Saturday, October 18, 2014

The CENTER of the Literacy Block

Centers Create Independent Learners


I love being part of the kindergarten team at my school.  Having been in kindergarten the majority of my 25 years in teaching, deciding it was time to move into a Reading Specialist position was hard.  Thankfully, the kindergarten teachers at my school have allowed me to be a part of their team.  Each week we plan lessons to be taught, reviewed, assessed and remediated.  We also plan an hour for Guided Reading and Literacy Centers.  Students are expected to complete 10 Literacy Centers a week...with 5 additional centers being open ended.  Some centers might be ABC, 123, Science/Social Studies, Listening, Art, Writing, Sorting, Word Wall Words, 4 Square, Rhyming, Poetry, Pocket Chart, Squiggles, Fab 5, First-Then-Last, and many more.  The key is maintaining your sanity, while building their independence.  It can be done!


My school system has half-day kindergarten for non-Title 1 schools.  We have 3 hours to provide instruction each day.  3 days a week there is a 30 minute resource during that time AND we have snack and recess for 20 minutes each day.  All skills are integrated; therefore, math, science, and social studies skills are woven into our centers.  A shared reading poem each week is introduced, recited, read, and reviewed.  (I think that’s another whole post.)  The shared reading is sent home the following week for homework AND it is in the Art Center and the Poetry Center the following week, as well.  Regardless, the literacy block, guided reading and literacy centers, is 1 hour every day.  NO EXCEPTIONS!  It’s non-negotiable.


Here is a picture of centers plans from 2 of our teachers.  Students move independently through 3 centers a day.  During this time, they are also called for guided reading and remediation/enrichment from the teacher assistant.  I am a huge proponent of TEACH THE PROCESS…CHANGE THE PRODUCT!  The process for Listening Center, Poetry Center, Squiggle Center (which doesn’t start until Week 10) and Sort Center, never changes.  The writing requirement might be increased each nine weeks, but the process is the same.  Some centers may repeat the process for several weeks, before the center is changed.  At the beginning of the year, when trying to establish routines, the Math Center is the same for 3 weeks.  The first week, students sort a mixed bag of shapes by shape.  The next week, students sort the same bag by color.  Finally, the students sort the same bag by size.  This establishes independence and encourages success.

Believe it or not, it only takes about 20 minutes to plan for centers each week.  When centers are consistent, strategic and meaningful, planning isn't hard.  The ABC Center will house Read It, Write It for a few weeks...then it will become it's own center and replace the rhyming center.  Read it, Write it is custom-made each week to include the word wall word introduced the previous week.  The math, science, and social studies centers are the only centers that might change each week...because it is based on the math lesson from the week before.  I have detailed directions for the listening center in an earlier post.  Squiggles is added the 2nd 9 weeks and continues throughout the year.

If you would like the a sample of the centers, CLICK HERE.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bloomin, Good Time with Bloom's

As all teachers in Virginia know, the state-wide guaranteed curriculum for Virginia is known as the Standards Of Learning (SOL).  The standards have been revised year after year and the rigor has been turned up in all state tests.  In an effort to make testing triad aligned...Virginia has put an emphasis on HOW the standard is taught, using Bloom's Taxonomy.
The standards have "upped the rigor", but have you? This Bloom's FREEBIE will help you meet the appropriate Bloom's levels on your lessons.

Testing Triad

In the past, the disconnect has been with the level at which the standard is written, how it is taught, and how it is tested.  Teachers need a special focus on the level the standard is written, so students are prepared appropriately for the test.  It is not teaching to the test, it is teaching to the expectation of the test.
The standards have "upped the rigor", but have you? This Bloom's FREEBIE will help you meet the appropriate Bloom's levels on your lessons.

3 Teacher Options for Bloom's

As teachers are required to use the Bloom's levels throughout their plans and throughout their lessons, having a handy tabletop chart can help teachers with planning and instructing.  I created a 1-page Bloom's chart for lesson plan use.  The chart can be put in the plan book, taped to the desk, or laminated for quick reference.  Secondly, I created Bloom's Posters for display on the classroom wall. Students in the older grades can use the posters to ensure they are working and creating at an appropriate level.  Finally, I typed questions appropriate for each Bloom's level.  Many sites, including, gave examples for teachers.

The standards have "upped the rigor", but have you? This Bloom's FREEBIE will help you meet the appropriate Bloom's levels on your lessons.

An Example

K.4 The student will identify, say, segment, and blend various units of speech sounds.
        b.) identify and produce words that rhyme.

It's not good enough that students can identify words and pictures that rhyme, students must be able to produce words that rhyme.  Students must be given the opportunity to produce a rhyme from a set of knowns.  We would start with the word "dog" and a die with the beginning letters f, h, j, l, n, and t.  Students would roll the die and combine the onset and rhyme to produce a rhyme.  After producing the rhyme orally, students should categorize the words as "real words" or "nonsense words."  Being able to take this skill of rhyming to the application level of Bloom's will make our students successful.


What would a classroom be without a theme?  I have made themed sets with cowboys, cupcakes, jungle, ocean, and of course, owls.

I hope this makes all the lesson planning a little easier.

If you would like the FREEBIE BLOOM'S, CLICK HERE or click on the picture below.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reading is Magical...especially with the Chesapeake Reading Council

October Family Literacy Night

I was invited to share in the Chesapeake Reading Council's First Family Literacy Night.  We celebrated the start of Reading Month with the VSRA theme:  Reading is Magical.  The Magic Tree House was a perfect fit.  Introducing children to the thrill of the Magic Tree House is fantastic.  They were hanging on every word...and didn't want the chapters to end.

Crafts, Bookmarks, Masks...and Dinosaur Eggs!

After each chapter, the students were able to go to a station.  One station made book marks, one made a Dinosaur art page, while another had mazes and color pages.  We also arranged for dinosaurs eggs for a treat!

We also raffled the CD Boxed Set of Books 1-8.  It may have been a small crowd, but they loved the book and that's what counts.  I am so proud to have been a part of this night.  I can't wait until the next one in December!