Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pre-Write Maps are Great for Early Learners

Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.
What are you thinking? Pre-Write Maps are a great way to teach students to plan their writing.  The most important part of this is it needs to be used as a planning tool. It is a planning tool, not a form of writing.

Circle Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Circle Maps are easy.  The “REAL” circle maps are used for defining context with adjectives.  I don’t do that all the time.  I use them as an idea generator.  In the case of the penny map, we told all about how we would describe the penny (that’s using adjectives), then we added pictures and Old Abe’s name.  I have also added the Lincoln Memorial to the map because I like my students to know the front and the back of coins.  It’s getting harder with the backs changing all the time.  The scarecrow circle map had words to describe fall.  Both maps moved from Interactive Writing one week to the Writing or Math Center the next.  They might have to write programmed sentences about Fall:  I like corn.  I like pumpkins.  I like apples.  OR  The penny is brown.  The penny is a circle.  The penny is little.

Tree Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Tree Maps are great for sorting, classifying, and grouping.  Using a tree map to sort the number of syllables in their names or map features.  I have also used a tree map for a CAN, HAVE, ARE pre-write.

Bubble Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Bubble Maps are great for describing.  I tend to use this map and circle maps interchangeably (don’t tell anyone).  It’s easy to use a circle map for Science (5 senses, magnetic things), History (people in history, community), Math (coins, numerals), and Reading (word families, characters).

Double Bubble Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Double Bubbles are fun because students think they are cool.  They look complicated, but they aren’t.  It’s another option to the Venn Diagram.

Flow Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Flow Maps are one of the most frequently used maps.  Showing change over time, writing about a field trip, or showing life cycles are easy ways to show students how things are sequenced.

Brace Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

I love Brace Maps.  I think it’s important for students to understand parts to whole.  It amazes me how many students don’t do puzzles before they walk into a kindergarten classroom.  They may have done a “puzzle” on their iPad or their computer, but manipulating a puzzle, seeing part to whole, being able to look from object to object are all important tasks.   Reading at its most basic level is understanding the relationship between parts (letters) and whole (words).

Bridge Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Bridge Maps are great for analyzing relationships between items.  As the rigor of testing is getting harder and harder, understanding analogies and interpreting the relationships is very important.

Using Pre-Write Maps helps students organize thoughts, but make sure you use them as a pre-write. …and they are fun!

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

5 Reasons Anchor Charts are Important

Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial. Here is a discussion of 5 reasons anchor charts should be used in your classroom every day.
Back in the day…I would fill my classroom walls before the students even arrived with beautiful purchased charts for colors, months, numbers, character traits, reading strategies and marvel at the “pretty.”  Then the students and parents arrive to see all the “pretty” I had created.  But, “pretty is as pretty does,” right?  These charts just looked pretty.

Fast forward 25 years of teaching, one master’s in Early Childhood Education and one Reading Specialist Certificate…and I no longer purchase ANYTHING for display on my walls.  As a matter of fact, the walls are pretty bare when the students and parents first see it.

Student Created Anchor Charts

Now, the students help create what goes on the walls…and they are invested in the chart from the beginning.  I don’t have to “tell” students how to spell the color words, we practice using the charts we create or a simple pointing reminder lets the child create independence in writing.

Do I interactively write everything?  NO…that would just take too long.

Do I create everything from scratch?  NO…that would take too long.

Do I need to be prepared to make a good anchor chart?  YES, that’s the key.

1. Teach Expectations.
Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial. Here is a discussion of 5 reasons anchor charts should be used in your classroom every day.

We use anchor charts to create the classroom expectations.  Some of the charts are on the picture above.  Our class rules, our rug rules, and our Reader's Workshop expectations are just a few anchor we create as a classroom community.

2. Use magazine pictures.
Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial. Here is a discussion of 5 reasons anchor charts should be used in your classroom every day.

As a kindergarten teacher, my students always made their color, number, and shape charts.  I like to use old ladies magazines.  I mean, OLD ladies magazines…like Good Housekeeping© or Ladies Home Journal©.  I spend all summer in front of the television tearing out pictures from old magazines the ladies in my church collect for me.  I look for pictures that are big and are clear pictures for classroom use.  I collect pictures for colors, numbers, shapes, science concepts like solid, liquid, and gas, history concepts like the president or then and now pictures.

Students would interactively write 3 color words a day on white 12 x 18 construction paper, then sort the pictures for those colors.  To involve oral language, my students needed to create a complete sentence, “I found a green turtle.”

3. Repurpose Worksheets
Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial. Here is a discussion of 5 reasons anchor charts should be used in your classroom every day.

In addition to the basic anchor charts, I used standard worksheets to create my own anchor charts.  To create a sequencing chart, use a worksheet, enlarge the pictures, during a whole group lesson, make a chart.  We also used character worksheets to determine who was in the story and who was not.  The concept of characters was not only common, it was understood.  Setting posters can be made the same way.  It's also fun to print copies of book covers and create a Fiction/Non-Fiction chart.

4. Make them use them.
Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial. Here is a discussion of 5 reasons anchor charts should be used in your classroom every day.

Anchor charts need to help your class work independently.  Placing a value on anchor charts makes all the difference.  Having a center activity based on using an anchor chart is a great way to involve an anchor chart in a meaningful, directed activity.   One week make the anchor chart for position words (like 2 of the examples above), the next week students must recreate these charts in the math or science center.  Same with reusing materials or things plants need in the picture above. Good anchor charts add value to your room!

5. Make charts personal.
Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial. Here is a discussion of 5 reasons anchor charts should be used in your classroom every day.

Sometimes, anchor charts are personal. Anchor Charts can also be made quickly for your classroom purposes only.  A moment exists in your classroom that needs to be addressed.  My owl and house anchor charts were made quickly out of a need that arose during a discussion in our class. My classroom was decorated with owls and the students wanted to write about owls.  We discussed the difference between ow and ou using two words they would use often.  A separate ow/ou chart was made during small group reading instruction when it was needed for a book.

Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial to your classroom.

Tell me what anchor charts you use in your room.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Starting the year with Writing Centers

Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.
First, I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post...summer tends to be busier than I hope for...but, at least it was a fun busy.  Most recently I was able to stay at a friend's beach house for 5 days of nothing (including no wi-fi), and it was wonderful.  Now, on to writing.

Yes, I have a Writing Center. But, I also have a 4 Square Center, a First, Then, Last Center, Fab 5 Center and one with Configuration Boxes.  I also require writing in my Math Center, my Social Studies/Science Center, and my Squiggle Center.

Writing is one of the most important skills a student can acquire.  I ask students to write in almost all my centers…in some capacity.

Configuration Boxes

This center is definitely a process/product center. Once they understand what is expected, this can be an early independent center. Students start by using the soudn chart as topics. The predictable text makes even the earliest learner successful.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

4 Square

Sometimes going back helps you go forward.  This past year, my students were having difficulty writing 4 sentences on a topic.  I knew we had to go back to basics.  I introduced the 4 Square, developed by Gould and Gould, to my students.  We started with a simple pre-made 4 square.  They are instructed in a whole group setting to write a sentence with each box, starting with the top left, going to the top right, moving to the bottom left and going to the bottom right.  When the 4 squares are put in the center, students are allowed to choose a pre-made 4 square or use a word list to make a 4 square, but they always write 4 sentences on a topic.  4 squares MUST be taught as a pre-write, not a finished product.  As they are able, students can be taught to write more than one sentence for each block.  4 square writing is easily differentiated for students.  Students can be taught to write more than one sentence for each box.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

First, Then, Last Center

This is the silliest center ever, but the students are quickly writing 3 step stories.  I use sequencing puzzles found in most classrooms. Using the puzzles, I put several Ziploc bags in the center that contain 4 or 5 puzzle sets from the sequencing box.  Each numbered 1 through 5.  I provide story book paper.  First, students choose a bag.  Then, they put the puzzles together.  Last, they choose one puzzle and write 3 sentences.  Cards with the words, FIRST, THEN, and LAST are provided in the center.  Students love it!  They even choose to write the stories during our Wipe-Off Board Center.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

Fab 5

This center was also first discussed by Pat Pavelka.  This center is all about lists…Top 10 Colors, Top 10 Friends, Top 10 Red Things, etc.  Having taught kindergarten for many years, Top 10 was too hard or took too long…so along came Fab 5.  After my students write their list, they must choose one item on the list and write a sentence, or several sentences, about it.  To begin the school year, the students might write Fab 5 Friends or Fab 5 Colors.  As the year progresses, use Anchor Charts made as a whole group in the Fab 5/Top 10 Center.  Students can also use this center to Write The Room, finding words that begin or end with  a specific letter.  Another variation of this center is using a theme word, and  have the students find words around the room.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

Predictable Sentences

The center is just what it seems.  The students are allowed to choose word wall phrases and word cards to create sentences. The introduction of the Big 3 (capitals, spaces, and end marks) can make this center a top choice for independence. Each week students pick new word wall words.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

I love teaching writing!  It is amazing to see the students develop right in front of your eyes.  Writing needs to be taught strategically and practiced often.  It is also important for students to find success early, so that they aren’t afraid to write.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Squiggle It, Just a Little Bit...or A Lot!

Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
One of my favorite centers is called the SQUIGGLE CENTER.  Pat Pavelka  presented a workshop for my school system in 2004 and introduced me to the Squiggle.  Over the years, I took what Pat taught us and tweaked the center into one of my favorites.  It is the perfect center to foster creativity and enhance writing skills.

Squiggle starts as an independent center the second nine weeks of kindergarten.  Beginning Week 9, the Squiggle is introduced as a whole group activity.  Perfect Read Alouds for the whole group lesson are “The Squiggle” by Carole Lexi Schaefer and “This is the Sun” a Crayola book I found in the Target Dollar Spot a few summers ago.  Each book discusses a line, a scribble, or a “squiggle” that can be changed into something else.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

Gradual Release of Responsibility - I do it.

After the story, show the students a piece of chart paper with many “plus signs.”  The reason I start with a “plus sign” is that the shape remains the same if it is turns upside down or sideways.  All the students to brainstorm many ideas they can make with a “plus sign.”  You hold the pen so the lesson can go quickly.  I have done the next step two different ways:  1. When teaching full-day kindergarten, I would send them back to their tables with a piece of paper that contained 1 big “plus sign” in the middle of the page.  2.  When teaching half-day kindergarten, I would let them see the paper and tell them they would have the opportunity to make a squiggle for morning work the following day.  The students are required to label their pictures, either independently or with help.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

We do it.

The second lesson starts with a quick review of the stories and the chart paper with the “plus signs.”  I would also share a few student made squiggles.  Then I would show them the new squiggle for the day, a “V.”  The chart paper shows a “v” pointing in 4 directions.  Again, the students brainstorm and you write their choices.  Again, they will either get another chance to do an independent squiggle at the table immediately or for morning work the following day.  The students would also label their picture.

The third lesson starts with another review and a few students sharing their squiggle from the day before.  Today’s lesson will include a chart paper with a “U” shape written facing 4 different ways and a sentence starter.  We talk about what the squiggle could be as I turn the page 90 degrees at a time…it could be the bottom of a boat, the side of a face, a hill for Jack and Jill, or the side of a plate.  Then, they are all given the same squiggle and asked to go illustrate and write about their picture.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

You do it.

When I first started using the Squiggle Center there was a "Squiggle of the Week."  It seemed everyone copied the person sitting closest to them and the students were not very creative.  So, we started calling it the “Secret Squiggle” and they were allowed to use a lap desk and sit anywhere in the room to complete their squiggle.  This worked for creativity, but I always hated sharing the Squiggles  at the beginning of the week because then the other students would start copying what they had seen.  Finally, the same lightning bolt that helped me make a monthly listening center booklet helped me create Squiggle Books.  Starting the second 9 weeks of the school year, students received their own Squiggle Book.  This book included 9 Squiggles and a writing space.  They are allowed to choose any Squiggle in the book, but it cannot be the same one as another person at the table.  We date stamp the squiggle so that we know when they did each squiggle.  For the first Squiggle Book, the students are not given any lines.  They are asked to label and encouraged to write a simple sight word sentence:  I see the __.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
This is one of my favorite 2nd 9 weeks squiggles.  This shows complete understanding.  This student used what we learned from our read aloud and transferred the knowledge to his squiggle.  Each day at the end of center time, we share our centers. They have illustrated several different squiggles, so they don't always remember what someone else did before.  However, if I see too many "doors" or "lightning bolts," we outlaw that picture.

You do it...more.

The second Squiggle Book (the 3rd 9 weeks) includes lines on the paper and the students are required to write 4 sentences.  Yes, I said 4 sentences!  Years ago I developed a writing tool for helping kindergartners (or any emergent writer) write 4 sentences on a topic.  They can use this for writing.  I loved the foot squiggle.  "The [fut] is yellow.  The fut is big. The fut has a stengy (stinky) sel (smell). The fut is a slep (asleep).
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
Want proof they understand what they are learning?  Here's another great squiggle that showed this student understood where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech in Washington D.C.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

You do it...to the max!

The last Squiggle Book of the year (4th 9 weeks), includes TWO squiggle lines on each page and lines that are closer together.  The two lines must be woven into one picture or one story.  The last 9 weeks, the students who write more than 4 sentences are allowed to go to the treasure box.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
The first squiggle has two half-moon shapes.  The student made a grill and a kitchen light.  The second squiggle had two arrows pointing in opposite directions.  The student made them into the noses of two dogs,  The story is all about going to an animal shelter and getting a dog.  One dog is "adopdid" and the other did not.  It is exciting to see all the different things the students can create.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

Look what I did.

Squiggle Center is perfect for showing growth over time.  At the end of each 9 weeks, the teacher has a writing sample for growth (or lack there of).  The writing samples can be used for RtI, ESTAT, or CSC.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

I hope you like Squiggles as much as I do, but more importantly, as much as my students do.  I have free downloads for each 9 weeks.




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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Listen Up! Listen Center Can Be Great

Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
I don't know about you, but LISTENING CENTER used to be the bane of my existence.  Every week finding a new book…making sure it wasn’t too long…making sure the tape worked…making sure I had multiple copies…ugh.  Then, I finally figured it out:

I was making too many changes.

Teach Process, Change Product

LISTENING CENTER is another center that once the process is taught…you’re golden. 

For classroom set up purposes...we hang a sign where the students will work.  Every classroom is a little bit different, so I've had the listening center set up different ways.  Sometimes I have the tape player on the table where they will work.  The table also has a bucket with their listening center booklets.  Sometimes, there isn't a plug available...so I have the students lay on the floor and listen to the book, then go to the table with the booklets.  One year, I had my students keep their booklets with them in a file box they took to every center, every day.  Regardless, as long as you establish the place and keep it constant, it will be fine.
Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.

Setting a Purpose for Listening

The secret to loving the Listening Center?  I choose one book PER MONTH!  That’s right…just 1.  The students have 4 opportunities to hear the book, while the product for each week is different. Now, my Listening Center supports comprehension.  Each week we set a purpose for listening.
Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
Week 1 – Students listen to the story.  The purpose is to be entertained!  Then, write the title and the author on the cover of their Listening Center booklet (2 pages of manila paper, folded, and stapled).  At the beginning of the year, I write the title and author on sentence strips for the students to reference at the table.  Once I got a SmartBoard, I wrote the title and author on the SmartBoard for student reference.  Towards the middle of the year, I teach them to write the title using the books.

Week 2 – Students listen to the story.  Students will write the main character names and either illustrate the characters or glue provided pictures from the story.  At the beginning of the year, we decide who the main characters are as a group and I write the names on sentence strips for reference at the center.  Later in the year, we discuss the characters orally, but they have to locate the names in the book.
Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
Week 3 – Students listen to the story.  Students will write about the setting in the story and write a phrase.  At the beginning of the year, we decide what the main setting is as a group and I write it on a sentence strip.  Once again, as the year goes on they have to locate the information in the book.

Week 4 – Students listen to the story a final time and write a response to the story.  At the beginning of the year, I provide the sentence starter, “I like it when…”  As the year progresses they can choose, "I like it when..." or "I do not like it when..."  

Changing my Listening Center from a weekly book to a monthly book helped my students with reading comprehension.  My students could have book talks about the characters, setting, and events easily.

Cute illustrations

Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
(Oops...Forgot a pic of the last week.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Let's Talk Poetry

Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.This a center that once the process is taught, it is Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy.  I have 2 poems my students do every morning during calendar time.  The first poem is a month poem.  I got the idea on-line (http://www.canteach.ca/elementary/songspoems68.html) and made a poem for each month. The poems give specifics about the months or hints to what they will learning about.  In November, it will talk about Pilgrims and Native Americans. In February, it will talk about the presidents. In March, it would talk about solid, liquid and gas. It just depends on the standards for that month. We start with a echo and 1-to-1 voice-to-print match. As the month goes on, they can read chorally and it doesn't take long at all. There are usually picture supports.  Up until I got a smart board, I had the poems on a chart.  Now, they are in my calendar smart board lesson.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.

Week 1 - Shared Reading

The other poem my students do daily is the Shared Reading Poem of the Week.  The poems range from nursery rhymes to poems made up specifically for our state standards.  These poems are typically 4 lines of text, however, some have 5.  Sometimes the poems have songs…but not always.  Some of the 5 line poems are to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot” (I’m a Little Scarecrow, I’m a Little Snowman, I’m a Little Leprechaun, and I’m a Little Sunflower).  These poems are read each day of the introduction week.  We echo and choral read. We also use the poems to discuss sight words and word family words. Sometimes we can discuss characters, settings, and events all in 4 lines of text.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.

Week 2 - Poetry Center/Art Center/and Homework

The following week (Week 2) the poems are reviewed in the poetry center.  The poetry center has a large class size poem and highlighter tape.  Each child has a poetry folder that includes the poems for the 9 weeks. This means the teacher prep for this center is as easy as copying 9 poems at the beginning of the 9 weeks, putting them in a folder, and creating the routine.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.
The students at the center take turns putting highlighter tape on the poems to highlight the word wall words.  After all the tape is used, they find the poem in their poetry folder.  Students circle the word wall words on their poem and color the words with a yellow crayon or a yellow highlighter.  Once all the word wall words are colored, they need to add a detailed illustration of the poem.  (We have previously decided WHAT a detailed illustration includes.)  They are required to read the poem to a friend before they are finished.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.

Week 2 - Art Center

When this poem is in the ART CENTER, students create a "work of art" to illustrate the poem.  A small copy of the poem is ALWAYS glued to the art work.  Students are required to read the poem to a friend and then to the teacher, teacher assistant, or parent volunteer.  In addition, the poem is sent home for homework during Week 2, as well.  It's a perfect time to send it home, they have been exposed to the poem for a week, so the parents shouldn't be "teaching" the poem.  They have a list of choices for that poem.

Week 3 - Pocket Chart Center

The same poem will be in the POCKET CHART CENTER next week (Week 3).  This center allows for small group mix-fix or an individual mix/fix.  Students can order the lines of the poem, glue coordinating strips of the poem on a paper, then illustrate the poem.  Once again, the poems are read to a friend and then read to the teacher/teacher assistant/or parent volunteer.

At the Mid-Term and Beyond

At the mid-term, poetry folders include the poems in a cloze style.  Students use the highlighter tape, then write the word wall words in the poem before they circle and color them.  They continue to illustrate and read the poem.  They use the poetry folder for independent reading, vocabulary for writing, or reading comprehension.  We were piloting Daily 5, the students were allowed to use their poetry folders for Read to Self and Read to Someone.

Process/Product Center

This is without a doubt a Process/Product Center. You teach the process and change the product, but the students know exactly what to do. There is no mystery, so they can be independent with this center quickly.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

5 Rules for Independent Centers

Independent Centers make for productive Small Group Reading Instruction. Is that what you want? Sure it is. Here are 5 tips for setting up independent centers.
Whatever the hour devoted to guided reading/small group instruction is called in your classroom, the key to successful guided reading is successful self-monitored independent center time.  This should be your favorite time of the day and theirs.

You get to devote yourself to teaching the JOYS of reading and reading strategies, while your students know exactly what in independent centers.  Too many times teachers complain that their students distract them from teaching.  Here are some rules for success and survival!

Review Skills ONLY

Independent Centers make for productive Small Group Reading Instruction. Is that what you want?  Sure it is.  Here are 5 tips for setting up independent centers.
Any skills students are required to do in centers, they must have practiced whole group.  Remember the "I do. We do. You do." rule for centers.  In the pictures above, you see rhyme puzzles sheet.  This is a whole group activity before it is a center.  Using the box of rhyming puzzles, we practiced putting the puzzles together, then making a silly rhyming center with it:  I see a moon with a spoon.  I see a mouse and a house.  When this is put in centers, it is exactly the same lesson.  Students will put the puzzles together, then choose two puzzles to write on their own.  In the second example, we had been learning about ordinals.  Students stamped a picture in each box of the train, then wrote a sentence about three of the trains:  The boot is in the second car.  The key is in the seventh car.

Change the Process, Not the Product

Independent Centers make for productive Small Group Reading Instruction. Is that what you want?  Sure it is.  Here are 5 tips for setting up independent centers.Most teachers complain about the amount of time they spend introducing centers on Monday.  If you change every center, every Monday...it will take forever, no doubt.  If you teach a process and change a product, you don't have to spend that time explaining something new.  In the first picture, we had 4 puzzle sets in 4 different self-sealing bags.  That rhyming center stayed for 4 weeks in a row.  Each week the students pick a bag and illustrate 2 puzzles.  The expectation might change...maybe they have to illustrate all 4, but the process doesn't.  In the picture above, students practice cvc words with different seasonal pictures.  Once again, the process is the same.  They may have to write a sentence using cvc words, but the process stays the same.

Step 3.  Materials are clearly available.

Independent Centers make for productive Small Group Reading Instruction. Is that what you want?  Sure it is.  Here are 5 tips for setting up independent centers.
Students should always know where to get and where to return their materials for center time. Having common signs on tables, shelves, buckets, and hanging helps them be independent with supplies.

4. Self-Monitor, Stamp, and FileIndependent Centers make for productive Small Group Reading Instruction. Is that what you want?  Sure it is.  Here are 5 tips for setting up independent centers.


Students should be taught the process for what to do when they are done.  If there is a teaching assistant, parent volunteer, or helper in the room, they should know to raise their hand for the check.  If you are in there alone, they also need to know the process.  My students never moved as a group on a timer to each center.  As they finished a center, they had it checked, stamped, and moved on the next center.  This way students know that when they come to you for reading, they will be returning to their work for completion. If I was in the room alone, they finished one center, sat it to the side and started the next center until I was done with a reading and would come to check.  I never stamped their work, they could do that on their own.  I always had a specific stamping station.  They stamped one time and we able to file their work in their mailbox or hang it in the hallway.

Step 5.  No Surprises!

Independent Centers make for productive Small Group Reading Instruction. Is that what you want?  Sure it is.  Here are 5 tips for setting up independent centers.
Surprises are for birthday parties and engagements.  If you have surprises during center time, you will pay the price.  If they don't know what to do...you won't be able to have reading groups.  Successful center time is all about preparation.

Hopefully, these simple rules can ensure uninterrupted reading lessons in small group.  Isn't that what you want?  Sure it is.

Enjoy!