Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Biography Bucket

Students select a book from the bucket. While Buddy Reading, students record information on index cards. Then they sort the cards and place them in the biography folder according to the categories.  If they have an empty category, then they have to go back into the book and find facts to go in that pocket.  You can extend this center into a writing assignment by having the students use the index cards to write a paragraph about the person they read about.

Reading is Valuable

This is a higher level center meant to be used by independent readers.  It can also be used during a novel study or Guided Reading lesson.  My Literacy Facilitator at my school gave me a teaching tool titled Marzano Money. I added some books to the recipe and came up with this center. The books in this center relate to a topic that is appropriate for the season.  For example, I have books for Black History Month in February.  I will add books centered on strong female stories for March which is Women's History Month. November can feature historical fiction books about Pilgrims and Native Americans. You get the point!

Students choose a book from the tub.  Then they select five questions to answer from the Marzano Bucks.  They tally the total value of their answers.  Then they rate their total value:
  • $5-$25        Your learning was worth a little bit.
  • $26-$100    Your mind is getting richer. 
  • $101-$250   You can take your learning to the bank.
  • $251-$500   Your mind is a wealth of knowledge.
  • $501 and up  You have a million dollar mind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Poet-Tree Center

My boyfriend was doing some home remodeling for a family and they were throwing away an old artificial tree.  He brought it home to me instead because he said it looked like something I would put in my classroom. Of course, he was right and this is how the Poet-Tree was born!

I have a wide collection of poetry in this center.  Some of it is in book format, some of it is folded-up posters that I keep in plastic sleeves, and I also print out individual poems and store them in plastic sleeves.  I have activities hanging on the tree using black metal binder clips.  I also have packets of activities and poems that hang on the wall. 

I include a variety of reading levels, types of poems, poetry topics and themes, lengths, and interests.  Children can act out the poems, choral read them with a partner, create props to do a dramatic reading, or create a song from the poems.  They can illustrate the poems and write new titles for the poems.  I have grammar related activities where students have to use highlighters to identify nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns.  For lower level readers they circle consonant blends and different vowel spellings.  A favorite activity is one where the poem has underlined words and the students have to rewrite the poem using synonyms or antonyms in place of the underlined words.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Sound Like a Good Reader

I have a basket filled with whisper phones and microphones.  Students select one of the items and a book. They use a soft voice to practice reading out loud. They record the title of the book they read on the record sheet.

Writing Center

My writing center is filled with all of the materials a student needs to write. There are baskets of pencils, markers, and crayons. I have a bucket of scissors and another of glue. There are cubbies filled with sticky notes and index cards. I have shelves of paper--notebook, blank, old-school lined, colored. I have Writing Tubs that contain reference books, flip charts of the most commonly misspelled words, alternate words to use for said, lists of contractions, rhyming dictionaries, almanacs, dictionaries, etc.

Posted below you will see some of the activities I have in the writing center so that students have some thought provoking and unique writing topics.

These are story titles. Students choose a title and write an appropriate story.

I cut pictures out of magazines. Students write captions for the pictures or a whole story to go along with the picture.  I look for a variety of pictures to match my students' interests.

I use interesting notepads and write prompts on them. Some are fiction and some are nonfiction.

Word Wall

There are numerous activities on the internet and in books that describe how to arrange your Word Wall. I add words that I think my students should know how to read, spell, and use in conversation and in writing after we have studied them.  My wall is organized alphabetically. I write the vowels in red. I cut around the shape of the words. I leave them up all year.  I also have a Social Studies wall that contains content vocabulary.  On that wall, I take the words down after we finish a unit and put them in a baggie.  The baggies hang on the wall so that students can go back and use them later.

These are activity choices that students can do using the Word Walls.
  • Use the spinner and do the activities listed on it.
  • Give your partner a clue and they have to guess which word you are describing.
  • Write a sentence but leave a word blank. Your partner has to fill in the blank with a Word Wall word.
  • Choose a word and code it with CLOVER.
  • Draw a picture of a word and your partner has to guess it.
  • Act out a word and your partner has to guess it.
  • Create a Tree Map and sort the words that are on one of the cupboards.

Word Threads

In this center I have sets of beads that are individual letters, whole words and some shapes.  Students use their weekly vocabulary or word study lists and thread the letters of the words onto the string. They can string some of the word beads along with the letters and try to create a sentence. They can use one of the shapes as punctuation. For a challenge, instead of vowels, they can thread one of the shapes and ask another student to guess the word.  Be mindful of students that have difficulty with fine motor skills.

Word Search

Students look through magazines and newspapers to find their weekly vocabulary or word study words.  Be careful to preview which newspaper and magazines you put in this center.
  • They glue them down in alphabetical order and code them with CLOVER.
  • They can write a sentence using the words, but instead of writing the word they glue down the one they cut out.
  • Students can draw an illustration of the words on index cards or paint sample cards, glue the cut out words on different cards, flip all the cards over, and play a game of Memory.
  • They can cut out the letters that spell the words, put the letters in a baggie, and shake it up. Then they dump out the letters and rearrange them to correctly spell the word.

Word Bending

This center is common in elementary schools. I have a bag filled with pipe cleaners in a variety of thicknesses, color, and textures.  Students use the pipe cleaners to create the letters of the words on their weekly vocabulary or word study list. They can leave the letters apart and spell the words or they can connect them together as a whole word. For a challenge, students can sort the words into categories such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Remind students to untwist the letters before putting them back in the bag. For some reason, I have found that this center is calming for students who have behavior issues or who are ADHD.  On the other hand, if you have a student who is a perfectionist they sometimes do not like this center.

There Was an Old Lady

Read one of the books from the basket. Students work with a partner to create their own version of this popular story. They can design illustrations to go along with their story.  For a challenge, students can read one of the original versions or the new version aloud in a Reader's Theater format.  Lower level students can use finger puppets to act out the story.  You can integrate this center with the Sequence Skills center.

Textured Spelling

Students place a piece of paper over the textured mat. I found an old woven plastic placemat. You could also use one of the flat grids from the craft store that people use for needlework.  Students use a crayon or marker and copy their weekly vocabulary or word study list onto the paper. When they are finished, they show the words to someone else and see if that student can read the words. For a challenge, the student can close his eyes when writing the words and use the sense of touch to see if they can still write the words correctly.

Suitcase Story

I have an old suitcase I got at a yard sale.  I fill it with items and books that all relate to a common topic, usually from my Social Studies lesson.  Students examine the objects and books in the suitcase. They pretend they are the person who uses this suitcase. Then they write a postcard to their friends or family telling them about where they have been traveling and what they have been doing on their travels. Remind students to describe the climate, landforms, and bodies of water they may have seen. The books in the suitcase will help students decide what pictures to draw on the front of the postcard. You will want to include examples of postcards for students to use as samples.

Sticky Situation

I have a bag filled with a variety of alphabet stickers. They vary in size, color, texture, and font.  These materials appeal to students with sensory issues. 

Students use the alphabet stickers to spell out weekly vocabulary or word study lists. For a challenge, students could only stick on the consonants and have a partner fill in the missing vowels. As another extension, students could use CLOVER to code the words.

Spotlight on Reading

For this center I have a basket that contains books related to our literacy and Social Studies topics and some small flashlights. It allows students to practice the prosody portion of oral reading fluency.

Students choose a book from the basket and silently Buddy Read the book.  The partners tap each page to signal when they are finished reading  Then they turn on the flashlights and shine light on their favorite part they just read.  The partners must read that part out loud.  Remind students to make sure they turn the flashlights off when they finish.

Spot On Spelling

I saw a few versions of this center in other blogs and on Pinterest.  It is good to have a basket of scrap paper for students to use when they are in this center.  Remind students to put the cap back on tightly. Also remind them not to shove down on the stamper or squeeze the bottle--this will make a mess.

Students use the Bingo stamper to make dots to spell out their weekly vocabulary or word study list.  They could a different version by writing the words with a pencil and stamping only at the letter intersections. Then they can connect the dots with a marker to spell the word.

Sparkle Spelling

I try to provide my students with centers that appeal to a variety of learning styles. I try to incorporate a variety of senses also.  This center is meant to entice the reluctant student to use some fun confetti and practice their spelling. I keep the confetti in a plastic pencil box. I have a mixture of different shapes and colors, but you could also change out the confetti to be seasonal. This center is sort of the counterpart to Soft and Fuzzy Spelling!

Students use the sparkle pieces to spell out their weekly vocabulary or word study list. They could also write the words with a pencil and place sparkles only on the letter intersections. They can connect the sparkles with a marker to spell the words.

Soft and Fuzzy Spelling

I try to provide my students with centers that appeal to a variety of learning styles. I try to incorporate a variety of senses also.  This is a quiet, calm, and relaxing activity for students that may have sensory issues.  This center is the counterpart to Sparkle Spelling.

Students use the fuzzy balls to spell out their weekly vocabulary or word study list.  They can also write the words with a pencil and place balls only on the intersections in the letters. Then they connect the balls with a marker to spell the word.

Sequence Skills

I have small pocket charts hanging around the bottom of my classroom walls. I hotglued clothespins to the wall. Then I put notebook rings on the pocket charts and hung them on the clothespins. On my soft wall I hung them up with pushpins.  I put them on the bottom of the wall so the students can sit comfortably on the floor and use the pocket charts. 

Students choose an envelope from the bag.They put the strips from the envelope into the pocket chart slots. Then they arrange the strips so that the story makes sense. At the end they write envelope number on the record sheet.

Sentence Building

I rarely use commercial games or premade centers.  I used to work at a high-end toy store though and sometimes a product would come in that I thought was educationally valuable.  This center contains one of those products.  Sentence Building is advertised as an ELL activity for students in grades K-2.  I think it works just lovely with my low level readers in third grade though.  It contains pictures cues and sight words that are perfect for these learners. Instead of purchasing this product, you could make your own using sentence strips cut apart or paint sample cards.

Students use the pieces in the box to build sentences. The cards that link together include words, pictures, and punctuation marks.  The pictures are a wonderful challenge because they create a sort of rebus. For an extension, have students use a sticky note and write the picture word on it. Put the sticky notes on the picture card. For a challenge, leave blank spaces and have a friend fill in the blanks either with their own words or with words from the pieces. Students can also copy their sentences onto paper and illustrate them. Have students try to put the sentences in order to create a story.

Scrambled Spelling

I found foam alphabet stickers and I put them on paint sample cards. I made four or five of each letter. The letter cards are in baggies.  You could also put them in envelopes, but make sure you write the letter on the outside. 

Students take out their spelling or vocabulary list. They will work with a partner and each will choose a word from the list.  They will use the letter cards to sscramble the words. Then they give the stack of letters to their partner and challenge the partner to unscramble the letters and spell the word correctly. For a challenge, the students can use the words in sentences.

Sand Writing

Use your finger and write your weekly vocabulary or word study list in the sand. Have your partner read the word and use it in a sentence.  Depending on the ability of the students you can have them say the sentence or write it.

Colored sand can be found at craft stores, but plain old beach sand works, too. Plastic meat trays work well as containers because they are deep enough to prevent the sand from spilling. They can stack on top of each other.  You can also use tupperware or pencil boxes because they have snap close lids.  Students can use their fingers or they can use a popsicle stick (some children with sensory issues do not like the texture of the sand).

Reading is a Picnic

Dollar Tree inspires another original center! I was buying paper plates for a party when I saw some plates that were designed with red and white checks...like a picnic blanket. I bought them, put them in a basket with a tablecloth, and added some books.  I switch out the books in the basket to reflect what subjects we are studying in literacy and Social Studies.  I use fiction books for this center.

Students select a book to read from the basket. After reading the book, they select three plates and answer the question found on each plate. On the record sheet, students write the number found on the backs of the plates. Depending on the students that are assigned to this center, I let them know if I want the answers written out or if they can discuss the answers orally.  I make this decision based on the student's ability level.

Here are the questions/activities that are written on the plates:
  • Would you want to be friends with the main character? Why or why not?
  • What part of the story did you like the most? Why?
  • How would this story be different if it happened in winter?
  • Pretend that after the story is over the characters go to sleep. What happens when they wake up the next day?
  • Add a new character to the story. What is his/her name? How will the story change?
  • Describe the main idea in 20 words or less.
  • What could be a new title for this book?
  • What is one event you would change in this story? How would you change it?
  • Would you want the main character in this story to be in your family? Why or why not?
  • Which character do you think you are most like? Why?
  • Write a new ending to this story.
  • How would this story be different if it happened at the beach?

Reading at the Circus

This is an original center idea I came up with during a walk around Dollar Tree. I noticed someone in front of me buying clown noses, a huge tie, fancy gloves, and popcorn containers.  She also had circus invitations. As I stood there the idea for this center was created.

Students put on the clown gloves and glasses. They read a book of their choice. Then they complete an activity found on one of the popcorn bags.  They put the completed activity inside the popcorn bag. Finally they record which activity they did on the record sheet.

These are the activities I have listed on the popcorn bags.
  • Create a Double Bubble Map comparing and contrasting yourself to a character in the book
  • Write a poem or song about this book
  • What do you think the character in this book likes to eat? Make a grocery list for the character.
  • Draw a new cover for this book
  • Create a Bubble Map describing one of the characters in the book
  • Write four multiple choice questions about this book
  • Design a Pokemon card using a character from the book
  • Create a Circle Map showing important ideas from the book
  • Create a Flow Map showing important events in the story
  • Draw a picture of what you think the character's bedroom looks like
  • Draw a comic strip of one of the events in the book
  • Design a poster to make people want to read this book
  • Draw a picture of the character as if they were 100 years old
  • Make a list of five words in the book that you plan to use when writing or talkin this week
  • Make a wanted poster of one of the characters
  • Make a list of jobs you think the character would be good at
  • Write a recipe for the main character's favorite food
  • Draw a map of the story's setting
  • Design a bookmark that shows the most important ideas in the book

Read Around the Room

This is another common, simple center that many teachers use.  It is useful for students that need environmental print practice, students who need to revisit words they have already learned, and it is an easy way to get unmotivated students up and out of their seats.  I like to use paint sample cards (because they are colorful) and write a special message on it.  Then I hide it somewhere in the room. Students who discover it while they are reading around the room will get a special suprise.  I don't ever tell the students I hid the card...I just let them discover it!

Students select a pointer from the container. Be creative with your pointers--wands, pinwheels, fancy rulers, Dollar Tree has very cool oversized ojects that work well! Then they take a walk around the room and point out important words as they go. They can practice reading the Word Wall. They practice reading the Social Studies vocabulary Word Wall. Students can enjoy reading their classmate's work that is hanging up. They record what they read on the record sheet.

Rainbow Words

This is an activity that all primary teachers have been doing for years in one way or another.  Maybe it was a flower with a word family written in the middle and letters on the petals or a sailboat on a lake that had a word family and the sail had the letters. An evening of surfing on Pinterest combined the average word family lists and my adoration of paint sample cards...

...I seriously believe I am responsible for hundreds of paint sample cards being taken each year!  Lowes and Walmart must think I am an interior designer. They are sturdier and prettier than index cards. You can use them for matching games. You can use them for I Have Who Has. You can color code questions for Guided Reading based on Marzano's levels. They are FREE!

Anyways, this is how the center works. This center is meant for readers needing practice in phonemic awareness.  You could adapt it though by using prefixes and suffixes for independent readers. Students select a rainbow strip and a word family card with a hole in it.  They slide the rainbow strip underneath the word family card to spell new words.  They read each word out loud and then use the words in sentences either orally with a partner or written on paper.

Click here for a link to fabulous blog that contains ALL of the word families, diagraphs, blends, and over 500 words to make!  It also shows you how this teacher uses the paint samples.

Post Office

Letter writing is becoming a lost art.  This center gives students the opportunity to write cards or letters to friends and family members.  They can make their own cards or use ones that I provide for them.  They learn how to address an envelope. They get to be artistic and design stamps for the envelope. This center gives students exposure to artistic, linguistic, and interpersonal skills.  I placed all of the materials in a Priority Mail Box to make it authentic!

I put junk mail in this center for students to read which is another authentic purpose.  Sometimes I switch it up a little bit and attach question stems to the junk mail fliers.  Students can also do sorting activities with the junk mail based on author's purpose.

I also included some books that use letter writing to tell their story. One unexpected outcome of this center is that if you include thank you cards, the students begin writing them for each other which ends up being very positive for your classroom community!

Play Dough Words

Students roll the play dough into pieces to form the letters of their weekly vocabulary or word study list.  They can also flatten out a piece of play dough and carve the words into it. Remind students to put the lids on tightly. I like using the little containers of dough that are at Dollar Tree because their lids come off more easily for children. For some reason I also find that it stays moist longer.

Math Time

I am a huge proponent of integrating literature into math lessons.  I have compiled a library of fiction books that relate to math topics from K-5 grades.  In this center I placed a canvas folding chair (like you sit in at a soccer game).  Student choose a book from the math crate. They sit in the fold-out chair and read the book.  I wrote some QAR and Marzano questions on paint sample cards and stuck them in the middle of the books.  Students discover the questions while they are reading.  They record the book title they read on the record sheet

Ideally I hope the students find a book to read that relates to what they are studying in math.  I move the books to the front of the crate that relate to their current Math topic.  When a student is in this center I will often stop and conference with them and encourage them to tell their math teacher about the book.  This is an excellent way to have a 1:1 mini lesson about making text to world connections between literature and math concepts. I will also discuss the hidden question that was inside the book.


Map It Out

Whenever I go to a tourist destination such as an amusement park or outlet mall, I grab extra maps of the location.  They provide an authentic application of mapping skills for children because they are usually written in a reader-friendly format.  My favorite map I have snagged is of a Harris Teeter grocery store when it had a grand opening celebration.  I put the maps and some books related to maps in a bucket so the materials can be easily carried. 

Students choose a map from the bucket. They write questions using information from the map.  They use their Marzano question stems and also their QAR cues to write their questions.  For some of the maps I have questions premade.  I will put these in the bucket if I assign lower level readers to this center.  Then they exchange questions with a partner. 

Magnified Reading

This center is meant to be used with independent readers.  I have a bag filled with books, magnifying glasses, and question stems based on QAR.

Students choose a book from the bag.  They silently Buddy Read the book. Students tap each page to show their partner they are finished reading.  Then they place their magnifying glass on part of the story and the partner must read that part out loud.  Finally the partners ask each other one "in the book question" and one "in your head question."