After my kids read their book in group, they go buddy read it to 2 other friends, which helps their fluency tremendously.
I hope this helps answer some questions about how I teach my small groups, and inspires you to make small groups a priority this year! You can do it!
If you're like me, you're always looking for meaningful literacy centers that will engage your students; however, getting those centers prepped and ready can be overwhelming at times! Now, I love a themed literacy center {proof here}, but there are times when I need center activities that are low prep and non themed so that I can pull them out any time I need a group of students to work on a specific skill.
When all of that in mind, I started working last summer to create some phonics activities for my students that I could use when they got to a certain phonics skill. Because I teach phonics in small group, and my groups are usually on different skills, I wanted something I could easily print, laminate, and cut. That's when I decided to make mats!

I started by making mats for my visual discrimination pack {read about it here}. When my students first started literacy centers at the beginning of the year, these were perfect to get them exposure to letters as well as sorting.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Alphabet-Visual-Discrimination-1973436With most of my mat activities, I use them in a sensory bin. The students have the mat in front of them, and they use tweezers to find the pieces for the mats. 

For my kiddos working on beginning sounds, I have mats for sorting pictures by sound/beginning letter. These are perfect in the beginning of the year, and for mid-year for students who may need some extra reinforcement of those letter sounds.

Now that the majority of my students know their sounds, many of my students are working on sounding and blending CVC words, and CVC mats are perfect for this. There are two versions of these mats - one has the word and the pictures get sorted while the alternate has pictures on the mat and the words are sorted.


Our cards for the CVC mats are currently in our big sensory tub, which is filled with fake snow - messy, but the kids love it!

For my kids who came to me knowing the majority of their sounds and have mastered CVC words, we're now working on long vowel patterns. This week, we were working on long a spellings, so I only prepped those mats from my long vowel pack. I love that since they've been working with these mats this week, they're already so much more fluent in these words!

The thing I love most about these mats is that they're super easy to prep - print, laminate and cut {and it's all squares, so the cutting is easy!}. Because of that, I have a wealth of phonics resources at my fingertips whenever my students need to move to a new skill.

Update: :)
I was asked if I would bundle my mats, and I bundled all of them except for the letters, since they're part of my visual discrimination pack that has other activities. You can grab the bundle by clicking the picture below :)

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!!

When I started this little blog almost 4 years ago, I never dreamed of how it would change my world, both professionally and personally. Not only has my teaching become better, I have made connections and friendships with some of the most awesome educators from all over the country. To say I appreciate all blogging and TpT has done for my little family would be an understatement for sure!
To thank you, I thought a little giveaway would be fun! Who doesn't need a little extra money at Christmas time?
 I'm giving away a $100 Amazon gift card, and entering is easy! Just use the rafflecopter below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
As as additional thank you, I added this little freebie to my TpT store last night. I love any time I can incorporate fine motor into my literacy centers, and these clip cards are the perfect way! Click the picture below to grab them. I hope you enjoy them!

As much as I wanted to be a good blogger this month, the reality is, that November is super busy for me, and it just didn't happen.
This sweet girl turned 3 last week!! Y'all, 3 has been hard for me! It seems like she was just born!
At school, we have been busy with all things Thanksgiving. We pretty much celebrate the whole month of November! We start by reading and learning about the Pilgrims' voyage on the Mayflower.

After talking about the Mayflower voyage, the kids thought about what they would take on a trip if they could only take one thing. It was a hard decision! {This recording page is from Deanna Jump's Thanksgiving pack}

 We also read about what Pilgrim life was like when they got to America, and we compare our life today with life back then. {You can get these labels at Chalk Talk}.
As part of our learning about Pilgrim life, we make our own butter. The kids always love this, and it's super easy. Just pour some heavy whipping cream in a mason jar and let the kids take turns shaking it. In about 10 minutes, you've got butter!

We tasted our butter, then graphed whether we liked it or not. After each child gave their opinion, I let the kids tell me what they noticed about our data, and wrote what they said. Then, we made a bar graph to represent our picture graph. You can grab the graphs here as a freebie. :)

We also read The Littlest Pilgrim, and talked about Mini's character traits. This is such a sweet story, and I love these cute little Mini crafts {these are from the so sweet Cara Carroll}.

After learning about the Pilgrims journey to America, we learned about the Native Americans who helped them during their first year. For homework, my kids decided on a Native American name for themselves, then we made these cute Native Americans.

This week, we've learned all about turkeys. My kids have learned so much!

We read Turkey Surprise, and decided what we would tell people to eat for Thanksgiving if we were turkeys.

We also read Run, Turkey, Run and brainstormed places a turkey could run to not get eaten. They were so funny!

Another story we read was A Turkey for Thanksgiving. If you don't have this story, you need it! It's precious, and great for practicing retelling. {This activity is part of my Thanksgiving Sequencing pack}.
 Of course during this month, we've been talking a lot about what we're thankful for. We made these turkeys {that I think I got from The Mailbox oh so long ago} and added what we were most thankful for.

Last, we made these sweet turkey handprints as a gift to our families. These are such a precious reminder of their kindergarten Thanksgiving. You can grab a copy of it here.

Whew - that was a lot of pictures! I love this time of year, and I can't believe it's almost December!

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