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!

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