This post originally appeared on the blog Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching.

As you scroll through the internet or Pinterest, you’ll find tons of ideas and versions for a Focus Board. I discovered Focus Boards when I was a Reading Specialist and Literacy Coach. I found numerous ways that using a Focus Board in a classroom would be beneficial, so when I relocated to Florida and returned to the classroom I knew I had to implement a Focus Board in my classroom!

So I am here today to share with you tips, ideas, resources, information and more on my 5th Grade ELA Focus Board! So here we go!

{Grab direct links for everything at the end of the post or by clicking on the photos}

There are variations of Focus Boards you will find online when researching:

  • Standards
  • Objectives
  • “I Can” statements

There are a few questions you should ask yourself when creating a Focus Board for your classroom:

  • How large of a space do I have to work with?
  • Is the space in my classroom visible for the whole group to view?
  • Looking at my data, what do my kids need daily?
  • What are some things required by administration or by my county?
  • What are some things that are missing from my daily instruction?

As for me, being a 5th Grade ELA teacher and just leaving the part of my career as a Literacy Coach / Reading Specialist, I had a few things in mind. After asking myself the following questions above and understanding the group of students I would be faced with every day I came up with my Focus Board.

Keeping in mind that the purpose of a daily Focus Board is for student growth! Although, these boards are great for parents and administration, they really should be intended for students.

Here are the parts of my Focus Board:

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  • Genre– Many of my 5th Grade students tend to read the same genre of books. Many of them are also unaware of the categories underneath the main Genres of Fiction and Nonfiction. I use my board to show the Genre of the week in which we will focus our reading on for lessons. My purpose is to show students all of the genres available to read and maybe spark some interest in a genre they haven’t read yet. This is all a part of having a “Balanced Reading Diet” and discovering new interests!
  • Roots– I feel like a HUGE part of instruction that is left to the side is our Language Standards. It’s all about Reading, then about Writing, but Language standards in the upper grades gets pushed aside from my experience. I feel that there is a chunk of Language standards we can teach through our Reading and Writing, but there is also many we don’t touch on often enough. Students are really unaware of all the roots we use daily! So this is a way to expose students to a higher word knowledge and also to fit in some more Language Standards.
  • Idioms– Well let’s just face it, kids are really literal these days. I almost died when my students didn’t know what “In the Doghouse” meant! Also, same as above, this is something left out of ELA instruction that my kids could really use to improve their reading and written comprehension. Idioms are very powerful when working with text!
  • Quotes– No matter the age, Making Inferences is a struggle for kids. Plus quotes can teach character lessons along with helping students understand themselves better. I previously wrote about “The Struggle and Help Making Inferences” HERE. In that blog post you will also see how I use comics, photographs and text to help students Make Inferences.
  • Tier 2 Vocabulary– If you don’t know the tiers of vocabulary, it’s really important. It’s another piece of instruction I feel is left to the side. Our Tier 1 words are words we all use daily. Our Tier 2 words are words we most commonly read in grade level text. Our Tier 3 words are content related words. What I have found is that my students are able to pronounce and read Tier 2 vocabulary words, they just always don’t know what they mean. Therefore, this changes the meaning of these words in context. So we have a weekly routine in our Vocabulary Notebook to help gain an understanding of as many of these words as possible.
  • Academic Vocabulary– Better known as the language of the standards or the “Tricky Test Makers”! My students can answer questions in simple format, but struggle with questions in formal format. Therefore, we go through a word a week.

Dianna discovered her love of focus boards when she was a Reading Specialist and Literacy Coach. Now she and her 5th graders use them all the time.

My Weekly Focus Board Routine:

Dianna discovered her love of focus boards when she was a Reading Specialist and Literacy Coach. Now she and her 5th graders use them all the time.

Every day we start our ELA block with a Language 5-A-Day! Throughout the week I touch on each Language standard in 5th Grade. Even if I have not taught students a standard or skill, we work through it and I tell them to take it as a preview. Then I have a quick 5 minute lesson on 1 Language standard for the week. This takes around 10 minutes (after routines are in place) and it’s considered our Language Instruction / Warm Up. Surprisingly, the students love it! I think it’s because it feels like something new to them since this form of instruction has been absent in their academic life.

From there, we move our attention over to our Focus Board. You will see in the pictures below I have white rectangles, those are “Speaking Frames” to help students.

  • Monday– I teach the Focus Board, introduce all parts and model for the week. For our Tier 2 Vocabulary, students “Learn It” on Monday.
  • Tuesday – Friday, students are randomly called to teach a piece of the Focus Board. This is also how I tie in my Speaking and Listening standards each week. Also, I am able to informally check on student knowledge. Then after that is complete, we do our weekly routine for our Tier 2 Vocabulary: Tuesday is “Use It”, Wednesday is “Sketch It”, Thursday is “Chant It”, Friday is “Teach It”. This is probably my students favorite part of the day! I set the timer for 3 minutes to work and 1 minute to share.

My whole Language routine takes 15-20 minutes a day, but the impact of material is so powerful! We never skip our Language / Focus Board instruction! Besides being powerful and liked by students, it is how I implement daily the Language, Speaking & Listening standards. These are the standards that fall to the side with ELA instruction in time crunches.

Many people ask about a word wall, well I don’t have a traditional primary word wall. Rather a reference wall of words learned to use as a reference.

Plus, I hate to say it but it is the way teaching is looked at, data and test scores. Language questions are a part of the Reading scores. These simple questions are often missed because of lack of instruction and immersion in the standards. Answering Language questions correctly can improve reading scores. Furthermore, my areas of focus I believe improve comprehension of text and improve comprehension of assessment questions. I take it as a “Win Win” for the reasons I implement it and the reasons I am evaluated on.

You can watch my Facebook Live Video about it HERE for all the details from my classroom:

I hope you found this post helpful and influential to starting your own Focus Board in your classroom!

Below is a list of all the items I used to create my Focus Board with Links for you!

JUST CLICK ON THE TITLES FOR THE DIRECT LINK:

*ACADEMIC VOCABULARY CARDS
*5TH GRADE TIER 2 VOCABULARY CARDS
*FREEBIE FOR VOCABULARY INSTRUCTION

Visit these TpTers and Bloggers below for the other resources:

*GENRE POSTERS @ Adrienne Wiggins
*ROOT OF THE WEEK @BrownBagTeacher TpT Store
*IDIOM and QUOTE OF THE WEEK @Panicked Teacher TpT Store
*BULLETIN BOARD LETTERS @Queen of the First Grade Jungle ‘s blog

Grab these items on Amazon to set up your Focus Board!

*FADELESS PAPER
*MOROCCAN BOARDER
*ASTROBRIGHT PAPER
*LAMINATING POUCHES

Dianna discovered her love of focus boards when she was a Reading Specialist and Literacy Coach. Now she and her 5th graders use them all the time.

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Dianna Radcliff, author of Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching is currently a 5th Grade ELA Teacher in Florida with experience as a Literacy Coach, Reading Specialist and various Elementary Classroom Settings. She is a lover of Literacy, Technology and Flexible Seating! She has a passion for being a continuous learner and to grow in her application of instruction. She is also a mother of 2 and a U.S.M.C. wife who enjoys sports and being near the water!

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