I like to get my centers going and running smoothly as soon as possible in my classroom. As mentioned in previous posts, I usually start with community building centers and sneak in the academic ones one at a time each week. This week we introduced the writing center. The most important thing for a child to learn to write is his or her name! It builds confidence for their ability to write all other things. That's why before I use my writing center as an actual "writing center", it's used as a name center. This gives students the opportunity to practice writing their names and their friends names in a variety of ways before they start working on sight words, sentences and stories.
Because I started my year off with several young kiddos with late summer or early fall birthdays, the name center is essential to my classroom this year. We started with it full swing this week and it has been very successful so far! Here is how I have it set up to ensure that students can be as independent as possible during center time!
Starting off, students can pick one of three activities provided in drawers next to the writing center. They are labeled with my favorite chalkboard labels from the Dollar Spot at Target. I loaded up on these at the beginning of the year and find new uses for them almost every day! The drawers are clearly labeled with numbers so students know which ones they can pick from.
I've noticed that one of the most important things for me to do for my writing center is to have everything prepared for the students so that they don't have to get up! Nothing is more distracting for a kindergartener than to see a classmate wandering the room looking for supplies during center time. They tend to stop, chat, and the next thing you know, they're talking about recess, and that one time they played at grandma's house. As funny as kindergarten conversations can be, it's important for them to stay focused during center time. That's why I have all the writing supplies they could need in little cups at the writing station. Additionally, I have all of their names posted on the writing bulletin board so that they don't have to walk over to the word wall to find them. I'm planning on adding their pictures near their names to help them with associating the names to the correct people.
In my name center, I start out with some of the easiest, no prep activities in my Name Activities pack in my TPT store to get students familiar with name writing. Right now, we're using an activity in which students write their names and then measure how long their name is with counting bears, an activity where students circle the letters in their name and an activity where students write their own name, a friend's name and then draw a picture of their friend. Students have really enjoyed these so far! My product has nine different activities in it so I can go for three weeks, rotating centers without having to recycle them!
Hanging above the center is a poster reminding my kiddos to work on stamina! This seems to be our mantra in Room 7 this year, I can't turn around during centers without hearing someone saying they're working on their stamina! This poster can be found in my What Can I Write About product. This word has been very effective for my group this year - it reminds them that it's okay if it's hard, but that practicing helps them to get better!
In a few weeks, my students will be ready for sight words and simple sentences in the writing center and I'll be redoing the entire thing (with a similar framework) so that they can still be challenged. Look for posts about how it changes throughout the year.