Literacy Centers Organization
by Catherine Thornton
From a Teachers.Net Mailring
Many people are talking about using centers in the classroom. I have done them many ways (free choice, by category, by group). I have been working on my centers since I began teaching. I have a workable solution but it changes every year. I find some classes need different amounts of control than others. This year I had a very nice class that could easily stay occupied for up to 1.5 hours. This class loved to listen to stories on tape and play games so my stations were set up to accommodate their interests. Following is a fair idea of what I do almost daily.
I have 4 stations that my students rotate through on days I want to work with small groups. This would be my chance to work with leveled groups. I teach specific strategies that the group needs. I do not teach the same lesson to each group. Students change groups often as their needs dictate. I try to do stations 3-4 times a week. On these days it goes something like this:
Groups vary in size from 2-3 to a maximum of 6-7. Each group has a color name. Roughly the lighter the color the easier the material they are given to work with. I have a chart with group assignments on the board. Each station has a colored game for that group. Yellow group always takes the yellow folder and so on.
At the beginning of the year I teach every game at my station while the other students play games or put puzzles together or color. My goal the first week is to teach them to move from one table or area to the next with as little confusion or talking as possible. Slowly, I add a game to each station. My games are all leveled so the beginning of the year the games are very easy and get progressively more difficult. I make most of my own games but have been known to purchase games. I do not alter the rules to the games but make them progressively harder. I teach at a very low SES school so most of my kids do not know how to play simple games.
Setup - I have 4 stations. I try to have 4 groups of desks at tables to use but since I rotate rooms 4 times a year that is not always possible. I choose the areas for each station and then do not move them. It might be a carpet, group of tables or desks or just an area. My lowest group always starts at station number 1 and moves on sequentially. This is easiest for them. I am always station 4. At the beginning of the year stations might only be 5-10 minutes at each station. By the end of the year they might last 25 minutes. It depends on the day.
Stations - I have my games divided into comprehension, blending and segmenting skills, written communications, high frequency words. In the past I was lucky and had a helper in the classroom for stations. I no longer have any help but used my aides with the High Frequencey games.
Comprehension - Beginning of year listening to books on tapes and coloring a book report. Later writing book report, end of year reading books and writing a response to me about the book. I often read books on a cassette and kids listen to me reading on tape. This might even be a book from our reading series. I try to keep the book length about 5 minutes of reading, leaving lots of time for them to write to me about the book. This is a great way to see what they are understanding.
Blending and Segmenting - Beginning of year. If I have enough computers (some rooms do not have any) I use computers for this station. If not I do a making words type activity. I record my voice on a tape. Kids play the tape and make the changes. They start and stop as needed. I also stress beginning sounds at this station as well as memorizing patterns. I have many games I have made that use these strategies. One of the easiest is I found picture and put the name on the back (example a picture of a cat on the front CAT on the back). Kids sit at a cookie sheet with magnetic letters and look at the picture. They use the letters to spell the word. For my lowest they might only be trying to get beginning sound or ending sound and so on. I have lots of pictures made and sorted by work, family, vowel sounds, spelling patterns, and so on.
Written Communications - Beginning of year- This might be dittos from our reading series (district mandates we use them so I do that here) At the end of the year this is more a free writing area making up stories. I often leave a stuffed animal or small plastic toy at each desk. They write me all about the item, or a story about the item. They can work on this for days. Each child has a folder (stored in a folder holder) at that station.
High Frequency Words - Bingo with HF words, Wordo with HF words, Checkers with HF words and any other game I can think of. Kids take turns being the caller on BINGO or WORDO (tic-tac-toe with words). I control the words. They might be a spelling pattern we are learning, high frequency words or even words that I am hearing many mistakes on. Each group will have their own words so that they are working where they need to be. Kids love this station as they think they are playing games.
My station - this is where I target skills a child or group of children need. It gives me a chance to hear every child and work with them in a small group. I will also use this setup on days I need to test but I only have 3 stations and I call out individuals to be tested. I see myself using this with some of the ideas I have taken from OSG. I can see her conference time as similar to my station time.
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