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!