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!

0

Summarizing: Keeping it Short & Sweet

Summaries can be easy with early readers, especially when you give them a plan. SWBSA is a great way to start telling and writing summaries.
SOMEBODY...

Teaching students to summarize can provide another option for solidifying their reading comprehension. This strategy can be used in all primary classrooms.  Too often students think summarizing is retelling.  Retelling has more details, whereas, summarizing keeps is short and sweet. One way to get a quick summary use the SOMEBODY…WANTED…BUT…SO…AND technique.  I have also seen "somebody-wanted-but-so-then." I would be happy to credit to the one who thought of this technique…because it is genius!  The problem with credit is I’ve seen it in so many places, I’m not sure who came up with this originally.  That being said, it’s a keeper!

WANTED...

I first used this technique with my kindergarten class.  We were addicted to Magic Tree House Books (that’s another post for another day) and we started practicing our summarizing after each chapter.  I made a poster with the 5 words on it as a reminder.  We did not write down the summaries…we only practiced the summaries orally.

BUT...

Once this technique is practiced, kindergartners can contribute to a whole group summary. Depending on reading level, this technique can be written or oral. Jan Richardson (I love her) uses cards with each word on them and distributes one card to each person. They have to work together to make a summary. My older students practice writing summaries using a SWBSA form and a partner, eventually moving to individualizing the summaries written in paragraph form.  
Summaries can be easy with early readers, especially when you give them a plan. SWBSA is a great way to start telling and writing summaries.

SO...

We have used summaries with read alouds, independent reading by levels (typically after level E, and with independent reading. It has become an option in their Reading Response Journals. I have previously blogged about summaries in a blog about Paint Chips and Using Mentor Texts.
Summaries can be easy with early readers, especially when you give them a plan. SWBSA is a great way to start telling and writing summaries.

AND...

Here's a Summarize FREEBIE download. There is an anchor chart, a summarize SWBSA form and bookmarks. 
Pin for Later!
Summaries can be easy with early readers, especially when you give them a plan. SWBSA is a great way to start telling and writing summaries.

0

Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions: What's the Difference?


Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions can be difficult for early learners. Check out some ideas for making sure they can tell the difference and use these strategies to comprehend.
This can be one of the trickiest lessons in reading. We are using Benchmark Universe in my school system and we are asked to teach both skills to primary students. Inferences is taught before drawing conclusions, so we wanted to make sure the distinction was clear. Most definitions of inferences uses the word "clues," but using "clues" when you are drawing con"clue"sions, made more sense to us. We decided using the word "clues" in both definitions could muddy the water.

Making Inferences

Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions can be difficult for early learners. Check out some ideas for making sure they can tell the difference and use these strategies to comprehend.
We decided to use the "in" in inferences to start the process. When students are making an inference they are using what is IN the text and what is IN their brain (schema) to determine what the author is trying to tell us without actually telling us. We also designed an anchor chart to incorporate math symbols because we wanted students to understand you couldn't make an inference without using both skills: using the story and your brain. The anchor charts created in the classrooms resemble the chart in the picture above. Of course, the anchor chart in the classroom is created with the students and incorporates interactive writing. (The anchor chart in the picture is put in a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet protector and kept at the small group table for quick reference.) We practiced with short reading passages as a whole group and then in independent centers in the following weeks.

Drawing Conclusions

Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions can be difficult for early learners. Check out some ideas for making sure they can tell the difference and use these strategies to comprehend.
During planning for drawing conclusions, we decided to "double down" on the "clue" part of the definition. We also needed to make sure the students understood that a conclusion is the "next logical step." We pulled clues from the story and practiced making the next logical step. We designed an anchor chart using footprints for the kindergarten students and magnifying glasses for first and second grade. As before, the anchor charts are created with student help and the anchor pictured is used in small group instruction. We practiced this in whole, before putting it in independent centers.

Individual Practice

Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions can be difficult for early learners. Check out some ideas for making sure they can tell the difference and use these strategies to comprehend.
Once the content has been introduced and practiced in whole group, they can be moved to independent practice in a literacy center. Students can practice making inferences by matching the written word with the pictures the author is inferring.  This task can be differentiated, students can be asked to highlight or color the details in the writing that helped them infer. Students can also be asked to write what the author tells us and what they know to built their inference. In the picture to the left a student might write, "The writing mentions a grill so I know the pizza can't be a choice. It also mentions food that is long and skinny. I know the shape of a hot dog is long and skinny, so I can infer we will eat hot dogs for dinner."
Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions can be difficult for early learners. Check out some ideas for making sure they can tell the difference and use these strategies to comprehend.
The independent drawing conclusion activities can be used at a variety of levels. Students can be asked to highlight or color the clues in the story that helped them draw conclusions. Writing the clues and justifying their conclusion can provide students with valuable practice. In the example to the right a student might write, "I will put my lunch in a basket. I carry the basket to the park. When we get to the park, I lay out a blanket and eat a picnic."

I hope these activities help your early learners with making inferences and drawing conclusions. If you would like a Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions Sample Set of these activities, click the link or the picture below.

If you are interested in the full sets, the links to my TPT store are at the end of the post.




Pin for Later:
Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions can be difficult for early learners. Check out some ideas for making sure they can tell the difference and use these strategies to comprehend.


Links to full products in my TPT store.


0

Stoplight Writing: intervention for early writers

Stoplight Writing is the easiest way to  create independent writers out of our earliest learners.
Teaching emergent readers to write can be far more complicated than you think. Writing words involves, at a minimum, knowing letter names, knowing letter sounds, understanding letter/sound associations, knowing letter formations AND being able to hold the pencil and make the letters. WOW. That being said, practice makes perfect. Practice with letter identification. Practice with letter sounds. Practice with letter/sound associations. Practice with letter formations AND practice writing.  Even with all that practice, there are students who need more.  Don’t be afraid:  it’s all about routine…and practice.  Obviously some students need more help than others and this would be small group or Tier 2 intervention for struggling writers.  This intervention is called "Stoplight Writing."

What do you need:

Stoplight Writing is the easiest way to  create independent writers out of our earliest learners.

1.  Letter/Sound Chart.

Using a great letter/sound chart and using it often can help students jump over the first three hurdles.  I use the Fountas and Pinnell Sound Chart – for everything!  We start our day with the sound chart and a letter sound chant.  My students always say, ”A /a/ apple.  B /b/ bear.”  My friend’s class says, “A is for apple, /a/ /a/ /a/.  B is for bear, /b/ /b/ /b/.”  Regardless of the process…the routine is crucial.  At the beginning of the year, the students echo my chant…one letter at a time.  By November, the students and I chorally chant the sound chart.  Friday can be backwards day.  We chant the sound chart starting at Z and ending at A.  By December, we pick a column on the sound chart and chant the sound chart down one column.  We refer to the sound chart when we write EVERYTHING as a class with modeled, shared, and interactive writing.

Stoplight Writing is the easiest way to  create independent writers out of our earliest learners.2.  Vowel charts

Vowels are the trickiest letters of all.  We know that.  There isn’t any RULE that isn’t broken shortly after being taught when it comes to vowels.  I keep it simple.  Short vowels first.  Mine are homemade, but they are laminated now.  I put my vowel charts on yellow paper to correspond with the stoplight writing.  Also because yellow means “SLOOOOOOW DOWN.”  Slow down and go slow because vowels can trick us.
Stoplight Writing is the easiest way to  create independent writers out of our earliest learners.

3.  Stoplight Writing Paper

Finally, I use my writing blocks for extra practice.  It’s a green box, followed by a yellow box, ending with a red box.  I love using the dry erase pockets because I can't make color copies for every child, every week.

The Script

“Let's write the word mat.  I can see the mat at the front door.  Listen to all the sounds:  /m/ /a/ /t/.  Why would we start writing with a green box?”  (Green means go.)

“That’s right, green means go.  So we start our word in a green box.  What do you hear at the beginning of the word?”  (M!)  “Let’s look at the sound chart.  M, /m/, moon. Right.  Let’s write m.  Boys and girls, watch me write the letter m in the sky and listen to the directions for writing a letter m."

"Short stick down, bounce back up and around, back up and around."

"Please do that in the air with me and say the directions after me."  Once they do it in the air, have them write it on the paper - while saying the directions.

“Let's listen to the middle sound in mat.  /m/ /a/ /t/.  That middle sound is a vowel and vowels are tricky.  Let's look at our vowel posters.  Let's say the vowels together:  a /a/ apple, e /e/ egg, i /i/ igloo, o /o/ octopus, u /u/ umbrella.  Why would the middle box be yellow?  What does yellow mean?”  (Slow down.)

“That’s right, yellow means slow down.  We have to say our vowel sound slowly and listen to the sound carefully.  /m/ /a/  /t/

/a/ /a/ /a/.  I hear /a/ in /a/ /a/pple.  Let’s write a.”  (Side note:  My district uses Handwriting Without Tears.  One of my favorite parts of this program is the magic c.)  "Boys and girls, what kind of letter is an a?  Right, it's a magic c letter.  Watch me write the letter in the sky and listen to the directions for writing a letter a."


"Magic c, and up and down."

"Please do that in the air with me and say the directions after me."  Once they do it in the air, have them write it on the paper - again, while saying the directions.

"Let's listen to the last sound in mat.  /m/ /a/ /t/.  We only have a red box left for our word.  Why would the last letter be red?  That's right, because it's the last letter and where our word stops.  Listen to the whole word and let's discover the ending sound.  /m/ /a/ /t/.  What do we hear at the end?  /t/ /t/ /t/"

"That's right, it's a t.  Let's look at the sound chart.  T /t/ turtle.  Let's write a t in the air first.  Listen to the directions.  Tall stick down, cross in the middle."  They will write it in the air, then on the stoplight writing paper.

“We wrote our ending sound on the red square, so we have to stop spelling mat.  Let’s say the sounds separately, then put them all together.  /m/ /a/ /t/, mat.”

We practice write 3 or 4 words daily in small group.  We use the lines at the bottom to write 1 sentence a day, as well.  These sentences are short and sweet and focus on easy word wall words and a 3-letter short vowel word.   "I see the mat."

Friday Checks

Finally, on Friday we use the weekly check paper.  The paper has 5 words.  We write the first word together.  It is a word we have written earlier in the week together.  Then, I put dividers up between the students and ask them to independently write the last 4 words.  Three of these words were also written at some point during the week, but one word is new to them.  They are writing the words independently, but I help sound out the words.  I say the individual sounds, then repeat the word whole.  DO NOT make one sounds and have them write 1 sound.  Then make another sound, and let them write the next sound.  Make sure they say all the sounds in the word slightly separated, but then repeat the word whole.

This process is repeated for several weeks until your data helps you determine who needs more intervention and who can move forward.

Using Stoplight writing, struggling students can practice all the skills needed in independent writing, but they are set up for success.
Stoplight Writing is the easiest way to  create independent writers out of our earliest learners.


If you would like a FREEBIE, CLICK HERE sample set of the Stoplight Intervention.

If you would like the full-set, click the picture below to go to my TPT Store.

Our Giveaway:

We have eight great prizes, but you can't win if you don't enter. 

Pin for Later:



6
Powered by Blogger.