First, I ran reading and writing centers separately. There were a bit intertwined, but each half hour had its own focus.
During Reading Centers, the students were at one of three centers:
I met with students individually. I found this was the best way to determine the child's true abilities. Sometimes during a group Guided Reading session I would have one student answer and 2-3 others nod in agreement. I could never tell who actually knew what I was talking about! Meeting individually prevented that! :)
My goal was to meet with each student at least two times per week. My lowest readers got 4-5 meetings each week. Some of my higher students got what I called "fly by" lessons. It's not something I am necessarily proud of, but there are only so many hours in a day!
To help keep my sanity, I had to create a sheet to keep track of what the students did with me and the book they read each time. You can find that sheet here for free! It's nothing fancy, but it is still serving me well this year in 5th grade! I can easily reference the sheet to see what I taught the last time and have a general idea of the student's strengths/weaknesses. It was also great to be able to pull these sheets out at parent/teacher conferences or at teacher assistance team meetings. (I kept these sheets and running record sheets in an individual folder for each child. These were stored right behind the table where I met with the students for easy access.)
During the technology center, the students spent roughly 15 minutes on a reading computer-based program called Lexia. During the other 15 minutes, they listened to a book on tape and responded to it by drawing or writing. Thankfully my Reading Specialist had a LOT of books on tape! I need to start buying Scholastic's books on CD each month that have been 4 for $20...
For the poetry center, I utilized Jill Eggleton's poems. (LOVE THEM! I have them for grades K, 1, and 2!) Each week we had a focus poem during morning meeting. During the poetry portion of writing centers, the students would illustrate their copy of a poem. I then compiled all of these poems into a book for the child to take home at the end of the year. Many parents expressed their gratitude for this! When they were done illustrating their poem, they would head back to the SMARTboard and work on poetry. I was fortunate enough to have a full-time aide who worked with the students. She would have them read poems with her and ask them questions like, "How many letters are in this word?", "Show me a word you know.", and others. If you are interested in the sheet I had up near the SMARTboard, you can buy it here for just $1.00.
Just a side bar about Reading Centers - I could NOT have lived without the book boxes! Thankfully there were enough plastic tubs in my room that every student had one, but I seriously would have even spray painted cereal boxes if I'd had to! Those book boxes were the best. They were used daily for not only centers, but also when we had an extra 10-15 minutes of time during the day. While we were building our "stamina" to read at the beginning of the year, the students maybe read 30 seconds. By the end of the year even my lowest readers (in a very low-income school no less!) could read for 10 minutes! I LOVED IT! :)
If my explanation of my reading centers is clear as mud, please leave a comment and I will try to clarify what you are curious about. :)
On to writing centers...
During this time, I was expected to utilize the English curriculum used by our district. I did a mini lesson roughly three times each week. (It seemed like Reading Centers often ran long and cut into Writing Center time...) Some days the mini lesson was taken from the English curriculum, but other times I modeled writing on the easel. My writing focus came from Jill Eggleton as well. (I went to a conference she held and absolutely fell in LOVE with her ideas!) Her book Lighting the Literacy Fire is amazing! I had some AMAZING writers by the end of Kindergarten.
Here's another side-bar. (I'm pretty good at being random!) This is how much I LOVED my writing centers last year. I had some students who could not even write their own name coming into Kindergarten, much less recognize more than 5 letters. However, here is where my students were as of St. Patrick's Day when I snuck in this clever writing activity -
For St. Patrick's Day, I had the students set leprechaun traps and leave notes for the leprechaun. I was so impressed by their writing! (Those of you who teach the lower grades will hopefully appreciate the pictures above and realize how long it takes to get to that type of writing!) I'm sorry if the pictures are small and a little hard to read...
Back to writing centers... So, here is what the four-day writing centers were:
- Writing with the Teacher
- Letter Sort
- Sight Words
The Lexia program was the same computer-based reading program used during Reading Centers. (This program was required by that school district for 45 minutes per week for all students who were reading below grade level!)
The letter sort was something I created based on my Reading Recovery training. You can find that 30-page product for sale here. The students would cut letters out and paste all of the same letter into circles. They started with a two letter sort, moved on to three, and finally four letters. The students really liked this activity!
We learned one new sight word each week. (Although by the end of the year we were focusing on two each week...) We used these books from Donna Whyte at The Smartize Zone to reinforce our sight word each week. (You will have to scroll down until you get to the popcorn word packets.) On our short weeks where we did not learn a new word, this center would consist of forming our words in playdough, writing words on whiteboards, or other activities such as these. Toward the end of the year I also bought some songs on TpT that taught our sight words. You can find those songs here! Students typically finished at the sight word center fairly early, so then they would get their typed writing from me and illustrate it to make their book.
Finally, one day the students would rotate to write with me. They would honestly cheer when they knew they were writing (which never ceased to amaze me!). During this time the students would draw their story out at the top of a sheet of typewriter paper. When they were done drawing they would label their work and write their story phonetically below.
I kept an "Idea Box" near the table for the students who were "stuck". All year long I only had two times were students refused to write. In my opinion, there were simply times where they just needed ideas. (This "box" help anything from animals with crazy hair, to class pictures of different activities, to hunting, fishing, farms, etc - anything I thought the students could relate to and write about!)
When a student finished writing, she would bring her paper to me and read it. I would then write the words below theirs. I kept track of all the words students knew by using this sheet. (FREE!) I also used the checklist provided in Jill Eggleton's book Lighting the Literacy Fire to guide my teaching. I was AMAZED at the progress the students made!
Sometimes students would write faster than others. On those days, I had students "Write the Room" - download the sheet here for FREE! Maybe this was busy work, but I always thought it was a step in the right direction. I'd ask the students to read the words they had written down and I would say that 90% of the time they could look back to where they had copied it from and tell me the word. Maybe they didn't "know" it, but that's a first step! :)
After writing centers, I would take the students' writing samples, type them on the computer toward the bottom of the page with their name and the date, and print them out. The next day the students would illustrate their stories after they finished their sight words center. We then kept these and bound them together at the end of the year for the students to take home.
The students poetry books and writing journals were kept in their books boxes from roughly February on. (That way there was actually some stuff in there and many of them could read them independently by then!) This allowed the students to read their published work to peers and themselves!
My students were always so excited to read! I asked them to read any chance they got. It was so cute to watch them run up to the principal anytime she came into the room and beg her to listen to them read. (It also worked out very well for me because then she was listening to them and not me - hehe.)
Here are some of the resources and/or ideas I used to run my Kinder centers.
The Daily Five
Jill Eggleton - Lighting the Literacy Fire
The Smartie Zone
I'm sure there were other sources where I received ideas, but this is all I can think of right now.
Please leave a comment if you have any questions, or feel free to ask it on my Facebook wall!