Classroom Setup – Heidi

rsbsadmin 5th Grade, Classroom Setup & Routines, Heidi Finley Leave a Comment

I am excited to share with you my experiences with CIA. I have been using CIA in my classroom since December of 2011. I attended a class in Snohomish, and to be honest I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. What I didn’t realize is that one class would revolutionize the way I taught Reading.

Let me start off by saying teaching Literacy is not my preferred subject. I am a Science teacher by nature. I was a Science major while getting my Bachelor’s degree. I took only the required courses for Literacy. Once I began teaching I realized that Literacy would be the area I would have to work the hardest at. I literally spent 10 years looking for a way to teach literacy that was fun and enjoyable to me and my students. CIA was the answer. I have to say that I will never go back. Ask yourself, “When was the last time your 5th GRADERS begged you to read?” In the ten years prior to CIA I would have a few students who loved reading, but most were reluctant. I now have a classroom of students begging to read, and not just reading but digging deep into books looking for the meaning.

Last year along with CIA whole group I began small groups. By adding small groups I was able to add that last touch to what I do for the majority of my reading program. My students read 9 books last year using the CIA approach. Right before school was out they begged me for a list of books that I recommended for them to read. Parents are amazed by the end of the year how much their child loves to read.


In my classroom I have a wall that has my CIA posters. I also borrowed an idea from one of the bloggers last year. I have four padded stools that sit at the back of my floor space used for CIA. My two sets of turn and talk partners who do a fantastic job in sharing and participating the day before get to sit on the stools, the people rotate each day.

I know that you are supposed to hang posters with all of the stuff you record. I just do not have a classroom big enough or enough wall space. So, instead I keep a journal along with my students. I like this because it allows me to show my students how to look back in their journals to find information. My CIA area is situated in such a way that my students can still see the board so that I can use my document camera. This allows them to follow along while entering information in their journals.

In my class we use several different composition journals. To make identifying the journals easier we put different color duct tape on the spine. This year our reading journals are blue. Inside their journals we tape in a snack size Ziploc bag to put sticky notes. (I don’t put the baggie in until right before reading Holes. This then cuts down on time for passing out sticky notes every time we need them. (I have an educational assistant or a parent count out the appropriate sticky notes of the different colors prior to starting a book.)  Once our school pictures are done I make a CIA badge for my students for the front of their journals. My students get to make up a code name. I place their picture on it, and they place their thumb print. (They get a real kick out of this.)

My teaching partner (Maria Panelli) and I have created Keynotes (PowerPoints for all of you non-mac users.) We made a slide for each day of CIA for each book. On the slide we include the target for the day, the turn and talk stem (we got tired of writing it over and over again, and we got smart half way through the year last year), turn and talk response stems, writing frames, and any videos that are recommended. (I like Keynote presentations because you can actually imbed the video into the presentation rather than just a link. Also, if the video is ever taken down I will still have access.)


My reading block of time is scheduled for the last hour and forty minutes of the day. Prior to my students leaving for lunch they get out all of their supplies on their desks. At the beginning of the year I don’t assign turn and talk partners. (I want time to find out their individual reading levels. This will allow me the ability to better match them. My goal this year is to be done with reading assessments by the end of September.) So, at the beginning of the year they are partnering with either the person sitting across from them or next to them at the their table groups. (I am lucky this year to have only 22 students, last year was insane with 32.)

To start this year I am using Earthquake Terror as a teaching book to show how I want all my procedures to go. (Most of my students have had 2 years of experience with CIA from previous grades.) So, for turn and talk time I am only having them do the stem. After we get about half way through the book we are going to start responding during the turn and talk discussion. We are doing all of the activities as a whole group class.

In about a week we are going to start our small group books. These groups will take place after our whole group time each day. I absolutely love the small group piece. If you haven’t taken the small group class I would highly recommend it.

I also keep my journal from the previous year to help me figure out what I did. This is a great tool for me as I am setting up my journal this year. Each year I leave notes to myself in my journal on bright colored sticky notes to remind myself what I want to do differently the next year.

I wish you good luck and if you would like to ask me any question please don’t hesitate to do so. Remember to HAVE FUN!!!!

Written by Heidi Finley — 5th Grade Teacher

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *