Thursday, December 12, 2013

Organizing Literacy Center Materials



Yesterday I wrote about how I set up my Literacy Centers.  My school has been using Journeys for a few years now, and I'm more familiar with common core this year than I was at the beginning of last year, so I felt ready to really delve in.  You can see how I set up my rotation topics and schedule here.



Today I thought I'd share how I organize my materials.  Let's face it; the best instructional activities will not engage students if the organization behind them doesn't work!  And if it's too complicated for us to manage, we're not going to want to use it either.  There was some trial and error when it came to different locations in the room and moving desks, which the kids HATED.  Who knew how nervous they would get about other people sitting at their desk!  


So I scrapped that first idea and instead created a file folder system.  It worked for my math games, so I shouldn't be surprised that it turned out to be the best solution for my literacy activities.  They know where to access the folders, how to distribute materials, and they can stay at their own desk.  There is only one activity in the course of the week that requires a single group to move to a separate spot in the room, and fortunately I have the space to accommodate that.


I keep the bin with 3 file folders right in the middle of my leveled readers.  My rotations are right above this set of bins as well, so everything is within reach.  Other than "read with the teacher," each of the other stations has its own file folder of activities.





Inside each file folder I can "preload" the activities for the week.  The Mentor Sentences page has 3 different activities in one, so it keeps them occupied in the "Editing" station for 3 days, and I load the spelling in on the final day.  The Vocabulary pages look different enough from one day to the next, so the kids don't mix up which one to do first, second and so on.  I clip the "not yet" pages to the folder as a gentle reminder, and their current pages are loose in the folder for them to take.  And finally, the Independent Reading Response folder has 3 separate envelopes.  These are clearly labeled for each Close Read slip they need to do, in order.  The kids know they need to tape the first into their notebook and complete it before they take the second.  This is the most time consuming center, so often they come back to it when they finish a different literacy center early. 

Considering that this is my first year running Literacy Stations since moving to fourth grade (and since Common Core began) I think they are going pretty well!  I plan to offer my Close Reads in my TPT store this summer, so if you are thinking about trying stations next year, stay tuned!

[Edit:  I've started to post my Mentor Sentences products in my TPT store.  There are a few freebies in the section I've linked to if you want to give them a try!]

  

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Setting Up my Literacy Stations


This year I have started using Literacy Stations.  I used a variation of this system about a decade ago when I taught third grade using Trophies, then stopped when I moved to a new district that was using Reader's Workshop with one on one conferences.  Well, we've since switched to Journeys and the time felt right to reboot the stations system.  Obviously with common core and a different grade level those old stations would not work for my class, so here is the 2013 version!


Each day my reading groups work on the following stations:

1.  Read with the Teacher, which is basically my leveled reading groups.  

2.  Vocabulary:  Journeys does an AWESOME job with vocabulary.  I have the kids complete a preview page the first day, with a short text (from the TM on the back to give them practice using context clues).  The next day I use the vocabulary cards that come with the program for students to discuss.  Finally, I give them questions from the teacher's manual to complete (5 questions per day).  I blogged about these vocabulary questions here, and you can download my free template for Journey's vocabulary questions from that post.   

3.  Editing:  I have started using Mentor Sentences this year to help kids examine and learn good grammar habits in writing.  Some day I will make this available in my TPT store, but it's just not ready yet! I also include a spelling game once every 5 days.

4.  Independent Reading Responses:  We have started using Close Reads for reading responses because I felt that the worksheets with Journeys were just not cutting the muster.  I wanted to hone in more on common core skills and creating my own questions were the best way to do so.
 
Once I decided on the tasks involved, I needed a way to quickly change out the groups several times each day.  Last year I'd hung up file folders with reading materials inside for each group.  There were clips so the kids could be moved each week if needed.  After a lot of sketching of wheels and hanging groups off of station titles, I decided to keep the folders and move the center titles instead.   


And in order to move them quickly, without misplacing any titles (I'm kind of bad at that sort of rotation system) I put them all on sentence strips!  That's right, instead of moving around 4 different station tags, I just take the first strip down, and station number 2 is right there.  At the end of the day I just put strips 3, 2, and 1 back up and the system is ready for the next day. 

As you can see, each "rotation" period is color coded.  The kids in the reading group with the blue folder know that their first rotation every day is editing, followed by reading with me, then their written response, and finally vocabulary. 

It was NOT EASY setting up this system.  Some things can't be done out of order, such as reading with the teacher and the written response.  I really had to flesh out my 5 day schedule to be sure the kids could all work with automaticity when they got to their groups or else I would not be able to focus on my small group.  The key is to NOT schedule any groups on day 1.  My focus lesson for reading comprehension is a little longer, the kids get time to read their books before we meet, and I introduce the editing skill for the week. 

For my first year running these new Literacy Stations, it's going pretty well.  I'll feel even better next year when my Close Read questions and Mentor Sentences are completed.  If you're thinking of trying out Literacy Stations next year, you can download my Literacy Stations one week planning page here for free.  Then, check out my next blog post tomorrow and I'll show you how I organize the materials I use in the stations.




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