It is hard to believe that another school year has come and gone. My students were taking off in their learning with so much independence, then THE END! That year zoomed along and screeched to a halt! I had to let my babies go, even though I know we could have done so much more with a little more time.
I FEEL this way every year, so every year I set out to discover new ways to get a handle on the routines and procedures of my classroom to make it run smoothly. This process gives me more minutes in the day each year to help my students achieve MORE! If a teacher is worth her/his salt, that teacher is re-evaluating these things too. What benefited your students? What ate up time? Rethinking every year is necessary!
THE first area I want to write about is how small group and center times operate in my room, and identify those “time-eaters”.
Our day begins with 30 minutes of writer’s workshop, then moves quickly into our reading lesson activities. By 9:30 we are ready to begin small group instruction and center rotations. Most years my rotation allows students to rotate in pairs to a differentiated center choice as long as they choose a different center the next day. They work on the same center activity until it is completed, then they can choose to write the room, read with a partner or play a game. This works most years, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor behavior and stamina with students scattered around the room during this block of time. My job as a teacher is to manage my classroom in a way that allows for the BEST opportunities/experiences to occur. IMO, for this important guided reading part of the day, many pairs of students at many centers is not cutting it. Soooo much time is wasted in waiting for students to choose which tub to pull and take to an area to work. So much time is wasted when students come to our small group table to get help solving a dispute. Something must change! Valuable time is being lost.
SO…this coming year, I will have a much more structured system in place. One that minimizes movement and helps students to work through a different activity each day (activities I know they need) until Friday when they can have Choices. Students may choose to repeat a favorite center activity, play a game, write the room, read, etc. I will STILL have flexible seating around the room for activities away from tables and for independent work, but for this critical block of time we need more structure. Especially at the beginning of the year!
OUR center stations will be each of the four tables in the room, or be labeled with a center icon in another area (cow, chick, goat, pig) if the center takes more space such as on the floor. This will ensure students complete all activities that strengthen their skills at the appropriate level by the end of the week.
What our rotation will look like:
In a pocket chart across the room, I will display daily rotation with cards that will move to the right until they need to be moved to the first spot again (like when you take a turn and go to the back of the line to rotate through again). See how the color groups move on the flip cards above. Easy peasy!
These nifty little things allow you to record verbal instructions for centers, etc. My use for them will be to record our alphabet chart chant, then attach pods to alphabet charts that go with each table (some people like the word station better). Students will chant the chart twice before beginning their reading center activity for that day. We chant our chart by stating the letter, the sound it makes, and the object whose name its sound begins. It works!
WHAT centers will I place in tubs to begin the year? All of them will be associated with upper and lowercase letter matching, alphabet recognition games, name practice activities, play-doh letters, stamping center that covers our current letters/words, and more!
One of my favorite products is from Shuna Patterson. Her mega pack has several easy to implement sets that reinforce learning the letters and sounds. Perfect for tubs!Another favorite is the series of sets students use magnifying lens with from Marsha of A Differentiated Kindergarten. You can find one of those sets in her Back to School Word Work set!
For alphabet stamping, I made this little set that also has 88 sight words! One day is dedicated to stamping with letter sets at all four table stations.
I will be “revisiting” other aspects of my year to plan for August, so stay tuned!
On a side note: I am very pleased to announce that Debbie Clement of Rainbows Within Reach will have a new song about saying goodbye for sale soon! It is heartfelt, and would be perfect for kindergarten graduations, end of year slideshows, high school graduations, sending children off to college and more! Check her blog for updates!