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5 Critical Thinking Activities

5 Critical Thinking Activities

Critical thinking...reflective, higher order, and independent thinking.  Applied to the classroom I think of it as teaching students to think on a deeper level, not just memorizing facts.  So I am sharing 5 great critical thinking activities with you today.

5 Critical Thinking Activities
This quote by Albert Einstein says it all.  He was one smart man!  

1.  Wondering Wall

5 Critical Thinking Activities

Have a Wondering Wall in your room and teach students to ask questions about the text they are reading.  This is a great way to begin to think deeper about the text.  

5 Critical Thinking Activities

At first, your students may come  up with wonderings or questions that are more surface level.  But after lots of modeling from you and hearing each other's questions, students will being to move towards thinking about questions that will help them to understand the text better.  They may go from questions like "why are the kids at the fairgrounds at night" to questions like "Aren't the kids missed at home by the parents and why haven't the parents gone out to find the kids since it is at night time".  

2. Which One Does Not Belong?

5 Critical Thinking Activities

 After teaching word work, I like to do a quick check with my students to see if they can apply the phonics or phonemic awareness skills we have just been working on in class.  Right before they walk out the door, I have them read the words on the Post It notes and jot down the word that does not belong with the group on another smaller Post It note.  You may think this is an easy task, but for some of my struggling readers this can be a difficult task.  You can use this in many different ways than just word families.

3.  Which Strategy Did You Use?


5 Critical Thinking Activities

Currently, we are working on learning different reading strategies to help us with tricky words.  But I don't want my students to memorize the strategies.  I want them to learn HOW to use them in the best way.

5 Critical Thinking Activities

Some strategies work better in some situations than others do.  Eagle Eye (check the picture) will not work for the word "before".  But Chunky Monkey (break the word into parts) would be a great way to figure that word out.  

5 Critical Thinking Activities

  When the student reads and comes to a tricky word, they write the word down and then check the strategy they found the most useful.  Some students wanted to write more than one tricky word on their sheet!

4.  The Answer Is...

5 Critical Thinking Activities

I love this backwards thinking strategy!  Give an answer and the students must come up with a question for it.  The more you model and encourage creative thinking for this strategy, the more the students will enjoy coming up with creative questions!  They enjoy thinking of questions that maybe no one else would think of to ask.  

5.  Agree/Disagree Boards

5 Critical Thinking Activities

When we get out our Agree/Disagree boards, my students love it!  These are wipe off boards that you can flip from front to back.  If you don't have these, you can just print agree on one side of yardstick and disagree on the other and glue to wide popsicle sticks.  Currently we are using them to prove character traits.  One student will say they believe the character is upset.  Then we vote whether we agree or disagree with the student.  The student finds the evidence in the text to prove their trait and anyone who disagrees finds their evidence to prove their thinking.  Great conversations come from Agree/Disagree!  One student discovered this past week that the character could feel one way at one time in the story, but feel differently later in the story.  It was great to lead into the skill that characters change in our stories.  Now this student wants to disagree all the time.  But that is okay..as long as he can prove his thinking!

5 critical thinking activities



What are some of your favorite activities to promote critical thinking in your classroom?



Reading Lesson Plans and RTI Visual Plans

Guided Reading Lesson Plan Forms

Lesson planning...love it or hate it, they have to be written.  Or at least in my school they do.  I really don't mind writing them.  I have played around with different templates and I tend to tweak them from year to year to get them how I like them.  You can pick up my forms free in this post, plus another freebie in my RTI Visual Plans post today!

Guided Reading Lesson Plan Forms


I use a variety of different guided reading ideas to put my plans together.  They are kind of a mash up of different templates in a way that works for me and my groups.  If I were in the regular classroom again, they would look completely different than this.  All these components would be there, but in a different way.  I have so many skills to get in with my little ones and only 30 minutes do cover all the areas.  So this is just what works for me.  

If you would like the lesson plans forms, you can click below to grab them free.







RTI has now begun for us at our school.  Screenings were accomplished, groups were formed and baselines have been given.  One of my groups will be doing a lot of work on short vowel words and learning sight words.  The other group is older and will be working on fluency and comprehension.  To improve their fluency I will be helping them strengthen their multisyllabic word reading.  Sometimes older students have difficulty with breaking larger words in an efficient way.  They become so used to not understanding the larger words they sometimes just spit out a word and keep going.  This of course will throw off their comprehension.  You can click my visual lesson plan above to download the plan and the links.  I am new still to using my new Mac computer, so I hope the links are still there!  If not you can click these pictures below to be taken to the activities.  The fluency voice cards are a freebie!  


Short and Long Vowel Word Sort Activities- click the picture for the link.


It's Fall Y'all Literacy Activities- click the picture for the link.



Fluency Fun Strips and Quick Sketch Comprehension- click the picture for the link.

I am back to joining Mrs. Wills and Peek at my Week!




RTI & ESGI: Assessments Made Easy

RTI Assessments and ESGI Software

As you all know, RTI can take up precious time in a teacher's day!  All the assessments can make you frustrated and secretly (or not so secretly!) have bad feelings towards RTI.  And even though I do a lot of the RTI assessments myself at my school to help teachers out, I was spending too much time on it.  But then I discovered ESGI!!  HUGE help and difference it has made for me and the amount of time RTI assessments took up.  Plus, it saves me time not having to run off all those paper tests and saves the paper and ink too.  

RTI Assessments and ESGI Software

I know several of you have heard of ESGI and maybe thought of it as a kindergarten assessment tool or even for first grade.  Let me tell you it is so much more than that!  I believe so much in this program and the amount of time it saves me that I had to show it to you and explain it!  I am using it for students from kindergarten through grade five!  I designed my own tests to fit my students' needs and my RTI needs.  But there are preloaded assessments already on it, plus other bloggers have opened up the assessments they have loaded so you could also use those!

RTI Assessments and ESGI Software

Another super useful feature on ESGI, besides the assessments, are the reports.  I can run reports for my teachers to let them know how their students are doing.  I can choose between different formats even.  I like to give them a report for their whole class overall and then also run reports for each individual students.  

RTI Assessments and ESGI Software


 This is a picture of flash cards that can be printed and sent home for parents to be able to practice with their child on the skills they are struggling with or to for me to give to the teachers so they know what to be helping the students with in class.  Great for differentiation!

RTI Assessments and ESGI Software

I really like that I can print off the letter cards, both capitals and lower case, that students could not identify and send those specific cards home for extra practice.  So simple...print the cards and send them home.  All the parent has to do is cut them and start practicing!  The easier it is for the parents the more likely it is to be used.  

RTI Assessments and ESGI Software

ESGI software is so full of capabilities!  You can type in words, letters, or even choose from pictures.  This is a picture of one of the words for syllable clapping.  Students do the task or read the words and all I do is click yes or no.  

If you are using RTI in your school, ESGI will make it so much simpler and save you so much time!  If you cannot tell yet, I have enjoyed this software so much!!  I have been using it almost a year now and the time it has saved me from giving assessments to running reports and parent notes has just had a huge impact!

If you think ESGI could help your school, click here or on any of the pictures to save on a year's subscription.  If you are new to ESGI, you can get it for $159 instead of the regular $199 for the first year.  Tell your RTI coordinator, Title 1 coordinator or administrator about it (or have them read this post).  I am telling you it is absolutely worth it!  Try it out and see!

Reading Room Classroom Reveal

Reading Room Reveal

We've been back in class for a few weeks getting settled in to new routines and classrooms.  It's been a great start!  My classroom theme is really a theme of colors.  I am using blue, teal, and lime green.  It feels calm and cool!


Reading Room Reveal

The first picture is what you see when you first enter my room.  This is what you see looking to the right.  

Centers Rotation Board

Here is my centers board.  I haven't added student names yet.  This is where we will rotate through the centers on Fridays.

Anecdotal Records Notebooks for Reading

This table keeps me organized and ready to go!  In the file box, I keep extra pages to my Interactive Reader's Notebook.  If a student runs out, I can just pull from there and keep going.  In the white basket, on the other side, is where I keep my Anecdotal Records Notebooks for each grade.  I like to keep notes on the students and their skills.  It is so important so that I can keep each student moving forward and differentiate their learning.  

Reading Room Reveal

My teacher's desk area.  And in full disclosure, I think I had to move a pile or two of papers from the top of my desk to a drawer so I could take this picture!!  If you look carefully, you can see my coffee sitting on the desk that I forgot to remove before snapping this photo. 


Reading Room Reveal

I keep my literature sets in leveled baskets on a shelf by my desk.  These are the books I pull from to teach in my small groups.  I don't have any basal readers in my room.  I don't use a program so that leaves me able to use quality literature that my students will enjoy!


Reading Room Reveal

This is my classroom library area.  I do have my library leveled.  I have students from kindergarten up through grade four coming in to my room for class or RTI.  So I needed a way to help them be more strategic in choosing books for themselves since I have a wide range.  

I Can Statements Focus Wall

I am using an I Can Focus Wall this year.  The I Can statements are from Create-Abilities on TpT.  

Small Group Materials Baskets

These small group materials baskets sit on my tables, on top of our iPads.  I have tried different methods of organizing materials and how to get them into students' hands quickly.  This is working really well this year.  I have their pencil, dry erase marker, and cosmetic puff for an eraser in there.  I used to use wash clothes, but my youngest students struggled with them being larger.  These little puffs are great!  I also keep a reading strategies bookmark in the basket.  The bookmarks match the reading strategies posters I have on the wall.  These bookmarks and posters are from Nicole Bunt on TpT.  I am using the paint strips for sound boxes and storing them in each basket too.  The students can pull those out when they need to stretch a word when writing.  If you ask in the paint section for the paint strips, they will probably let you have some.  The workers have always been very nice to me and allow me to have some for my room.  

Fluency Center

This is my fluency area this year.  The speech bubble is from IKEA.  I have sight words hanging on rings on the wall.  The students will practice fluency with reading short stories and working with comprehension during centers here.

Interactive Reader's Notebooks

Under my Centers board is where my Interactive Reader's Notebooks are kept.  As students come into the room, they grab their notebooks to take to the table with them.  It is also their responsibility to put away all our materials when we are done.  I don't use notebooks that require a lot of cutting and gluing.  This notebook is more of an organizational tool with different sections- Word Work, Comprehension, Vocabulary, etc... I love using them and have found it a great way to show a student's progression of skills all in one place.  

Have you already started back to school or do you start this Tuesday?  


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