Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting Centers Started in the Classroom (It Can be Done!)

If you have trouble implementing centers, or stations, in your classroom, you're not alone. Everyday, teachers differentiate instruction and work in small groups to meet the needs of their students. And to do this, you'll need to give the other students an assignment that will keep them engaged and quiet. So the big question is. . . How do I do this?
Getting stations, or centers, started in the classroom
I am in my twelfth year of teaching and I have tried just about everything to get my stations (AKA centers) going in my classroom. I've done everything from making it difficult, to making it boring just to keep the kids occupied, to killing myself to have new stations every week. Let me tell you, this zaps the fun out of station/center time.

I love this time of day. It gives me time to give attention to kids in small groups and it gives the kids time to work independently (which they LOVE). So let me share with you how I get my stations started (from a 2nd grade teacher with no adult helpers point of view).

Now, this isn't something that I just start. It takes time. It takes time to teach the activities. It takes time to set an expectation. It just takes time. But once I've given the time, it's so worth it!
Rules for teaching students to use stations in the classroom
As with anything new in the classroom, rules and procedures must be established. I find rule #1 to be the most important. The rule is to the point. I know 2nd graders, so I explain that they cannot bother me. They can't ask to go to the restroom or to get water. They can't ask to sharpen their pencils. Those procedures need to be put in place before I'm disturbed during my precious table time.

I let the kids know that the purpose of stations/centers (whatever) is for students to work by themselves (AKA reinforce previously learned material) and for the me to work with a small group of kids.
I tell the student we will be practicing a station. I won't be working with a small group. I'll just watch them, but they must follow the rules. I show them the materials and tell them how they are used. I write on the board how the station can be used using an "I can. . ." stem.

Set a timer. I started with 6 minutes. I don't know why I chose 6 minutes. I just did. Let the kids practice and just watch. I write down the good and not so good things happening. Once the time is up, I show the kids how to clean up.

During this time, I like to bring kids to the carpet to discuss all of the good things I saw and any problems I may have seen. This give students the positive feedback they need.

Repeat steps 1-5 using the same station. It can be done on different days or a couple of times in one day. The number of times I practice is dependent on how well my class does.

Thanks for stopping by. Check out my classroom stations here.
Clip art by:
I Teach What's Your Superpower?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Teaching Ideas with Mentor Text (I'm Not Afraid of This Haunted House)

So far, I have shared ideas for teaching ideas with Rocket Writes a Story and Enemy Pie. This post will focus on ideas using the book I'm Not Afraid of This Haunted House by Laurie Friedman. I picked up this book at Barnes and Noble and thought it looked cute. Little did I know, this book would be a classroom favorite and a great way to teach writing.

Simon Lester Henry Strauss is a young boy that is not afraid of a haunted house. Around each corner, Henry sees ghosts, witches, vampires, ghouls, and many other scary creatures. The author uses her ideas and rhymes to keep children engaged. With each scary creature that shows up in this book, we can ask our students, "What could you find in a haunted house?"

And this is where our next lesson on Ideas comes in. Students will use their ideas to think of creatures they might find in a haunted house.  Click on any of the worksheets to download for free.

Give students the worksheet. Let them draw pictures and/or words to tell what they could see in a haunted house. Remind students to use their ideas, which can come from books or movies they have seen.
It doesn't end there! You can also have your kiddos write their own haunted house stories.

Have students use the web to help plan their stories. Use the pictures to decide which three things they will find in a haunted house.  Cut out them out and glue in the web.

To write a story, use the topic sentence provided-- Last night I visited a haunted house. Next use the pictures to help create a story. For example, First I saw a black bat flying in the air. Next I heard a witch laughing while she made a potion. Finally I saw a white ghost coming toward me! I ran out of the haunted house as fast as I could. 
Now I don't use this activity during Halloween, which would probably be more appropriate, but that's OK. This lesson is a great way to use what the students have learned from the first two lessons to use ideas in writing.

Don't forget to check out my other posts to download the free traits of writing posters.
Teaching Ideas with Mentor Text (Rocket Writes a Story)
Teaching Ideas with Mentor Text (Enemy Pie)

Thanks for stopping by! Coming up, the next trait, Organization!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Teaching Ideas with Mentor Text (Enemy Pie)

Hi! This is the second post in my Using Mentor Texts to Teach Writing series. If you haven't read the first post, you can find it here. Mentor texts are a great way to teach writing. The words and illustrations can help to guide our young writers as they develop their craft. This post will focus on Ideas. As I mentioned in the first post, Ideas are ideas. The ideas one has can be gained from books, experiences, movies. . .
use mentor texts to teach writing to primary students

I chose the book Enemy Pie by Derek Munson as the next mentor text. This story is about a little boy whose dad encourages him to spend the day with his enemy, Jeremy Ross, while his dad makes a pie. . . Enemy Pie. As the boy spends time with Jeremy, he realizes Jeremy is a great kid. The two have fun together and the boy begins to worry about the pie his dad is making. His mind starts to go crazy with "ideas." He thinks about all of the disgusting things his dad is putting into the pie.
Use Enemy Pie to teach children about the 6 Traits of Writing
I won't give away the ending, but as you can see, this is a great way to teach kids about Ideas. I wait to read the ending and allow my students to make their own Enemy Pie before they find out about the pie in the story.  I tell my students that we must use our ideas and imaginations to write. The author of the book did just that. I ask the students to write about their own Enemy Pie using their ideas. After writing and sharing their ideas, I read the rest of the story.
The lesson doesn't require a lot of writing. The idea is to teach students about Ideas, so when your students are writing, they will have an understanding of what it means to have ideas.

As with any of these lessons, it is important to use the vocabulary over and over. We want it to stick.

I hope your students enjoy this activity. Mine always do. They get a little gross, but they love it!

Thanks for stopping by! Here are the 6 Traits posters if you missed them the first time :)
Here's a sneak peek at next week's text. . .

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