We are currently on our 22nd day of school. For the past few weeks, we have been hard at work learning routines, procedures, 21 letters of the alphabet, our numbers 1-19, and so much more. Last week, I launched independent centers. Every year I think to myself, “are you sure they are ready?” However, I know that all of our practicing and modeling goes a long way. We model and practice what to do if we have a problem and how to be a good friend. We practice using kind words and what to do if an issue arrises. We also practice many of our center choices so that my students are familiar with the games that are available.
Last week, my students flew solo for the first time and it has been marvelous.
In my classroom we have two times of centers. In the morning, I run all of my guided reading groups. I meet with all of my students every day while my students rotate. In my classroom this year, every morning my students rotate between four things:
Read To Self
My Guided Reading Table
and Center Choices
On our language shelves there are a wide variety of center choices for my students. They can choose any work that they want.
They also can choose if they want to work with friends or independently.
Here’s a glimpse into some of the centers my students are currently choosing between:
1. Students can make their letters using our sandpaper letters, rocks, and the book, “If Rocks Could Sing” as an inspiration. This is a work for 1 friend. (We call our centers “works” in my classroom.)
2. Students can put the alphabet in order and match figures to their correct beginning sound.
3. Students can clip the correct beginning sounds.
4. Students can make their friends’ names using magnetic letters.
5. Students can play “Cover It Up”
(For this game, my students take out a card, say the name of the picture, and then cover the correct letter with their item. As we are currently studying forests the two teams are ‘team tree’ and ‘team animal.’)
6. Students can practice writing their letters on our chalkboard.
7. Students can play matching games on our pocket charts.
In this game students are matching cards for the same beginning sound. (To help them, they have to flip over a cookie and a milk card because milk and cookies go together.)
In this pocket chart sort students are sorting living and nonliving things.
There are a few other “works” on my shelves but these are my students’ favorite choices right now.
During their center rotation my students know that they need to work the whole time. They also know that they can not interrupt the group at the guided reading table. If they have a question that can not be solved by themselves or with the help of a friend, they come up to me, put their hand on my shoulder without saying anything and need to wait until I can help them. I prefer this method as it teaches my students how to wait patiently and it gives them a way to solve their problems if they can not do it independently. As the year progresses, they rarely tend to need this outlet but for now, at the beginning of the year, it helps my students.
When students are with me, my groups are working on a few different skills: LNF (letter naming fluency), FSF (first sound fluency), and reading CVC words.
We start our groups with a short game that reviews letter names and sounds. Even though the school I am at currently does not use Fundations, I love their magnetic letter board and use it at least once a week in my small groups. I bought it from their website and it has been an invaluable tool.
I really like this because it helps with letter discrimination and it provides self correction as students match their letter tiles to the letters.
After my students match all their letters, I have them bring letters down to the rectangles on the bottom half of their board. I cue them saying, “Can you bring down the /b/?” They then bring the b down to the rectangle. Then I’ll have them add the “/a/” and then the “/t/” and have them read me the word.
Another warm up game that we enjoy is reading our alphabet books. For these books my students read them like this: “O says /o/ as in octopus.”
Another game we play often is putting the alphabet in order. This skill helps learners with the alphabetic principle and in visual discrimination.
After a warm up (that takes about 5-10 minutes), we play a skill game.
My groups’ FAVORITE game this week was “Fill Up Your Apple Tree.” This group was working on reading CVC words. For this game, my students took turns spinning our apple spinner. If they spun a 1 they could read one apple word and put it on their group’s tree. If they spun a 2, they could read two! The team that filled up their apple tree first was the winner.
After they spun the spinner, they took apples out of our container.
Then they read their word to their friends.
After they read their words, they placed them on their apple tree.
They LOVED this game and begged to play it the next day! (My other groups played the same game but their apples only had letters on them.)
While students are working at their centers I have been playing George Winston’s album, “December” and when it is time to clean up, I play the song, “Little Bird, Little Bird” by Elizabeth Mitchell. My students adore the album called “You Are My Little Bird” and I play it often in our classroom. It is a quiet, folk album that is relaxing and peaceful.
You might wonder why technology and writing are not key elements during our morning rotations. The reasoning behind it was that I had to find a way to fit snack into my morning without losing 10 minutes of our day. After my students finish their snacks, they are allowed to get out the iPads or listening station and listen to a story until that rotation is finished (my rotations are currently 17 minutes long and it does not take that long for my students to finish their snacks). As for writing, we have a 35 minute writing block in the afternoon. My students have the choice to write when they are at their center rotation but currently they have not been choosing it. I’m sure as the year progresses more friends will choose to write. (I’ll blog more on our writing block later!)
I’m so proud of how hard my students are working and all the learning that is taking place! I hope that your year is off to a great start!! 🙂