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Differentiation and Early Finisher activities can go hand in hand. Find out how Nicole Anthony integrates these easy systems into her first-grade classroom.  Also, need help finding grade appropriate and leveled books for your classroom? Today we explore a website that takes the guesswork out of finding great books. Lastly, St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.  Grab this freebie art project and fill your classrooms and hallways with these 24 inch green guys. You are sure to find a gold nugget in today’s episode.

In Episode 4, of Rockin’ This Teacher Thing...

We have a 3 part show today.  To begin our show Nicole Anthony, a First-Grade teacher, tells us how she uses early finisher materials to help diferentiate instruction in her classroom.  Then we will look at a site called Booksource.com and finally an art project just in time for St. Patrick's Day.  

Using Early Finisher Materials to Differentiate Instruction

In Episode 4, we discussed (time stamped):

  • Using Early Finisher Materials to Differentiate Instruction 1:58
  • Early Finisher Reading 2:26
  • Early Finisher Math 7:00
  • Nicole's Favorite Classroom Tools 11:00
  • Booksource.com 13:45
  • St. Patrick’s Day Craft 16:00
  • Closing and reminder of free download. Thanks For Listening!!!! 17:39

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Looking for the perfect book for your classroom.  I like this site because it helps me find books that are at the perfect level for my students.  

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(Rockin’ Intro Music) 

Hi teacher friends, this is Angie and the  Rockin’ This Teacher Thing Podcast show.  

The podcast for early primary teachers that rock their classrooms every day.  In today's episode our teacher interview is with Nicole Anthony, an amazing first grade teacher who will be talking about how she uses early finisher materials to also differentiate her reading and math. You’ll love how she structures this easy system and the way she promotes intrinsic student motivation to encourage her students to achieve their goals.  Also, I'm going to introduce you to a website that's going to help you find the perfect books for your classroom. Lastly, St Patrick's Day is coming up and I have a fun green guy art project just for you. You’re sure to find a gold nugget in today’s episode. Let's start rockin’ this teacher thing. Here we go.


Hey teacher friends welcome to episode 4.   I have to tell you I've done a few teacher interviews in the last few weeks, and I can't be more excited for the future of education. You know, as teachers we know that our teacher friends around us are amazing and let me just say I am so excited to take you through the next few months ahead and for you to hear and be encouraged by teachers just like you who are rockin’ their classrooms everyday and making a difference. We all have something to share and today is another great interview. Let's jump right into our interview with Nicole Anthony. Today she's sharing with us how she uses her early finisher resources to differentiate. I'm excited for you to hear this interview because I know it's going to give you some great ideas for your own classroom. Here we go. 


 I'm here with Nicole Anthony. She's a first grade teacher.  How many years have you been teaching? 

Nicole: This is my fourth year of teaching.

Angie: So I never had the privilege of teaching first grade with her. Today she is going to tell us a little bit about how she differentiates her instruction in her first grade classroom.  So how do you differentiate your instruction in your first grade classroom?

Nicole: So, One way that I really like is I have these, they’re phonics chapter books and they are different levels so they’re from Scholastic and they go all the way there chapter books that start with one go all the way to 18 and I called them there sticky-note books. And so I just assigned them all a book. And they put their name in sick-note and then I give them time during reading time. “We’re all going to read our sticky-note books.” So they all have a different book and they are all reading different books and they get to level up a book every time they finish.


So I ask them different questions about it, just make sure they read it, and then if they really did read it and they remember what they read they get to level up. So then they are all reading something that they actually can read.  Actually something they need to be working on and not just all 18 working on the same book. I love those and then on the back of them they have, like this book number two says it features “r” blends “l” blends, consonant digraphs, and high frequency words. 


Angie: So you can check, I know they’ve done this book and they know all about these skills.

Nicole: Or I can make sure I’m not assigning them a book that’s too hard or that they haven't learned anything about yet or things like that.  Scholastic phonics chapter books.

Angie: About how long do they get,  is it like during the station that they do this or?

Nicole: During a station usually, yes so for like 10 minutes or sometimes they ask me a lot of the time, if they’re done early,  “Can I read my sticky-note book?” and I’m like “Yah, sure.”

So they grab their book. So it’s an early finisher, or it’s a station time or it can fill a lot of different times during the day.  It’s something that they need to be doing but they enjoy it also. So they like being able to move up a book.  

Angie: So the result of moving up is reward enough?

Nicole: That’s reward enough. There’s nothing else that comes with it.  They get a new book and they like to read it. No M&M. 

Angie: And they probably know that they are progressing. Do they ever talk to each other and say “Hey, I read that book, I really liked it.”

Nicole: Sometimes they do. Yah, and sometimes a few of them will occasionally get caught up in the “Well, I’m on number seven. Well I’m on number 3.” But most of them just want to sit some place, in their own special spot, is what I call it and they just sit and read their book.

Angie: So they have a little spot that they go to?


Nicole: Yes, so that’s what I say whenever I want them to spread out and do whatever they need to do. I’ll say, “OK, find your own special spot in the room.” I explain at the beginning of the year what it means. “If you can touch your neighbor then you are too close. You can lay on the ground or you can sit at a desk. You have to be someplace that I can see you, but it doesn’t matter where you go as long as you are working hard.” 

So that’s what they do with their books.

Angie: Any pointers on how you got started.  How did you level them? Or did you just think, you’re a good reader…

Nicole: Based on a little formative assessment and a little bit of just listening to them read.  The nice part about this is I can hear them read. I can go sit in different places in the room and say, “Read that to me out loud.” If they’re getting stuck on every other word, I can just say, “We are going to read this book instead.” I just hand them a different one and they don’t know the difference.  Usually I use the beginning of the year assessments and some kids I started them on 1 but they read it so fast that they got to a book that was hard enough super fast.  

Angie: What do you do when you run out of books?

Nicole: I haven’t but I think I’m going to this year so I will probably, I’ve gone to Magic Treehouse so sometimes I’ll from this to Magic Treehouse or other longer chapter books like that.  


Nicole: For math it’s a similar thing. I call them Super Math Packets or Dragon Math and they all have a dragon on the front of them. So they start, there are 10 different packets per level and everytime they level up, so there’s three levels and 10 packets in each so there’s 30 math packets all together.  And they’re just random math pages. They don’t correlate to each other at all. They’re just math pages that are extras that I had around.  


Nicole: So the first ones are easy, like counting and shapes and number order.

Angie: So they do these totally independently.

Nicole: Yes, so they just look at it and they know what to do.  So there’s 10 per level so they level up to the next one and their dragon gets bigger.  They think that’s just the coolest.  

Angie: It’s kind of like GoNoodle.

Nicole: Yes, so here’s a baby dragon and medium dragon and then there’s an adult dragon. 


Nicole: So you could pick anything it doesn't matter.

Angie: And I love dragons too because it's not a girly girl thing or a boyie boy thing.

Nicole:  And so they have their math folder in their desk and they just keep that in there and then that's the early finisher thing for math time. Then I just say “Do your super math or your dragon math,” and they love it.   I actually turned it into the bulletin board so that I put their names on a clip there and they love it they love to move their clip. If I forget to move their clip they say Miss Anthony, I'm on packet 9 and you didn't put me on packet 9 yet. They love that.   I've never had a kid finish all 30 math packets. They do get a lot harder. As the year goes on they build on each other and more word problems go on.  

Angie: Your mathy-math kids probably love it.

Nicole- Exactly they love it because they can fly through the first 10 packets but those are usually the kids that I can say, “Do double digit addition, add the ones than the tens,” and then they do the next whole packet and they just eat it up. I had a kid last year who hated reading but he loved his super math packets. He got two packet number 26 or something. He just loved it.  The competition is okay. At first I wasn't sure if I should display their names on a board? I didn't want any kids to feel embarrassed but it's very motivating and those kids who are driven by competition are all about it they love it.

Angie: What's so good about it it's very visual and they can see okay this is where I'm at.   It's probably how you handle it too. If you're over there saying “oh Johnny is on level 10 and no one else is,” then ugh.

Nicole: Right exactly and sometimes they say Miss Anthony you have to move my clip and I’m like, Oops I can't right now I'll do it later and so I don't make a big production about moving the clips they just, somehow they move at recess and no one really notices. They know where their clip is but they're not super aware of where the other clips are.  

Angie: First graders are a lot like that too they just they're still so egocentric that they don’t…

Nicole: The comparisons aren't there a lot of the time

Angie: Awesome so cool. So what is your favorite classroom tool? I see some fly swatters.

Nicole:  The fly swatters are cool because we can play different games with those like slapping numbers or recognizing sight words where it's kind of like a race. Whiteboards and markers are super important I use those during math all the time. Clipboards I actually love my clipboards because they can sit wherever.  I don't care if kids lay on the ground and do their math paper it doesn't matter to me. But they need something to write on so I would probably say clipboards. I have them for spelling tests and other things and I have what I call offices. I say “Get an office.” It's basically two manila file folders glued together so they can’t  see their neighbors. They could get in their desk and get out their own folders and put those up but those aren't an office. I make a big deal about how my offices are mine and I made them just for you so please be nice to them and don't write on them.  


Nicole: And they say “Can I get an office? I think I need an office,” and I say, “Sure go grab an office.”  I have those. Those are fun too. I actually would also probably say lots of different buckets. You never know when you're going to need a specific size of bucket. When I first started, my mom was also a teacher and so when she went to retire I went, “Oh yes,  I want that tub and that tub and that basket and this little thing.” I just keep a bucket of buckets in my closet because you never know when you're going to need them. 

(more talk about buckets)


Angie: That was Nicole Anthony and if you have questions for her or you have things you would like clarified give us a comment and we'll have her back on to answer some of those questions.


Angie: Wow great interview Nicole Anthony.  If you have any questions be sure to put them in the comments. Let's go on to finding books for your classroom. Now these are books that maybe you want to read to your students depending on any sort of content area that's your studying. I love this website. It's a shopping site so you can purchase from this site. Just a heads up I'm not receiving any compensation from this site it's just a heads up for you for you to go check out. The website is called booksource.com. So you go to booksource.com and look up at the top and you'll see some choices. One of them is shop collections so you'll click that and you'll get a drop down menu. One of the choices is classroom libraries by grade. So select your grade and then it will say starter classroom libraries, then your grade level. Then it's broken down into categories even more. That's what I like about it. Let's just go ahead and hit the starter kindergarten library and it's going to show you more subcategories. It also has leveled classroom libraries. Nicole was talking about how she does the leveling and she has a set of books well these ones are also leveled. If you want to do the same sort of system as Nicole you can go ahead and do that. You’ll get some ideas about the kinds of leveled books you could have for your classroom. I hope you found that booksource.com website helpful.  It's a great place to go just to get some ideas about what types of books are out there that you might not even know about and it's a quick and easy reference for you. So enjoy that. Give me a shout out if you use that resource and how you found it helpful or not helpful let me know so I can help other teachers with that as well.


Next up is an art project. Hey Saint Patrick's Day, the crazy Saint Patrick's Day is just around the corner and you are wanting something besides a rainbow and little black cauldron full of coins. I made a green guy art project for you. When it's done it's going to be around 24 in tall.   This art project, the link is in the description, free for my listeners, go ahead and click the link and get signed up to get that sent right to your mailbox. You do some copying onto some construction paper the kids cut it out and put it all together. If you want to see exactly how it's done you can head to my YouTube channel the link is also in the description for a step-by-step process. Good cutting and pasting skills, great following directions skills that they're going to be doing and when it's done you'll have these cute little green shamrockie leprechaun type guys.   I've seen a lot of teachers attach some writing to some of these little guys. They can hold the writing up or display it right next to the Leprechaun in the hallway. Great art project that can go along with a lot of writing opportunities. That is free for you. One thing you are going to love about this is that it has googly eyes.Check the website I have some pictures for you. If you want to get your hands on that, the link is in the description down below.


Okay teacher friends that's it for today we've covered a lot. We had an interview with Nicole Anthony, we checked out a website to find ideas for content area books for our specific grade level, and we got an art project for the upcoming Saint Patrick's Day. Make sure that you check out the shownotes all the links are there for you. Go ahead and head to my website makingthebasics fun.com and under the podcast tab it will be episode 4. All your resources will be there as well. Also make sure that you follow us on Instagram so that you get even more insights into what's happening with Rockin’ This Teacher Thing. So #rockinthisteacherthing or #makingthebasicsfun.  


Hey teacher friends, it's Angie again. Thanks for joining us today. If you enjoyed today's podcast please leave us a review. Make sure to hit the Subscribe button so you get notified of the new episodes coming out.  Remember to get your free download of the Shamrock guy art project and remember to share it on Instagram. Let's see what other people are doing with their Shamrock guys. Again if you want to visit my website makingthebasicsfun.com under the podcast tab episode 4, all the links are there for you. Until next time keep rocking this teacher thing and God bless bye-bye.

Thanks!!!! Please Subscribe and Leave a Review-

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Make sure to subscribe and leave a review at your podcast provider so we can reach more teachers.  Thank you so much for your support and involvement in making Rockin' This Teacher Thing an amazing podcast for teachers.  

Angie K

Angie K

I love to help teachers create an amazing teacher life.
I've taught for 25+ years and I want to help you find joy and energy in each day.

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