Wow these last couple of weeks have just flown right by me - I have really slacked on posting!! I know you all feel as immersed in your students and classrooms as I do. With all the mandated data intake and formal assessments which unfortunately infringe on our daily routine, I have hardly had time to do my own informal assessments! Luckily, my kiddos and I have been working really hard on routines, procedures and community building, so I'll be able to do some one-on-one things with them starting tomorrow. I can't wait!! Before I dive into what I've been doing in our reading centers, I have to share this sweet picture of our retell of Brown Bear. This was one of our first whole group literacy activities and the students really enjoyed working together to piece all the characters together. Each child doing the retell became the character and helped to narrate.
After our whole group literacy activities each morning, which are included in our Morning Meeting, I introduce our reading centers for the day. Reading centers are something I tweak each year according to the needs of my group, but one resource I CANNOT live without is Jan Richardson's book The Next Step in Guided Reading. I follow her steps to setting up centers step by step and it gets the kiddos working like clockwork! Jan Richardson really understands the need for kindergarteners to start slow and build community before inundating them with academics. I have had some structured play centers out for the students during this time, using our center chart.
The pocket chart has since been updated with centers and days assigned to each group. Using the chart at the beginning with structured play centers will really help students to get used to the routine of looking at it when reading centers are introduced. I also use simple post-its to label the play centers, but center cards (that I downloaded for FREE on TPT) for the reading centers. I told the students that this symbolized that the post-its were temporary, but the center cards would be used throughout the year. This helps my group to know that we are transitioning from play centers to reading centers.
This week we introduced listening center with our tablets. Of course, these little ones are already pros, so there wasn't much to teach them! Because the first official center was introduced this week, we discussed the importance of stamina and respect for those who need to concentrate. Each morning we review the importance of these things and if I feel the noise level is too high or students are off task, I pause the centers, we talk about it and resume. I also started a new way of pausing/stopping centers this year - chimes! I know many of you already do this, but typically I use timers. I always thought they were a little too abrupt, so I placed some mini wind chimes behind my table and it works really well! The students respond quickly, but they aren't overwhelmed or startled by the noise they make.
I like the method Jan Richardson gives in her book - adding one center a week. This give students time to continually adjust to the routine while also gradually learning new things. The students above are working on lacing - although this center isn't exactly academic, it gives me a good idea of how well their fine motor skills work and how easily they can maneuver through the small holes with string. Having these centers also shows students the discipline of cleaning up quickly and as a team after centers are over (we're still working very hard on the quietly part!).
Additionally, at the beginning and end of the day, I have tubs on tables for students to "read" books. I usually put old books out at the beginning of the year because students are still learning how to handle them properly. This activity not only builds stamina, but encourages community reading, sharing and excitement for getting their own books for Read to Self!
I don't know about you, but reading centers are my prime focus at the beginning of the year! I really want to work hard on getting them right early so that we don't have to fix them later! I'll continue to post updates on how we're progressing as we add centers!