I often get questions asking me how I store all of my centers and classroom materials. I am in a little bit of a different situation than some of you in that I work at a private school and have to share my classroom with the church. Every summer we have to clear out our entire classrooms. We have to take the majority of our personal belongings home as there is not room to store the materials at school. We also have to “break down” our classrooms every Friday so that the church can use our rooms for Sunday School. Nothing can be left on the tables, shelf tops, and all personal items need to be stored and put away. It is a lot of work… but I have found some organizational tools that help me. In addition to having to tear down my classroom weekly, I also own 90% of the materials in my classroom. Each summer I choose a few new materials that I would like to have and order them on Amazon. (Amazon Prime is probably the best thing I ever invested in!!) Over my many years teaching, I have accumulated a large number of math manipulatives and reading tools. I typically purchase about 2-3 math and language tools per year and add them to my ever growing collection. I store my materials in a closet in one of the bedrooms in my house. The entire closet is full of math manipulatives, centers, activities, and art supplies. When I need them, I bring them to school and when we are not using them, I bring them back to my “classroom” at home. This ensures that my materials are not ruined when the Sunday School classroom uses my room and that I leave them space to work in.
So how do I store everything? I use a few tried and true materials: binders, bins, ziplock baggies, pencil pouches, and containers. Here is a closer look:
In the picture above you can see ALL of my guided reading resources for the first 9 weeks of kindergarten.
In the file folder, I store all of the games that pertain to certain beginning of the year skills. Each folder contains pencil pouches that store the individual games.
I love these pencil pouches because they have two pockets! This allows me to see what is inside the pouch without having to open it up. It also allows me to separate the two kinds of cards for this specific game. During the Back To School sales, I stock up on these! I buy a TON of them knowing that I will use them throughout the year.
This is how I store my manipulatives. I bought a plastic shelf unit from Target and each shelf holds specific items.
I also use stackable bins with handles because they are easy to bring to school. In these two bins you can see some of my letter manipulatives. I like to have a variety of tools for my students to use throughout the year. I switch these out to breathe life into centers. By changing the manipulative, my students’ engagement goes up. You will notice that I also keep a few ziplock baggies in these bins. These baggies hold one letter for the entire alphabet. I love this because in the beginning of the year, I have my students work on putting the alphabet in order. This allows me to quickly grab the baggie and hand it to the children in my small group.
When everything is closed, this is what it looks like.
So now that you have seen how I store my materials, let me show you a closer look at what my language instruction looks like during the first 9 weeks of school. My goal is to have my students know ALL of their letters and sounds by the end of the first quarter. (Yes, it is possible!!) In order to do this, we play a TON of games at centers and guided reading groups to work on three main skills: LNF (letter naming fluency), FSF (first sound fluency), and PSF (phoneme segmentation fluency). As you noticed above, that is how I labeled the file folders in my bin.
The first skills we address are LNF and FSF. In our whole group instruction, I introduce one letter every day. During the day my students learn the letter’s name, the sound it makes, and how to write it correctly. We use Handwriting Without Tears at my school and I use that progression to teach my letters for the first 26 days. To give you an idea of what each day looks like I introduce the new letter and show my students what it looks like and what sound it makes. As a class we discuss words that start with that sound and then learn how to make the letter correctly. I have my students sky write the letters with me and then show them how to make the letter using the “big sticks.” The picture below shows you a quick lesson from Day 4 last year. I put up the letter cards and students came up to make the letters using the big sticks. (I put magnets on the back of them!)
After that quick lesson (it literally takes MAYBE 9 minutes!) we sing one of the Handwriting Without Tears songs or a “Have Fun Teaching” song.
Then I split my students up into small groups and have them practice forming the letter three different ways. I vary the options each day. Some days I might use dry erase boards (with me), using the big sticks, and using play dough and other days I might use paper and triangle crayons, markers, colored pencils, wet-dry-try, pokey pins, blocks and legos, etc. I switch up the three different ways daily to avoid boredom from setting in. My students get about 5 minutes per rotation and by the end of the “handwriting time” they have practiced making the letter a few different ways.
After the 25-30 minute phonics/handwriting lesson, we dive right into literacy centers. To see how I teach my students how to use centers, check out this blog post! By the 4th week of school, we are ready to start guided reading. During our guided reading time, we play a TON of phonemic awareness games.
Our first games focus around LNF. I use a game called spin and dob to make it really fun! My students love spinning the spinners!
Another game I use often during the first few weeks of guided reading is called, “Put the Alphabet In Order.” This helps my students practice their letter names and ABC Order. As my students become more familiar with this game, I add a timer to the mix to speed them up!
Another way that I help my students master their letters and sounds quickly is by having them read letter books every day. My students LOVE these books and read them so proudly. The way they read these books is, “A says /a/ as in astronaut.”
A few of the games that we play that work on FSF include:
For this game I would say, ” Can you find the card that starts with the sound /b/?” The first student to slap the bat gets to keep the card. So simple but so effective and fun!
This game uses the same picture cards from the “Slap Jack” game but this time I have my students match the picture cards to their first sounds.
This game includes both pictures, letters, and writing. To play, my students dump out all the letter tiles and put them in ABC order.
This helps my students find the letters faster. Next, they take the top card and match it to the letter that starts the picture. After they have done this, they write the letter on the lines.
After my students have a good grasp on initial sounds, we move on to final sounds and rhyming. Some of our favorite rhyming games include Bingo and Memory.
For the memory game, my students are trying to turn over two cards that rhyme. This is a fun way for my students to work on listening for rhymes. (This is a harder skill than it seems! We practice rhyming in centers often!)
If my students flip over two pictures that rhyme, they get to keep the cards. If they do not rhyme, they have to flip them back over.
After we have played this game a few times during our guided reading groups, it becomes a center.
The last skill we work on during the first 6-9 weeks is phonemic segmentation. We practice this skill with “tapping out words.”
The first step is having my students listen for the initial, medial and final sounds in words.
To do this, I use picture cards and the star cards. My students say the name of the picture (six) and then I have them take a wooden star and say the first sound they hear in the word as they put the wooden star in the first star.
I also use figurines to make this fun!
Some of my readers at this point are ready to practice this skill with letters.
After my students have read the word, they find the picture that matches the word they read!
And then we move on to easy readers and comprehension checks!
All of these lessons are written out step by step for you in my newest “Guided Reading Made Easy” pack. In this pack you get the lesson plans, the games to play, assessments, centers, books, and more!
(I keep a notebook in my binders so that I can write anecdotal notes.)
You can purchase this pack by clicking HERE! I know that you and your students will LOVE all of the games included in the pack. Even better, your students will be reading in no time!