Saturday, October 19, 2013


During teacher-parent conferences a couple weeks ago, a parent, curious about centers in my classroom, asked me to describe our daily routine.  As I was talking with her, I realized how difficult it is to describe literacy centers.  We use center titles, such as “read-to-someone” and “word work.”  What does that mean to someone whose not familiar with Daily Five or the Four Blocks© literacy framework?  There’s a lot that goes into designing and setting up the learning materials and environment, and it’s difficult to explain managing center activities.  The parent and I had extra time during our conference, so together we walked through a typical routine.  While it’s not possible for all parents to experience a “walk-through”, I thought I would use this post to explain a few things about centers in my classroom.  {I have some parents who check for updates on my blog and I think they’ll appreciate this information, plus, they love seeing pictures of their children.  (smile)}
We have five center rotations for about 75 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  On Wednesday, the students have two specials (80 minutes) and computer (20 minutes) so I cannot run a full center rotation.  This picture (I apologize for poor quality!) shows the center board.  The number cards on the right are rotated, about every 12 – 15 minutes, with the children moving through all five centers during the center block. 




My listening station includes 5 inflatable seat cushions for the children to sit on while listening to books on CD or cassette.  Our Parent-School Organization (PSO) purchased several iPads for our school this year, and once e-books are purchased and uploaded, the iPads will be another option for the listening station.  This week, I am featuring Dr. Seuss books, and eventually the children will respond to some of the books on response sheets similar to these: 





The students choose their activity for the word work center, and the activities vary every week.  I try to include many of the phonics skills from the weekly story (McGraw Hill WONDERS program) in the differentiated activities.    At this time, the children choose:
1.       File Folder Games (blends, rhymes, vowels)
2.       Word and/or Sentence Building Puzzle Cards
3.       Wiki Sticks for practicing sight and spelling words
4.       Word Sorts

I use center folders to help the children develop organizational skills.  The folders are maintained in baskets by table groups.  They contain two activities: a word sort (differentiated word lists) and a ‘write the room’ activity.  I place the word list for the sort in the folders at the beginning of the week.  At this time, I am creating two word lists so that the children work with words at their developmental level.  Based on what I am seeing in the student’s writing and on their spelling tests, I will also include a third, more challenging list in the future. 

{I’m in the process of creating a multi-page, (50 so far) multi level word sort document that includes a variety of options for the sorting page and differentiated word lists for vowel, blend, and digraph sorts which I’ll eventually upload to TPT.}
The work on writing center is an extension of writer’s workshop.  I’ll write more about writing instruction at another time.  I’m in the process of transitioning from a writing model similar to the format described in Writing Mini-Lessons for First Grade by Dorothy P. Hall, Patricia Cunningham, & Denise B. Boger to the Lucy Calkins writing program. 



In this picture, a center group is working on a class book page for a book about Halloween costumes.  This was a two-day writing activity.  The students wanted the book pages to be anonymous so they put up privacy folders while working on their pages.   This week, the children are working on two narrative writings, each for two days in order to include multiple steps in the writing process. 

The children work on the read-to-self center in our classroom library.  This is another center that allows for differentiated learning and choice.  The ability to make decisions to read selections that are developmentally appropriate is a skill we will work on all year.
The children have a read-to-someone center twice each day; after our class meeting each morning for 10-15 minutes and during center rotations.  In the morning, the children choose partners and their reading selections and read anywhere they choose in the classroom.  During center rotations, I meet with five different reading groups.
I hope this makes sense!  I’ll upload more pictures in the future of the word work and writing centers because those activities always change. 


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