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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Co-teaching Reading in 3rd Grade

It's been about a month since I began the leap from first to third grade, and I am loving it! Last year, I taught high achieving first graders who were almost (if not, just as high) as my third graders. So thankfully....the leap wasn't too difficult. :)

My friend and now co-teacher last year
in my first grade classroom.
Co-teaching with one of my best friends and another energetic, hilarious, engaging teacher has been an amazing experience. We are each other's physical, mental, and emotional help each day...which in the teacher world can be a wonderful thing! Today, I wanted to share a few of the things we have been doing...

In our county, 18 is the maximum amount of students allowed in each classroom. Both third grade classes that I work in have about 25 students. Therefore, the school had to hire an extra teacher (me!) to work in both classrooms and provide support. I am teaching only reading. I begin each day with one teacher, and begin after lunch with the other.  The three of us have synced our schedules. This way, I am teaching the same lessons when I am in both classrooms. It is SO nice for the three of us to plan together and bounce ideas off of each other! Here's the layout we have. Grab an editable one here!

Because there are two of us teaching at all times, we try to maximize our time and meet with our students. We teach completely in small group during both reading and math blocks (although I am not with co-teaching with them during math). Each class has been broken up into 6 groups of 4-6 students. There are two groups of six students (groups 1-2 above) who are below grade level in each class. There are three groups of four to five students (groups 4-6 above) who are on-level or above-level. We each keep our groups for two days. Then, we swap groups for the last two days. This gives students the ability to hear the same concept in two different ways.

We basically split the entire room in half when we are teaching. This helps to keep the noise level down and also keeps students from getting confused. This picture was taken from my small group area. If you look across the room, you will see the other teacher's "side". She has the lower groups and is working with a small group while the other group is working at the red pocket chart on the far side of the room. When she is ready to switch, she will simply have those two groups trade spots. My "side" of the room is to the left of this image. We have a table of computers for one group and then a reading area on the floor for the other. My students go through two centers and my small group on this side of the room.
Almost every day, we give a minilesson on a new topic or an important topic that needs review. Both teachers discuss with the students and plan together for these lessons. Here I am leading a minilesson on comparing and contrasting using the book Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas with Pairs. The kids were obsessed with this book! It comes HIGHLY recommended for all grade levels!
Small Group
The main teacher is always "Small Groups 1" and "Centers 1" on our plans above. Each week she begins the week with her lowest performing students and lays a foundation. She ends with her highest students. I am considered "Small Groups 2" and "Centers 2". Each week I start with the highest performing students and end with the lowest performing students. Two small groups are running at the same time. However, we are at opposite sides of the room, so it is not too distracting. :)
During my first two small groups of the week (on- and above-level students), we are reading the novel, Stuart Little. Here are some of our supplies. You can grab them here. My readers are working SO hard on accountable talk and discussion. Some groups are getting really comfortable with it! One little boy even said, "Hey, you can't talk so much! You're suppose to be invisible!"
By the time the kids come and go, our table is a {big ole} mess! 
 Our on-level students still struggle with writing complete sentences and explaining their thoughts. We do LOTS of writing to try to fix this. Here is a prediction that one of my students made before reading chapter 3. It is not a perfect sentence, but she was working oh so hard!

Right now we are only 33 days away from our BIG state assessment that determines promotion of third graders, so our below level groups have been practicing comprehension strategies Yes, we know they need to do practice passages, but they also need to have fun! I introduced these sentence strips from The Teacher Talk as a way to extend our thinking after reading a test prep passage. These are the students who normally struuuuggggle with writing. However, these fun flippy prompts helped them to write quite a bit! I was one proud teacher!
When our below level groups are not doing test prep, test prep, test prep, we have lots of fun! We make inferences and find evidence in the passages. We read stories and determine character traits. We practice past skills with task card games in small group. Basically, the three of us remediate again and again until our little ones catch on!
My side of the room has two centers: Computer & Text Evidence
The main teacher's side of the room has two centers: Skill Practice & Vocabulary/Reading
Our lowest two groups stay in small group for 30 minutes each and only go to one center per day.
Our higher three groups have 20 minutes of small group and go to two centers day day.
  • Computer - We have a program called iReady that is used throughout the school. All students take individualized reading and math lessons on the program during this center.
  • Vocabulary/Reading - My novel study groups read their novel, make annotations, and respond to their flippy prompts (blue flaps seen above). When we are not reading a novel, students complete vocabulary activities at this center. Our lower groups do not go to this center because vocabulary is taught explicitly to them in small group
  • Skill Practice - This center changes depending on our skill. It is differentiated for the two sets of groups. Sometimes, there are even two separate activities for certain students. This center usually includes writing. Sometimes it has task cards. Overall, it is based on the standard that we are teaching that week.
  • Text Evidence - This center is completed only by on and above level students. They are given books or passages and questions. We make sure that they are focusing on finding text evidence and responding in complete sentences with evidence based sentence starters. Paired text passages work very well with students in this center. 

This is a Skill Practice center focused on point of view. Students were researching an animal and then writing about the animal from the animal's point of view. 
That's a little look into our Reading Block! I hope you enjoyed it!


  1. Ummm I would switch to third grade in a heartbeat to coteach with you!! ...and the 18 student maximum, WOW!!! I love my firsties, but it can be so hard to get through everything with 28 students and no help.
    Your room looks amazing! I loved getting a peek into your reading block. You and your teaching partner are rockin' it!

    1. Aw! Thank you, Lauren! :) I cannot imagine 28 first graders! Whew!

  2. This was a great read! I am a 4th grade teacher in Orlando…so we are getting nervous about the state tests coming up. Your reading block sounds so wonderful, I hardly feel like I have time for anything during the day. How does the main teacher fit in social studies, science, and writing? We had to switch off social studies/reading every two weeks because we couldn't get it all in.

    1. I'm in Ft. Lauderdale, so I TOTALLY understand the testing concerns...31 days! We have about 10 minutes for mini lessons and 60 minutes for small groups. The main teacher and I always integrate social studies, science, and writing into our reading block. We do not have separate time throughout the day for those. Our readings and discussions are about social studies and science topics. The only other topic that the "main teacher" teaches alone is math. Everything else is done as content area reading. :)

  3. Thank you! I'm about to have my first Year 3 class (in a career that's into its 11th year) and was unsure about Reading Group centres and what was appropriate. Thanks for this, it's helped, even if I'm in Australia :)


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