Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Do the Kids DO During ELA Centers?

My favorite subject to teach is reading.  I love meeting with small groups and listening to them read each and every day.  I often get asked:

"How do you meet with EVERY group EVERY day?"
"How do you find the time?"
"What are your other kids doing?"
"How do you keep them quiet and engaged?"
"Do you hold them accountable?  How?"

Well, allow me to explain.... I love the use of CENTERS in my classroom!  I believe in a "happy hum" of chatter in my classroom although most of the centers are actually pretty quiet, because the students are so engaged.  Let me explain how my ELA centers work.  First of all, I have a 90 minute ELA block.  So I teach whole group for 30 minutes, then do 4 rotations of centers that are 15 minutes each.  During whole group instruction, I teach the target skills for the week such as phonics, comprehension skills, vocabulary, sight words, etc (from our basal series).

I have a large number of students, so I had to break my centers up into two-day rotations to get through them all.  I have 6 centers in all PLUS "Meet with the Teacher" (which occurs every day).  I have 4 different groups in my classroom based on ability/reading levels (Green #1, Green #2, Purple, and Blue).  The color system correlates to our basal series to help me remember who is who.  :)


I had to really play with how I wanted my centers to run and what centers to include, how many, the rotation schedule, etc.  It took a lot of tweaking and revising, but I have finally found exactly what works for my classroom, my students, and the resources and technology that I have available to me.  Perhaps it could work for you too!  So to answer all the questions above, let me explain in a virtual picture story of my ELA Centers.  Enjoy!  :)



During Word Work, the students get their spelling list out.  Each of my groups has a different spelling list.  I differentiate by ability so some lists are more difficult than others.  Some groups may be practicing vocabulary words, while others are practicing sight words, some basic spelling words, and some advanced spelling words.  It just depends on what the students need to practice!

I let the students choose how they want to practice in Word Work.  I firmly believe in student choice in the classroom.  Let them choose how they want to learn and I guarantee they will be more successful!  

They can practice their list using magnetic letters.  I found mine for $1 at Walmart and actually bought 6 packs so that there were enough for everyone.  

The rubber stamps are another favorite, but more expensive.  I found mine at a teacher supply store and borrowed another set from an upper elementary teacher who wasn't using them.  They simply stamp their words on lined paper.  

The kids love the dry-erase boards.  The girls, especially, love to give each other "practice spelling tests" and then give each other a grade.  Easy to write and erase!

Last, students can choose to grab an old keyboard.  It's not hooked up to anything, just a keyboard to type, type, type their words.  They love it!

If you have access to an iPad or iPod, the students can also get on the Magnetic ABC App.  You can find and download it {HERE} on iTunes.  It is wonderful!  You can have the students make vowels and consonants different colors or highlight spelling patterns or just simply spell the words out.  There is a FREE version or you can download a version that will give you a few more extra options (but they're not necessary for this station).  This is what the app looks like as the students are working on Word Work:

  

Do the students complete any type of paperwork and/or worksheet at Word Work?  NO!  I do not require them to record their words or turn in any work that they complete during Word Work.  As long as they are on-task, I would rather the students be having fun with hands-on activities rather than with pencil/paper tasks.  That is just my humble opinion though.

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At the Respond in Writing Center, I tried to give my students the choice to "free write".  Well, that just didn't work for many of my kiddos hence the "RESPOND in Writing".  Many students just needed more structure such as prompts and graphic organizers.  So, again, I differentiated and offered choice.  Some students CAN and WILL free-write using the bulletin board you see above from A Cupcake for the Teacher.  They write in their Writer's Notebooks (composition books).

Other students will choose a writing prompt from the baskets.  These are from my Monthly Common Core Writing Packs on TPT (they are bundled if you want to save 20%).  These were designed to be used during Writer's Workshop, but if I don't get to a particular piece in Writer's Workshop, it goes in the baskets for Respond in Writing.  In each basket, I have a copy of the prompt, then stapled packets of the graphic organizer and publishing papers included.  The kids love the authentic writing prompts and the monthly themed approach to writing AND it gives them a little focus and guidance when they have a hard time deciding what to write.  I have found that this works really well and addresses the Common Core Standards perfectly!  You can find a complete Q&A about my Monthly Common Core Writing Packs by clicking {HERE}.

Another choice for Respond in Writing is to write a story in the Classroom Story Collections Notebooks.  These were quickly made by making cute little labels and attaching them to the notebooks.  You can also just write in marker on the notebook itself.  By the end of the year, the stories are pretty fun to read and you will have QUITE the collection!  :)

Finally, at the writing table, I allow my students (if they can handle it) to write with something fun - a COOL writing instrument.  Most will choose to write with a pencil and then decorate with markers, pens, or colored pencils, but it makes them feel especially "grown up" when they get to use these fun writing utensils.

Check out my Monthly Common Core Writing Bundles by clicking the pictures below.




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During Silent Reading, the students read a book out of their book bag.  Their book bag is simply a gallon-sized bag where they store 3 books that are in their ZPD (zone of proximal development).  I determine this by using our Reading Assessment Data.  They go pick out new books after they have read the books and taken A.R. (Accelerated Reader) tests on them.  I do allow my students to read out loud quietly using our whisper phones.  I hand-made these several summers ago using PVC pipe and duct tape for decoration purposes.  They were super cheap to make and perfect for those kiddos who you constantly hear reading out loud - which is OK!  :)

For Silent Reading, they have many places where they can sit.  We have beach chairs, stools, crate seats, bean bags, rugs, etc.  For some reason, it's just more fun to be sitting somewhere other than your desk when you're reading!  I try to think about how I like to read.  I am usually laying on the couch or in bed, so I think my students probably want to sit and read comfortably as well.  So I am very flexible in their seating for Silent Reading.  Many like to lay down under tables and such, which is fine by me as long as they're reading!

Do I require any type of response sheet or graphic organizer to be completed or turned in during this time?  NO!  That type of instruction happens at the small group table with me.  This center is all about the students reading for ENJOYMENT!

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Buddy Reading is one of my students' favorites!  They love to sit with a friend and dive into a good book.  Since my groups are ability-grouped, both buddies will be reading on the same level, so they can choose from either of their book bags since they will be close to the same level or ZPD.

During Buddy Reading, the most important part (in my opinion) is holding each other accountable for their comprehension.  At the bottom of each page, students must pass the card pictured above and the partner must summarize what they heard their partner read.  If they get it right, they move on to the next page and switch readers.  If they get it wrong or can't summarize, they have to re-read that page.  This really helps to build that reading comprehension and, again, it holds the students accountable for staying focused and on-task during this rotation.

The students must have books that are appropriate for both readers.  If they find that they are having a hard time reading or comprehending what's being read, they must choose another book from the classroom library that is suitable for both readers and their ZPD.

Do I require any type of response sheet or graphic organizer to be completed or turned in during this time?  NO!  That type of instruction happens at the small group table with me.  This center is all about the students reading for ENJOYMENT, just like Silent Reading.  They will hold each other accountable.

*Note: If you are reading this and recognize the Check for Understanding cards shown above, PLEASE let me know who created them.  I have the original file, but it doesn't have a credits page and I have tried my hardest to track down the blogger that they belong to with no luck!  I would love to give credit, so please leave a comment if you know who they belong to so that I can credit them with a link back to their blog or store.  Thanks!*

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During the Listening Center, my students listen to the story of the week (from the basal series).  If you have audio CDs of the basal stories and access to old iPhones/iPods or new ones like me, you can easily use the CDs to transfer the music to your device through iTunes.  I am fortunate enough to have 3 iPads and 5 iPods for my classroom thanks to school funding and a grant that I applied for and was awarded.  I know, I know, I am beyond blessed with an abundance of devices.   The iPads/iPods go in the clearly labeled drawers for safe keeping when not in use.

If a student finishes early, they can also listen to several iBooks that I have downloaded or listen to a book on Storia from Scholastic.  How do I get the money to buy and download eBooks?  I put iTunes gift cards on my Classroom Wish List and also on my Christmas Wish List.  It has worked wonders!  

How do you have enough head phones?  On the Supply List at the beginning of the year, I include a pair of ear bud headphones for each child.  When they bring them in, I place them in a snack size plastic bag with their name on it, so they have their own headphones to use when needed.

Do I require any type of response sheet or graphic organizer to be completed or turned in during this time?  NO!  That type of instruction happens at the small group table with me.  This center is all about the students listening to reading for ENJOYMENT!

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At the Tech Time Center, my students use the computers in the classroom to practice skills that we are working on that week or they can use Spelling City to practice their spelling words.  I paid for the Premium Membership so that I could create differentiated spelling lists for the different groups and provide clear assignments at the Tech Time station specifically on Thursdays before our Spelling Test on Friday.  The students can also access this website at home to complete their assignments if they want.  On our class website, I usually list links specific to the skills we are working on also and a link to Spelling City and then let the kids choose!  Again, it's all about the choice!

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The last rotation is at the small group table with me.  This is where mini-lessons are conducted, more detailed instruction from whole group, reading for fluency and comprehension checks, working on standards-based skills, graphic organizers, reader's response, etc.  All of those things happen at the small group table with ME so that I can be there to see exactly what they CAN and CANNOT do.  This is important for me in order to know how my students are progressing and where to go from there.

At the small group table, I will often use one of my Common Core Reading Graphic Organizers to assess the students' knowledge of the skill taught that week.  This also helps when completing standards-based report cards which is new to our district.  I have clear evidence of each and every standard that the student has or has not mastered.  I keep them all in a data binder, so come time for report cards, I am ready!  :)




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Below you can see the rotation schedule that I use in my classroom.  I allow my students TWO days to go through all SIX of the centers.  But I do get to meet with EVERY group EVERY day which was important to me!  I simply pop this up on my ActivBoard when we start centers and they know exactly where to go - just follow the schedule!




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With all this going on in your classroom at the same time, how do you manage on-task behavior?  Good question!  I wrote a post a while back about Class Dojo.  It is an amazing classroom management tool that works wonders when you are implementing centers into your classroom.  I sit at the small group table and manage behavior without ever having to leave my small group - brilliant!  You can read more about Class Dojo on my blog {HERE} and our collaborative blog {HERE}.  It's FREE, so give it a try!

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I really hope that this picture tutorial has helped you to understand how I manage my ELA Centers in my classroom.  I hope it inspires you, helps you, and encourages you to try something new.  Centers are, by far, the best thing I have done for my students and myself in my 10 years of teaching.  The best part: My kiddos left my classroom LOVING to read!  It takes all the "work" out of reading and inserts a big fat amount of "fun".  Listening to and working with EVERY child EVERY day helps me to know exactly where they are and where they need to go from there.  I hope you give centers a try in your classroom!  Feel free to PIN any of the pictures you find helpful above!  It's super easy.  There is a little red Pin It button beside or underneath every picture in the post.  Pin until your heart's content!  :)

Credits - Graphics and Fonts by: Sonya DeHart, KG Fonts, That Girl Design @ www.sugarhillco.com, Ashley Hughes, KPM Doodles, and Krista Wallden.

30 comments:

  1. I loved this post! Thanks for sharing

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  2. Jamie, I LOVE this post!! I am such a visual person, so I'm so happy that you posted pictures :) I think I've been making literacy centers too hard - trying to change them up every week..I love that yours stay the same, but keep the kids engaged. I am still a little confused about the rotations chart..I know the first one says Monday and Wednesday, but I see 4 rotations..can you break it down (even further) for me?! Thank you again - this is great!!
    Lacey
    The Fabulous Life of an Elementary Teacher

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  3. I LOVE all the pictures and detailed! I have similar feelings about reading and writing for ENJOYMENT. Sometimes we take the fun out of it with all those recording sheets! How are we ever going to create a society of curious readers and thinkers when they ONLY have to read for a task? Thanks for sharing!

    Mandy
    http://mandys-tips-4-teachers.blogspot.com/

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  4. Thanks for your comments ladies! @Lacey, let me take you through one group's rotation on a Monday (the Purple group). Each row is a different rotation. So the first 15 minutes, the Purple group goes to the Listening Center, then they switch to Silent Reading, then Meet with the Teacher, then finally Word Work. On Tuesday, the Purple group goes to Tech Time, Buddy Reading, Meet with the Teacher, then finally Respond in Writing. On Wednesday, they repeat the same centers and schedule as Monday. On Thursday, they repeat the same center rotations as Tuesday. Fridays are reserved for spelling tests, weekly assessments, cold reads, fluency checks, and a whole group culminating activity. I hope that helps to explain it for you! :)

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  5. Thank you for responding, Jamie! So your students go to 4 centers each day? I only have 45 minutes for centers, so I'm trying to figure out how I could rotate them through - don't think I could fit in 4 a day haha :)

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    1. I understand, it's so hard to fit it all in!! One way I've tried that worked nicely was that I only met with my High Groups 2-3 times a week, and the other days they worked in a literature circle/book club format. I still met with my BL and OL students every day! It was great!

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  6. I love this post and all the pictures. Thanks for sharing!!
    Long beach website design

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  7. My reading centers look very similar to yours, Jamie! Great minds think alike ;)
    Nicole
    Teaching With Style

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  8. My reading centers look very similar to yours, Jamie! Great minds think alike ;)
    Nicole
    Teaching With Style

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  9. You explained your literacy stations PERFECTLY! I love seeing how it all flows together!!! Thanks, girl!

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  10. Great post! I have an hour but only do three rotations of 20 minutes each. So I only meet with three of my four groups each day. I'd love to hear more about what you do with your students during small group time. I feel like 20 minutes is not enough time for me to do what I want to do, so maybe there's stuff I need to cut out.

    Jessica
    www.literacyspark.blogspot.com

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  11. This is a great post. I absolutely love the pictures. They make everything so easy to picture. :)

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  12. I LOVE Class Dojo :) I like how you do your version of Daily 5. It seems a lot more manageable. We do basal reading too. When do you read your basal reading with them? I would love to hear more how you incorporate it within your ELL block!

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  13. I love how you have managed to meet with all of your groups each day. My rotations are similar but I only meet with 2 groups each day. My centers are 30 minutes each. I think I may try how you do it. One question though..how many students do you have in each group? Thanks!

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  14. Thanks for all the comments, my friends! @Jessica Goodrow, I'll try to write a post about what I do in my small groups in the next week or so, however it differs from day to day and week to week, but I'll gather some of the must-do activities that I do at the Meet with the Teacher table. :) @Amanda Burgess, I have 5 students in each group, except one group has 6. They receive intervention though, so they all have to be together to receive the intervention. The other groups have 5. :)

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  15. Your explanation is so detailed. I do something very similar, but I think I've been requiring too much pencil and paper activities. I'm going to scale back a little bit and see if my kiddos do better! Thanks for sharing!

    By the way, the check for understanding cards come from Mrs. Prince and Company's blog... http://www.mrsprinceandco.com/2011_09_18_archive.html

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  16. I love how you explained the way you implemented the Daily 5 (haha 6). My team and I have used your method since August and we adore it! I have shared this post so often with other people with Daily 5 questions!

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  17. Wow, you have no idea how helpful this post was!!! SO grateful that the Reading Specialist at my school shared it w/me, because GOD knows I was getting ready to quit on my first year of teaching (2nd grade too!). I have wanted to implement Centers in my classroom and I've been so overwhelmed with the amount of work--no assistance, no lunch break, occasionally a prep time (I work at a private school). It won't be until now in January that I'll try some of your ideas. I will start out with maybe 3 centers first and see how it goes and then I'll be able to add more fun centers! It does sound like a lot of fun for the children and it is my joy to see my students enjoy themselves, especially while they are learning w/out even realizing it! I've struggled w/differentiation also, but you give some good tips on here. I hope next year will be better, otherwise, I'm not sure I'll teach for long... THANK YOU for being so clear in your explanation on how your run Centers in your classroom!!

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  18. LOVE it. Thank you. As a new teacher, just beginning, I am so happy to find a like-minded person that I can mirror the organization of reading times! I wanted to meet with the students daily and practice reading. I also love the differentiated spelling tests and word lists. You are the first that I have ever seen to do that BUT, it makes so much sense!! Thanks again!

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  19. Hi! This was so interesting! Thank you for sharing! I can not wait to get started with daily centers! I am a brand new teacher, I start my first year this August! Thank you for explaining in such great detail, even I could imagine myself in your classroom watching this whole process take place! I do have a question, how did you find the technology grant for the iPads/iPods? Thank you for your time!

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  20. Loved this post! As a first year teacher, I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to do centers on my own, but I will definitely be giving your ideas a try! I tried to access your reading Graphic Organizers, but the link said it couldn't find them. Did you discontinue them? Thanks!

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  21. Thank you so much for this awesome post!! I had a hard time last year with centers. It was my first year doing centers and it wasn't as easy as I had thought it would be! This summer my job is to find more engaging activities, and your post was super helpful with not only engaging but fun ideas!

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  22. I wanna be in your class! This is a model I plan to use this school year. You've helped me solidify some of the details. You're awesome!

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  23. I love your post so helpful. Where can I get the check for understanding cards for the buddy reading

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  24. This was extremely helpful! I am teaching 2nd grade for the first time ever this year, and have always implemented Debbie Diller's work stations. I have been thinking about doing Daily 5, but have been hesitant.. I have 27 students, and am worried about this schedule with them. I feel like the groups will be too large. What are your thoughts???

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  25. Where can I get the check for understanding cards for the buddy reading? Thanks

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  26. I am new to second grade and the Journeys curriculum. Teachers in our building cannot figure out how to teach small groups because the whole group takes SO much time! Can you please tell me how you condense it down to 30 minutes? What portions of the lesson do you make sure gets done? What portions can you do in a small group?
    Thanks!

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  27. Probably a better instance given here and will certainly reflects toward understanding of the true bodies that are required and considered essential. grammar checker

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  28. I know this is an old post but Thank you!! I was moved to second grade this year and i'm going to try out your Daily 5 rotations. ALSO, I think these are the "check for understanding" cards?? http://www.mrsprinceandco.com/search?updated-max=2011-09-28T22:05:00-05:00&max-results=7

    Thanks again!

    Casey

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  29. THANK YOU for this post!!! I know it's from a few years ago but I am breathing a sigh of relief seeing these suggestions that I know I can incorporate into my centers. I love the idea of mixing them up everyday while still seeing all of my small groups daily. I've got some more supply hunting this weekend....and some great TPT things on my wish list! :-D

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