Sunday, November 23, 2014

Literacy Centers.... A Different Approach

I was one that was proud of her centers. Each day the kiddos were engaged and learning during center time. 
When the state, district, and school officials announced they would be walking through my room, I didn't worry at all. I knew they would be impressed by my phonics center, vocabulary center, figurative language center, and writing center. 
The moment they opened the door, the kiddos were all on task and working their little hearts out. My heart swelled with pride. I just knew that I would be given high remarks. 

I was wrong.....
sooooooo wrong.
The district took my centers, crumpled up my ideas, and threw them far out into the ocean. 
My heart sank as I was told my centers did not provide the "rigor" they wanted. 
In fact, no one in our school was. We had been trained in how to provide engaging centers. WE all thought we were doing it correctly. Well we were, before common core took over. 
The state gave us suggestions on what our centers should look like. 
Each center should have students working as a team.
Each center needs to tie into all the other centers using the same text (or similar text). 
Cut out phonics, grammar, and vocabulary centers unless they are tied to a text that is being read in that center. 
Each center needs to have students creating a piece of work that they ALL contributed to. 

This completely made sense to me. Why wasn't I doing this all along? It was time to revamp my centers!

I started by creating this outline.

  You can download it for FREE by clicking {here}.  The form is editable. Our state told us that student directions needed to include the standard, students will section, and a target section.

Students are in ONE center per day. They will spend an hour in their center. Well, technically less than that because they get pulled for small group. I do make my centers according to levels/skills. If centers are main idea and details that week, I will move students accordingly.  No matter what group they end up in, that whole group will come to me at once. That way no one is left to complete the work on their own. Again, this is what we were told.

This is my center board. It is easy peasy to make and even easier to update.
 It is a simple cork board wrapped with duct tape. I tac the numbered cards to the board and rotate clockwise each day. Whatever number lands on the star, is the center that group is at for the day.

I made these bins over the summer. Someone was throwing them away. They were white and ugly. Some spray paint, glitter duct tape, and chalkboard stickers later and WA-LA. I keep all the center supplies in these bins. 

In each bin are folders that are different colors. This allows me to differentiate each center to each academic level. Our county is HUGE on differentiating this year. The kiddos know which folder to pick from when they go to their centers. 

 I drilled it into their heads that they MUST read the directions before anything else. That includes the learning target. 

I place group rules in a plastic sleeve and place it in the prongs of the folder. I found this for free off of TPT, but it was a few years ago and I can't find the file anymore:(.
This is also in plastic sleeves in each folder. We talked extensively about how to have engaging conversations. This product is a great reminder for them on how to speak to one another. We work on this everyday. I hope a day will come when they will fluently and actively engage in conversations on their own. You can find this product from Laura Candler's Store.

What work do my kiddos complete during center time?
All four centers are based on the same text. I level the texts for the students. Yes the students have to reread the text four times. However, this is part of close reading. They are reading the same text with a different purpose. 

One center is vocabulary activities that I create from the text. One center is creating thinking maps for the text (according to whichever strategy or skill we are working on). One center is answering text based in depth questions using RACE. Finally, my last center is a Response to Literature center. They have to write about the text (there is a specific prompt for them).
The important thing to remember about each center is they are done as a group. Students work together to discuss the text and complete the work. 

There ya have it folks. I hope you have found this useful and will be able to easy incorporate into your classroom.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Germs Germs Be Gone!!!

This time of year is for family traditions, home-cooked meals, Holiday parties, and to be close to those we love the most. 

Ah, yes, this time of year gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. Mainly because I'm running away from people that think it is okay to go out of their house sick. Especially the kiddos. 

I admit it, I'm a germaphobe. Ask anyone that knows me.

I've been sick 3 or 4 times this year. It is to the point that I don't have any sick days left. I'M SICK OF BEING SICK! 
I've come up with a way to cut down those germs in our classroom. I sure hope it works!!!
I'm just getting over strep. Fun times! 

I've sent several messages to my parents, while sick in bed, requesting Lysol Wipes and hand sanitizer. I think the parents are sick of their kids being sick as well because on my desk upon my return was exactly what I requested. That is just my first step of the plan. 

The next step is old-school. WASH YOUR HANDS!

I saw this glitter germ trick on Pinterest a LOOOONG time ago. If you know the person that created it, let me know so I can give credit where it is due.

I wanted to show how important it is to wash your hands with soap. 

I had the kids pour glitter on their hands. This represented "germs". 

We then washed our hands under water without soap. 

The glitter "germs" remained. This showed the kids that just using water will not get the germs off. 

I then had the kiddos wash their hands with soap. They scrubbed with soap while singing Happy Birthday. 

And like magic, all the glitter "germs" were gone. The kids were amazed. This mini lesson opened their eyes!

I explained that we will be washing our hands as a whole group numerous times a day. They were excited. They were even reminding me that we had to wash our hands. We set certain time periods to do this. Yes it takes up time, but I truly hope it is worth it in the end. I'll let you all know!

Thanks for stopping by! And stay healthy everyone! 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Holidays Around the Blog....Hot Cocoa Themed Party

***This post contains affiliate links***
Welcome to...
Some of my sweetest TPT peeps are linking up to give you great holiday ideas for your classroom.
This is a special time of year. A time when family is number one and the kiddos are filled with joy. 
I have little tradition in my room. It allows parents to be with their kiddos and with each other and just enjoy themselves. 
I call it a Hot Chocolate Party. I live in an area where parent involvement is waaaay below average, but this party is always a hit. It usually draws in 90% attendance. 

I created this FREE editable invitation poster for you to use in your room. 
Click {here} to download it.
SO what is a Hot Chocolate Party? It is a party with lots of hot cocoa (of course), lots of yummy treats, lots of holiday music, and a chance for your students to shine in front of their family. Oh, did I mention we are all in our PJs? We usually have grandparents, aunts, and even babysitters attend.
We welcome parents to the sound of holiday music, a slideshow of all the pictures taken throughout the year, and a cup full of scrumptious hot cocoa. Everyone mingles and eats to their hearts desire. 
After their bellies are full, I have the kiddos pull out some of their special projects from the year. They even show off their interactive notebooks and anything else they are proud of. 
Towards the end, I present a class project. A poem read by ALL the kiddos. In the past, I've recorded the students reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The past few years, I've had them read the whimsical, Snowmen at Christmas. I've had parents cry while listening to their child's sweet voice. This year, I'm going to have the students create their own iMovie for their parents to watch.
Need some creative, fun, and engaging resources for this story (ps one of my favorite stories)? Look no further! I've that covered. Click {here}
Want to link up your fun holiday idea? Join us below!