I need answers, please!!!!

Here's my questions for you all!

1. Do you do a formal handwriting program? If so, what is it? If not, do you worry about handwriting (neatness)?

2. Do you do whole group language arts or just focus on small group with mini lessons? I have always done whole group and then broken into small groups for reading instruction, but I am getting the feeling I am one of the few out there who does this!

3. Do you have aide time in your room? If so, what do you have them do? I have an aide for 3 days a week that isn't really mine and she's not the greatest and I can't have her practice with the kids on their reading (long story). I need some better ideas!

4. I would love to see copies of your daily schedules to see how you get it all in. Everyone seems to be doing such wonderful things and I feel like my kids get to do nothing fun, as there isn't time! Help! After 13 years, I feel like I am in a rut this year, even with all the changes I have made. I really think it's the time of year and the fact that winter has falt like spring and we all have spring fever and are ready to be on summer vacation!

Thanks in advance for your help and answers!


  1. Hey! I'm Megan, a full day K teacher in Kansas. Nice to meet you! Although I teach K, my heart is in 1st grade and I run my room that way- good/bad? Idk. lol

    1. No, no formal program. I teach my kids that the lines make a house (upstairs, downstairs, basement, and attic)- this helps them a ton with spatial issues. And yes, I am a stickler on neatness.
    2. I have a very behavioral and low group of 23 kids. I tend to go for the whole group- and am giong to attempt small reading groups next week. We'll see.
    3. I, too, have a horrible aide for 30 minutes a day (kind of a joke). I have her work with my lowest kids and that's about all I trust her with.
    4. I hear ya on the schedule issue- I try to integrate everything (writing with math, reading with science, etc) to fit more in. I also incorporate a lot of music/art with my lessons to make them more engaging and fun.

    Thanks for the great questions- hope I helped you out a bit?

  2. 1. We're supposed to use a formal handwriting program but I don't -- because it's lame. I give them a front-to-back sheet of handwriting practice once a week for homework and that's my "instruction" ;) (By 5th grade, honestly, their writing is likely to be what it is in adulthood so I don't make a fuss unless I can't decipher it.)

    2. I do a lot of whole-group. Not necessarily because I want to but because it's easier with our curriculum. I'm about to push some of that curriculum aside though because I have kiddos who are progressing so fast I feel like I need to do something different to continue to challenge them.

    3. I have a para for about 30 minutes a day. Not the most helpful because of the time of day he's there but he's a good para. The time of day is just awkward so mostly helps my slow kids finish work.

    4. I took a lot of time to put together my schedule this year and have tweaked it twice (and it's only January!). Our emphasis in 5th now is in social studies because they have a state test on it in 6th grade. So I teach science 3 days a week for only 30 minutes, social studies 4 times a week for 45 minutes, 2 hour block (split by recess) for literacy (word work, writing and reading) and then 90 minutes for math. My colleagues can't believe I get as much in as I do....but we don't get a chance to do a lot of fun stuff. I hate that so about once a month I schedule a fun afternoon so they can crafty or do other fun things instead of say, math.

  3. 1. Yes, I teach Kindergarten and I use the Handwriting Without Tears Program. I introduce the letter and show how to write. Then I have handwriting centers set up at tables. Students rotate after 5-10 minutes with 5 kids per table one group will have 6 because I have 4 tables. The centers are chalk and chalkboard (HWOT boards), making the letters with dough, making the letters with wood pieces, and making the letters using dry erase. Then the next day we do the workbook page. I usually do 2 letters a week. The kids love the centers and it gives me time to walk around and assess who needs some help and give praise to those that are forming letters correctly. I usually set aside 20 minutes the first semester of school for the handwriting curriculum. The second semester we do more journal writing. By this time students have the basics down and we just have to keep practicing the concepts we learned first semester.
    2. Full group I show how to write the letters and we sing the song "Where do you start your letters? At the Top" everyday the first semester and also do Dr. Jean's Letter Aerobics which is a kinesthetic way to teach kids about the positioning of letters using lines. This takes about 10 minutes plus my 20 minutes of center rotation for handwriting gives 30 minutes for the handwriting activity.

    3. I do not have an aid in my room and I do not have volunteers in my room. Just me and 21 of my Smarties!

    4. I can post a schedule of our activities on my blog so that you can see what an example looks like first semester and what it looks like second semester. I will try to do that maybe later tonight or sometime tomorrow. Just keep checking :D

  4. Hi! I just stumbled into your blog as I was blog stalking and felt compelled to answer some of your questions!! I teach 2nd grade bilingual, but I think many of your questions apply to teaching in general!

    1. No, we do not use a handwriting program and while bad handwriting bothers me, I do not stress over it. Whenever we work on final writing, I quickly review how their writing should LOOK and that's that. I have to occasionally help a few with forming certain letters, but for the most part, I focus more on the content.

    2. Have you heard of/looked into the Daily Five? This is what I use to structure my language arts time... basically I teach whole-group mini-lessons for 15 minnutes, then go into small group guided reading for 25 minutes. I have 3 mini-lessons during the day: a reading mini-lesson, a word work mini-lesson, and a grammar mini-lesson. I have my writing block separate from these mini-lessons.

    sample schedule:
    8:25-8:40: Reading Mini-Lesson
    8:40-9:05: Reading Groups/Choice time #1
    9:05-9:20: Word Work Mini-Lesson
    9:20-9:45: Reading Groups/Choice time #2
    12:30-12:45: Grammar Mini-Lesson
    12:45-1:10: Reading Groups/Choice time #3
    {*my group times are split because of our special schedule... I flexibily group my students with other 2nd grade classrooms and we try to match up our schedules as much as possible)

    3. Because I am a bilingual classroom, I have an aide for almost the entire day. I have my PA run guided reading groups at the same time I do (this allows for more groups to be seen). I also have her run math groups because I use a math workshop as well. During writing, she helps edit papers or works with students to get them caught up. During mini-lessons, she will check in homework, put papers in mailboxes, clean up from other activities, or even run and make last-minute copies.

    *Have you ever tried having her watch you run a group? Many times aides were not education majors, so they may not have the same skill set that you do. If you want her to run a group or activity, maybe you can have her watch YOU run the group so she can see what you would like done.

    Hope this helps! :)
    {2nd grade blog}

  5. Thanks for all your help! We don't have a formal handwriting program. We had Handwriting Without Tears for one year. The district bought it, since the person who was in charge of ordering really wanted it, but then they didn't buy all the parts and then she retired that same year. And then the program was gone. Some teachers are very particular with writing neatly, and I don't really care. I have a few who have the most awful writing I have seen in years, and was wondering if I should do something for them.

    As for my aide time, I have her in the late afternoon before we go home. I can't have her do reading groups as she has a very thick spanish accent and doesn't know how to make the sounds correctly. I had kids learning was and this wrong. This aide in particular has bounced from school to school. When she gets mad, she leaves and then eventually goes back to where she started. I have another aide for our 30 minute intervention time, and I am at my wits end with her. She won't do what I tell her to (and I have stopped trying for my own sanity) and then she complains when the kids need help. I have the low group, so, DUH!

    The Daily Five plan that I see many people doing won't work for me with the choppy times we have. I have looked into it, but I can't make it work in my mind, much less in action. Thanks for the help!