Thursday, September 28, 2006

Our First Day of Literacy Centers

Things are finally coming together. This week I've been picking up most of my kids and by next week my program should be in full swing.

And I am sooo ready. This week I did running records on all of my kids to get their reading level. Then I made up guided reading groups and schedules. I'm now putting the final touches on my centers so that I can start guided reading as soon as possible. Resources that I've read say to wait about six weeks before starting guided reading so that students know the procedures for centers, how to rotate, what to do, who to go to for help, etc. While I am doing guided reading the students have to be able to do centers and rotate with minimal direction. I know this is a huge task but I don't have six weeks to wait to start helping my students grow their reading levels (I have 5th graders on a kindergarten level!!). So, I'm going to teach centers procedures and routines as quickly as possible. (Two weeks maybe?) I'm thinking that with only 10-12 kids (not a full class of 30) it should be manageable.

I got started with the process today. I'm so excited to have "opened" my first center. I did it with the second grade group. First we did our morning message which talked about how exciting it was to open our first center--the Drama Center. Then I read aloud The Little Red Hen (for the second time). I involved the students in the story by giving them character puppets (color photo copies from the book) to hold up when I read their characters part. Students chimed in when I read "'Not I,' said the dog." Then next step was to have two students come up to the front and demonstrate what to do when they went to the Drama Center. First they had to decide who would be the Hen and who would be the other three characters. Then, they retold the story using the cut outs. Next, I moved the cut-outs to the Drama Center and let students try it out two at a time. While they were doing that they rest of us stayed in the Library (or the "Reading Center") reading books. (Later, when I officially open the Reading Center, I'll show them all of the stuff they can do there such as using the whisper phones, how to share pillows and chairs, using our "Book Talk" wall, etc.) I also had two students at the writing center drawing a picture about the story and writing something about it. (Again, I didn't show them everything they could do at the center just yet. For now the focus is on learning the Drama Center).

So now all of the students know how to use our first center (we'll have to review procedures of course). I'll open centers one by one until they know the main centers that we'll be using. Finally, we'll practice rotating, working in the centers, and using the management board for a few days before I pull guided reading groups. I'm so excited that I started the first step in this process today. And it went really well. The kids were excited about starting centers and they were well behaved.

(As a side story, I have one kid, Jose, who had been asking me when we would start centers every day this week. After we went through this whole process he asked "Now are we going to do centers?" "We were just doing centers," I told him. "No, I mean centers with the pillows. And we get cookies." Right, I did tell him that when we started Centers we would get to use the pillows--not during Message Time and not today because we were leaning the Drama Center. As for the cookies, it sounds as if the old ESL teacher used to give them cookies on their way out the door. And here I thought he was so thrilled to do centers.)

A few things about the Drama Center . . . Another name for it would be the "Story Retelling Center." That's really what the kids are getting ot of it. They are practicing sequencing the story, remembering the parts, the characters, the beginning/middle/end of the story etc. For my ELLs I think it is great because it gives them the chance to practice oral language skills too. And, another thing I'm so excited about is that my student in the group who is a real newcomer (speaks no English) was able to successfully participate in the center. I paired him with a more advanced student who did the part of the Little Red Hen while he did the other three characters. All he had to do was hold each one up and say "Not I, said the cat," "Not I, said the dog, "Not I, said the mouse." He'd heard those lines so many times during the read aloud (and participated as well) that he was able to be successful in the center.

The next center to open is the "Writing Center." Bernie the Bear (a stuffed animal who lives at the Writing Center) has written the class a letter and invited them to write back. That and other fun activities are in store for them next time.

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