How to group your students in Guided Math

Guys… how many times have you heard the word “differentiate” during college, a PD, your normal working day? I hear about it all of the time. Seriously…all of the time. My first two years- I smiled and nodded and had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.

Then I had a district person come in and she asked me what my weakness was…I of course said to differentiate and group students. She watched my lesson and came back and said to me that I did everything just the way that I was supposed to. That I had already differentiated and grouped my students correctly.

So how do I group my students?

I sort my kids by 4 groups. These groups are very easily fluctuated. They do not stay in this group forever and I make it well known that they could move groups very quickly. The 4 math groups that I have are high, high-medium, low-medium, and low. I know it’s riveting!! It is actually very helpful and is one of my favorite methods to use while grouping.

So at the beginning of the year I look at the previous school years score. I try to do a pretest at the beginning of the year so I can gage where they are before each unit. In 5th, our units are broken down like this:

Units 1-3- Multiplying and dividing whole numbers

Units 4-6- Decimals

Units 7-9- Fractions

Unit 10- Measurement

Unit 11- Geometry

Why did I tell you this? This is how I sort my kids. If my students tested low in the beginning of the year, I would place them in a specific group. So let’s start with my “class” and I say it is quotation mark because they are not my real kids.  There are ten math problems that fall under Units 1-3. If you are a standards based school, you will want to combine all of the standards that would fall under your first unit.

Let’s look at the 10 questions and break them up…

  • High- 8-10 questions answered correctly would fall in the high group. (Should be 80% or higher)
  • High-Medium- 5-7 questions answered correctly would fall in the high-medium group. (50%-79%)
  • Low-Medium- 3-4 questions answered correctly would fall in the low-medium group. (30%-49%)
  • Low- 1-2 questions answered correctly would fall in the low group. (1-29%)

Obviously you will alter your numbers based on the numbers that cover the specific skill/standard.

I really try to keep the groups small however I only have four groups. This year I have 24 kids so sorting them means each group has 6… but sometimes I have more than 6 in a group.

How do I overcome that?

I look at the assessment as a whole. I look to see did they struggle as a whole on the assessment? Should they be in a higher group? A lower group?

Remember, you are a teacher. You know if a kid would be a low kid, a medium kid, or a high kid. Make the decision for your kids and listen if they are in too high of a group, move their group.

Are you looking for a way to learn more about implementing guided math? Click the freebie and receive the How to implement guided math in ten days freebie.

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Math rotations

math rotationsWhen I first heard about Guided Math, I looked at the computer screen and thought…what the frick do I do now? Where do I start? How do I create stations? Why do I need them? How do I put the learning in their hands? Then after searching Pinterest for hours…I stopped.

Seriously. I closed my computer screen. I didn’t think or do anything about Guided math for another six months.

Finally, one morning (around March time) I woke up and thought “hmm…I wonder what I could do to eliminate some behavior problems in my first grade class. I wonder if they could get these 6 year olds into groups or something…?”

The next day, I created a powerpoint that I used to show the students when to rotate. I had 3 rotations. Me. Computer. Independent Work.

Back then (4 years ago)- my math groups were based on a daily need to see me. I almost always saw my low kids. This helped me make sure that they were successful. If I was lucky I could get a second group in to see because they probably struggled somewhere around there too. Before I knew it, my math time was over. Math books were away and I always  thought “that was a successful math lesson.”

4 years later and I know better.

Did it work for me? At the time, ABSOLUTELY! The following year, I came back to work around October. Baby W was born so I took extra time off. That class was a disaster. It was awful and I needed a way to get them under control. I ended up starting a math rotation around December. This was better. Much better. I found activities for them to practice with me – or heck- they did their a few problems from their worksheet with me.

It worked. There were 4 rotations. 4.

  1. Word problems
  2. Mrs. Eyre
  3. Computer
  4. Independent work

Let me tell you- that was the order they were in. The kids were ALL over the place. Then one of the worst days of teaching career happened. This kid who I had been working so hard with to control himself and not react on impulses- had a meltdown. Oh- in the middle of an observation. Class had to be removed. Crisis teacher was called. Everything. I knew my score was going to be awful but I didn’t care. What I cared about was going home to my 8 month old baby and being with him. I realized I was just in routine and teaching for me…kind of sucked. I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Finally one of my best friends who switched schools that year listened to me one lunch and said “Ronnie…you need to move schools. I’m not really giving you a choice.” (Steph if you ever read this- know that I owe my teaching career to you.) I laughed it off but after that day came- I text her and said “I want out of my school.” I arranged an interview with her principal and was offered a job immediately. Then came the dreaded news- grade assignments.

I was assigned to fifth grade. FIFTH GRADE. I was teaching first. I had no idea what to do in any subject. So I did what any normal Type A teacher would do. I immersed myself deep into the content. I decided to go all in and create math centers for myself. I knew that this school didn’t really share a lot of materials amongst the grade levels so I had to fend for myself.

Fend I did.

I created a ton of things to do with the students when they came over to me. Some were match type games, or pre-made templates. I started to really realize that I didn’t want to spend my entire YEAR cutting out stuff for these units. Really- I didn’t so I toned it down and created things that would be useful in a classroom that may not have a ton of time.

I started to think “oh crap- what am I going to have the students do when they are not with me?” And then it hit me.

It was like a train and I kid you not- my husband still remembers the day. He said I jumped out of the chair, shrieked, and went running to grab a piece of paper to write down my thoughts.

My math rotations were born.

They start with me. My lowest kids see me first. Why? That way I can kind of extend out the math block so I can see them and they can work with me for a little longer. They will then move on to independent work, computer time, and last but not least their math project. All of the students see the same rotations just in different order.

Did this match my first year? Nope. Will it match next year? Nope.

Here are some other ideas you could do in lieu of computer or math projects:

  • Hands on games
  • Challenge a friend
  • Manipulatives
  • Fast Fact Practice
  • Puzzles
  • Any self checking work
  • Geoboard practice
  • Shape manipulation
  • Doodle Notes
  • Math wheels
  • Number Sense activities
  • Create a number chart
  • Task Cards
  • Build something using math (We built a zoo once)

I know this may seem very busy. It seems like a lot but once you get your students trained, you will never want to change it again. You will never want to go to whole group lesson. I couldn’t even imagine it any other way.

I can’t wait to tell you more about Guided Math.

Hugs & High-Fives,

Yes, I still use Elf on the Shelf in 5th Grade


Before you say “I don’t use Elf on the Shelf in my classroom,” hear me out.

As teachers, we all know one of the hardest things about a classroom is maintaining classroom management throughout the entire year. Honestly, that’s really hard. You can teach it at the beginning of the year, but if you don’t maintain it throughout the year, your behaviors will not be exactly what you wanted.

Come December, the kids are tired, I’m tired, and we are ALL ready for break. I need some awesome tricks up my sleeves so I can still keep their attention leading up to winter break. Since I don’t plan on standing on my head, or doing any dog and pony tricks- I figured the best thing I could do is…bring in Elf on the Shelf.

*Disclaimer* Now, I say this because it is extremely important that you honor all religions in your classroom. I have kids that celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. I can’t just leave the Elf all alone so I ended up getting a Mensch on the Bench. This did end up becoming a fabulous choice for me.

Seriously. I love that I have two of them now.

This is how it plays out in my classroom. The Elf is always naughty and will do naughty things while the Mensch tries to convince the Elf not to make bad choices. This doesn’t always work because the Elf will usually persuade the Mensch to make bad choices as well. (insert hysterical emoji)

Every day, the Elf (Kennedy) and Mensch (Theodore) both come into a new spot and will surprise us with different activities.

When they first arrive, they just hang out somewhere to “observe” what the class is all about. Then the following day, their shenanigans begin!! I use these guys throughout the entire month of December and every day we switch it up. Sometimes they get really creative and will trash the room. This has happened before. Once they crinkled up a ton of paper to have a “snowball” fight in the classroom. (Hey, we are in South Florida. We don’t know what snow really feels like.)

Here is that burning question. Do I see a change in behavior? Yes, I do. My favorite thing to do is whenever I don’t see a kid following directions, I whisper to the closest kid near me. “oh man, I hope Kennedy and Theodore don’t see this.” Next thing you know the news spreads like WILDFIRE! Everyone starts going “The Elf is watching! Quit doing that! You will get us in trouble!!”

I am pretty stern that you keep your beliefs to your YOURSELF about the Elf and the Mensch. I also tell them that they cannot touch them. If they do…they won’t be able to report back to the North Pole. I also say “I am not touching them for you. I am not sacrificing a present because you touched them.” Then they all start to realize that I believe in everything and maybe they should too.

The main thing is that I want to make sure that they are still kids. This is the season for joy and hopefully this will put some joy in their lives. Even if it is the last year that they believe.

*By no way am I endorsed or affiliated with Elf on the Shelf or Mensch on the Bench*

Do you use an Elf or a Mensch? Leave a comment below! I am always looking for great ideas to use in the classroom so let me know some of your favorite ways that you get creative!

Hugs & High-Fives,


Reading Lesson Plans


Are you self contained? I am.

Do you have to write all of your lesson plans? I do.

My reading block is one of the most intricate lesson plans I have to write for,

I have to plan for over 5 things a DAY! This is not even including Triple I or RTI!!

I plan for:

  • Mini-lesson (skills and strategies)
  • Interactive read-aloud (book, turn and talk questions, think aloud questions, and reading response questions)
  • Group 1 Strategy Group (or Guided Reading)
  • Group 2 Strategy Group (or Guided Reading)
  • Group 3 Strategy Group (or Guided Reading)
  • Whatever the rest of the class is working on while I am working with the groups
  • Shared reading

That’s a lot to plan for. How does a teacher that ONLY teaches reading do that? Heck if I know.

How do I keep it all straight?

Honest truth- I don’t. That’s right- I don’t have my s*** together, Well not every day.

In my head, I have too much going on. I focus on other stuff so instead of keeping it in my brain- I write it down. (I’m a paper pencil type person.)

I have a planning sheet that helps me keep all parts of  my lessons organized and on track.

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It really does amazing wonders for the planner in me.

I should also be completely honest with you.

I don’t follow this perfectly.

Really, I don’t.

Some days, I have to my planning page away completely…or just move into the next day. Sometimes, I know that I can just move it over to another day, but then there are those days where you just have to crumple it up and trash it.

That is perfectly fine! You don’t need to keep it the same every time or even follow the plans. Sometimes I completely forget that I have lesson plans and just do what my kids need.

Last week, I wrote about my Essential Binder. My Essential Binder is extremely important because it has all the questions for the reading lessons that I could possibly need. If you need the link it is here! If you want the lesson plans be sure to sign up for our emails below.

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When planning a lesson…



Planning a lesson-reading, math, writing, science or social studies- can be a daunting task.

Having an essential binder is what I would call a planning lifesaver.

I’m going to be completely honest with you…I am a super planner.

If you’re not a super planner- you may just want to skip over this post!

Okay-so when you start to plan you usually sit down and have a goal in mind…right? You think of all the things you want the students to accomplish by the end of the lesson.

Unfortunately, I don’t have your goals or scales and can’t help you with that. What I can help you with is show you my planning binder.

This binder is my essential binder. When I say essential, I mean every possible thing I could need is here.

I don’t know if I’d be such a planner with out…the binder needs me-I don’t need it. 


So what’s in my binder?

The first thing found in my binder are the state standards. In Florida, we have LAFS and MAFS. Seriously- that is what they are called.

I have all the standards in order of my day- sowhen I plan, I can just flip through the pages to move through each subject. I also have science fair game standards-which are the standards that we need to reteach from 3rd and 4th grade.


Next, I have the Kagan structures. This is a HUGE 5-day training that I went to and I bought these for my binder. If you are trained in Kagan-get this. If you have yet to be trained-unfortunately- I can’t discuss it with you. Research some Kagan structures. You won’t be disappointed.


Next is my If…then by Jen Jones. This has helped me more times than I can count. When I am working on my small group activities- I refer here to see what I should do in order to help support that student. Here is the link to her if…then document. You won’t regret it! Jen Jones If…then



Next, I have Costa’s level of thinking. Costa’s level of thinking helps me sort out some of those higher order questions. Coming up with questions for my read aloud is always difficult-it really is!

What do I do so I am successful? I have over forty pages of different type of questions I can ask during lessons, small groups, or homework follow up questions. 





Throughout the year, I add a ton of different resources to this binder.

When it comes down to it- it’s a binder full of necessary things to help me be successful. 

What would you put in your binder? Leave comments below to help other teachers out!


New Teacher Survival Course

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Why would one create a New Teacher Survival Course?

How did NTSC come about? Well, I had a really rough first year of teaching. Like…really rough! I had no support-then I realized, if I had no support…did other teachers?

Turns out not very many school districts provide support for New Teachers. This has lead to states scrambling for teachers, and a major shortage of teachers because they leave after a few years. (Don’t get me started on pay.) I finally realized that if I wanted to see a change…I needed to make a change.

New Teacher Survival Course was born.

It wasn’t easy to get here either. I had many hurdles that I had to constantly conquer.

I had many self doubts, but finally I realized that if this had been around when I was first starting out…there would not have been so many tears. There would not have been so many struggles and hurdles. The first year of teaching is the hardest year…honestly…I would have said of my life.

It is also insanely rewarding and I am so glad I chose this profession.

When you join New Teacher Survival Course, you don’t just join to learn how to conquer your first year. You join because you want help, someone to rely on, and guidance.

Don’t worry. That’s what I’m here for.

I can’t wait to see you New Teacher Survival Course!

Fifth Grade Dive Into Reading

Oh my gosh- it’s so close to the end of the year. I always get super sad when the year is up. I then get really happy to spend 12 weeks with my little guy! One of my favorite things is to reflect on last year and see what needs to changed or what I love! I am loving how create my reading curriculum turned out this year and so I want to share it with you. In order for me to share it, it is through the reading program that I created.

It contains mini-lessons, interactive read alouds, doodle notes, turn and talk questions, vocabulary, vocabulary activities, and so much more!!


These are the books we will be using for 5th Grade Dive into Reading!

We are having a GIVEAWAY!!! I am giving away 5th Grade Unit 1 Dive Into Reading and the theme is Fairy Tales. *Does not include books*

***Click on the website below to enter the giveaway!!
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Do you ever feel like you’re teaching forever and forever? You look up at the clock and realize whoops!!! That lesson went way too long! You notice your students zones out, your throats hurts, and you’re exhausted! You probably thought this lesson was going to be the bomb diggity and then the kids barely retained any of that information. What do you do? You adapt. You change the way you teach. Every year, I change the way I teach. If you don’t, it will consume you. You won’t see the gains that you need or you won’t get anything accomplished. Studies show that kids have an attention span of 7-10 minutes depending on their age. It’s about a minute for each year. Even adults barely can stay focused for so long. Think about the time you were at the last faculty meeting. How many times did you zone out? How many times did you doodle something? Kids are the same way!! We need to teach the way that they learn. 

What is inside the mini-lesson?

My mini-lessons are approximately ten minutes long. I try really really really hard not to go over that ten minutes. In the beginning of the year, that ten minutes is like fifteen or twenty so don’t worry if you’re not in that time. Once the “flow” of the classroom happens then everything will fit. I always do the following:

  • State the goal. 
  • Explain the method that is being taught and why it’s useful in real life.
  • Teach the lesson 
  • The end is crucial- I state what the goal was and then at the end of every lesson I give them a task. For example “today as you go to read, I want you to look to see what kind of character traits your character has. Then think what does that say about them?” Or “as you go to read your nonfiction book today, I want you to identify the main ideas within the book, or text features” you get the idea. It gives the students a goal. I really try to match it to interactive read a loud voice that I’m reading with them. It allows them to see the book through your eyes.

What kind of lessons go in the mini-lesson?

Pretty much everything that you need to teach to your students in a reading lesson. Below is a quick list incase you are stumped.

  1. Structural lessons based off of Fountas and Pinnell.
  2. Meaning lessons based off of Fountas and Pinnell.
  3. Visual lessons based off of Fountas and Pinnell.
  4. Main idea
  5. Chronological order
  6. Sequencing
  7.  Character traits
  8. Text features
  9. Text structures
  10. Summarizing 
  11. The list goes on and on but you get the idea

Remember that mini lessons should be quick and to the point. If you ever have any questions you can leave a comment here or email me at

I have 90 minutes for reading…what do I do?

Let me start off with congratulations!!! 90 minutes for reading is an ideal time. Our district does provide us with 90 minutes of reading plus an additional 30 minutes of intensive intervention for the lowest 25% of the class. So really I have 120 minutes of reading. That is a lot of time!!! What do I do during that time? Well I will break this into two posts…this one will be for intermediate grades and the second post will be just for primary. 

Let’s start off with the components of my reading block. I’ll get into details in so many ways and through many different posts so hang tight on that one. 

1. Mini-Lesson- it’s a quick ten minute lesson that teaches the students explicitly a lesson. (Ten minutes)  

2. Interactive Read Aloud- probably one of my favorite times of the day. You read students a book and allow them to get immersed into the book or novel. (Twenty minutes)

3. Independent- you can either do strategy Groups (intermediate) or guided reading (primary). Like I said earlier, I’ll get more descriptive throughout other posts. (45-50 minutes)

4. Shared reading- yes, even in intermediate you still do shares reading!! This is where we all have the same document or item and we are all working together to dissect the article or text. (10-15 minutes)

Now that you are aware of these components let’s start by talking about how my block looks. 

9:30-9:40- mini lesson

9:40-10:00- interactive read aloud

10:00-10:45- independent reading time

10:45-11:00- shared reading 

At the beginning of the year, it takes some time to get into the flow. After about 2-3 weeks though, we are rocking and rolling! 

Stay tuned for more details within each of these 4 components within the reading block!!!
Hugs and High Fives,