Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Independent Centers at Work

Back in July I wrote a post on how I begin teaching my Kinders how to "do" independent stations. Twenty one days into the school year I'm happy to report that we are successfully doing two rounds of Literacy Stations ~ complete with me at the guided reading table ~ and happily working in our math baskets daily. The kids are loving it & I'm a happy teacher!

This all began the first week with lots and lots of  modelling and practice. We still go over the rules of independent work: 1. Walk to your station/Get a math basket.  2. Begin working right away.  3. Work for the entire time.  4. Use quiet voices.  5. Clean up quickly when you hear the chime (I set a timer on my phone)

Of course, we used simple activities that could be done with little to no instruction so the littles could work on stamina. When you don't have to spend lots of time teaching how to do the activities, your students will have more time to practice working independently. This practice took place during our Literacy Stations time, so the kids worked at the actual stations areas. (I am lucky to have a large classroom where I can have permanently set up Literacy Stations.)

The first couple of weeks we used the cards from my Beginner Stations Activities set. (Get it HERE.) Check out some pictures of my kiddos working on stamina.

Sequencing cards 

Matching numbers to sets



The cards in this set are also perfect for math stations, morning tubs, or early finisher activities. 

This letter page is from my Back to School No-Prep set ~ get it HERE.

Read to Self

Sensory Bin with some (older than my students) alphabet cards from The Mailbox

Now that our Literacy Stations are up and running pretty smoothly, I've swapped out the Beginner activities with things that take more time to do as well as a few more choices at each station. The cards are still available for early finishers. The kids already know how to use the cards, so they can grab a set of cards & work quietly as they wait for others to finish.

I use Tara West's Thematic Writing Center ~ it's amazing! The kids really enjoy it.

The Pocket Chart Center (it hangs on the end of the play fridge & mailbox cabinet, which sit back to back near. The sorting cards have been replaced with Deedee Wills' Predictable Sentences.

This cute search and find letter activity was a freebie I got somewhere (Facebook, maybe?). If you know who made it, please let me know in the comments. 

Another wonderful Tara West product ~ my kiddos get to work on fine motor skills at this Literacy Station. It might not be actual literacy, but it gives their hands the exercise needed for writing.

I mentioned that my Literacy Stations are in permanent locations. (The tables where some are located do double duty at other times of the day, but the literacy activities stay there.) For independent math work the kids have activities in Math Baskets or their Math Folders. The baskets are housed in four stackable shoe racks from Target. They fit perfectly under the whiteboard ~ you can see them in the background of the photo below.

Another old math activity from The Mailbox ~ the kids still enjoy it!

Tara West again. (Can you tell that I love her products?)

We have been learning about solid shapes, so I put a bunch of them into a basket. 

As you can see, my little students are doing a great job working & learning independently! Yay!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Independent Centers ~ Getting Started

One of my favorite times during the school day is guided reading with small groups. It is a time when you can really focus on just what your students need. Plus, working with just a few students at a time allows you to get to know them a little better.

My small group table ~ it's not always this tidy looking!
But... (Yes, there is always a big but.) What about the other kids? I'm lucky to teach in a district with small low class sizes. (I typically have 18.) So, when I'm having fun working with the four kids at my table, what about the other 14 kids? That's where lots and lots of practice comes in.

I like to introduce working in station the first week of school (NOT the first day ~ geez, I'm just trying to survive & get them on the correct bus home.) Depending upon my group, we start building stamina on the second or third day. That first week of school isn't really academically rich; your time is spent mostly practicing procedures over and over. (...and over and over...) I've found that my students LOVE to work on building independent station stamina.

In order to get them to the place where I can meet with my small groups, I need to get everyone working at their stations. This is a daunting task! There is no way to get around the fact that you need to practice, practice, practice.

First, we cruise around the room and look at the different work stations so they know where they are located. Some stations are at tables, some on a shelf, some are in bins that can be taken to various spots around the room. The following photos are from past years ~ once the kids knew how to work independently.

Once we've taken a quick tour of our room, I ask the kids if they would like to try out the stations. Of course, this question is met with an enthusiastic yes! Before releasing them to stations, we discuss our classroom rules (I use the rules from Whole Brain Teaching.) We talk about how we also have rules for working in our stations: 1. Walk to your station. 2. Get started working right away. 3. Work quietly for the entire time. (We talk about how they are allowed to talk with their partner, but need to use quiet voices.) 4. Stay at your station. (If it is something in a bin, they can put it back to get another one when they are finished, but they can't roam around the room.) 5. When the timer goes off, quickly & carefully clean up your materials, and meet on the carpet. (I use a chime ringtone on my phone's timer.)

I assign my students the stations they go to each day. The stations have lots of choices within them. (When we are working on stamina, there are far fewer choices.) Typically, two students work at a station at a time. I've tried different numbers at a station, and have found that the kids are more likely to actually work when they have a partner rather than a group. Get my Literacy Station Rotation Cards Freebie  HERE.

Ok, so by now we have had a quick tour of the work spaces, and gone over the rules. Yay! We are ready to go. The kids go to their assigned stations & start to work on building stamina. Because the work of building stamina is pretty hard, the tasks need to be pretty easy. Your little beginners need activities that require little to no instruction, don't take a long time to set up, do, and clean up. It's important to remember that at this point, the task isn't as important as the practice working independently is.

A few cans of playdough, puzzles, picture books, coloring books, and small building blocks are good choices for your practice sessions. Simple to use card activities also work well for your little learners. I have a set that contains four sets of five different activities that are perfect for early learning stations. Check them out HERE.  The cards can also be used in morning tubs or for early finishers.

Your first "rounds" of station work will probably only last a few minutes. If you have a lot of off task behavior, gather the kiddos together and discuss the rules again. You may want to make an anchor chart to serve as a visual reminder of your expectations. Set your timer again & let them try it again.

As the kids get adept at staying at their stations, working the entire time, and staying on task, you will want to replace the more "toy-like" materials with things that are a little more academic. (You will still want to keep it simple, though.)

After the first week of practice, if the kids are able to stay on task for five or more minutes, I like to pull individual kids to my table to do some quick checks to see what they know so I can eventually form my small groups.

It takes lots of diligent practice, modelling, and reminders to get your kids ready for independent work. But, it pays off big time! Every class is different, so don't try to set a specific time frame for when you begin your guided reading groups. I've had groups ready to work independently while I pull small groups after about three weeks of practice, some take more time. Don't rush it! Taking time to practice, practice, practice will create a class that knows how to work independently. Good luck & have fun!

PS: If you want to quickly gather info on what your newbies know, you may be interested in my "What Do You Know Quick Check Bundle." Check it out HERE

Monday, May 7, 2018

I Appreciate You ~ TpT Gift Card Giveaway!

I know that we teachers don't do what we do for the accolades (or the money), but it is nice to be appreciated once in a while. So, Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Today our awesome PTO kicked off the week with an adorable Trail Mix Bar. The table was covered with a textures "bumpy road," complete with grass growing in the cracks & potholes! The bags held things like popcorn, M&Ms, nuts, and pretzels, etc. for us to create our own snack mix.

Pin this! Isn't it seriously cute?? It would be a fun construction themed birthday party tablescape.

The end of our "Road Work" is coming up soon! Out last day is May 25! (Where did the time go??)

I can't wait to see what goodies PTO has planned for the rest of the week! 
Hopefully, you are being spoiled, too! :-)

It may not be a street full of snacks, but I want to give away a $10.00 gift card to one lucky winner. 
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 5, 2018

Podcasts ~ Who Knew?

Recently I went on a trip to Cleveland with my daughter who owns a cute boutique in town. We attended a makers' fair so she could find some new artisan products for her inventory. (Her store, Aster + Gray, features American artisan made products ~ check out her Facebook page HERE.) When we hit the road, Gabrielle asked me if I wanted to listen to some Disney podcasts as we traveled. I have to say I was a bit skeptical about listening to what I thought would be boring. To my surprise I found them to be very interesting. Our family's love of all things Disney goes way back, and the podcasts provoked some fond memories & sparked some good conversation for Gabrielle and me.

When I came home, I decided to check out some podcasts on my own phone. I had to look on my "Utilities" screen of my phone in the folder that contains those apps I never look at, but can't delete. After locating the podcast app, I set about searching for interesting things to listen to. Was I ever surprised to see the variety of topics! There is something for everyone: Entertainment, inspiration, education (could this count as Professional Development?), etc. After browsing through all the categories I put several "shows" into my library & to listen to as I do housework, get ready in the morning, workout, etc. So far I've only listened at home using WiFi (no need to actually save to your phone if you are on WiFi.) If I wanted to listen when I work outside or drive somewhere I would download them to my phone instead of using data.

The road trip to Cleveland not only let Gabrielle discover some new artisans (I can't wait for her new jewelry & tea to arrive!), but opened my eyes (umm ~ ears) to the amazing world of podcasts. I'm actually thinking about taking that little lost app out of the "Productivity" AKA "boring stuff I can't delete" folder & moving it to my purple page!

Here is a peek at Gabrielle's custom made counter ~ made by a local carpenter from deconstructed barns. Just about everything you see in this picture was made by American artisans; many of them from area. If you haven't checked out Gabrielle's store's Facebook page yet, HERE it is again. Better yet, if you happen to live in NW Indiana stop in!

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What Do You Know? Progress Monitoring

The need for data on your students never ends ~ whether you need to provide scores to your admin, you are planning differentiated instruction, or are forming small groups. But, gathering all that data can be a time consuming task!

I wanted a way to get the info I needed without having to block out large amounts of time, so I created my Quick Checks & Progress Monitoring set. None of the assessments take more than 10 minutes, and some of them really only take about a minute or two. Many assessments can be done whole group to get a quick benchmark on everyone. Progress monitoring can then be done to keep tabs on your kiddos' growth.

I have found that a binder is the best way for me to keep all my testing materials organized. Use page protectors to hold the masters of each assessment. I like to tape the tabs directly onto the page protectors with a little clear packaging tape. (I also put some on the back side of each tab to keep the them securely in place.) For assessments that have half sheet record pages, I like to keep a dozen or so copies in the binder so they are ready to go whenever I need to do a quick check. Because the pages are in clear pockets you don't have to take them out of the binder! (I like this ~ I'm less likely to lose the pages if they stay IN the binder!)

Some assessments have more than one version ~ like the letter naming assessment. For those, you can save paper by printing on both sides. Keep the record sheets in the next pocket.

You can easily get benchmark scores on your whole class with many of the assessments. Have everyone do the quick check at once & progress monitor those kiddos who need extra practice. My team uses these forms to help us to gather information for our quarterly report cards. It's a real time saver to be able to assess everyone at the same time!

The quick checks come with a variety of progress monitoring assessments.Choose whichever best fits your needs.

Assess & monitor both literacy & math skills! See the slides below for more details on what's included.

This set is available in a bundle with my Beginning of the Year Quick Check set ~ read about it HERE.
Get your bundle HERE.

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