Keeping things organized
Like always, I like to create a space that's easy for my kiddos to maneuver and work with. My goal is always to get my students to be as independent as possible so that they can take responsibility for their own learning. This is why I put all of the centers and materials that they'll be using on a daily basis on a low level that's easy for them to reach. I also do my best to keep everything labeled and in bins or baskets so that they're easy to carry around the room - my students take the baskets from the shelves to a spot in the room to work in. Here is how I have my word work center set up:
As you can see, since it's the beginning of the year, we're focusing primarily on letter identification and sound recognition. I threw in some rhyming because we've worked on that and it needs to be reinforced independently. I only introduce three baskets at a time so that students aren't overwhelmed with new activities and the directions that go with them. This is also a way to keep students engaged and to prevent them from getting bored quickly by introducing at once and as a result, overusing the activities.
Introducing the concept of word work
Word work is one of the few centers that my students are allowed to move around in. We put a lot of focus on staying in one spot for centers like read to self or tablets. For word work, I want students to be able to work on multiple activities, but I want them to learn how to do that respectfully and quietly. To introduce the concept, I sometimes do a "write the room" like I did today. Write the room is an activity I sometimes incorporate into word work throughout the year and it encourages movement and focus. We did a trial run today with the letters F-N. I explained to students that our word work center would be similar to this and we talked about how important it is to keep focus even while moving around the room. Write the room also encourages students to look in multiple places for an answer they may need such as the word wall, the Phonics Dance letters, the focus wall etc. Here's what write the room looked like for us this morning - the students did really well with it and it carried over to their behavior during word work!
Working Together In the Center
Something I do in the beginning of the year during word work is intentionally put out less centers than there are students. This encourages sharing, community building and the ability for students to learn from each other. Right now students are grouped by RTI tiers (mostly so that I can remember who belongs in what tier), but throughout the year I will probably split them into heterogeneous groups so that students can learn from others who are on different levels. I also change groups frequently so that students can never get too comfortable and stick with just one partner - I think it's important for them to form bonds with everyone in the class. Working together in these centers sets a strong foundation for our classroom community and for other centers/group activities throughout the day.
Our reading centers are about an hour after our day starts so it really sets the tone for how our day will go.
The students and I review our expectations together before centers every day and we have silent signals to help get each other back on track. I've come to find that the less kiddos can engage themselves in silly, off track behavior during centers (even if they're genuinely trying to get other kids on track), the better off we are. That's why we created our silent signals! Students can put their finger on their lips to remind others to use quiet voices, they can point to our expectations poster if someone is having a difficult time or they can give students a "zero" sign if they are in a center that is intended to be silent (like tablets or read to self).
Here's how some of my students looked while working on word work today!
What are you doing for your word work centers? I'm always looking for fun new activities to add in!