How to Run Effective Centers

Small groups are essential for students to receive personalized instruction. In my classroom, I run small groups for reading, math, and flex time. At times, I also have Social Studies/Science, small groups.

For small groups to be effective, a schedule needs to be in place to make it clear to both students and teachers where each student should be and what students should be doing at each center. A sample of my schedules are below:

visuals, centers, elementary

centers, elementary, teaching

elementary, classroom, management

I like to set up centers where students receive teacher instruction, have the opportunity to practice specific skills independently, a place where they can review skills, and a time where they can go on online programs that reinforce learning.

In my picture, you will notice that my small group visual on the board does not have arrows. Last year, I was able to have my students attend each center in a simple circular rotation, but this year, because the needs of my students have changed, not all students attend each center. To compensate for that, my students start at the same station every day so they know where to go after each rotation. One group starts at the teacher table, then goes to the independent poster station, and then go to vocabulary, and then technology. My students caught on pretty quickly and can transition independently to each place since the routine is the same each day.

Below, I will describe each reading center in detail. In a later post, I will share more information about my math centers and social studies/science centers.

Teacher Table: At the teacher table, I provide intensive instruction (phonics work, comprehension skills, and specific reading strategies). At this table, we follow our reading program curriculum. We use the program Project Read, which allows for phonics and comprehension instruction.

project read

elementary, classroom, lesson plans, visuals, special education

elementary reading

EdMark/Vocab Station:

EdMark is a sight word program for students who have not been successful with phonics-based programs. It is highly repetitive and provides end of unit assessments. EdMark includes an assessment book (great for data collection), a workbook, a picture match, stories, homework, and spelling. I love this reading program since I have seen it really help some of my students who have been nonreaders. EdMark has two levels (Level 1 and 2). Students need one-to-one instruction while using this program since it is highly individualized.

elementary, site words, help

During my student teaching, I used the phonics program Fundations and Lively Letters. I also incorporate some cool spelling tricks.

Independent Poster/Manipulative Center:

At this station, I have students practice the skills I just taught independently or to review skills already taught earlier in the year. At times, I need to help my students if they are struggling, but I like to give them time to try a skill on their own (after guided instruction at the teacher table). I use different colored post-it notes for each group that matches the color of their individualized reading boxes. This helps me know what each group has accomplished at this station. I have several anchor charts that focus on each skill (such as summarizing, comparing and contrasting, making inferences, cause and effect…etc). In this picture, I featured my story element poster since it is one that I always start the year with.

In this center, I provide leveled books and different follow up activities (such as writing a summary, asking and answering questions, and writing about their favorite part). In addition, I am very intentional about structuring and modeling how to “stop and think” while reading. Most students typically read without stopping and asking questions. By giving clear guidelines such as stopping after every paragraph or every 2-3 pages in a book, I find that my students are starting to build healthy reading habits that can be transferred during their independent reading time later in the day. As seen in the pictures below, I leave instructions and self-assessments so students can run this station on their own.

anchor charts, reading, special education anchor charts, reading, special education anchor charts, reading, special education anchor charts, reading, special education

At times, I also utilizes manipulatives (such as matching games and centers in a bag) from LakeShore or ReallyGoodStuff.

 lesson plans, small group lesson plans, small group lesson plans, small group

Spelling/Vocabulary Center:

At this station, students practice their spelling and vocabulary words. I have students write words in their notebooks, build words with magnets or blocks, write the word in a sentence, or write a story/song.

elementary, self contained classroom ideas elementary, education,

self contained, special ed, center ideas, small groups

In a previous post, I outlined various ways to practice spelling words. I use these ideas for homework and in class.

Technology Center:

In my school, we utilize the following reading programs: Achieve3000 Raz Kids, and Reading Eggs. Here, I took pictures of the program Achieve3000. I appreciate that each of these reading programs have accommodations such as a read-aloud option, vocabulary help, and extended time to complete each activity. In addition, I recommend the following online reading websites.

achieve3000, reading, comprehension help achieve3000, reading, comprehension help achieve3000, reading, comprehension help

Student Run Centers:

A clear structure is very important when setting up centers. I typically do not change the routine so my students can independently do each center. At the end of each center, my students clap to get the other groups attention and self-assess their own learning. I provide objective cards at each station and then students ask each other what they did well and what they need to continue to work on. We clap again and the students at the teacher table say “please move to the next station”.

In a post coming to this blog soon, I will share more pictures of my objectives cards that my students use to self-assess after each center rotation. Eventually, I would love for my students to think of the objective and benchmarks on their own, but for now, this is a guided structure that I utilize to ensure content vocabulary, reflection, and accurate assessment of their time at each center.

anchor charts, reading, special education

Comment below to share your center/small group advice. What challenges do you experience when implementing centers? What systems/structures could you share with others? Ideas and reflection help us all grow so your thoughts are greatly appreciated!

Reading Websites for Parents and Teachers

A lot of parents ask me ways their child can practice reading at home. Below is a list of reading resources shared by my reading specialist that supports student learning in school and at home. I have used a lot of these resources. My personal favorite for teachers is Readworks.

Choose Kindness- The Movie “Wonder”

Is it better to be kind, or right? #choosekind

Today, the fourth and fifth grade students had the opportunity to see the movie “Wonder”. It is a highly recommended film for teaching kindness and for starting a discussion about how to include others who are different than you. Based on the book, “Wonder”, Auggie, the main character, has extreme congenital facial anomalies and starts public school for the first time. He has had 27 surgeries and often wears an astronaut helmet to hide his face.

Auggie says:

“I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid….I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.  I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go… It’s like people you see sometimes, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it’s somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can’t talk.  Only, I know that I’m that person to other people… To me, though, I’m just me.  An ordinary kid.”

The movie does a great job diving into the emotions of the boy Auggie, his friends, his family, and the people he comes in contact with at school.

Take Aways: 

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover
  2. Be kind to people who are different
  3. One kind action can have a ripple effect

Strengths of the Movie:

  1. Emotions of the main character are shown clearly and makes him highly relatable
  2. Reinforces the idea that every child, no matter how they look or what they do, want to build genuine friendships with others
  3. One brave act can inspire other children to do the right thing

Possible Considerations Before Watching the Movie:

  1. It is rated PG
  2. Some kissing moments between the mom and dad, and the sister and her boyfriend (our students tended to react with EWWW and laughing at these parts)
  3. Some scenes of adults drinking wine and there is a mention of getting drunk once in the movie
  4. Also, there are fighting scenes between the boys/students (which is praised by the dad)

Classroom Follow-Up Activities:

  1. Wonderful Website: http://wonderwebbook.weebly.com/wonder-ful-activities.html
  2. Teacher Pay Teacher: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Search:wonder
  3. Choose Kind Challenge: https://lionsgate.promo.eprize.com/wonder/

Additional Videos for References:

Free Subtraction Worksheet

When teaching skills such as addition and subtraction, many websites provide free resources to help students practice their math skills. Education.com is a website I use when looking for homework and classwork.

One of the best features about education.com is that you can build your own custom worksheet.  This is a great feature for teachers who want to modify the number of problems or type of problems they are giving their students.

If you do not want a custom built sheet, Education.com provides many choices for teachers to choose from. Challenge your mathematicians with this FREE fun school-themed subtraction worksheet below.

Free Subtraction Worksheet from Education.com

Answers To Free Subtraction Worksheet from Education.com

Here is a subtraction poem I use in my classroom to help students remember the steps to subtraction.

math charts, resources, anchor posters

Enjoy more math worksheets from Education.com.

Happy World Teachers’ Day

Today is World Teachers’ Day!  In 1994, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) marked October 5th to be the day to recognize teachers around the world. Each year, UNESCO holds an annual conference in Paris where awards are given out.

In celebration of World Teachers’ Day, I put together a list of different articles referencing/celebrating/or sharing information about this special day.

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/04/health/teacher-pay-and-status/index.html
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/world-teachers-day-arts-educators_us_5612a406e4b076812702a656
  3. http://www.ibtimes.com/world-teachers-day-2017-11-inspiring-quotes-celebrate-educators-2597655
  4. https://www.ndtv.com/education/world-teachers-day-7-teachers-who-became-renowned-authors-1758937
  5. Inside A Changing First-Grade Classroom in the 1970s 
  6. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/icts/teacher-education/
  7. https://antiguaobserver.com/editorial-today-is-world-teachers-day/
  8. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/school-life/an-open-letter-to-teachers-everywhere/news-story/746487e12e59a7e492f5e3741911192e

 

Reading Comprehension: Read All About It!

With the start of the school year around the corner, I always love to research new teaching strategies and skills I can incorporate into my classroom for the following year. My main research focus this year is how to increase comprehension within the classroom environment.

comprehension tips, teach reading

Below, are some of the best resources I have found for teachers and parents when it comes to understanding the word “comprehension” and how we can best support our children.

  1. At a basic level, providing graphic organizers can help students organize their thoughts and questions. I prefer graphic organizers with lines since spacing can be an issue for a lot of students.
  2. Students should make connections with the text. Simple prompts such as “What does this remind you of?” “Has something like this ever happen to you before?” can help students connect the dots and remember more details after they are done reading a passage.
  3. Students need to make a habit of asking more questions as they read. This helps create a purpose for reading as well as an interest. I do something in my classroom called “Stop and Ask”. After one paragraph, students need to generate a question about what they just read. This helps a lot of students reread the passage and create discussion.
  4. Students also need to dissect what type of question is being asked of them. According to reading rockets, there are four different types of questions. Please see the image below.
  5. Lastly, students should feel your excitement about reading. Decoding and comprehending texts is hard, and teachers and parents need to be constant cheerleaders. We should model out loud how we want our children to approach literature by stopping, asking questions, visualizing, and making  connections with the text.

Here are some additional resources for further research:

*http://www.readingrockets.org/helping/target/comprehension

*https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/partnering-with-childs-school/instructional-strategies/6-tips-for-helping-your-child-improve-reading-comprehension#slide-1

*http://www.benchmarkeducation.com/best-practices-library/comprehension-strategies.html

Four different types of questions: (courtesy of reading rockets)

teaching reading, asking questions, increase

Find the Area: Guest Blog Post from education.com

Introduce the concept of area to your third grader with this fun card game. You’ll show your child how to determine the area of any object and help him begin thinking in terms of units as you create shapes out of playing cards. Count the cards you use or try applying multiplication to find the total area. Once you’ve got the hang of the game, assign different values to the cards!

What You Need:

  • Deck of cards
  • Several players

What You Do:

  1. Decide on the unit value of the cards. If you decide on the number 2, each card will amount to two units and players will have to keep this value in mind when calculating the area of the figure you’re building.
  2. Have the players take turns placing one card at a time face down on a flat surface. Every card placed down should touch the side of another card. Cards should not overlap.
  3. Every so often, interrupt the game and have one of the players calculate the area of the figure.

education.com

Helpful Tip: You may want to guide the players to build rectangles as they’ll make it easier to calculate the area. Stop the game at intervals when rectangles have been completed. Then, introduce the formula for finding the area of a rectangle: length x width= area.

Play this game multiple times and assign the cards several different values in order to get as much practice as possible.

TeacherTalk4all would like to thank education.com for being a guest blogger on our site and for sharing this activity with us. We think this game is engaging and a great way to introduce area at home or in the classroom. We are a supporter of education.com and thank them for all their dedication to helping teachers and students.

 

A New Character With Autism On Sesame Street

Last month, a new character with autism was introduced on the show Sesame Street, which created a positive reaction from individuals around the world. Julia, the newest character of the show, has autism and acts in a stereotypical manner of many peers in the classroom.

sesame street, inclusion, tv and disabilities

For example, Julia is seen flapping her hands, repeating words, and not responding to a greeting by Big Bird. Alan, the narrator, explains that Julia is not trying to ignore Big Bird, but instead responds to people differently than Big Bird himself. He says, “She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way.” It may take her a bit longer to respond, but it’s okay.

Sesame street does a great job explaining some of the behaviors Julia demonstrates and does an even better job at explaining an appropriate way others can respond to such behaviors. For example, Julia is sensitive to loud noises. She repeats things that were just said by her friends and avoids eye contact. Although she acts differently than her peers, Julia fits right in and is part of the show. An example showing Julia and Elmo playing or Julia and Abby playing can bring tears to an eye of an educator or parent who is constantly striving to create this type of peer interaction and play environment.

Julia’s arrival of the show comes at a unique time in history. As society is progressively becoming more understanding and tolerant of differences, Julia’s presence on the show showcases how an inclusion setting can operate within the boundaries of love, patience, and understanding. It also teaches children at an early age to accept individuals who behave differently within the classroom environment and community.

I applaud Sesame street for including Julia in their show and for accurately depicting some common social situations that can occur in a life of a child with autism.

 

Thinking Blocks-Visuals for Solving Math Word Problems

When teaching children how to solve word problems, many teachers model how to solve the problem on the board with a diagram and think-aloud (going through each step/thought process). A great digital tool to use is a site called Thinking Blocks. It allows teachers to model how to draw/label a diagram for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. As the website states, word problems are easier to solve when you build a model first.

math world problems, visual support, math manipulatives