Saturday, February 11, 2006

4th Grade Reading Centers

My group of fourth graders comes to my room four times a week for a 90 minute block. This is my most consistent group as I see them at the same time each week. One of my goals for this group is to increase their reading levels so just before the Christmas break I started a sort of "Centers" rotation. In the first 15 minutes of the lesson I do a "mini lesson" where I tell them what they will be working on at the centers or I model a skill for the reading or writing center. Then they rotate between the Independent Reading, Writing and Conferencing centers which are 20 minutes each. Then the last 15 minutes of class we share about a book or do exit slips or something to wrap up the class.

So far this set up is working really well. We do the centers two out of the four periods that we meet. I really like it because the conferencing center gives me time to work one on one with students (I only have three in this group). One of the students is on a mid first grade reading level so I am helping him with sight words, phonics, spelling patterns and reading fluency. The other two students are on a fourth grade level but one seriously lacks comprehension. While the other does pretty well, he needs someone to push him to work hard and read books that will advance his level. I'm lucky that I only have three students so I can really differentiate by making different graphic organizers and activities for each student for each center.

The students definitely notice that they are not all working on the same things at centers. I've spent a good deal of time talking to the students about how each student is working on what they need to become better readers. The main issue is with the one student who is on a first grade level. He feels embarrassed to be reading "baby books" and the other kids see me working with him on sorting words by short vowel sounds and yell out from their center "That's easy!" Of course then he hears me trying to get a student to identify the main idea and (having been listening in) he says (correctly) "That's easy. It's . . ." I just keep telling them that every one is different and needs help with different things.

To try to motivate my lowest reader, I showed him a book that is on the level that I want him to be at by the end of the year. I told him that if we worked hard he would be able to read this book on his own. He wanted to try it right away so I let him. He was barely able to read a paragraph. I told him that I see him trying and that he'll definitely be able to master this book by June. I think that that book will be a sort of marker of his progress.

The main thing that is stopping this from being a perfect situation is that the students don't really like doing the centers. They always complain when it is a centers day. I'm not really sure why they don't like it. Maybe because they are expected to work quietly and independently for a full 60 minutes? A couple of other kinks that I am working out are planning something for the writing center that takes them a full 20 minutes so they don't finish early and finding enough books that are on students' correct levels (I have a really small library). I also talked to my mentor and we discussed making some of the centers activities seem more fun. One idea of hers was to make a mobile with the main idea and key details hanging on string from a hanger. They could go for that. I'll have to think about some other ideas as well.

I am determined to keep this up until the end of the year in any case. I know that the one on one time has been the most beneficial thing that we've done all year. I am already starting to see progress with my lowest level student.

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